HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH THE TINY WORLD OF FUNGI WITH THESE 5 EASY TIPS
As autumn progresses and the leaves start to fall from the trees, it can seem as though everything is dying off – albeit with some quite spectacular colours as it does so. However, the months of September, October and November are also the best times to photograph the tiny, intricate world of fungi. You only have to venture into woodland and take a close look at the forest floor to see that it’s absolutely alive with numerous varieties of fungi. These beautiful organisms don’t last very long and change by the day. They’re often eaten by animals and can be easily damaged, but while they’re around they make exceptional subjects for macro photography. In this blog we will show you how to find fungi and photograph them effectively.
Taken by Peter MacCallum-Stewart shot on an Olympus O-MD E-M1 + OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro
At this time of year you can find fungi in grassy verges, meadows, pastures, hedgerows, fallen trees and patches of woodland. Any area with rich soil that’s not too dry and has enough shade will be perfect. However, if you want to increase your chances of finding fungi, the best places to head for are woodlands.
Although some fungi are very large, most will be quite small and require you to get close to photograph them. There are two main ways to photograph a subject as small as this. First, you can use a telephoto lens with a good minimum focusing distance. Many of the OLYMPUS telephoto lenses can focus close, such as the OLYMPUS M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150 mm f/2.8 Pro. This lens has a 70 cm minimum focus distance and extensive focal length, which makes it ideal for getting up close to subjects. The second option is to use a macro lens. This type of lens is specifically designed for taking pictures of small subjects. A popular macro lens for Micro Four Thirds cameras is the OLYMPUS M.Zuiko Digital ED 60 mm f/2.8.
Taken by Flickr user Lacrimas, shot with an Olympus PEN E-PL3
If the location you have chosen isn’t too dense, try shooting in the morning or evening. The low position of the sun will allow you to light the fungi nicely from the front or from behind. If it has rained the day before, then this is even better as the colours of the forest floor will be much more rich and vibrant and the fungi are more likely to be fresh and fruiting.
Shot by toni_photography with an Olympus E-P3
It can be really dark in the forest, and even with a fast-aperture prime lens it can be difficult to keep the camera steady. Also, when shooting with extended focal lengths, it’s easy to move the camera during an exposure and create camera shake in your images – even with OLYMPUS’s class-leading stabilisation built in to many of the cameras. For this reason, it’s best to use a tripod.
If you have a tripod that folds down to ground level, that’s great. However, if yours doesn’t fold very low it’s worth trying to stabilise the camera using a beanbag or a tabletop tripod instead.
It’s also worth noting that with many OLYMPUS cameras you can use the OLYMPUS OI Share app to fire the shutter remotely. This will prevent you from knocking the camera at slower shutter speeds when you press the shutter button.
Shot by Viola Hermann taken with an Olympus E-M1
Sometimes the lighting on fungi can be very diffused and quite flat. This can be due to an overcast day or just because the fungi are in shade and this reduces light levels. To combat this, try adding some lighting yourself. With such a small subject it’s not particularly difficult to light an area with small continuous light sources such as an LED panel or a small torch. Flashes also work well, but they are best used off-camera.
When using any additional light source for macro subjects, it’s worth experimenting with ways of softening the light. A small softbox or even a piece of tissue paper over the torch/flash/LED panel is a cheap and easy way of achieving more diffused light.