Normally at this time of year, you’d be awash in pictures of mushrooms on this blog. I love them. I love photographing them and now I have a focus stacking application, I want to work with greater depth of field with these images. But a strange thing has happened. The mushrooms haven’t fruited.
Not everywhere, but locally. In my yard for example. Last year all I had to do was step off the lawn or the driveway and there would be dozens of different species and specimens; on stumps, on logs, on the ground – basically everywhere. This year, almost zip.
And when I went to check my mother lode chanterelle spot there wasn’t a single one to be seen.
Last year there were dozens upon dozens.
I should have been more worried on my 1-hour walk to the site. There weren’t any mushrooms. Seriously. I saw 3 not including shelf or fan species that overwinter. Nothing on logs. Nothing on the ground. It was creepy since on previous visits to this trail I’d taken many mushroom shots and a lot of them are my favorites. Amantitas. Russulas. Hygrocybes. All absent. Very weird.
When I checked another chanterelle site in early July, those mushrooms were doing fine. They were small still, but they came up in their usual numbers. That site is many miles from where I was the other day and across the other side of the Wisconsin in another section of the county. How could conditions be so different so close together?
Googling is problematic because any use of the word death/dying etc, just gives me dire warnings about eating wild mushrooms and accidental poisoning. My giant book about mushrooms by David Arora doesn’t seem to have a section dealing with why mushrooms would universally fail to fruit. My only guess is that the cold, wet spring had something to do with it. We lost our snow cover early and never got it back so it’s possible that the frost got too much for the mycorrhizal mat to deal with. But again, why only in this immediate area? It’s very strange and worrying. I know that many animals use mushrooms for food (including me!! My chanterelles!!) and I hope this doesn’t distress them too much. Maybe the shrooms will catch up. I don’t know.
So, here are the only mushroom photos I’ve managed to take this year and they’re all from my Door county trip in June. All shot with the Olympus 90mm f2 legacy macro lens. Of course!
I certainly hope I can find some areas that still have a healthy bloom of mushrooms! Maybe a little north of here. I’ll give it a try maybe later in the week.
Whenever I see mushrooms the urge to photograph them is almost irresistible. I am getting better though. I don’t shoot EVERY mushroom I see. The light has to be good, the setting and the angle, too. If the shot doesn’t come together in my head, I admire and pass it by. So here are some that made the grade.
Identifying mushrooms is tough. Mostly because they change so rapidly and any photographs are dependent on when they were taken during the fruiting body’s lifecycle. It’s crazy. I have 4 books now and sometimes I still can’t figure things out, so don’t take any of my IDs as concrete. They’re just my best conclusions based on what it was growing and the characteristics of the mushroom itself; color, shape, gill structure etc.
These first two are boletes, a type of mushroom that has sponge-like cells instead of traditional gills and are easy to spot because of that, but it can still be tricky. I think this second one might be Austroboletus gracilis, but I’m not certain. I have my eye on a few more books that look to have fantastic photos so maybe I can get better in future.
Some mushrooms can only be positively identified under a microscope and a few kinds of russula fall into that category. This next one is probably russula emetica aka The Sickener and yeah, it’s poisonous. But it could also be russula cessans, paludosa or pseudolepida or several others that fruit on the ground, grow in similar woods and are native to North America. Crazy, but check out how similar these two mushrooms are, but different.
Little yellow waxcaps, hygrocybes, are tough to distinguish, too. These first ones I think are hygrocybe ceracea, but might not be. Whatever they are, I can’t resist shooting them. Especially in moss with bonus sporophytes!
This one proved irresistible to a passing slug. It was in full sun, but quickly moved to a nicer pose. I should have cranked the ISO a bit. Hard to believe a slug can move fast enough to be blurry!
And then there are the LBMs. That’s Little Brown Mushrooms. There are dozens and dozens of these and so similar that I have no idea what this little beauty is.
I found it growing inside of a dead log and did some clean up to get that shot, which I personally love because of the placement and the tilt of the cap. It seems to have a personality, which is saying a lot for a fungus.
All of my shots are cleaned up in the field to some extent. One of the most important things to remember when doing close up or macro photography at this magnification is to watch your backgrounds. Things out of your line of focus can sneak in and steal attention from your main subject. I find sticks to be really a pain. They sometimes show up as bright, light-colored lines in the background and so I remove them. Grass can do the same thing sometimes. Often I’m not even aware of them being in the shot because I’m concentrating on my main subject and they’re not critical to focus. So I use my live view screen to look at the image in 2D so I can catch these little gremlins. I also sometimes use a diffuser/reflector to either reflect light onto an image to even out shadows, or to put an object into shade that’s either in direct sun or dappled light. It’s a useful tool to have and one that isn’t heavy and doesn’t take up too much space so I bring it every time I go out.
I probably don’t even need to say it anymore, but all these images were taken with the OM 90mm f2 macro lens mounted on my Panasonic Lumix GH3. I still love this combination and that lens barely comes off the body these days!
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!!
A couple of weeks ago, the Piscataquog Land Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy hosted an event at the Manchester Cedar Swamp preserve. Since it was in one of my favorite bits of protected property and was about mushroom hunting, I was all over it. Reta McGregor kindly donated her time and expertise and I learned quite a bit, including which parts of a bolete mushroom are edible (hint, not the spongy part). I even found a mushroom she’d never seen before. It was a toothed mushroom and very lovely. Anyway, I got there a bit early and did some scouting with the OM 90mm. In addition to a bounty of mushrooms, there were newts and indian pipe. Alas, no newts would pose for me, but I still had a nice time and found some worthies.
