Friday, 12 March 2010

Photographing Fungi

After the recent wet weather that has lashed many parts of Queensland lately - as I write this it is falling once again ever so gently – I am reminded that along with the humidity we have experienced in the forest fungi will be blooming – well if that’s what you call it.

One of the more interesting plants of the forest to photograph, fungi can present challenges to any photographer.

Many novices, due to the environment fungi grow in being dark, revert to using on-camera flash. This direct lighting kills the texture and produces harsh, ugly shadows. Therefore a tripod and a cable release, remote or using your camera’s self timer is a must! The simple pressure of your finger on the shutter will, and I repeat will cause camera shake.

The best lighting to photograph fungi is an overcast day. This gives a diffused even light courtesy of nature itself.

If flash is to be used it should be off-camera and diffused. Reflectors are also often necessary in photographing fungi. In one of the images below I have simply used alfoil to reflect light back into the underside of the fungi.

Depth of Field (DOF) is critical in fungi photography, no matter if you are working with a true macro lens or not. Most fungi are very small and if you are working in macro the old rule of DOF of 1/3 in front and 2/3rds behind goes out the door. It’s now 50-50. Your focus point is then critical and should not most probably be the front edge of the cap of the fungi.

Focusing should also be done manually and the last final focus should not be done using the focus ring but by actually moving the camera.

In the newer cameras live view is wonderful. You are often working close to the ground and other than there are things crawling and slithering on the moist earth, the live view is a beneficial tool as it allows you to zoom in, focus and take the exposure without often lying prone on the frequently wet earth of a rainforest floor.

Mirror lock-up is also a handy in-camera tool. The first press of your shutter locks the mirror up and therefore you have no view. The second press releases the shutter and hence decreases shake from the mirror.

Did you know?
A mushroom is the part of a group of plants called fungi that contain no chlorophyll.
The mushroom is the part that appears above ground. It is the fruiting body of the plant, and the spores the mushroom produces are the reproductive units. Due to the lack of chlorophyll, fungi do not produce food and survive by metabolizing organic material. The parts of a mushroom include the cap, the gills that produce the spores (usually under the cap) and the stalk. Well a little science and know how can’t hurt us can it?A good Read:

Want to read a great book about photographing fungi?
Then check out “Photographing Fungi in the Field” by George McCarthy. George McCarthy has been a professional photographer since 1986 and specialises in the flora and fauna of the British Isles, with a particular interest in fungi. He has put his experience and knowledge to good use in writing this book.

Publisher: Guild of Master Craftsman Publications
ISBN 1-86108-263-3

Images (c) by Danielle Lancaster

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