28/06/2009

Fungi Hunting


Of all the fascinating roads one might take on the trail of their most photographic fantasy trip, Fungi hunting would have to be up there amongst the favourites.
They include fungal growths, mushrooms and toadstools and it’s where you are likely to really “get down and dirty” with nature. But the rewards you can reap far out-weigh any cursed or calamitous catastrophe that might befall you in the pursuit of your goals.
Fungi hunting is another one of those pastimes that requires quite a bit of research and it is important, in my opinion to do a bit of study on the subject, or at least perhaps try to find someone at your local camera club perhaps who knows a bit about it and what species of fungi you are likely to find in your locale and the best times to go looking for them. I know there are only certain times of the year when they are about, but a good time is during and immediately after a good wet and/or in the cooler months of Autumn and Winter.
There are a variety of shapes, sizes and colours that are very striking at times and some very tiny ones with hair like stems that look as though they will blow over at the slightest breeze. And they may only last for a short part of the day, so it pays to get in early, before the warming sun starts its work on them.
You need to look off the beaten track a bit, but keep the track in sight or you are very likely to get lost wandering about in the bush.
Shooting Fungi is, in a way, like bird photography. The more exotic types are generally the ones that are harder to get. You can either be content with a few shots of a couple of sparrows in your back garden or you can go to extremes to find the more lesser known exotic types that hardly anybody ever comes across. That’s the challenge with Fungi.
So it is a good idea also to find out what are the more common and lesser common varieties. And how difficult it is likely to be to track down the latter. A good eye and patience are the order of the day, but after you have found a couple of the same variety, they seem to get a little easier to spot.

Anyway, apart from all that, how about your equipment?
You really need a good fast Macro lens for this. The faster the better, because of the dismal lighting situations you might find yourself in. You may be looking into or under dark logs and thick undergrowth.
A zoom lens with Macro attachment may suffice in certain circumstances, but it will restrict you.
A remote shutter release is definitely a must.
Also a do anything, go anywhere, fully flexible tripod is mandatory.
I would even take along a miniature one, for when it is necessary to get closer to the ground. So you also need a plastic ground sheet and rubber boots, as it does get a bit boggy in those places.
When the Fungi come up through the mulchy ground they tend to bring up half the forest floor with them, so a small pair of plastic tweezers or scissors are ideal for tidying them up a bit before taking their photograph.
But do it with great care, they can be very delicate.
As for lighting, on-camera flash will work okay sometimes if it is diffused in some way, but a secondary light, such as a slave flash, placed to cover the side or rear, can give an added 3 dimensional appearance to your subjects.
If the Fungi you are photographing are on the forest floor, they are often attached to a piece of woody litter just under the surface and can be carefully extricated and placed in a sunny spot, so they can be photographed more easily. But be sure and return them to how and where they were when you found them. If you set them on a log or large rock, you can then get underneath and shoot up from down below. Giving them a taller appearance with the shapes and textures of their under sides showing.
Yes, it can be a very rewarding experience and one that you could easily get hooked on, but don’t forget to take along all the necessaries for your own well being too. Such as, wear long trousers, take your mobile phone, more than enough fresh water, binoculars, torch, compass, some energy food and warm clothing and don’t forget the extra batteries for the torch and your camera.