An intense love of nature is the motivation behind all my work.  I attempt to meld biological detail with graphically stunning photography.  Some of my subjects are outlandish and bizarre, or humorous, or what I consider beautiful.  And some are familiar subjects that I try to give a fresh look.  My sincere hope is that my work, in some small way, will make people want to look closer, learn more about the inhabitants of the world we live in, and hopefully get motivated to meet the environmental challenges we are facing. What follows is a short selection from three of my favorite subjects.  A heartfelt thanks to the many people who helped make possible the publication of most of these photos. Faces  Photographing small critters is like photographing people.  You pay attention to lighting, angles, expressions.  Only the small scale and camera equipment differ.  For impact, I like to enlarge the photo to a considerable size.  The "face" can reveal details of the animals' lives - think of insects with scissors-like mandibles, huge faceted eyes, or feathery antennae.  My favorites are the false faces in the critter world.  Some are evolutionary accidents.  Finding them is akin to discovering faces in cloud formations.  But some creatures, especially caterpillars, have evolved the means of startling predators by inflating a false face with real-looking eyes.  Predation can be a powerful selective force in shaping the appearance and defensive behaviors of prey organisms. Nature, Up Close by Darlyne Murawski A Costa Rican katydid. A garter snake tasting/smelling the air. A sap-sucking pentatomid bug from southern Thailand.  Elvis, anyone? A quarter inch long Hawaiian happy-face spider from Maui guarding her eggs.  I was lucky to find this one.  Many don't look so happy. A fighting conch from Borneo peaking out of its shell.  A knife-sharp operculum attached to its fleshy foot is poised to lash out at anything that comes too close. A spicebush swallowtail caterpillar in its defensive posture.  It tucked its head under its body and inflated a false face complete with large eyes and eyeshine.  It had come out of hiding to search for a place to transform into a chrysalis. Worms At the end of one of my school presentations a young girl asked me why I didn't show any pictures of worms.  It made me realize how little I knew about them.  Later, that prodding led me to delve into a study of worms.  I was surprised to find that the greatest diversity of worms is in the ocean.  My new fascination with worms was the impetus to do a photo essay called "Hawaii's Unearthly Worms" for National Geographic magazine. The following photos show a small sample of worms - an earthworm and 3 tube-dwelling marine worms. An earthworm is about to lose its footing to a hungry American robin.  (Massachusetts) A spaghetti worm with coiled red gills and feeding tentacles extending from it's mouth.  In its coral reef habitat, the worm hides inside a homemade tube that is often wedged between corals.  After being photographed, this worm made a hasty retreat to its tube. (Hawaii) A tube-dwelling parchment worm.  Paddles near the middle of its body move water through its tube.  (Massachusetts) Four Feather duster worms with retractable tentacles stand out on a coral rock. (Hawaii) Closeup of a feather duster worm's tentacles.  They have two functions: respiration and filter feeding.  (Hawaii) Parasites Well over half the organisms on earth are parasites at least for part of their lives.  By definition, a parasite damages, but generally doesn't kill its host.  There are parasites among all major types of animals, as well as plants, fungi, protists, and bacteria.  Many have complex life cycles and unusual modifications for feeding. I was introduced to parasites at the age of 5 when I discovered a book in our family doctor's office on the subject of tropical parasitology.  Its photos were bizarre but riveting.  I struggled to read the captions.  Many years later, in the mid-90's I approached National Geographic with an idea for a story on parasites.  The editor was initially concerned that it might turn readers' stomachs.  I agreed to avoid the really gross stuff.    What started as one magazine assignment, eventually turned into several articles!  To this day, I continue to shoot parasites whenever I encounter them. Colorized SEM of a bedbug with proboscis extended.  Recently, they've posed a bit of a problem in some hotels - hiding around the edges of mattresses and sneaking up on sleeping humans for a meal. A specimen of a broad fish tapeworm.  It infects fish first and then mammals.  People can get it by eating raw or undercooked fish.  The small head attaches to a person's intestines and grows at a rapid rate, with reports of some reaching 10 meters long.  The dark stained parts of each segment are the reproductive organs capable of shedding millions of eggs a day. A head louse crawls onto the teeth of a comb. Pacific lamprey eels on the Columbia River.  As adults they attach to the sides of other fish for a quick blood meal.  Their oral suckers are equipped with hooked teeth and a rasping tongue.  A cluster of body lice feeding on a person's blood.  Disgusted at first glance, I challenged myself to make them look as inoffensive as possible - like cows grazing in a pasture.  Backlighting and a warming filter helped.  Head and body lice are similar-looking, but distinct species. An SEM of a mated pair of schistosome worms.  She's the skinny one.  The male's flange wraps around her body and they can live together for years in a person's mesenteric veins.  She lays millions of eggs that migrate to the liver and other organs and cause them to inflate.  The infection is called schistosomiasis.  The worst part for me was dissecting lots of tiny veins to get this pair and prepare it for microscopy.  Notice the two suckers on each worm.  The smaller one is for feeding and the larger holds firm to the vein.
Back to current issue