1Frame4Nature | Matthew Cicanese

What YOU Can Do: 

Appreciate the Earth’s little details by stopping and look closer! Carry a small magnifying glass with you and you’ll surely find that there’s beauty around the planet in all shapes and sizes!

–1Frame4Nature is a collection of images and stories from around the globe of your personal connection to nature. However small, when combined with the actions of others, your individual actions can impact real and tangible outcomes for the preservation of our planet. Submit your story now!

IMG_2621A Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis) shows its jagged teeth and changes its skin tone from a calm green to a warning brown when threatened. This native species from Florida has had to adapt to live away from the ground-dwelling invasive rival species (Anolis sagrei), by living high in tree canopies to remain safe from being eaten.

iLCP Emerging League Photographer Matthew Cicanese‘s 1Frame4Nature: Illuminating Earth’s Underdogs

I started out like most kids when I was young — with a thirst for adventure and an overflow of curiosity! Growing up with a woodland surrounding my house meant that on most days whenever I wasn’t playing video games I was exploring the great unknown of my Florida backyard. Catching bugs, green anoles (picture above), and snakes with my brother and sister was a way for us to learn about our world out in our own backyard. Being a deaf-blind (right ear/left eye) meningitis survivor has always presented challenges for me, but when I got my first camera at age 14, it opened an entirely new way for me to see and document the world, that paired perfectly with my strong interests in science and the environment.

A beam of sun pierces the thick forest canopy and illuminates a small patch of moss with towering seta, deep within the heart of a forest.A beam of sun pierces the thick forest canopy and illuminates a small patch of moss with towering seta, deep within the heart of a forest.

My decision to pursue college studies in environmental studies and documentary arts was a path that enriched my itch to explore and illuminate the small and beautiful details of natural environments. Over the years as my skills in science and visual arts advanced, I learned how to connect the dots between these two seemingly-dichotomous worlds. This helped me present these small organisms in a way that uplifted their natural beauty and tell their story through the universal language of photography. For example: Through photography, I can produce work that illustrates both the scientific process of photosynthesis and the splendor of the species in an artistic manner (picture above).

A cluster of fungi rise from the ground below – where a network of fungal filaments grows amidst a sea of soil, bacteria, invertebrates, and other lifeforms that make life in the forest possible.A cluster of fungi rise from beneath their mycelial mat beneath the forest floor — up through the soil and leaves, to tower above this microcosm for a brief (but glorious) moment in time.

What draws me to these organisms and spaces is the feeling I get when looking through my camera — one that makes me believe I’ve been shrunk down to experience those species worlds at their scale. As an artist I feel that if I can achieve a perspective in my photographs that elicits this feeling for my viewers as well, then a visceral connection to childlike wonder can take hold of that experience, and invite those viewers to go explore these types of places themselves. One of my favorite elements of experiencing these microcosms in person is the element of sudden discovery. For example, when I was laying on the ground to photograph the ants seen in the photograph below, I discovered that there were beautifully camouflaged tree hoppers that those ants were protecting!

20186039388_55ef66a657_oTwo black, bearded ants patrol the limbs of a tree for predators while treehoppers are clustered together to feed on the fluids of the tree. In this symbiotic relationship, the ants provide the hoppers protection from predators in exchange for a sweet secretion from the hoppers abdomens (with the ants sometimes massage out with their feelers).

Until recently, I’ve had an irrational fear of spiders and other arachnids. However, my camera and macro-view of the world has enabled me to get closer to these subjects to observe their roles in the environment and see their visual beauty as organisms. This has helped me foster a stronger understanding of why I should not fear them, and has shown me why they are vital to the planet. One of my favorite moments photographing arachnids so far, was when I saw an extremely small juvenile jumping spider exploring a flower in late-spring (below). When I saw the beauty in that individual, I fell in love with jumping spiders. Out of all the arachnids, they’re some of the most curious, charismatic, and beautiful species found around the world! After I photographed this little jumper, it sprang in curiosity from the flower leaf into the barrel of my macro lens! I used a leaf from the ground to gently place it back on the flower, and went on my way.

DSC_1141A juvenile jumping spider explores the leaves of a flower the height of your index finger as if it were Mount Everest! Tethered to the central stem, it can climb, run, and jump with ease and safety.

As a conservation photographer, my hope is that viewers of my work foster a stronger appreciation for these lesser-known and under-loved organisms. I believe if people can see the beauty of these species and feel like they are part of their world, then they will be more likely to protect the places these organisms call home. One thing that I’ve found time and time again about these underdog organisms, is that I can find equally beautiful and interesting organisms anywhere I go, it’s just a matter of patience and looking close enough.

So get outside, look closely, and be patient! There’s no such thing as a boring microcosm! If you don’t have a camera and macro lens, then just get a magnifying glass. The most important thing is to go in your own backyard and see the beauty in the details — because they are equally worth protecting as any other species on our planet!

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See more of Matt’s work on Instagram (@MatthewCicanese or www.instagram.com/MatthewCicanese), and if you want to learn more — visit his website at www.MatthewCicanese.com!

This article is brought to you by the 1Frame4Nature Campaign. Share a picture and story on Instagram with the hashtag #1Frame4Nature, of your personal connection to nature and tell us what action you’ve taken on behalf of our planet.

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