Fall is a big deal in New England and as a photographer I always felt some amorphous pressure to go out and capture fall scenes. I still feel it here and have tried through the spring and summer to find locations that would be especially picturesque. One such spot is Timm’s Hill which is just to the west of my house in the next county. It’s the highest point in Wisconsin, but don’t be impressed. It’s 1951.5 feet. Then there’s a viewing tower which is pretty cool, but the scenery is uniform and blah, so I didn’t take any pictures. Below and surrounding the hill are lakes and ponds (the hill, btw, is only a couple hundred feet higher than the parking lot, so you won’t break a sweat climbing it or anything) and I thought I might have some luck with landscapes and water. Not really although I did manage this one by getting an old, submerged boat seat out of the way of the tripod. At first I thought it was an empty turtle shell, but then realized what it really was.
After not finding what I wanted on that outing, I returned to a location I walked through last year called Harrison Hills. It is hilly and has lots of small ponds and lakes that aren’t built on which is something that foiled me going to other areas. Even with 15,000 lakes it’s hard to find some with no houses. This little pond was gorgeous though and so I walked through the undergrowth to the edge and had to bend and hold branches out of the way, which all part of the experience. While shooting I heard a big commotion in the leaf litter and heard the sounds of chasing. The next minute, something ran over my feet. Squirrels or chipmunks I suspect. Was funny though that they just ran right over me as if I was just part of the terrain.
Little lakes abound in the Lincoln county forest as well and happily many of them have one lane tracks leading out to them and there are even boat launches should you want to try some solitary fishing. Overall they are too small to paddle, but you could do it if you just wanted to sit and read or something. You can pretty much get away from the sound of human activity in some parts of the northern forest.
Back to Harrison hills for this last shot. I hadn’t walked as far as this my first time out, but looking at the map for little ponds, I figured I had to go at least this far and lo and behold there was a little bench so you could relax and take in the view.
So these will work for 2016 foliage shots. I still would like to do some river work and stuff with farms and/or barns, but the exploration is part of the joy. I’m still getting to know my adopted state and it is always interesting.
It’s great when I can just go out my front door and find gorgeous things to photograph. I used to do this back in NH when I had a much smaller yard and now I have even more to find and share. Like these beauties, all found in the yard –
This first one is really tiny. The stipes (stems) are as thin as thread and the caps a mere 1/4 of an inch across. They come up in the leaf litter and once you notice them it’s like a dusting of snow. The trick to finding mushrooms is to be still. Then they seem to come out of nowhere. Giving myself some time to look around and really see brought me to this pair of beauties. A couple of days later and they were gone.
During that same quiet few moments of looking, I saw this one and knew it to be a type of mycena. The blue tint really is there; no camera trickery. It fades as the mushroom ages so I’ll have to check earlier next year to see if I can find one in a more vivid state.
Once your eyes are attuned to mushroom hunting they seem to be everywhere and they don’t need to be as brightly colored as this one, but it helps.
All the IDs are my best guesses according to my several books and the internet, but some just elude me altogether, like this next one –
You’d think such a distinctive little shroom would be easy, but no. This next one is though.
It’s commonly known as the tippler’s bane because of a toxin it has that makes a person feel very sick if they eat them with alcohol, or follow them up with alcohol. Otherwise they’re quite edible and rumored to be delicious. The compound they make is similar to the one used in Antabuse, a drug prescribed to alcohol abusers. Interesting.
Well at least I think so!
During the past couple of summers here in Wisconsin I’ve noticed these spiders on the house and garage, but too high up for me to get a good look, much less a picture. So when my husband came in the house and said he saw a red and brown spider on the cement by the remote garage, I headed right out. Almost trod on the poor wee girl.
Ok, so she’s not that wee. With her legs relaxed like in the shot above, she’s about the size of a quarter. Good sized, but nothing like the girls that live on the dock. She was very patient though and a great model, letting me get her best side!
She’s an araneus marmoreus aka marbled orb weaver and according to my book, the females leave their webs up in small trees and bushes (or garages, you know, whatever works) and descend to the ground to lay their eggs. Judging by the somewhat deflated look of her abdomen, this female might have done that recently and is looking for a place to hole up for the winter. Or die. Many spiders die after only one mating season, but fortunately they leave the little ones behind as legacy.
Just look at the jaws on her! Orb weavers get their name from the shape of their webs – it’s that traditional round, net-like web that Charlotte wove in the famous book by E.B. White. This particular species usually stays out of sight under a leaf or similar shelter. She keeps at least one leg in contact with a special line of silk that, when the web is touched, will signal her that there’s something in it. Once the trap line is triggered and she springs from hiding onto the web, whatever is stuck there is lunch.
As you might have figured, all these images were made in natural light with the legacy Olympus 90mm macro with the 25mm extension tube. I hardly did any cropping! Seriously, she basically fills the screen when I focus down to nearly the closest distance I can work from.
Same with this bonus spider!
The other day I went to the Mead Wildlife Area which is south of where I live, down in the lower section of Marathon County and crossing over into two other counties. My reading led me to believe there might be opportunities to photograph some wildlife, probably birds, so I brought my longest lens and I am so glad I did. It’s migration season and birds are restless this time of year.
While walking near the Visitors’ Center I noticed some really large white shapes in the distance. For a second I wondered if there was a small airport nearby. When a couple more appeared I got the binoculars and saw they weren’t planes, but birds. Only two white birds have wingspans wide enough to be mistaken for small planes; trumpeter swans and whooping cranes. Two approached and I followed with the binocs as they flew in low right over my head and landed in a small pond to my left. Amazing. I almost couldn’t focus the binoculars that close.
Aren’t they great?
Not being an experienced wildlife photographer, I followed my instinct which was to give them time to settle in. So I hung back and shot them with the long end of the lens, getting some of their environment into the photo as well. Then I walked away from them, out of sight of each other, to a bird blind at the end of the trail. It was well constructed and situated and I might use it in the spring migration period.
Then I walked back toward them. Slowly, stopping frequently to set up the tripod and occasionally just watching them with the binoculars. It worked. They came out from the grass and gave me a good once over. I got closer. They didn’t seem to mind. On the contrary, they seemed curious about this weird creature with all the legs. Soon I didn’t have to use the long end of the lens anymore.
As I’ve said before, I need practice with my 100-300mm and while I’m not glad it wasn’t whooping cranes I saw (and want to kick myself if I missed the shots), trumpeters were a fine subject for some practice. I still need to find a handheld technique, but with the tripod a single point of focus worked because I could change it quickly on the screen with my finger. Handheld using a multi-focus-point setting caused the camera to hunt a lot and miss focus. I’ll have to experiment more with it.
The light was reasonably bright, but still somewhat diffused by clouds and so the ISO didn’t get cranked too high. I use a custom mode I created for the GH3 that is shutter priority and auto ISO. That way I can freeze action with a high shutter speed, but not worry about aperture or light sensitivity. I also change from a single shot with the press of a shutter, to multi shot. And that’s how I got this next image –
I spent about an hour with this pair and took a ton of pictures, only a few of which I like enough to publish. Mostly it’s because they just won’t pose. Lol. I get why patience is the thing you need most in bird photography. Patience and time because as you see above, eventually one of them will do something and if you’re lucky, observant and know your gear, you’ll get the shot. I love how this one shows how the feathers are arranged on those amazing wings. And the depression in the water from the downdraft. Oh and if you look close, you can see water droplets on its breast and belly. So wonderful.
I don’t do it all the time, but if I can get under a mushroom I will. Well, not me exactly, I’m not Alice, but my camera. For these first two images I used the wider end of my 12-35mm lens. The first one was on a tripod, the second literally on the ground with sticks and the lens cap acting as shims to get the camera level. The perspective is terrific and it shows off those beautiful gills.
Sometimes the structures that hold and release spores are a bit different like with boletes that have an underside that looks like a sponge. I recently found out that a single mushroom can release millions of spores in a single day. They do this every day it fruits pretty much. Amazing.
In addition to gills and pores there are also teeth. The idea of toothed fungus makes me a little giggly, but that’s how they’re categorized. This one happily turned itself inside out so I could get a peek at those teeth. I shot this with a medium telephoto because it was way inside a bunch of bushes that I had to hold out of the way to get this shot. I couldn’t tell it was a toothed mushroom until I looked at it on the computer. And the ID took a while because this is a remarkably pristine specimen. The ones in my books were ragged, dirty and stained. Just lucky I guess.
Here’s another example of a toothed mushroom –
It’s sometimes called a hedgehog mushroom (aka Hydnum repandum) and is not only edible, but reportedly delicious. Now I know where they grow (some chanterelles conveniently nearby) I can gather them next year and have a taste. I could use my tripod to shoot that image (and many others from the down low) because I do not have the center post attached. My particular model came with one, but it is removable and so the legs splay to 90 degrees and the head touches the ground. Very handy. If you want to do a lot of this type of work either take out your center post or get a tripod that doesn’t have one to begin with.
It is occasionally a bit of work to get under a small mushroom that isn’t on a nice stump or log. Usually there are only little slopes and depressions in the forest floor, but sometimes the tripod in its lowest position is too high. In those cases I reach for my homemade beanbag camera prop. Then I can usually get low enough since it’s only a couple inches thick. I use a 1 quart ziplock bag with 2 bags of barley inside it. I’ve stuck some friction tape to one side of it to keep the camera from sliding. And, as I mentioned above, sometimes I still use sticks and/or my lens cap to shim. It’s magical when I can get so low that the foreground changes dramatically and helps me highlight only the cap, which adds a dash of mystery.
I also like the foreshortened perspective that helps to emphasize the mushroom, not where it fruits. And there’s the lovely bokeh that often comes with shooting in dappled sunlight.
In the end, there are only so many ways to shoot mushrooms, but up from under is usually a winner!