Shells from the Wadden Sea

Shells from the Wadden Sea

A hike in the Wadden Sea

Recently I walked on the tidal flats of the Wadden See at the north coast of Germany.
The Wadden Sea is an intertidal zone at the southeasterly end of the North Sea. It lies between the coast of continental Europe and the Frisian Islands. On low water the tides pull out the entire water that covers this shallow area and expose a muddy ground that is home of a hole world of biological diversity. These areas of exposed seabed are huge and they reach a lenght of about 500km building a total area of around 10.000 km2.

Hiking through the Wadden Sea is an adventure of its own

Thousands of people use the times of low tide to enjoy the walk in the soft ground that is said to have great health benefits. More than that walking in the Wadden Sea can be a great place to find stress relief as the areas further away from the coast are usually not visited by too many people and therefore stressed minds can rest and become one with nature.

For the ones interested in the biodiversity of this astonishing natural resort a whole world of creatures that can partially be found only in this particular area of the world is in front of their eyes. Bugs, shellfish, worms, plants, all in thousands of different variations and sizes fascinating anyone interested. However, some of these creatures can only be discovered when digging deeper into the ground, following the distinct traces they leave when hiding in their lairs .

As mindblowing and peaceful hiking in the tidal flats of the Wadden Sea can be, as dangerous can it be, too

Inexperienced visitors of the tidal flats of the Wadden Sea must take great care of the tidal time predictions that are usually displayed all along the coast at information points. Failing to start their return voyage in time might end in a very unpleasant in best and in a avery dangerous experience in the worst case. Emergency points with little platforms built on sturdy posts make sure anyone being surprised by the returning water and being too far from the coast for a safe return finds a safe place to stay. Staying on one of these platforms can be a tiring adventure though as the following low water will only occur approx. 6 hours later.

When I hiked through the muddy sea bed at the German coast near Cuxhaven I was overwhelmed by all the incredible forms and shapes I could find in the ground. I kept collecting shells, stones that showed signs of a long history in the sea, sea weed in all kind of weird shapes and all kind of flotsam.

Something fascinating

One thing that particularly fascinated me were the myriads of different shells. Many of them dead and washed out but most of them still alive and partially buried inside the mud around them.  I collected a whole arm full of them and carried them home. I took extra care to only take the ones that were dead and had been washed out by the sea for a longer period of time. However, as it should turn out a couple of weeks later it is not always easy to see whether these animals still live in their house or if they have moved out.

Once at home I left the box of shells in my storage room for a later examination. This turned out to be a big mistake. The breath-taking smell of the rotten former inhabitants of these fascinating housings blew me away when I opened the room to my storage a couple of weeks later. After examining the rotten animals it then took another couple of weeks to get rid of the smell from my studio rooms.

The shots

I did, however, manage to dedicate some time to taking photographs of them. This wasn’t an easy task as I had a clear idea of how I wanted the final look of the images to be. The only way to shoot them was to hang them up on some strings to be able to light them from all sides. As it is often the case in digital still life and product photography nowadays it can be quite tricky to get everything in focus. Depending on the distance between camera and object and the used lens as well as the used aperture some kind of focus stacking is often required to get everything sharp from front to end.

Focus stacking, however, requires an absolutely still object. Any movement of the object or the camera will inevitably result in either the necessity of re-shooting or in a significant increase of work in post-production. Neither of it is desirable and therefore I had to work with great care in order to get the shots efficiently done. One of the most tricky tasks with these shots was to get light into the inner of the shells.

I shot a total of five different shells in both a dark and a light version each.
I created this series of images for making them available as framed fine art prints on my fine art website David Herm Fine Art (

A Still Life Shot of a Shell from the German Wadden Sea - Original Shot A Still Life Shot of a Shell from the German Wadden Sea - Shot 03A Still Life Shot of a Shell from the German Wadden Sea - Shot 05A Still Life Shot of a Shell from the German Wadden Sea - Shot 06A Still Life Shot of a Shell from the German Wadden Sea - Shot 04A Still Life Shot of a Shell from the German Wadden Sea - Shot 02

Additionally to the dark versions I shot (hanging and with focus stacking)
I also took a couple of shots with the shells in a three-side box setup, see below.

A Still Life Shot of a Shell from the German Wadden Sea - Shot 03 with White Background

A Still Life Shot of a Shell from the German Wadden Sea - Shot 05 with White Background

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