Each specimen was carefully placed and photographed on a piece of black velvet
A new exhibition at the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro shows the painstakingly beautiful work of photographer Trevor Ashby.
Trevor spent four years paying weekly visits to the Eden Project after becoming fascinated by leaves and blossoms on the ground in the tropical biome.
He set about the self-imposed task of transforming the decaying vegetation into eternal works of art.
Trevor trained as a painter and has long had a penchant for still life but the process of capturing these images was far from straightforward.
Curiosity is a major motivation in Trevor's work
"It can get pretty hot and steamy in the biome which meant that for the first hour I couldn't really take pictures," he says.
"Then, when I did start, water would just drip off the camera and I'd have to clean the lens after every shot."
One way of combating the problem was to collect what he wanted to photograph and move down to the bottom near the doors where it was cooler.
Even then, with temperatures in the 90s and jets of water being sprayed, conditions were far from ideal.
"The longest I was able to stay in the biome was four and a half hours, but I thought I was going to faint," he admits. "I drank lots of water but would quite often go home feeling unwell."
Another challenge was light. "I could never go and do the photography on a day that was too dark or raining because I only ever use natural daylight," he says.
Regardless of the difficulties, Trevor was clearly so captivated by the self-imposed task of showing the beauty in decay that he persevered, carefully placing each specimen on a piece of black velvet.
"I went through a lot of black velvet skirts from charity shops," he says.
"The cloth got contaminated very quickly - pollen kept falling on it and I couldn't get it off. Insects got on it too but, because I was using a long exposure, they often didn't get recorded because they had time to move."
The result is a series of beautifully crafted images that convey a sense of order in the natural world, celebrating the exquisite shapes, patterns and textures of organic matter that all too often we accept as commonplace and ignore.
Trevor moved to Cornwall with his family after retiring as an art teacher in Oxford in 2004.
The county attracted him because of its remoteness but, although he loves the landscape, it is specific items that intrigue him when it comes to producing art.
Photographer Trevor Ashby has photographed decaying vegetation with stunning results
"Curiosity is a major motivation in my work," he says.
"I trained as a painter and so have had many years of experience in looking closely at things in front of me until a drawing or painting was complete. I became interested in photography when I was in my twenties.
Now the desire to record what's around me using a camera has become a passion."
"I travelled overland to India forty years ago without a camera," he explains.
"I stayed there for two years and became increasingly aware that I was constantly framing images in my mind so, when I got back to England, I bought an old SLR camera and that's how it all started.
There is little doubt that the arrangements featured in Earthly Delights are both attractive to the eye and compelling. Like all great art, they question our perceptions and inspire us with possibilities.
Fallen leaves and decaying flowers will never seem quite the same again.
Earthly Delights runs at the Royal Cornwall Museum from Tuesday 18 January to Saturday 2 April 2011. Entrance is free.