Freelance wildlife and natural history photographer Adrian Davies, author of Digital Plant Photography reminisces on the fungi of 2012!
Of all botanical subjects, fungi are probably the most unpredictable in terms of numbers and species. An area brimming with specimens one year may be virtually devoid of them the following year, even though conditions are seemingly favourable. 2012 was no exception here, with a dearth of specimens during the main fungus season in September and October. I even heard of fungus forays being cancelled due to the lack of specimens. I visited several of my favourite sites, but shot very few images during the main season, though there was an unexpected flush in November.
At my favourite fungus site, Ebernoe Common in Sussex, I always make a point of visiting my favourite Beech tree, complete with excellent specimens of the Artists fungus, (Ganoderma australis). I have known the tree for over 10 years. This is one of those specimens where a wide angle lens is very useful, enabling you to show the fungi in their environment. Visiting the tree in October I was taken completely by surprise to find that the tree had blown over during the previous winter. It was like losing an old friend. However, of course, fungal attack on trees, causing their eventual decline, is all part of the natural process , and this tree will eventually rot down to provide food for a new generation of trees, keeping the woodland healthy.
In the first shot I used a 17 – 55mm zoom lens at 20mm to capture the fungi growing at the base of the tree, and still show the trees in the background. Note the reddish brown spores which have fallen from the brackets.
I always make a point of going out looking for fungi with experts if possible, on a foray. Not only are they usually much better at finding them than me, but can also identify them for me! By doing that, even though specimens were hard to find, I did manage to see some fascinating specimens. I would never have found this tiny Earthstar fungus (Geastrum fimbriatum), growing amongst the leaves on the woodland floor without their help. I used a 105mm macro lens, couple with a 1.4x tele-converter to try to throw the background out of focus.
Bracket fungi are long lived and often have wonderful patterns underneath, such as the aptly named Oak Mazegill (Daedalea quercina). Someone had knocked this specimen from its tree, and it was a simple shot to prop it up against a tree stump, and shoot it with my 105mm lens.
My favourite fungus is the Magpie Fungus (Coprinus picaceus) one of the inkcaps. They are not common, but when you do find them they often grow in abundance, and when I visited this woodland in November there were hundreds of them, lit by early morning sunlight shafting through the trees. I shot this with my 17 – 55mm lens at 24mm, making sure the lens hood was in place to prevent excessive flare.
I always look for different viewpoints when photographing toadstools, and a view looking straight down onto these again aptly named Earthy Webcaps (Cortinarius hinnuleus) seemed most appropriate.
For practical advice on photographing plants and fungi, try: