If you follow this blog or any of my photo hosting sites, you know I’ve been photographing mushrooms for a long time. They’re so fascinating and come in so many shapes, sizes and colors that they’re an easy target. Especially if you’ve got a macro lens!
Now I’m out here in Wisconsin, nothing’s changed except maybe that there are more mushrooms and I’ve found some varieties I’ve never seen before. Not so with this little beauty commonly known as the chanterelle waxcap. Here’s an image from 2011 of what I believe is the same species –
What a beauty. At the time I shot it I didn’t have any mushroom field guides and tried to use the internet to get an ID. Impossible. Lately I’ve acquired a couple of books and borrowed some from the library and let me tell you; mushroom identification is wicked hard. Even with 4 books and Google, I sometimes can’t get it. These though have a dead giveaway that makes them stand out from others like them.
See where the cap attaches to the stem? The gills extend a little bit downward. That’s the clue! Otherwise, check out how much they change as they mature. You could convince yourself they’re not the same kind at all. They’re named for their resemblence to the cantharellus species – chanterelles – the super-tasty edible mushroom worth more than its weight in gold. Unlike those fab fungi, I wouldn’t try eating these.
Some of the other ways you can ID chanterelle waxcaps (and other mushrooms) are by cap and color characteristics. In this case the cap is often dry, tends to be flat and depressed with edges that can be wavy. The color ranges from reddish-orange to yellow. One way to eliminate a species from your possibles is by where it grows, or more technically, on what it fruits. Hygrocybe cantharellus mostly fruits on the ground in woods that don’t dry out too much. All but one of these shots show them on the ground, so I’m forgiving of the one on the dead tree; mostly because it has those descending gills.
More mushroom posts will probably be forthcoming since I shoot so many of them. Sometimes when I’m walking through the woods I have to tell myself that I don’t have to photograph every mushroom I see. So hard!!
One of my favorite ways to find new conservation land/nature trails is to open up the Gazetteer and see what’s nearby. By coincidence I ended up going to the Prairie Dells scenic area in Merrill which is a place my husband visited, and sent me an iPhone picture from, when he was here scouting the territory after his first job interview. It’s not far from our new house and so off I went.
The area is named for the Prairie River which is a tributary of the Wisconsin River and feeds directly into it further downstream in Merrill. It runs about 40 miles from its source and is one of the few rivers in Wisconsin that is no longer dammed. This nature preserve is the result of the removal of a large dam that was on this site. When it came down in the early 1990s the enormous granite ledges were exposed and that’s where the dell part of its name derives.
While it might be a relatively uncommon landscape here in Wisconsin, walking around the exposed outcrops and granite ledges was a lot like New Hampshire. Pretty much all the hiking you do there involves granite boulders and most of the streams and rivers have been carving gorges for themselves for centuries. Still it was beautiful and I found plenty to photograph.
The trails wind through mixed forest that was starting to fade from its springtime lushness. Where we are in northern WI is just above the 45th parallel which marks the halfway point between the north pole and the equator (although not technically due to the Earth’s little bulge). It means the summer heat is cut a little bit on both ends of the calendar by a week or two as compared to southern NH. It was breezy and the dappled sunlight made things pop on the ground and in the canopy.
Whether because of this slightly shorter growing season or just out of sheer joy of wilderness, northern WI seems to be the mushroom and wildflower capital of the universe. I found so many of both this year that I could hardly make any miles for getting down and photographing another small wonder.
Some were new species for me and some were old favorites.
This particular preserve is right off highway 17 and so traffic noise is still audible even deep into the trail system, but overall it is quieter than most anywhere in NH. The biggest difference is that there is no noise from planes, something relatively common in southern NH where the largest airport is. Since I was at Prairie Dells I’ve visited other, more remote trails and there the silence really reigns.
Eventually the trail sort of petered out and so I headed back, visiting the three viewing platforms closer to the trailhead and parking area. I even climbed down into the gorge a bit to see how close I could get to the river itself. Not very as it turned out, but there were still treasures to be found.
Will it be shocking to admit I’m a uni-dimensional photographer? Yeah, I can hear you all gasping and muttering that it can’t be so.
It’s not as if I don’t admire or appreciate other forms of photography, like the shots below, but that I really don’t enjoy cities. They’re loud, crowded and smell awful. Lots of people thrive on the possibility of the unexpected you can have in a city, like some jerk on a bicycle almost running you down and then yelling expletives when you stepped into the bike lane to go around parked car (thanks Amsterdam!), but it’s the kind of stuff I just hate and can do without.
So what possessed us to go on vacation in three different European cities? Well, partially it was a great fare to Brussels. Partially it was the fact that we never leave the country. As great as the US is for its diversity of landscape, ecological environments and weather, we felt a bit insular about just traveling here. So off to Europe it was. And for the most part we enjoyed ourselves. We had good weather (damn was it ever hot – over 90 degrees F on several days), saw interesting sights and ate in some really good restaurants.
Photographically speaking, it took me a while to feel at all connected and in tune with what surrounded me. Mostly lots of other tourists, canals, bicyclists and tiny cars. I totally embraced the tourist thing, too, btw. No being coy with a camera, pretending to be unimpressed. No hiding my joy and amazement over something we’d never see in the US and hadn’t seen before. Nope, I went with it and took the camera almost everywhere.
When I first saw the bike and the fountain it was blocked by a parked car and then, when I was at the end of the street I noticed the car moving away and so pretty much ran back to get the shot before anyone else could park. Spaces in Brussels are coveted and really hard to get sometimes and competition is fierce. The space wasn’t vacant long.
That’s an underlying theme of my photographs – the bicycle. European cities are, by and large, not suited to cars, buses or trucks. Bikes are much more practical and nimble for the crowded streets. Cheaper, too.
Although there were scads of bikes for rent, we didn’t dare. Everyone is in a hurry, the streets are unfamiliar and we needed to really look at signs to translate them for meaning. Walking was enough. lol.
But then there’s the architecture and it is too captivating to zip by on a bike.
As you can see, I had to work with some intense light since we were out in the daytime. Because my husband has to put up with enough of my camera, I don’t go out a lot at night and I don’t interrupt dinner time even though it usually occurs during the best light. Call me lazy, but it isn’t that much of a sacrifice. We have so much fun wandering and exploring.
One of our favorite habits we picked up was going for afternoon frites. This was our favorite shop. It’s in Brussels near our hotel.
Oh are the fries good in Europe. So much better than here, where we fry them in rancid industrial oils instead of beef tallow.
On the whole, I think I could have done better with the camera. I wasn’t as able to adapt to new surroundings as I wanted to be. I’m used to being able to control the shot and take my time with set-up. With urban or street photography you have to be fast. The chaos was a bit overwhelming for us, too. A few times in Amsterdam I got really overstimulated and had to shut down…read, head back to the hotel for a glass of wine! It wasn’t so horrible that I wouldn’t repeat it though. I’d even go back to Brussels and Bruges one day, and not just for the fries!