Finding & Photographing Fungi
I must admit I’m so glad that Spring is just around the corner but as a photographer I do really enjoy the Autumn/Winter months. Since getting a macro lens for my 21st birthday, I have been concentrating on the smaller things and the little details in nature.
Fungi have become a real fascination for me. Being so small, they often blend in with their surroundings and can be elusive to locate.
Over the Autumn/ Winter season, I have been on a hunt around the local spots in Kent with my camera looking for specimens to photograph. A lot of mushrooms and fungi like dark, damp conditions, often growing on fallen tree trunks and under leaves and forest undergrowth. This means they can be really hard to spot! I felt like I’d discovered a pot of gold, when I found my first fly agaric mushroom- the bright red ones which look like something out of a fairy tale! I’ve always wanted to photograph them.
Where to find fungi…
This is a tricky question because they can pop up anywhere, but I’d recommend woodlands and dense forests as a good starting place.
Some fungi love to grow on trees and popular species include birch (favourites of the colourful fly agaric), beech and oak trees. In my experience I’ve found that old-growth woodlands with more established trees seem to produce better results in finding fungi but I don’t know if there is a correlation.
Where to find fungi in Kent & Sussex…
I would recommend checking out some of the National Trust properties- they often have large sprawling woodlands and parkland attached to the historic houses which make prime locations for fungi spotting! Also if you’re a member, you can get in for free all year round.
My Camera Settings for Photographing Fungi…
First things first, you definitely don’t NEED a macro lens to photography fungi. In fact it can be fun to experiment using a wide-angle lens to get more of a feel for the toadstool as a part of it’s environment. Especially if like in the photo below, it’s a large bracket fungi- it’s actually often more interesting to make a composition which includes some of the tree trunk and the undergrowth adding texture.
Saying this, macro lens are ideal for photographing some of the more delicate, petite-sized fungi. They allow you to capture all the beautiful detail and colour of the mushrooms.
Always try to use a wide aperture- this will allow as much light into the camera as possible, and enable faster shutter speeds. If you are hand-holding your camera this is really important as it will enable you to get sharp shots, which aren’t blurry.
If possible it’s worth using a tripod or ideally a beanbag for your camera- they are inexpensive but super useful- I bought this one off amazon and use it ALL the time when photographing funghi at ground level. By having a sturdy base to balance your camera on, you can get sharper shots and shoot at lower shutter speeds, because your camera will be stable. This is really important for funghi, as they often grow in low-light conditions like woods, meaning you won’t be able to take photos at very fast speeds.
By all means experiment with perspective, but as a general rule I find getting down low to a ground-level perspective produces the best results- it makes the photographs feel much more immersive.
Play around with bokeh. Another advantage to using a wide aperture, is that it creates a shallow depth of field. This basically means that everything in front and behind the areas you are focused on will blur out nicely. In the photo above, I used a wide aperture to focus on the mushroom, but to blur out the bright green moss in front and behind, creating nice bright background and foreground colour.
Live view- If your DSLR has the live view option- meaning you can shoot photos using the screen rather than looking few the viewfinder, I would recommend using it. When working low to the ground, it’s often easier and more comfortable to look at the screen. Additionally, if using a macro lens you can set your focus manually using the manual ring, then zoom in on live view to check you have the right parts of your subject all in sharp focus before taking the picture. This is SUPER usefu! as getting the focus pin-sharp and just right using a macro lens can be really challenging.