Digital imagery has been around for quite a while and the technology progresses daily. With it has come the popularisation of digital cameras. As with all good technology, it can be used for good or bad purposes - depending on the attitude of the human operator.
I was recently given a digital camera with good 'zoom' capabilities and it has opened up, for me, a whole new world. They used to say that the difference between good and bad photos was the amount of celluloid you discarded.
The more photos you took the better the chance of a good one. We are all aware of the expense involved in conventional photography, not to mention all those 'dud' and outdated photos lying around gathering dust. The joy of a digital camera is that you can delete mistakes and examine subjects that you don't necessarily want to print.
The only running expense is battery power, once you have covered the initial outlay on rechargeable batteries, charger, cards, connections and computer programming. Once you are ready and with a little experience, a whole new experience awaits you.
In our busy routine, we constantly ignore a lot of interesting objects and the activities of small creatures for lack of valuable time or due to the effort required. I used to neglect the study of numerous minute activities, mainly because they were too small to easily observe without some form of magnification. They moved too fast or incidents were over in a flash and specimens were difficult to collect and preserve.
With my new camera I am able to capture activities and images to take back for examination without any destruction and little disturbance. One can check, immediately, the quality of the image and delete or re-take to ensure you have something worthwhile. In comfort, one can enlarge the tiny objects and see into a most amazing 'micro-world'.
Saved onto a computer, one is able to gather further information about the little things all around us. It is a world that is closed to so many, ignored by the majority and being rapidly destroyed through ignorance and carelessness.
The wonderful programmes on TV showing this 'mini world' are praiseworthy and give the general viewers a good idea of the small life that abounds. The professional photography is excellent, with images that can be captured only through high-tech equipment. Even with expert editing, the films do not have the same individual appeal as personal photos of a subject experienced by oneself.
Most people tend to focus on the big species and the, seemingly, 'important' things of life while ignoring the small things that are vitally necessary in sustaining a quality environment.
Some of the activities I have been able to capture on camera are well known but little observed in any detail. Some of them are - The sharp jaws of 'antlion' larvae with which they capture and suck juices from their prey. Their legs, adapted for shuffling backwards and the digging of their volcano-like hole-traps.
The 'bee hawk' moths feeding on flowers in the cool of the evenings. The leg movement of millipedes. The tiny webs of microscopic spiders. Flower spiders ready to pounce on any insect visitors. Bark spiders spinning their nocturnal webs.
Baboon spiders closing their holes against heavy rain. The golden 'tortoise beetles' chewing away at the soft parts of Solanum leaves. Numerous species of wasp and their variety of 'nests'. Many species of exquisitely-patterned moths each evening and a variety of katydids. Bees, flies, beetles, scorpions - the variety is endless.
There are patterns in most parts of nature from the petals on the tiniest of flowers to seed pods and thorn formations. Many of these patterns have a functional purpose without which they could not successfully fulfil their purpose.
The structure of seed pods adapted for dispersal by various means. Leaf surfaces and shapes with intricate veination. The specific structure of different barks. Thorn shapes and location on each plant. Insects that camouflage themselves as thorns and other parts of a plant. Tiny grass flowers on the inflorescences of diverse grasses, each helping the development of seeds shaped for different methods of dispersal.
There is no end to the interesting facets of nature. Apart from the marks made by larger animals, there are the signs on woody vegetation telling of past veld conditions. The firescars on tree trunks that now stand in bare sandy areas where no fire could ignite. The coppicing of previously damaged trees and shrubs, where the multi-stems indicate a renewed fight for survival.
The browse lines made obvious by larger animals stressed for food. The gnaw marks on bark made by feeding animals or for medicinal purposes. The lichens and mosses developing on suitable surfaces in the ever present successional force.
The increased activity stimulated by the moisture from recent rains. The new buds bursting into tiny red and green leaves. Termites emerging on lacy wings. Organised raids by 'army ants' on termite nests and the relocation of pupae to new 'nest holes'. The order, apparent discipline and purpose.
The diverse colours and arrangement of patterns and shapes. The dragonflies dipping and rain drops plopping at the centre of expanding ripples on the water surface. Similarly, one's thoughts develop from the centre outwards - from cause to effect.
Observe the instinctive nest building techniques of birds and insects, all dependant on other species and interacting with each other. There is no way that all this is the result of pure science. Like Darwin himself concluded - there is definitely a Creator.
While being so worried about politics, economics and our future, we continue to destroy many essential forms of life around us. In our daily activities, often through carelessness or greed, we ignore not only the little things around us but also our families and friends, our homes and our behaviour.
Like ripples in a pool, we send out wavelengths of 'attitude' to all around us. Carelessness and selfishness are most discouraging to those with whom we come into contact. We experience uplifting encouragement from those unselfish and cheerful souls whom we meet or with whom we talk during our daily round.
Those positive 'ripples' will extend throughout and beyond our community. Try to stop worrying about the big and distant, 'created' problems of life. Observe the little things around you and include the people you meet - their eyes, their voices, their needs, their fears. Start your outgoing ripple with a genuine smile and watch the encouragement spread.
By Dave Rushworth