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Among the Fallen and Dead

Without death there cannot be life. In order to sustain life in any complex ecosystem death is a necessity. I explored and attempted to capture this concept in various rainforests throughout Costa Rica keeping a close look on small vegetation growing from the fallen and dead on the canopys floor.

A Photo Essay By: Cynthia Parker

WHERE: Tapant National Park, Costa Rica WHAT: The Resurrection Fern RULE USED: Rhythm and Symmetry
How: The stem is perfectly symetrical on both sides of the stem. The right (living) has its left (dying) counterpart.

ECOLOGICAL INFORMATION: At first glance I believed this fern was dying and/or had been infected by a fungal disease when in fact the wilting seen in the picture is a survival method of the plant. The resurrection fern is perhaps one of the most interesting plants in Costa Rica nature, as it can survive long periods of drought by closing up, withering, and turning brown (Villas Costa Rica) This remarkable plant can lose about 75 percent of its water content during a typical dry period and possibly up to 97 percent in an extreme drought. When it is exposed to water again, it will come back to life and look green and healthy. By contrast, most other plants can only lose 10 percent of their water content before they die (NWF).

WHERE: La Selva WHAT: Decomposing Leaf RULE USED: Leading Line

How: The stem take the viewer's eye from the base of the leaf to the top of the stem coming into focus.

ECOLOGICAL INFORMATION: Decomposition is a vital processes in nature, playing an essential role in the breakdown of organic matter, recycling it and making it available again for new organisms to Utilize (Fatherstone). The process of decay is evident in this photograph. After the branch (that this leaf is attached to) fell to the ground nature began its course. The decomposition is artfully exposing the veins of the leaf and will continue to deteriorate it until it is one with the forest floor. Leaves of deciduous trees and the stems and foliage of non-woody plants generally break down quickly, and are usually gone within a year of falling to the forest floor (Fatherstone).


La Selva Wine Glass Mushroom, Goblet Mushroom or the Cup Fungi RULE USED: Rule of Thirds
How: The mushrooms head lies on the sweet spot and the majority of its stem follows the left vertical line.

ECOLOGICAL INFORMATION: This mushroom was standing alone at about 1 inch tall. There were no others surrounding it. Like many fungus, the Wine Glass mushroom grows from dead and rotting wood. It feeds not only from the moisture of the decomposing elements below it but also through its basin atop of its stem. The mushroom is not poisonous but uses its bright orange color as a defense mechanism to herbivores.

WHERE: La Selva WHAT: Mycena epipterygia Mushroom RULE USED: Simplify the Scene
How: The log and mushrooms are in focus while the back ground is blurred.

ECOLOGICAL INFORMATION: Growing on dead branches, logs, and stumps they are found in countless tropical rainforests today (First Nature). The dead wood gives this mushroom life.

WHERE: La Selva WHAT: Oyster, Abalone, or Tree Mushrooms RULE USED: Fill the Frame
How: The subjects fill and take up the entire frame.

ECOLOGICAL INFORMATION: This mushroom is commonly referred to as the oyster mushroom because of their shape and texture. The orange tint of the back side of this mushroom (which is actually gray and brown) complements the rotting red wood of this fallen tree. The oyster mushroom feeds and span from one another until there is no more nutrient in the bark when they then fall to the ground and continue the decomposing (life and death) cycle.

"Costa Rica Nature." Villas Costa Rica. N.p., 2013. Web. Feb. 2014. <>. Fatherstone, Alan W. "Trees For Life-Decomposition." N.p., 2009. Web. Feb. 2014. <>.

"Mycena Epipterygia." First Nature. N.p., 2013. Web. Feb. 2014.
"The Resurrection Fern." National Wildlife Federation. NFW, 2013. Web. Feb. 2014.