For some, blissful retirement might entail travelling or learning something new, but for Alison Pollack it meant rekindling an old hobby with a new focus, one that is tiny and elusive to the passive hiker.
It started two years ago when she was hiking near her home in Northern California and noticed something in the needles of a Redwood tree. Unclear of what it was she took a picture and looked it up when she got home.
“Myxomycetes is the Latin name which sounds a little snobby, but slime mould isn’t very appealing,” she explained.
The University of California Museum of Paleontology refers to slime moulds as an umbrella term for three different groups: plasmodial (true slime moulds), cellular, and Labyrinthulomycota. The organisms are closely linked to fungi and protozoan.
“The more I read, the more I became absolutely fascinated with their lifecycle, colours, shapes, and the transformations they go through in a very, very short lifecycle.”
“It’s pretty challenging to photograph at the magnification and scale that I photography.” In order to photograph the tiny organisms, you need a high-powered zoom lens as they can vary in size from .005 mm for a single-celled slime mould to 600 mm for a slime mould plasmodium.
Depending on the size of the slime mould she uses different types of lenses such as 90 mm macro lens, a dioptre (increases magnification by 2.5x), or an ultra macro lens (5x).
When looking for them she carries an LED magnifying lens, walks slowly and scans leaf litter or decomposing logs for the tiny organisms.
“I look along the sides, and especially underneath logs, which is where they like to be.”
The incredible photos capture in detail a fascinating organism that remains largely unknown to the public.