hidden from view in dark, moist places, fungi make for attractive results
NOT GENERALLY considered a very attractive or glamorous subject -particularly
when compared to colourful flowers and blossom. Don't overlook the picture
potential of mushrooms and toadstools, though - they are surprisingly
photogenic. They've existed for millions of years, evolving into an
extraordinary variety of types, which range hugely in shape, colour and form -
from waxcaps, stinkhorns, puffballs, death caps to shaggy ink caps. Autumn is
the best time of year to find and shoot fungi, emerging all over the UK in
parks, woodlands and on garden lawns. If you haven't tried photographing fungi
before, it is about time you did so...
Finding fungiThere are
many different types of fungi, all requiring different growing conditions and
habitats. Most prefer ancient deciduous woodland and enjoy rotting tree matter.
From September through to mid-November, visit woodland near where you live and
look at the base of trees, amongst fallen branches, dense leaf deposits and
decaying stumps. Some are relatively large, grow in big clumps and will prove
easy to spot; while others will be small and well camouflaged. Look up as well
as down -you will find some growing above you on overhanging branches and on
tree trunks, but still within range of a telephoto. Fungi can emerge suddenly,
without warning, and disappear again just as quickly. Therefore, it is
worthwhile visiting the same locations regularly - what you find there will
change from day to day.
Choose your specimen: Fungi is
hugely photogenic, and if conditions are right, you'll be spoilt for choice
with subjects. Find a pristine specimen for the best picture potential whether
it’s for a close-up or for group shots.
Much of the
practical and creative technique already discussed in this guide can be applied
to fungi; the equipment required is also the same. However, many species of
fungi enjoy dark, damp environments, so natural light is often more restricted.
Inevitably, the gills and stem receive less light then the mushroom's cap, so
fill-flash or reflected light is normally required. One of the biggest
advantages of using a reflector over flash is that you can see its effects
instantly and you can quickly and easily change the angle or intensity of the
bounced light. A sheet of white card, mirror or tin foil can also be used to
reflect light onto subjects. Unlike other plant life, fungus is rarely affected
by wind movement, being sturdy and often growing in the shelter of trees.
Therefore, as long as you are using a tripod, the length of shutter speed
doesn't really matter. Even if exposure time reaches several seconds long,
don't worry. However, push the feet of your tripod firmly into the mud/ground,
to guarantee stability. With autumn comes dirt and damp in woodland, so use a
ground sheet to keep you and your kit clean and dry. A right-angle finder, or a
camera with a vari-angle LCD, will greatly assist focusing and composition when
shooting fungi at ground level.
In terms of
composition, simplicity often works best. Don't overcomplicate things by trying
to include too much in the frame -isolating one or two mushrooms can have more
impact than if you photograph a large group. You will normally want to capture
the beauty and texture of the gills underneath the cap, so a low shooting angle
is often the best choice. You don't even have to include the entire subject.
Filling the frame will highlight detail, colour and texture.
Shoot pristine subjects
photographing plant life, only shoot pristine subjects. In close-up, even the
slightest imperfection will look greatly exaggerated, proving distracting in
the final image. Study subjects carefully before reaching for your camera.
Fungi will quickly go past their best; they are easily damaged by weather or
slugs and snails, so hunt out the best specimens. Also, as fungus often grows
up through decaying wood and leaf matter, subjects can be smothered in specks
of dirt and vegetation: we advise using a blower brush to carefully remove
any dirt. Doing so will save you having to 'tidy up' the image in Photoshop,
using the Clone Tool or Healing Brush.