Shells

I started a Cornish shell collection with my children recently. So yesterday we went to our local beach on Flushing to look for new additions. Lying down I took a really close look and was rewarded with a whole bunch of tiny species. On this photo, 14 species comfortably fit on a square inch. Species names in a clockwise spiral:

Bela powisiana

Tritia incrassata (Thick-lipped Dog Whelk)

Trivia arctica (Arctic Cowrie)

Tricolia pullus (Pheasant Shell)

Bittium reticulatum (Needle Whelk)

Littorina obtusata (Flat Periwinkle)

Calliostoma zizyphinum (Painted Top Shell)

Steromphola cineraria (Grey Top Shell)

Littorina saxatilis (Rough Periwinkle)

Tectura virginea (White Tortoise Shell Limpet)

Rissoa lilacina

Peringia ulvae (Mudsnail)

Nucella lapillus (Dog Whelk)

Steromphola umbilicalis (Flat Top Shell)

More Macro 2

After half a year of strobe troubles (probably a mix of different faults, making it difficult to troubleshoot), I seem to finally have a working set-up again. Although the stalked jellyfish season passed me by, I am now raring to go. I went in today and yesterday and although I did not manage to spot any nudibranchs, there is always something to see. For instance, the White Tortoiseshell Limpet Tectura virginea above, which is very common on coralline algae. Below, the chiton Callochiton septemvalvis (stuck to the same rock as a week earlier), a tiny gastropod, probably Rissoa parva, a Cushion Star Asterina gibbosa, the Sea Ghurkin (a sea cucumber) Pawsonia saxicola and a baby squat lobster (<1 cm). There is currently a large influx of Crystal Jellies, which are not jellyfish but the medusa stage of hydrozoa. It probably is Aequorea vitrina. I have seen several being eaten by Snakelock anemones (slightly too large to take a good photo of with a macrolens). Below a detail. Finally, another, very different-looking, hydrozoan (I have to have a look at the biology of these things some time). It is Candelabrum cocksii, a species which was originally described based on specimens collected from this very beach. (I have posted a photo of this species before, but they look very blobby abovewater). The second pic is for scale. Hopefully a dive sometime soon!

seaweed checking

I joined a seaweed identification get-together at the Cornwall Wildlife Trust organised by Matt Slater last week. It was fun to chat with likeminded people and also made me want to stick my head underwater again! The weather has been horrible for over half a year now and I have been in only a few times, with little chance to take decent photos, hence the blog inactivity. This has been especially frustrating as March is the best month for seaweeds (see the 2017 Falmouth Seaweeds tag) and I am missing my window. I therefore jumped in the next day. The tides were at their very lowest, actually too low for most of my usual rockpool spot! The viz was not great due to the 20+ mph winds but just about good enough for the fisheye lens. I really hope for some good weather in the next 2-3 weeks to be able to make the seaweed photos I really have in mind.The very top photo is Berry wart cress Sphaerococcus coronopifolius shot with a very shallow depth of field. The single stone above hosts a whole variety of species. The largest is Slender wart weed Graciliaria gracilis and just as the Berry wart cress it is covered in mucus threads, which must come from the tiny gastropods Rissoa parva that can be seen on it when you zoom in. To the left the wiry Black scour weed Ahnfeltia plicata. To the back the invasive Devils tongue weed Grateloupia turuturu. Green Ulva and young kelp can also be seen. Below some Harpoonweed Asparagopsis armata. The snakelocks anemones Anemonia viridis were also out in force. I hope the weather settles soon!

