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Monday, 2 November 2015

Fungi fun near Milton Keynes!

Yesterday was a lovely sunny day - so I spent a lot of it kneeling in damp leaf litter taking images of fungi!

I was with a small group on a fungi photography workshop led by photographer Bob Brind-Surch and the mycologist Justin Long. Bob runs a number of UK workshops on various aspects of wildlife photography and also leads photographic safaris in Africa. He works with experts on the particular subject of the workshop, so not only does Bob help with techniques from his extensive wildlife photography experience, but the subject expert provides insight, ID and other fascinating information on whatever you are photographing.
Please take a look at Bob's website if you are interested in joining any of his workshops. 
(I don't want to put you off, but I am the "expert" that works with Bob on the dragonfly photography workshops at Wicken Fen)

I'll admit straight away that I know little about fungal biology and even less about identifying them. So - thanks to Justin for ID-ing everything. Some of these are from memory though so, if I've got anything wrong, don't blame Justin.

My first subject was this Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina). There were several around in the leaf litter, but this one was the richest colour. The others were larger, but older, so they had faded a bit. This one was about 5cm tall.

Amethyst Deceiver - Laccaria amethystina


I spotted these Oak Pins (Cudoniella acicularis) just below head height up the trunk of (you've guessed it) an Oak tree. There were a lot more of them, but these four formed a nice little group in this crack in the bark. Each one of them is less than a centimetre tall. I struggled for a while to work out how to get my tripod close enough with the trunk "in the way", but got it right eventually and was able to focus close in to the group.

Oak Pin - Cudoniella acicularis


In between finding and identifying fungi for us to photograph, Justin was away foraging and collecting some lovely extra specimens for us. In particular, I liked this White Saddle fungus (Helvella crispa), which he had collected with the soil that it was growing from. This, he set up on a fallen tree trunk in a convenient place for photography - no kneeling for this one!
In the darkness of woodland, natural light is not always great for photography. One of the techniques that Bob recommends is the use of simple (and cheap!) LED video lights. For this image, the highlight from behind the fungus is direct sunshine, but the right-hand side of the fungus is lit by an LED light.
For me, this give a wonderful sculptural feel to the image.

White Saddle fungus - Helvella crispa


This next one is a rather weird but wonderful fungus. Actually, I think they're all weird and wonderful, but it seems to me that this one is different from many others, as it grows on pine cones, has the stalk offset from the centre and has spines rather than the "usual" straight gills.
I didn't get the name from Justin, but I think it's Auriscalpium vulgare. This is another quite small fungus - the cap is less that a centimetre across. The stark image against a black background was created simply by lighting with a flashgun from below and to the right.


Auriscalpium vulgare (I think)


My last picture for today was more for fun than anything. I finally got out a wide-angle lens to show a bit more of the background, and here's a Fly Agaric (Amanita muscara) and Bob demonstrating some of the finer points of photography to one of the others in the group.


Fungi are a great subject for close-up or macro photography. I'm not sure that I'll ever learn a lot about identifying them, but they're certainly a colourful, varied, fascinating and beautiful group of organisms.
Many thanks to Bob and Justin for a great day!