stalking the elusive fungus!
If you haven't tried making mushroom photos before, prepare for a
and the possibility of getting hooked! Mushrooms come in a huge variety
colors, shapes, and sizes that will keep close-up and macro
photographers entertained for years.
Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi. Despite intense scientific
study, there is still a lot about mushrooms
and fungi that we don't understand.
I am not an expert on edible mushrooms, and this is not a site about
collecting edible mushrooms! The photographs presented here are not a gallery of
edible mushrooms! This page is only
about mushroom photography, making pictures of fungi, and inspiring
its readers to make mushroom photos!
Now that that's out of the way, here are the other pages in this Macro
Photography Subjects section:
A brief mycology* lesson
- They are the fruiting
bodies of fungi. They produce spores, which
are akin to seeds in plants.
- Fungi are not
plants or animals. They occupy their own
biological Kingdom (of which biologists describe five others: Animals,
Plants, Bacteria, Protists, and Archaea).
- Fungi cannot
produce their own food, like plants, nor do they have
internal digestion, like animals. They break down organic matter by
secreting digestive chemicals.
- Fungi are either parasitic (feed on
living things), saprophytic (feed on dead or
decaying organic matter), or mycorrhizic (live in
partnership with plants in their root zone).
- Mushrooms are just one
above-ground part of what can be a
huge underground organism.
- Nature's most efficient recyclers, fungi produce a
fantastic variety of
that digest wood and other organic materials, making nutrients
available to plants and animals, and playing an essential role in the
are mushrooms, too. I grew up learning that
toadstools are mushrooms known to be poisonous, but that sloppy
terminology has been abandoned.
- Many mushrooms are edible, but most are not and
deadly. Non-experts should assume all
mushrooms are inedible!
- Part of the fun of
mushroom hunting, and making mushroom photos, is that you never know
when and where they will pop up! Experts can make good
but in truth, making pictures of fungi is a crap-shoot. Fungi act on
their own calendar, to a set of priorities
they keep secret.
* The study of fungi.
Finding mushrooms: "Getting your eyes on"
If you want to practice mushroom photography, and to get good
mushroom pictures, you will have to
do some hunting. Not to worry: that's part of the fun!
Fungi are everywhere in nature, but not all of them produce photogenic
mushrooms. To tip the odds of finding them in your favor, try searching
in these habitats:
- Woodlands (check fallen logs)
- Grasslands, gardens and lawns
- Disturbed ground
- Manure piles
- Burned areas
- Roadsides and parking areas
My daughter and me with
a giant puffball mushroom!
The expression "getting your
eyes on" refers to the process of training your eyes to find mushrooms
in and among leaves and other debris that cover them up.
Many mushroom hunters describe the experience of searching and
searching for a particular mushroom without success, and then, once the
first one has been found, suddenly seeing more and more, even in the
areas they had previously covered.
If you're out for mushroom photos, and not for dinner, you have much
more mushroom variety to choose from. Mushrooms you'd never
consider eating can make
great macro photography subjects!
Seven Tips for making Mushroom Photos
If you're getting
started, use whatever camera you have available. Even
point-and-shoot compact cameras can make wonderful mushroom photos,
but they have one major flaw: no auto-focus override, so precision
focus is a matter of chance!
If you're ready
to upgrade, review my macro
photography equipment pages. A full macro photography rig
includes a camera,
or other close-up photography accessories, tripod,
modifiers, and (optional) a flash
unit. Depending on where you will be working, take some time to review
either my outdoor
photography tips, or studio photography tips.
- To photograph
hand-held or with a tripod? This depends on you, and on
the amount and type of light that is available. Many mushrooms
grow in dark areas, so expect to either
place your camera on a tripod or
add light with a macro flash unit,
such as a ring flash.
My personal preference when photographing mushrooms outdoors is to use
a tripod, small aperture, and long shutter speeds. This reveals the
context of their environment better than flash. If you find mushrooms
growing in an open, brighter area, by all means photograph
hand-held, using just the available light. Hand-held photographers: be
aware of camera shake!
- The best
tripods for mushroom photography allow camera placement
low to the ground. This can be either a small unit with short legs, or
a larger tripod with a reversible center column. Check out the camera
support page for a review of this important topic, and to
pick up some ideas about alternative types of camera support.
- Mushroom pictures can be made in the wild, where
they grow, or indoors
under controlled conditions. Either method is valid, and can produce
stunning photos. Review the outdoor
photography page for tips and advice about protecting
yourself and your equipment from the elements. Review the studio
photography page for helpful advice on setting up a small
indoor macro photography space.
like damp, cool weather. They typically appear a day or
two after rain has fallen. Or not: mushrooms appear when they are good
and ready, and not according to
clockwork! Knowledgeable mushroom hunters know this, and always keep an
open mind about what they expect to find.
- Generally speaking, mushrooms
shade. Mushrooms are most commonly found in wooded areas,
however, open, shady areas can be productive, too.
- Because mushrooms pop out at ground level, prepare to work close to the
ground. Carry a tarpaulin or plastic sheet to protect
yourself, and your photography gear from what could be wet, soggy
ground. The best
perspective for mushroom photography may be on your belly!
Here's some of the variety of shapes and sizes you'll encounter when
making mushroom photos:
What's your approach to Mushroom Photography?
Have Some Cool Mushroom Photography?
Do you have some great Mushroom Photography? Or some great Mushroom Photography tips? Share them!