This is another blog text, that stems from a turbulent Facebook entry. Not only did the image raise lots of interest, which very welcome with us, it was shared by a number of incredible large Facebook fanpages. To our disgust, most of these pages didn't bother to even mention our name, nor did they link to our page. Thanks to our dutch colleague Jan Vermeer, who wrote us about our image being shown (and liked and shared thousands of times) on famous Frans de Waals page, we found out about our image going viral without us even noticing it… After some conversations with Mr. de Waal, he added our copyright and wrote our statement along with his post about our images. It was all good with us - Frans is cool! - but a number of other pages (like David Attenboroughs fanpage, “Nature Design” and the like) didn't even react. You can find some examples here. We have better things to do, than worry about that. To hell with them!)
One of the bad things, when images are just stolen with any text or info - it leads to wrong assumptions. Like, people thought (and commented), that we killed these wonderful creatures! Which we didn't. Of course! Here is our (slightly adapted) text of the initial Facebook post, which was important for us to explain, what is really seen in this image and how it was created:
A next step (2 of 12) into a new photo project, that took almost all spare hours I had to give in January and parts of February. The goal of step 2 was to produce this single image, made up of 600+ sea urchin “shells”. All sea urchins were arranged in real life but then photographed in sections in a little studio set-up, focus stacked, stitched together and carefully realigned in Photoshop for the final image shown here. So, the size-ratio of all the sea urchins was kept intact. The real life-size (the size of the initial set-up) would be seen on a print of approx. 120x90cm, thats how big the board was, where the objects were placed on. The largest urchins are around 10-12cm in diameter, the smallest ones not even 0,5cm.
File size is roughly 30.000x21.000 pixels – therefore the image is suitable for VERY large prints. Since the image has over 640 layers (before it was flattened to one, of course), it was the first time ever we had to work with a .psb file. (tiff has a limit of 4GB – we didn’t even know that…! .psd has 2GB, btw)
From a biological standpoint, let me add this: These are not 650 different species. (although almost 1000 are known) I have no idea how many different species of sea urchins are shown here – my guess is something between 50 and 100. Some species show a wide range of colors but are still one and the same species. We have not even included sanddollars and heart urchins. (we may make a version with these included at some point - you will have to check the portfolio section. This image shows mostly sea urchin shells, that we have personally found on wild beaches all over the world during a timespan of roughly 40 years.* From the high arctic down to southern New Zealand. Despite their fragile nature, they can be rather resilient and will often stay intact, even after being washed up on the shore after heavy storms. Some did have fractures or little damages and we left them as they were for the image. A handful was found while snorkeling but ALL of them were dead when found. We definitely would not take live animals for photography purposes. Mostly out of ethical consideration of course but also wouldn‘t we know what to do with a sea urchins, that was dead but still fresh and had flesh inside. If anyone of you ever dealt with a dead seashell (maybe found washed ashore), believe me, seacreatures start to stink unbearably. A dead fish would smell pleasantly in comparison. There is NO WAY a smelly sea urchin (or seashell for that matter) would have entered our van. Ever. With shells - at least bivalves - it‘s bit different, though, as you may clean them - with seaurchins, there is no way. So these tests (as the shells are correctly named) were all there was left from the sea urchin. Dried up, organic material eaten away by microorganisms. They are, most of them, not perfectly enough for serious „collectors“ but that does not matter for us. Most of the serious seashell collectors buy their items in stores or through the internet. We see no point in doing so . What good is a collected object, if there is no memory of a journey or the moment when you found it, attached to it…
We thought it would be kind of amazing to see, what variety in colors and shapes nature has in stock for even the most common animals, that probably most of us have come across in some way or the other. (maybe even stepped on it! 😳 ) So little do we know.
*We posted an unfinished photo-version of “Sea Urchins“ (the one you can see here) on Facebook in mid Febuary and received overwhelming reactions. Aside from (almost) countless print requests (which turned into a very few actual sales btw…), we were given a few examples of two urchin species, that we hadn‘t found ourselves. They were sitting in old boxes and the initial collector unknown. Since the message of the image is about the variety in nature and not necessarily about our beachcombing luck, we have included them in the final setup. This image as well as the #1 of the series is available through LUMAS galleries.