As the weather turns cooler and our shoes sink into grass that's getting steadily damper, it's time to head to the woods in search of the hundreds of fungi species that are flourishing at this time of year.
A good macro lens is a must as is a warm, waterproof jacket and something to lay on.
A low level tripod or one where the legs extend so the tripod is almost horizontal would be useful as you could be using exposures of anywhere up to a couple of minutes. If you have a camera which features Live View, such as the new Olympus OM-D EM-1
, make sure you pack it as it will make your life a lot easier. The EM-1 also features a tiltable 3-inch LCD display, making it easier to see how your shot looks when working from low angles such as these. It's also water-resistant meaning you can keep shooting even if a little bit of rain does start to fall, giving you the opportunity to capture droplets of water covering the tops of fungi.
Pack a small reflector to bounce light under the mushroom – silver reflectors produce bright light while light from a gold reflector is slightly warmer. If you don't have a reflector, there are several ways you can make your own including from foil and card.
Take your off-camera flash along but don't have it facing the mushroom directly as the bounce back can burn out your image. If it's a particularly damp day take your polarising filter
along to reduce the shine from the top of the mushrooms. If you don't, you could end up with an over-exposed mushroom top.
Mushrooms aren't that picky about where they grow, but the best places to find them are in parks and woods in dark, damp conditions. Early morning's the best time to find good samples of mushrooms to photograph as they'll be fresh fruiting bodies from the night before which won't have got trampled on or eaten by insects. To find them though you may need to get down on your knees, searching in between tree stumps and fallen leaves – we didn't say it would be easy now did we! So this is why a waterproof sheet or clothing is essential.
Do Some Gardening
Watch out for creepy-crawlies, not necessarily because they're unpleasant, but because these, as well as other objects such as leaves and twigs can prove to be distracting in your shot. Do a little bit of gardening, moving any unwanted items out of the way. You should still do this even if you're using a wider aperture to throw the background out of focus as dark twigs or bright leaves can still be distracting even if they're blurred. If you don't want to remove them try moving your position or simply hold them back out of shot. Of course you may like the mushrooms in their natural state covered in mud and twigs galore so there's no need to tidy the scene up.
The Right Angle
As with any type of photography, getting the right angle is vital and when you're in the woods, fighting branches and falling over tree roots, this isn't as always as easy as it sounds. But once you've got your position on the ground, you'll be able to not only photograph the top of the mushroom's dome but underneath it too. This gives you the chance to capture some of the textures and colour the mushroom has to offer as well as exaggerate the height of it. Do remember to light the underbelly by directing light into the scene with a reflector.
Play With Flash
If you take your flash try experimenting by bouncing the light off other objects or try back lighting the mushroom to give it an almost halo of light around the top. You can achieve this look by simply lighting it with a torch. It works particularly well on green foliage that's thrown out of focus.
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