Miniature jungles: hay meadows and mature forests in El Montseny
Last spring I had the luck to go on a fantastic micro-expedition one morning to a micro-jungle just an hour away from home. I visited some hay meadows on the slopes of El Montseny with an exceptional guide, Narcís Vicenç, one of Catalonia’s most erudite and knowledgeable of all naturalists. He would be somewhat disdainful of or even surprised by such words if he ever found out that I had described him in this way. He’s more a field naturalist and not one for blogs and so he may never read this — but he is that good, just as everyone in our small world of naturalists will testify.
The aim of the excursion was to gather information and graphic material for a series of explicatory panels dealing with the fabulous biodiversity of two environments that are a priori somewhat less than glamorous: hay meadows and the dead wood of the forests of El Montseny Natural Park -a forested mountain 30km north of Barcelona-. I spent a couple of hours moving around and photographing at ground level with Narcís and I felt as if I was discovering a fantastic jungle. My task then was to convert all this into a single image, and here you have it.
Reproducing a natural environment by blending photographs and my own illustrations of the most representative species of flora and fauna is always a gratifying task. First of all, it obliges me to leave my studio for a few hours and go out into the field and submerge myself in a landscape, impregnate myself in it, and visualize and imagine it in my head as a single image. Then it’s a question of bringing together all the parts that need to be assembled: foregrounds, details, textures, backgrounds, light, shade, overviews and all the photos I need to make an aesthetically pleasing collage that both represents and explains the scene in question.
Next I have to compose the images, a real challenge since, if truth be told, what I create is pure illusion and a visual deceit. I blend various images into a single panorama, in which all the animals and plants to be depicted have a space that is both appropriate in terms of the ecosystem and the composition as a whole.
In the case of the hay meadow, the challenge was to highlight different species of plants amidst the chaos of grass stems, as well as to fit in all the minute insects and relatively large birds. A true microcosm, just like the film.
With the dead wood, it was a case of playing with very close-up foregrounds, perspectives and – there was no alternative – detailed zooms to illustrate all the mosses and invertebrates (many of which were smaller than 1 cm), as well as a huge old trunk of a fir tree.
Now the panels have been printed and are about to be erected in El Montseny Natural Park. We hope that they survive the attacks of the graffiti ‘artists’ and other vandals, and that they wake up a certain curiosity amongst visitors for the biological diversity present in these environments.