Laurie Campbell’s

 sphagnum mosses

 Life in the Wild

The opportunity to photograph an assortment of bryophytes-the group of plants that includes mosses, liverworts and hornworts-reminds Laurie of the key role plants play in entire ecosystems, not to mention their rich photographic potential or more than ten years I have been running one-day nature photography workshops at a countryside centre close to my home in the Scottish Borders. It has become something of a tradition to gravitate towards photographing plants on these workshops. The reason is, quite simply, that unlike most animal life, plants donrun, fly, swim or jump away, allowing ample time for everyone in the group to gather round to discuss everything from the merits of using manual exposure to good tripod technique, and composition. In terms of my own portfolio of work, I have more images of plants on file than I have of landscapes and all other forms of animal life put together. I just love photographing plants despite the fact that, from a commercial point of view, there isna huge demand for such images. The sales I make through selling images of plants-through picture libraries and my own marketing efforts-have always been far fewer than those subjects that we often hear described as chip’, such as seal pups, red squirrels and puffins.

Across the media, plants struggle to gain much prominence, and are rarely the subject of television documentaries. Admittedly, the idea of filming static subjects must be a hard sell, but the BBClandmark series, The Private Lives of Plants, was stunning, and demonstrated the potential that this diverse group of organisms has to offer. Sadly, it remains the only significant bit of programming I can remember watching on the subject. This does seem a pity, because plants are immensely important and are a fundamental component of whole ecosystems.

I was reminded of the importance of plants one afternoon on a recent trip to Harris. The weather was foul and, although Ialways suitably equipped and have few qualms about shooting in the rain, I had taken the lazy option of parking up in my campervan. From here, I could get a commanding view across the shore of a sea loch, and I could watch for otters in some comfort. My plan was to rush out and commence a stalk if I spotted one. It didnhappen. Instead, my attention turned to the opposite side of the road where a veritable rock garden of sphagnum mosses and liverworts were growing over outcrops of rock, which had been exposed by past road widening operations. With a steep boggy bank above, and north-facing aspect, the site was perfect for these moisture-loving plants to spread, softening the manmade scars in the landscape, and eventually laying down another layer of peat in the process. Given the conditions outside, it seemed perfectly appropriate to get out and indulge in a spot of bryophyte photography. Once again, Isuccumbed to the temptation of photographing plants, but this time I was determined to photograph another aspect of sphagnum mosses that I didnalready have on file. In particular, I wanted to illustrate their sponge-like ability to hold water. Like melting icicles, the dripping stems hanging over the rock ledges were perfect, and I realised that I was in a position to shoot the type of conceptual image that, in just a couple of square centimetres, would demonstrate the water-retaining properties of a simple plant that is responsible for the creation of a much needed habitat-peatbogs.

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