Photography obsessed writer and urban explorer. Lover of nature, art and long weekends. Adelaide, South Australia.
Published April 26th 2017
It's the little things
It's autumn (almost winter) and it's this time of year when you head to the hills, walk slow and look to the ground. With your camera in your hand, you (ie ME!) seem to spend an awful lot of time crawling around on the ground; searching out the beautiful teeny world of mushrooms, toadstools, lichen and fungi that grow in and around the Hills area.
Most fungi like dark places - you'll find them in the shadiest part of the forest. Natural light is the best. The colours and features of the fungi are shown at their best in natural light. Fungi usually grow after rain - they are shiny and wet and if you use a flash or external lights, the details can become overexposed and washed out. Experiment with your lighting - move your light, flash or reflector around and shoot from as many angles as you can. We only get a narrow window of time each year to photograph fungi, so have some fun and try something different while you've got the chance.
Get down low You're going to need to get down on the ground and be at eye level with the fungi. This means that you'll be flat out on the ground, which is usually damp and/or muddy. I take a lightweight plastic backed picnic blanket with me, spread it out on the ground and lay on it. I still get a bit dirty, but I am usually dry, which means I'm ok to get back in my car for the drive home. I also wear my gumboots and keep a pair of clean shoes in the car to change into when I've finished my outing. You'll get quite the work out too - all that getting up and down off the ground is better than a big session at the gym!
Tripod Low light means long-ish exposures and that means that you're going to need to stabilise your camera to avoid getting blurry photos. You can use a tripod, but some tripods just can't get down to ground level effectively. A good option to try is a bean bag, similar to one of those re-heatable wheat bags that we all use in winter to keep up warm. They're perfect for keeping your camera steady while on the ground. Use your camera's self-timer to avoid any camera shake or use a remote shutter release if you have one.
Do some 'gardening' Fungi grow in scrubby undergrowth and tend to be half covered in leaf litter. Take a little brush with you and tidy up the area to remove any distracting objects that may ruin your photograph. I'm not saying that you have free licence to destroy the natural area, I'm just suggesting a slight aesthetic grooming - brushing aside leaves and twigs etc. Fungi play a vitally important role in our forest ecosystems. Many fungi species are fantastic natural recyclers. They help break down dead plant and animal material and put nutrients back into the soil. It's important that we don't damage them or their home for fear that they'll no longer be able to do the great job that they do, so watch where you tread and try not to squish them.
Prime Lenses and Slow Shutter Speeds The best lenses for low light photography are generally prime lenses and macro lenses. The apertures can go to f2.8 or less - ideal for letting lots of light in and making it possible to hand hold the camera for some shots. If the area is really dark and you don't have a lens that can cope as well as the primes, then try using a longer shutter speed (and a tripod) to get your shot.
Get In Close
Once you're flat out on the ground, you are close enough to get in really close. How close is close enough? As close as you possibly can! It's all about the small details. Try to use a shallow depth of field to isolate your subject from its background and make the subject really stand out.
Wash your hands!
As a general rule of thumb, treat every wild growing fungi as if it is poisonous. Do not touch it. Do not eat it. Do not take it home. A small brush is the best way to touch the fungi, if needed. If you happen to come into contact with fungi, wash your hands as soon as you can.
So, where are the best spots for fungi photography? The best places are forests and places where it's dark and damp, particularly underneath pine and oak trees. I have found great little photo subjects in the Adelaide Botanical Gardens, Mt Lofty Botanical Gardens, Stirling, Cherry Gardens, Kiutpo Forest, Mt Crawford Forest, and occasionally - my front and/or backyard. Sometimes it's not necessary to travel great distances to get a photo. But a walk through a forest on a cool morning with a nice hot coffee afterwards is a whole lot more fun than spotting a sweet little mushie on my back lawn on the way out to the clothesline.
There are literally hundreds of places to see mushrooms growing - go out and find them. Explore. See what you can see. And, take some photos while you're there. You'll be glad you did.
Would love a macro lens. Have also seen all manner of fungi at Deep Creek Conservation Park. Thanks for the photos. I particularly liked the angle of the last one looking from underneath. Like being in a little fairy house đĄ circa Enid Blyton. đđđđđ
what stunning shots they are. i could not scroll through fast enough. lol. i have just done my first waterfall shot on my instagram at Thorndon Park. i was so excited that it worked out ok. Now I will hunt mushrooms down. You have given me another subject to look for. Again fantastic shots. Brillant. Are you on instagram - i would love to sit with a coffee and go through them.
cheers jane mckinnon (my instagram is janes_photo_gallery).