Two different species in the same genus and they were everywhere. I didn’t manage to ID everything though. These two still elude me. I think I need to get a few more mushroom books. They can look so different during their lives, that I think you need to have many photos to compare with. With my one book, it’s hit or miss.
In one section of forest there was a good crop of late-flowering indian pipe and a few of them were blushing mightily.
More from the yard. Everything was shot with the legacy OM 90mm f2 macro except for the amanita.
My husband is used to it by now. If I see something, I can’t sit still until I shoot it. Sometimes just a new idea about how to shoot something will obsess me until I do it. Or the light will change and something will lure me off my chair. Our hanging out on the deck time is often punctuated by me coming and going with the camera. Just the other day though, we had a visitor –
I decided to leave the manual 90mm macro on just to see if I could work with it and a moving subject. It was challenging, but not impossible. The detail at this ISO (1000) is pretty amazing. Some of the softness is grass extremely close to the lens and out of focus. I just wasn’t able to get a lot of that out of the way for fear of scaring it. Never before have I had such an easy time with a garter snake. It was aware of me, but not frightened. I didn’t shoot it the whole time, but just watched it move and investigate a small section of my yard.
Some of our visitors join us right on the deck, like this little shieldbug –
Isn’t he great? The colors just knock me out. Check out his little pink legs! You know you’re a photographer when a bug lands on the deck and you run in for the camera. Another shieldbug came by yesterday, but it was too active to shoot – it crawled all over the place then flew off, crashed into the house, bounced off and landed in the lawn. Who knew bugs could be so entertaining? This earlier one posed for me quite happily though. When I was a kid we called them stinkbugs.
Then there was this mayfly that came by in June –
I love the detail in this shot. All the different structures and formations. I learned that mayflies do not have mouth parts and thus do not eat. The adults exist only to breed. And to serve as models for fly fishermen. The golden mayfly is the largest of the species and from head to the base of the body (not including that long whippy tail) it’s about 1 and 1/4 inches. It stayed on the screen door for more than 24 hours before I decided to send it on its way. I mean, no other mayflies were hanging out so it needed to find where the party was.
The mushroom population is a little thin this year, but this beauty is gracing us with its presence now. I’m no expert, but I think it might be an amanita farinosa.
This next shot is a couple weeks old. It’s a very common weed, but like many plants we call weeds, it can be very beautiful (especially after it rains, which was when I took this image). This one always catches my attention because the yellow is so very pale and soft. Not like garden loosestrife, St. John’s Wort, Butter-n-eggs and some other yellow flowers.
But nature isn’t all wonderful all the time. It’s rough out there for some. When I first spied this tiny bird’s egg by my walk, I was delighted. I love finding signs of new life and activity. Then I turned over one section and found the yolk still intact. Instant sadness.
It is all part of a much larger cycle though and within a few hours all traces of the yolk were gone. Ants found it and made short work of it. Some of those ants will feed a bird or two or other creatures that birds eat.
What kind of egg is it? I thought it would be pretty easy to ID, but lots of little birds make tiny speckly eggs. My best guess is titmouse. It’s about the size of my thumbnail – a little larger than a dime.
Yesterday I found something very cool in the yard, but I haven’t photographed it yet, so you’ll have to wait for the surprise.
Yeah, fall is supposed to be all about the foliage, but I always like to buck a trend.
Mushrooms offer endless subjects these days and hiking with me is basically an exercise in watching me put the camera on the beanbag and shoot another one. Since I always use natural light, sometimes I have to wait for the light to be right, or use things to hand to adjust and filter the light. Hemlock branches and ferns are the best for this since the patterns they make are broken up and variable. For this one I used the branch of the tree I was crouched under to ease the harshness of the sun, which I needed for the shot, but wanted to soften.
Even though I take a naturalist approach with microscapes and close-ups, I do clean up a scene when I need to. Pine needles, leaves, sticks – if they’re distracting, they go. It’s unusual that I don’t have to do a little primping on every shot, but I didn’t need to do any for this one. Just had to wait for the right moment. The light was shifting madly with the wind in the trees and the passing clouds and so I just waited until it gave me what I wanted.
This next little scene is one of my favorites. I did get rid of a couple of sticks on the log that were sticking up into that greeny/golden glow, but the leaves were exactly as I found them and again waiting for just the right light paid off. I didn’t want it too bright and total shade was just flat and dull. Backlighting just adds a luminosity that only natural light can give.
I should really try to find a good mushroom guide. Not that I’m planning on eating any (not that brave or suicidal), but I like to know what I’m photographing and other than Hemlock Varnish Shelf, Chanterelles, Amanitas and a couple others, I have no clue which is which. I have found a decent online resource, but even that is confusing. So many types are so similar to each other that I can’t tell the difference. If anyone knows of an online resource that’s easy to use and accurate, or can recommend a book for the northeastern US, please let me know.
Anyway…mushroom season will continue for a while yet. Until the first hard frost at least, so you probably haven’t seen the last of them.
and you should know that by now. Here’s a group of tiny things that have found themselves in front of my lens.
oh and something a little different, from Ryan and Wood Distillery, based in Gloucester, MA.
Haven’t been shooting so much as last year, but I am going to California in September and so hope for some good things from that trip.