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A fungi to be with (part 2)

After my last blog post about fungi in Savernake Forest, I went back a week later and had another fungi-spotting wander with a friend.  We were walking back to our cars when my friend spotted this delicate little clump of Mycena fungi amongst the fallen beech leaves.  I immediately got my bin liner out again so I could lie on the ground and get the right viewpoint.  Flip out screens are OK up to a point but sometimes you just have to get down low to give good camera stability.

I used my 64 LED light panel to light it from the front and an LED torch to light it from the right.  There’s quite a bit of added light on the fungi, and setting the exposure for the fungi has made the background quite dark.   The caps are clearly defined against the darker background which is nice, but the image is a little bit too much of a simple record/identification image.

The thing that need sorting to make it a bit more “arty” was balancing the relative brightnesses of the fungi and the background.  The way to do that was to reduce the light on the fungi by moving the LED panel further away.  I’ve also flipped the torch light so it comes from the left instead of the right.  Because there’s now less light on the fungi the background brightness goes up and the lovely wide-aperture bokeh is more visible.  To my mind it’s a more pleasing image.  It’s got more likes on Facebook than any of my other images, so it’s not just pleasing me.

The moral is always to consider the background brightness as well as the subject brightness.

No “fungi to be with” jokes here…

Yesterday I went to the wonderful Savernake Forest in Wiltshire.  It started out as a socially-distanced lockdown autumn colours walk with a friend, but ended up being a fungal foray photography fest!

I was hoping we would see some fungi, so I prepared for it.  I took my Olympus E-MD5 MkIII fitted with the superb Olympus 60mm macro lens.  It’s a lovely light combination with excellent image quality.  The other vital accessories were a black bin liner and a head torch.  The bin liner was to allow me to kneel or lie on the ground and stay reasonably dry, and the head torch was to add a bit of light into darker areas.

We came across a horizontal rotting log with these delightful parasol fungi on it.  Because the trees were so far away it gave a good diffuse background with the colour of the trees showing.  The background colours have a similar warmth to the colour of the fungi. At this point the sun was out, so the light was quite directional resulting in good contouring on the parasols.

This tiny little parasol was on the shady side of a log so I had to use 1000ISO to get a reasonable shutter speed.  There’s a limit to how slow a shutter speed you can hand-hold even with image stabilisation.  Everything around the fungi was green so the creamy-coloured top stood out well.  I was careful to ensure that the moss capsule in the foreground was in focus.  It adds another area of sharpness in an otherwise diffuse image.

The underside of fungi, with the gill structure, can be more interesting than the tops.  I’ve isolate a part of a fungal cap to make a pattern image.

You can find interesting fungi in your garden, so you don’t have to travel to do fungal macro photography.   It’s the perfect time of year for it, so why not pop out and have a look?

NB:  I did not pick any of these fungi to take back to the studio or to eat.  It’s always good to leave things for other people to enjoy.  If, like me, you don’t know for certain what species a fungus is, then it’s very, very unwise indeed to eat it.

“The subjects in the photos go round and round…”

Are you looking for a subject for your images?  If so, think about round things.  There are plenty of circular subjects in the world and they fit nicely into a square or near-square crop.

This dandelion is a case in point.  I was out walking and had my macro lens on the camera.  I saw the dandelion head and held it up in front of the camera so the sun was behind it.  The sky was cloudy and the smallish aperture I used brought just enough structure into the background.  Shooting at f2.8 would have given a very diffuse background.  The simple circle gives our eyes permission to investigate the complexity of the individual seed heads.

This pumpkin was part of the annual pumpkin competition at Beer in Devon.   Whilst it’s not a full circle we know enough about how pumpkins look to fill in the gaps.  I was careful to include the trophies in the background to give better context.

The Devon trip gave me a chance to photograph a bit of social history.  By the side of the road between Beer and Sidmouth there is a memorial to a Dr Thomas Gilbert-Smith who died at that spot in 1904.  The memorial takes the form of a bench, and has three slate plaques telling the story.  The round one tells another story as well.

Don’t take a circuitous route, or take the long way round, to using circular subjects in your photography.

Where is the light coming from?

Yesterday afternoon, as it was a lovely day, I went for a walk round a local country park.  I took my Panasonic TZ-100 travel-zoom compact camera, as it’s small and light.

The sun was quite low in the sky and it was reflecting well off the large lake at the park.  How that light looked was very dependent on what side of the lake you were.  The first side I came to had the sun almost opposite, which meant backlighting.

The park’s swans were quite photogenic in that light.  This swan was feeding with its head under the water.  I waited until it lifted its head up again, which gave the droplets falling from its beak, the ripple rings and the catch light near the edge of the frame.

As the birds swam around, the ripples they made gave lots of little pinpoints of lights.  It looked as if they were being followed by diamonds.  I was lucky here as the bird’s beak was wet, so had a nice edge light on it.  The low exposure level of both these images gives an almost monochrome look to them.

Moving to the other side of the lake meant that the light was coming from behind me.  No longer were the images monochrome; they had deep colours and saturation.  The absence of significant wind gave high quality reflections.  Here are some reflected reeds with gentle ripples caused by a passing duck!

The broader reflections were good too, with distorted trees and almost perfectly rendered sky.  I’ve inverted the image to make it less obviously a reflection.

Photography is all about the light, and here you can see just how much your images can change when you change the light direction.  It’s an important lesson.

Mobile with my mobile

Having tweaked my right foot a few weeks ago I needed a longish walk to see if it was working OK.

I chose an area between Avebury and Devizes in Wiltshire.  There’s a fabulous walk in fascinating landscape full of the signs of human occupations going back  thousands of years.  I didn’t want to be overburdened with equipment, so I took my  Lumix TZ-100 and my Huawei mobile.  In the end I hardly used the TZ-100.

The weather was great, though a bit hazy for colour photography.  I converted the image into contrasty B&W in Snapseed.  On the middle ground slopes that were eroded by ice Age melt water, the “sheep tracks”, or “terracettes”, catch the light nicely.  The lines in the sky echo the lines on the land.

On Morgan’s Hill there’s an evocative copse of beech trees.  They act as a foil to the landscape seen behind and below them.  The high-contrast B&W conversion helps to separate the foreground from the background.  I’m planning a return trip with my fish-eye lens when the trees have lost their leaves.

Of course, a trip into the woods with my Huawei mobile wouldn’t be the same without using “Silky Water” mode and moving the camera.  Choosing a trunk that was catching the sunlight gave good highlights.  I moved from the tree tops to the ground and the wide-angle lens has given significant “waisting”.

Same lens. Same camera. Different looks.

My foot?  It’s fine thanks.