Launching West Coast Series
In May of 2022, during a phone chat with Oyster Art enthusiast and patron Linda in Calgary, she told me that on the shores of Vancouver Island there were fantastic Pacific oysters with shells that are quite different in appearance from our Atlantic oysters. She wondered if I might be interested in photographing some of them. When I indicated that it could be something to do in the future, she said “Leave it with me.” To my surprise she called back a few hours later and said, “It’s all arranged. Get yourself to Calgary and we will fly to the Island. My friend Laurie in Campbell River will be happy to host and chauffeur us around. It will be an adventure!” A week later, our WestJet flight was landing in Comox to begin a five-day oyster extravaganza. I returned to Prince Edward Island with a suitcase full of 25 pounds of oyster shells from 11 different locations. After exploring some of them with my macro lens, I am excited to reveal the first two pieces of Oyster Art from my new West Coast Series! My special thanks to Laurie who suggested the name for the first image.
Intrepid ~ inspiration oyster shell from Francisco Point, Quadra Island, BC
Conversation starter caption: “The allure of new horizons is embraced by those possessing an intrepid spirit.”
Behind the Lens: Oysters have an adductor muscle they flex to keep the shell closed. If the oyster senses that the environment is favourable, its adductor muscle, which is kind of like our biceps, relaxes so the shell can open. Then the oyster will start filter feeding. When an oyster is shucked to eat the meat the adductor muscle is cut in order to open the shell. There is a distinctive area or mark on the inside of the shell where the muscle was attached.
“Intrepid” was discovered when photographing that area on the inside of the oyster shell collected at Francisco Point on Quadra Island, BC.
For those interested in the details to capture this image they are as follows: The blue rectangle on the inspiration shell shows the small area I photographed at 1:1 magnification using f4, ISO 250. In order to capture all the details in this section I took 49 captures each one locating something different in focus by moving the camera .3mm (yes that’s 3 tenths of a millimetre) closer to the shell between each shot.
Anticipation ~ inspiration oyster shell from Francisco Point, Quadra Island, BC
Conversation starter caption: “A glimpse of the undulating path ahead was met with eager anticipation.”
Behind the Lens: “Anticipation” was created by photographing the outside of the Pacific Oyster’s shell. Unlike the Eastern Oyster the shell is very rippled or undulated. This makes for quite a macro photo challenge to capture all the details in the peaks and valleys of the shell’s topography.
For those of you interested in the details to capture this image here they are:
The blue rectangle on the inspiration shell shows the small area I photographed at 2:1 magnification using f4, ISO 200. In order to capture all the details in this section I took 59 captures each one locating something different in focus by moving the camera .2mm (yes that’s 2 tenths of a millimetre) closer to the shell between each shot.
Location, location, location!
Campbell River on Vancouver Island was my base camp while on Vancouver Island. It is the closest large community to Quadra Island, and the port of departure for the scenic 10-minute ferry ride to Quadra, the destination for my first day-trip adventure.
As you can see I needed two walking sticks to keep myself from stumbling over the rocks collecting oyster shells at Francisco Point located on the south end of Quadra. Having discovered “Intrepid” and “Anticipation” hiding in two of them made it all worthwhile.
Pacific Oysters 101
Several times the size of the eastern oyster, the Pacific Oyster is the giant of Northwest shellfish beds. It is also one of the fastest-growing species, reaching sexual maturity in a year—a third of the time it takes for an Olympic oyster to achieve this feat. In addition, it is better suited than either of its distant relatives to endure coastal weather. For all these reasons, the Pacific Oyster is one of the most intensively cultivated species in the world. It is harvested from Southeast Alaska to northern Baja California, with the most intense harvest activity in Washington and British Columbia.