Acorn Barnacles

Limits and Non-Mega Fauna

The first time I came to Alaska I couldn’t wait to take my first incredible photo of a whale. Three years later… I am still trying to take a “good” photo of a whale.

I am a firm believer that you create strong photographs through technical experience, a unique story, and a creative eye. Over the years, I have explored the capabilities and limits of my Canon 20D with an L series 24-70mm 2.8 lens to create every image on this site. One camera, one lens - not exactly a professional setup but it is what I have to work with. Equipment is a major limiting factor for the subjects I can capture but I continue to shoot creatively and with the same dedication I would treat more exotic topics. You may not see a fantastic photo of a whale on this blog, but I can guarantee there will be some interesting images of the smaller, more approachable non-mega fauna.

We start with the barnacle.

I like to geek out every once and awhile. Give me a rock, a rising tide, a colony of barnacles, a magnifying glass and I’m in a good mood. These itty-bitty crustaceans are quite cool. A mid-tide intertidal creature, barnacles claim space on any and seemingly all objects within a beach range where they spend the stationary part of their lives in a cycle of submersion and open air. While above water, they close two plates of their shell to form a seal protecting it from drying out as well as to provide a barrier from predators. Once the tide rises, the shell segments open and 6 pair of flickering filaments, called cirri, unfurl busily gathering passing particles, algae, and zoo plankton as waves wash over them. There are several different species of barnacles in Alaska that adapt to lower and higher portions of the tidal range and differ in size and texture. This variety is the Acorn Barnacle.


A look at the size ofbarnacles I was photographing; the paper is college ruled. Here, the barnacles formed on the shells of other organisms, which have since washed up on the beach.


Barnacles on the underside of a rock in the mid-tidal range in Bartlett Cove.


A barnacle feeds while the flooding tide sweeps particles over it.  Notice the young, newly attached barnacles to the left of the mature version. The young barnacles build thin shells once they attach to an object after several phase changes in the open water.


This photograph is the result of an attempt at achieving a detailed view of a barnacle shell with the use of a 4X geological magnifying glass.


Watch your boot heels, as it is quite easy to wipe out an entire community of barnacles in ‘a nails across the chalkboard’ scraping step. The three white “scars” on the rock are the remains of barnacles chipped or broken off.


Information about the barnacle was gained through guide-to-guide knowledge and stories, a few observations as well as the great read: The Nature of Southeast Alaska by Rita M. O’Clair, Robert H. Armstrong and Richard Carstensen.