International year of light – photography exhibition at sušak club

Prospekt News

Photo 1.  A ruby-red droplet of juice oozes from a small injury on the closed flower-head of a goatsbeard and glows in the shining light. (Photo by Dinko Dorčić)

LIGHT AND THE TINY, HIDDEN WORLDS OF NATURE – How light helps to reveal the tiny, hidden worlds that surround us

The photographs displayed at the exhibition were taken by photographers with an experienced and honed eye for detecting Nature’s tiny, hidden worlds. The photographs feature tiny creatures that are usually unseen by the common passer-by but when illuminated by beams of light suddenly come to life and show their true beauty to the photographer. Each of these tiny creatures lives in its own “micro cosmos” of light, from the Liburnia to the Kastav region, from Mt Obruč and Kamenjak to Gorski Kotar and the Velebit mountain range.

For example, on one photo we can see the delicate structure of a spider web made by a spider of the species Neoscana adinata. The web is covered in tiny, sticky droplets that sparkle when hit by light. The droplets are distributed more or less evenly along each transversal and longitudinal thread giving the web a regular but not quite symmetrical structure.

Large spiders, such as the wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi) and the cross spider (Araneus sp.), weave large and sturdy webs. The former has striking black and yellow stripes, in imitation of a wasp, on its abdomen that glimmers with a silvery shine. The latter has “decorated” its web by using a goatsbeard to make a dazzling “parachute”. The role of this accessory could be to distract flying insects from seeing the threads of the web that are meant to capture them.

Then there is the male of the jumping spider (Philaeus chrysops) with its lovely, contrasting red and black colours. It lies in ambush on small, sunlit rocks and attacks its prey by leaping at it. The jumping spider has unusually large lens-like eyes and sharp sight that help it hunt. As can be expected, jumping spiders do not build webs for hunting like most other groups of spiders do. The crab spider (Misumena vatia), a related species, also has excellent sight and rather similar habits as it also does not use a web to hunt. Rays of light are reflected in its prominent eyes and it also has the somewhat exotic ability to change colour to match differently coloured and illuminated surfaces.

Flying insects such as flies, small moths and other little insects are the prey of spiders. Photographs at the exhibition show the bee fly (Bombylida) and the hoverfly (Syrphida) with wings sparkling in rainbow colours from the sun’s rays. Only recently has it been discovered that these iridescent reflections play a vital biological role in the lives of many small flying insects.

There are also photographs of other tiny creatures, such as the snail Helicella obvia and the newt Triturus carnifex, which cannot be readily associated with light because they are mostly active at night or during rainy, cloudy days. However, on scorching hot summer days of glaring sunshine, the small snails gather together in large groups on the stems and leaves of dry grass where they stay, in perfect quiescence, to await the first rains. If we were to suddenly uncover a newt hiding under a piece of raised bark, the yellow stripe on its dark body, when struck by sunshine, would flash a “warning signal” at us.

Some photographs show small creatures with bright warning colours (“Don’t touch me, I’m poisonous!), while others display creatures that prefer to stay hidden but whose every single hair can be seen when illuminated by light in a special way. Especially interesting is the photo of a ruby-red droplet of juice, oozing from a small injury (perhaps caused by insects?) on the closed flower-head of a goatsbeard (Photo 1). It glows in the shining light and seems to be asking us: how many more hidden worlds are there all around us?

The opening of the exhibition is planned for Thursday, 26 February 2015 at 7 p.m. in the premises of the Sušak Club in Rijeka, Rački Str. 1B.