Simply Beautiful / Beautifully Simple

Finding simple compositions when photographing the natural world is often challenging; nature is usually quite messy, and does not comply with the photographer's objectives. When you do stumble on a great scene, don't hesitate to capture it!

An item sometimes found on our beaches is the calcareous skeleton or "test" of the common sea urchin. The oblate spheroid shape (a squished sphere, like the earth) looks simple enough; you might characterise it as a hollowed-out doughnut, although a quick search on-line will reveal that it really is globular. It's just that the soft inner parts including the top and bottom rot away when the creature dies. Likewise, the spines are gradually beaten off as the skeleton is abraded on sand and rocks over time, before it is finally washed ashore.

One of the joys of macro photography is getting a close-up look at things you would never notice with the unaided eye. In this case, the tiny holes and intricate bumpy patterns are at odds with the simplicity of the shape found on the sand. As you look more closely, you notice the five-fold symmetry around the middle axis, and the alternating paired rows of holes and bumps. Look closer still and you may see the flaws in the symmetry, where two sets of bands are interrupted part-way along, perhaps indicating some sort of trauma suffered while the creature was still growing. Perfectly imperfect.

Sometimes you get to quietly enjoy a "win" when out photographing nature. Today's subject was truly a "found object", discovered while I strolled the shorelines of Port Philip Bay at the Western Treatment Plant bird habitat. I did not touch a thing in the scene, so the fact that the only urchin I found with this unusual purple hue was sitting in a nice position was extremely satisfying. I suppose it makes up for the times I've had to do some post-trip litter-removal in Photoshop (e.g. bottle caps and other plastic fragments).