30 September 2015
Penny Dixie ARPS offers a few tips about capturing fungi and – yes – you can find spectacular fungi within London!
The leaves are beginning to turn colour. We’ve had plenty of rain, the air is humid but still quite warm…. it’s nearly fungi time! It’s one of my favourite times of the year and as usual, I’ll be heading off to the woods to photograph some of the UK’s thousands of species of fungi. Apparently there are hundreds of edible fungi species in the UK but I’m not in favour of the current foraging craze. Apart from being a self-confessed fungi-eating coward (some species are deadly poisonous), stripping the fungi out of ancient woodlands like this, is ecologically damaging and unsustainable. The growth in commercial foraging has led to wardens stopping, searching and prosecuting foragers who are stripping our woodlands of fungi to sell to upmarket restaurants.
If you’re a Londoner, head off to nearby Epping Forest with your camera. The forest is around 6,000 years old and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Apparently, many rare species here are now under threat, so please don’t pick or remove any fungi, it’s against the Forest by-laws. Leave everything just as you found it. If you accidentally squish a toadstool, just leave it where it is so it can still release its spores into the ground.
I confess to having two favourite fungi species... The first is Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina). These fungi always seem to grow in the darkest of woodlands in the shade of the leaf canopy. My absolute favourite fungi is the Fly Agaric, (Amanita Muscaria); the toadstool of fairy tales and story books. I visit some special sites each year where I feel as if I've been transported to fairy land. The silver birch woods are thickly carpeted with these extraordinary, magical looking toadstools. I always half expect fairies and goblins to appear in the undergrowth. The first day I visited in 2014, the ground was so dry that there wasn't a single toadstool to be seen. Just a couple of weeks later, and they had burst out of the ground. I'll be back this year #obviously.
I spend many happy hours during October and November each year rolling about in the leaf litter and mud. Fungi are very cooperative subjects in some ways but whilst they might stay still and pose, the photographer does not! A day of photographing fungi is the equivalent of a work out in the gym! Up and down, up and down… I live in the (misguided) hope that my waistline will shrink on my macro days!
I like to try to photograph each species in a range of different ways, from wide angle shots showing the species in its habitat, to portraits of the species in various stages of development and also close up shots to try to showcase the exquisite detail. I frequently choose to capture images in representational darkness, or with just a bit of light illuminating the edges of the cap and or stem. I use a range of lenses too and typically take a ridiculously heavy bag with my macro kit-bag plus a 180mm macro lens, a 24-70mm, a 16-35mm and a 300mm with a 1.4 extender and extension tubes.
All Images © Penny Dixie ARPS
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