Beginnings / Nicholas Ashby Photography

'Seeing comes before words, says John Berger. 'The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.'

Some years back I heard of an oil spill up the road. Cleaners were using strewn sand and chemicals to mop up the mess, and were flushing it down a storm drain.

I knew where it would end up.

I went down to the nearby beach. The gunk was spewing from a pipe into the sea. This is a popular site where people jump in from granite boulders, and is home to beds of anemones.

I calmed my frustration by going over and staring into the uncontaminated water at the nearby tidal pool.

saunders rock man

It was one of those rare windless days. Its water was crystal clear. On the surface floated a small butterfly. I took a picture.

Back home, unsatisfied with the photo, I flipped it 180 degrees, to make it seem that the butterfly was still in flight.

Saunders Tidal Pool Bantry Bay

A more interesting scene appeared, with a new and strange, though not-entirely-unfamiliar sky.

On subsequent seaside and mountain walks I began playing, and once home flipping the results. By turning some of the Cape littoral's less visible biodiversity into the firmament, the floors of inter-tidal zones or streams now came into an unusually stronger focus; the water surface reflected landscapes, sometimes architecture and living beings.

As a guide on local mountains I often feel bound to mention the celebrated biological richness of the region to my hiking companions - who are often visitors to the Cape. The trouble is, the more I try to ‘get’ biodiversity, the trickier I find it to define, without trotting out the dictionary axiom that it's "the variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat, a high level of which is usually considered to be important and desirable."

These photos are a personal reflection of that.