rockpool photography

I have been out twice this week with the Canon G16 with the hope of snapping a few good photos (out of the hundreds I take). It was trickier than usual, in part because the viz was not great but also because I am making a bit less progress I feel. Investing in an expensive DSLR + housing will get me further but I do not know if it will be worth the money. However, I still have a lot to do when when it comes to mastering the principles of photography, especially getting to grips with manual settings. In this post I will highlight some of the ‘issues’ am facing; who knows I will be lucky and get some feedback via the blog (and instagram), sharing is caring! As usual, I focussed on the seaweed diversity, although at this time of year it is not the best looking. The photo above is nothing special (the seaweed looks a bit straggly) but I like the blue background. It is interesting the wide diversity of seaweed species on the Red rags in the photo below and I like the contrast of the green sea lettice versus the brown Bushy berry wreck in the second photo but both pics are a bit meh. A main difficulty is that many times the sand (orthe bleached coral weed) contrast with the subject of the photo resulting in excess highlights. I try to counteract this by reducing F-stops (resulting in an overall darker picture) and reduce highlights during post-processing. @chris_exploring recommended to choose overcast rather than sunny days which is probably the best approach (and I will have plenty of opportunities to test this the coming months!) The first pic below of a Two-spotted goby is OK but I could not get quite close enough. The second photo is of course out of focus but I included it anyway to show that some of these photos have great potential. It inspired my own photography rule (the ‘Vos Index’): the beauty of the subject (on a 1-10 scale) times the difficulty of a shot (on a 1-10 scale). We are all trying to score a 100: a perfect capture of a beautiful organism. I am stuck with mediocre captures of beautiful things. Sometimes I get a very good capture but then mostly it is of something not-so beautiful. I shoot JPEG + RAW, which is a bit of a pain as I do not want to clog my hard drive and reviewing and deleting JPEGs and then having to filter for names to delete the associated RAW files is annoying. I actually keep few RAW files because very few photos are worthy of any advanced Photoshop editing, and also the standard Windows photo editing software is not half bad. For example see the photo below of whitebait (impossible to tell if it is herring, sprat or pilchard). It is very low contrast and bluish; by reducing highlights, increasing ‘clarity’ and a bit of cropping the image is completely transformed (although still relatively unusable as the resolution is quite bad).¬† ¬†Finally macro. I just cannot seem to get my strobe to work which is annoying so the pics below are all ambient light. I need to up my game with this as there are so many cool subjects around to shoot if you take time to look. Below some tiny (3-4 mm) snails Rissoa parva. I wanted to zoom in more but was unable to unfortunately. Next a much bigger (2 cm) Netted dog whelk Tritia reticulata (sigh, I knew this as Nassarius reticulatus, and Hinia reticulata but the name has changed again). Next, a baby (3 cm) Tompot blenny Parablennius gattorugine which are one of the easiest fish I know to photograph, not very shy! Finally another challenge to photograph, a mermaids purse (egg case) of a Nursehound Scyliorhinus stellaris shark with a tiny (2-3 cm) embryo visible. I had a little light with me that I used to illuminate it from the back but this could be improved upon as well!

miniature species

I usually head down straight to the lowest reaches of the shore when rock pooling, but when there is a neap tide and a lot of inshore wind as there was this weekend, you have to make do with turning rocks higher up the shore. Although biodiversity is lower, there are some species that are only found there (see for instance this recent post) and so it is actually nice to have a look there for a change. The very first rock turned over actually had a couple of interesting inhabitants underneath it. Another lifer, the tiny gastropod mollusc Onoba semicostata (surrounded by a couple of even tinier Rissoa parva), very quickly identified by members from the British Marine Mollusca facebook group:

IMG_8352The same rock had a number of the tiny (< 1 cm) Cushion star species Asterina phylactica on it as well. It is prettier than the common Cushion star Asterina gibbosa (one of my favourite aquarium species), but perhaps a bit too small to be an option for the tank.

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IMG_8375 - Copy

One other beautiful species, the colonial tunicate Botryllus schlosseri, this is a nice blue/purple one:

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low tide

The tides were good this weekend and so we went out to Gylly (Gyllyngvase) Beach in Falmouth, specifically the rocks to the west of the beach (I normally go to Castle Beach to the east):

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Although the tide was quite low, no special sublittoral species were encountered, but everything time you go out you still see something new. For instance, a newly moulted Furrowed crab, Xantho incisus pink and soft next to its old brown carapace: IMG_5469

There were very many small Blue-rayed limpets Helcion pellucidum (see also here) on the kelp:IMG_5412

A tiny Rissoa parva snail:IMG_5409

and a Painted top shell Calliostoma zizyphinum:IMG_5457

Some dark green Cladophora rupestris:IMG_5437

A fine red seaweed (I do not know which one) growing on top of Dulse Palmaria palmata growing in turn on top of kelp: IMG_5455