(Ceratophyllum demersum)

Returning with my camera to the kettle ponds in Truro I came across an interesting plant in the blue-green waters. Like a coral reef around an island this plant (Hornwort) grows just offshore in a ring of rootless colonies, below the surface but never deeper than I can swim. In some places Hornwort is considered invasive and a nuisance, but here in this vestigial pond of the last ice age the lush denseness massed on the silt offers a welcome habitat to bass and pickerel and small painted turtles. Unlike a bladderwort, whose flowers are lifted into the air for all to see, the tiny male and female blooms of the hornwort never reach the surface and its pollination cycle takes place entirely underwater. And so, aside from a few observant swimmers and the creatures making their homes within, this landscape remains largely unobserved.

On most days I am alone in the pond, swimming slowly across the surface with a downward eye. I pass over delicate formations resembling miniature alpine forests and move carefully to avoid disrupting the still water ecosystem. I breathe out and then sink and glide across the tips of the plants, composing, focusing, and shooting; my own diffused shadow becomes part of my images. Then, with a twist, I reach up my free hand and pull myself through the water to the surface.

As always, the quality of the light defines the underwater visual landscape. Overcast days bring a deep green cast and a softness to everything. Late afternoons draw long shadows from the depths. And when the sun shines bright and high I find myself surrounded by a flickering golden glow as the refracting rays play in the shallows. The brilliance remains with me long after I leave the pond.

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