Canon Elan IIe, tripod
380EX flash off-camera for partial sidelighting
Sigma 105 Macro w/ 36mm extension tube
Fuji Provia 100F
1/125 second at

Missed Opportunities
newly molted crab

I think it really began when I noticed that the water in the nearby sound was bioluminescent at times. Late one night when I had biked down to the river, the wind was chopping the water pretty roughly, and I noticed that waves breaking over the rocks on the shoreline would give off a very dim blue-green glow for a moment. Thrashing my hand about in the water would produce a cloud of color, which fascinated me. I started wondering how to capture this on film, since the effect was much dimmer than moonlight and lasted only a fraction of a second, far too insignificant to just snap a pic.

So I collected some water and brought it home to set up in an aquarium, wondering if I could get the same effect in controlled conditions and possibly set up a continued turbulence that would allow for a very long exposure. But when I couldn't reproduce the luminescence, I started experimenting with putting things in the tank, like seaweed and such, to create an 'environment', thinking that perhaps the bioluminescent organisms (called Dinoflagellates) might need certain conditions to display.

And with the seaweed came a few snails, hermits crabs, and some 'regular' crabs (I have no idea what their species are), among them this guy. Isn't it adorable? That's such a cuddly, shy look; belongs on a greeting card.

Okay, probably not – I don't think crabs are considered prime subjects for such. But this one really is shy, and that's part of the story.

One day, I noticed this one peeking out of the shell it uses as a hiding spot when danger threatens (like some big guy with a camera looming over the tank). I liked the image, and set up the tripod to capture it, but spooked the crab back into hiding while doing so. I knew I just had to be patient and the crab would reappear, so I left it alone for a few minutes and went out of the room.

When I returned shortly thereafter, there was a new addition to the tank, seen here – have you spotted it already? Just below and to the right of the crab is what appears to be another pale brown crab, but instead it's the old shell of my photo subject. Crabs periodically molt out of their shells similar to snakes shedding their skin – they split it open and slide out backwards, leaving it complete. What's left is a fragile translucent replica of the crab.

I was beside myself when I saw this, though. This would have been a great sequence to capture on film, and my subject chose the time that I was out of the room to perform the entire feat directly in front of my unattended camera.

Seem like a petty thing to be frustrated over? Perhaps it is, but to a nature photographer, photo sequences of natural behavior are a prize that can be hard to get. Most people don't even know that crabs molt out of their old shells, and I personally have never seen any photos of this, anywhere. Could have been a real addition to the stock. So I guess I'll just have to keep watching...

By the way, my little friend here was just a little larger than your thumbnail – the entire conch shell that forms its shelter is about 5 cm. And if you've already seen the page about the Triffids, you'll notice there are at least three visible in this photo (corner of the shell at lower left, top of the shell, and in the background at upper right). They're all over the place.