Shell Games

There are several different kinds of mussel shells in the river each with their own subtleties  that I find intriguing. (okay, I don’t get bored easily…) As the outer layers of the shells are abraded away over the seasons it’s as though tiny luminous landscapes develop on the surfaces. This is what catches my eye.

A bit of trickery: I’ve photographed some of these shells on a mirror while reflecting a white surface onto the mirror at the same time.









All images © Karen McRae

58 thoughts on “Shell Games

  1. Interesting and beautiful work as always, Karen! I love how you photographed the ones with the mirror… What a cool way to showcase multiple angles of the mussels! And that you reflected a white surface also into the mirror is just brilliant. Amazing work… Do you eat mussels? Great post!!!

  2. It is a very witty game and you made a clean photographic record of it.
    In the old day’s in the Japanese Court, there was a girls game calld
    Kai-awase (貝合せ) = making a matching shell and compete the paired number.

    I remember my child time, on an outing to the sea, try to find a matching
    pair of the shells scuttered random, and managed to make a pair was
    an excitement for me.

  3. Very nice images – interesting technique and great shells. I have seen something similar used with dark coloured plexiglass instead of a mirror for macro shots that can be very effect too, though would not show the under side so effectively. I was recently trying it on black glass and it did not work too well, though I had very limited DoF which might have been a big contributer. It must be hard to keep the camera and your head and the ceiling/sky out of the shot 🙂

    1. Ephem, I’ve not tried a black reflective surface. That could be interesting for some applications.
      It was tricky reflecting the white onto the mirror and taking the picture at the same time!

  4. “I shell have to look at these again!” Said I.

    “Oh, you mussel!” She replied, a worried tone tinging her words, “If you do, I snail ever speak to you again!”

    I did not listen.

    Very nice shots. And very nice compositions..

  5. It’s nice of you to share the mirror trick! 🙂 I’ll tuck that one away to experiment with later. Really interesting. Shells are one of my favourite things.

  6. Love what you do with your camera. These are amazing photos. To zero in on one simple thing that few take the time to truly study and then to photograph them so that the subtle colors and designs are all you see is perfection. When did you say your big new photo book will be available?

      1. Yes! I am doing up my old film camera, and have ordered a new digital one – weehaah!! 🙂

      1. John, thank you for all your very wonderful comments! Truly. Much appreciated.
        I’ve no plans for a book, as yet, but it has been suggested a few times! 🙂

  7. Karen – I just read the comment above. Are you producing a book?? Do tell! I love love this series. I just love it all. The last two – butterlies and angel wings. The patterns you capture are so beautiful – inspiration for so much: fabric, jewelry, paintings. Amazing!

    1. I’ve no plans for a book, but it has been suggested a few times! 🙂
      Thanks so much, Marina.
      I’m thinking of doing some butterfly wings paintings based on the mussel shells…

  8. Interesting technique, Karen. By the way, can you identify freshwater bivalves? We did an exhibit on river clams a few years back and I thought that the common names were great: things like “pink heelsplitter” and “fat mucket”!

    1. Hi Graham, I haven’t heard those names before, actually.
      I was thinking most of these were Eastern Elliptio mussels and the top one a Plain Pocketbook mussel, but I don’t really know, and your names are much more fun!

  9. I did a shell project in my oceanography class in high school. I had to identify at least 30 different species! I learned a lot and loved the shells so much that I have kept them to this day. It is amazing how beautiful nature can be and how beautifully nature can be captured in shells. 🙂

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