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Wayne Hinshaw column: World viewed from my belly

By Wayne Hinshaw
For the Salisbury Post

Imagine, just imagine, lying on your belly on a wet soggy front yard to get an ant’s-eye view of a red mushroom that has popped up from “mushroom land.”

Wait, let me back up and explain the situation in detail.

A few weeks ago, from 15 days of intermittent rainfall, my front yard resembled the wet, mushy surface of my car wash sponge. Now for the record, my front yard is not a prize winning, lush, fescue green yard. It is more like a woodland meadow with a mixture of various weeds with some fescue and some Bermuda grass mixed in about equal amounts. To be totally honest, there is not much grass at all under the maple trees.

It is under the maple trees that this story takes place. Noticing a few two-inch tall red mushrooms popping up in the mushy soil, the genius in me, or the lack thereof, I decided to get a belly view of the world from ground level and see the red mushroom in its own world.

I was aware of how wet and muddy I could get on this photo adventure so I spied an old “throw rug” in garage to use as my staging area for my belly to perch on during the mission.

Getting down was fairly easy, but I predicted that getting up might present unplanned obstacles in returning to my feet. Taking this into account, I had my wife stationed in a rocking chair on the front porch close by if an exit plan was needed.

There is an added physical plus to this venture. Lying flat on your belly does wonders for stretching your abdomen muscles.

Now with me down, with head and shoulders arched back to hold my camera, I realized that this was the hardest part, to get the camera in position at this awkward angle so that I could see in the viewfinder on the back of the camera. I had to get my eye behind the viewfinder to focus the camera. With my right ear on the rug and my left hand above the camera, the shutter release on the camera is on the right side, bottom of the camera. A major problem is developing.

My wife, on the porch,  asked if I was OK. I had to save face and answer, “I’m fine.”

Placing my expensive camera on wet soggy ground, I was able to get my first “ant’s-eye view’ of the mushroom.

Wow! The texture of the red mushroom’s bottom (or gills) are rough and bright yellow. The sprigs of grass that are only inches tall from here look like a giant forest of green towering over the mushroom as if reaching for the sky. The shape of the mushroom cap on the small ones is convex and rounded but it is flat on the older, larger one.

Mushrooms are fungi that spend most of their time hidden in the soil doing their job for Mother Nature of breaking down organic material until awakened by lots of rain and water and popping up out of the ground until the moisture goes away and they hide again.

I think I see a great pre-historic creature checking me out. Then I remember it is only a half-inch long black ant going about his usual daily chores. I’m the creature that has invaded his world. Interestingly, in the Bible in Proverbs 6:6, there is a verse about the working of ants: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise.” There is a lesson in how self motivated ants are and they are not lazy.

The colors on this day are so saturated from the overcast lighting. The grass quite green and the mushroom quite red and yellow. The photo perspective from flat on the ground is very different. The camera shutter speeds, ISO and focus are the same with a different dramatic look from down under. I am reminded that I am in the small creature, creepy-crawly world for this photo.   

In Chris Van Allsburg’s children’s book “Two Bad Ants,”  he uses the two ants to teach children the idea of “points of view” or perspective like I am experiencing.

Oh my, I hope I will not be attacked while down here in the ant world with a Raid spray ant attack.

With my mission accomplished of photographing a mushroom from an ant’s perspective, I now have to try to get up off my belly and stand up again. Now I will need my wife to help me up off my ’throw rug.”

Maybe next time I want to challenge my photography perspective, I should just climb a tree and take a bird’s point of view of the world below.

Wayne Hinshaw is retired chief photographer at the Salisbury Post.

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