A Likeness of Lichen: Photographing and Appreciating Tiny Organisms

The rocks along the Mesa Trail in Boulder, Colorado are covered in the most incredibly colorful and uniquely shaped lichen.

The rocks along the Mesa Trail in Boulder, Colorado are covered in the most incredibly colorful and uniquely shaped lichen. All you have to do is stop and stoop down to them. This shows the bright yellow crustose lichen, Pleopsidium spp. © Haley R. Pope (TerraLens Photography LLC).

Dewdrops quivered under my breath as I knelt down, my face but a couple inches away. Like sapphires, emeralds, and canary diamond they glistened, reflecting the vibrant organisms beneath. Like tiny, round mirrors, or tiny magnifying glasses, each micro detail was brought to prominence. Upon closer inspection, even my face, upside down, reflected back at me in as many copies as there were dewdrops. They jiggled and jostled, yet resisted the force of my breath and persisted in perfect cupola-shapes held together by cohesion.

As mesmerizing as the water drops were, I was here to photograph what lay beneath the transparent molecules. I drew a breath and blew. The water bubbles rolled away and revealed my intended subject. Tortuous as brain tissue, crusty as a scab, yet as significant as any other organism: lichen.

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