Natural Living – Magnified
by Ruth Lawrence
Last week Ruth Lawrence treated herself to a close focusing macro lens for her camera and ever since has been absorbed by the sight of a new world, suddenly magnified and alive with fresh detail.
The first thing I noticed, when walking out in early morning were the reflections on drops of dew. Up close, each tiny sphere of water holds an image of its surroundings; enlarged in the photo, its possible to see individual blades of grass within a single drop of moisture. Trained upon the face of a fly, the camera reveals compound eyes composed of around four thousand facets which enable it to see the world through a mosaic of separate, partial images. A fly has no focusing mechanism so it only has clear vision in a very limited focal distance and cannot perceive objects far away. Its eye is adapted to perceive movement to which it responds but it’s possible to approach slowly enough to avoid being noticed, allowing the camera lens to settle just inches away.
Identification of tiny creatures becomes much easier when they are magnified. You don’t have to carry a camera to enjoy this macro world; a decent magnifying glass or hand lens will show enormous detail but you have to move slowly to avoid startling the insect while getting close enough to use the lens. Flowers, lichens, leaves and bark make easier subjects which when seen in detail open up entirely different impressions and reveal creatures too tiny to normally notice.
I was focusing on a flower when I caught sight of a bizarre looking caterpillar, which turned out to be that of a pale tussock moth. I discovered that hop pickers used to call the caterpillars ‘hop-dogs’ which seems obvious after noticing the distinct upright red tail. The tussocks are tufts of hair which detach to give birds an unpleasant beak full should they attack.
Spiders webs observed magnified when covered in dew appear as glass beads on impossibly thin strings; catch a spider nest on a sunny early morning and light glistens from each drop. The closer in you look, the more beauty is revealed and it is easy to regain a childlike sense of wonder at things you pass every day without noticing.
A walk becomes infinitely richer the more you linger to focus on tiny detail; I’ve easily spent a couple of hours just walking a few hundred yards when constantly stopping to observe some minute drama taking place beneath my feet. You begin to realise how much life fills every space when you can actually see it in a scale that makes sense. Try observing your own garden or familiar walking route with a magnifying glass and prepare to become lost and enchanted in the details.