Photographic techniques for the forest floor

 the fruiting bodies of the plasmodial slime mould, Lycogala epidendrum.

Innocent looking pink blobs are actually the fruiting bodies of the plasmodial slime mould, Lycogala epidendrum. ISO 320, f22, 0.8 sec,

Bugs have been pushed into the back seat for a while. Cool, crisp mornings can mean a dearth of insects, but a wealth of fungi, slime moulds, mosses, liverworts, and lichens still beckon. Here are some of the techniques I use when working on small subjects that don’t run or fly away…

Distracted by She-who-must-be-obeyed.

Distracted by She-who-must-be-obeyed.

Photographic techniques for the forest floor:

  • Get down to the level of your subject.
  • Because our subjects are often found in shady locations in the woods, use a tripod that can get down low to steady your camera.

The low-down-low Manfrotto 055 tripod.

  • For ground-level shots, a bean bag can also be helpful to stabilize your camera
  • Use kneepads or a small pad of some sort to protect your knees.
  • When on a tripod I always use the 2 sec. timer to avoid shake from pressing the shutter release.
Fruiting bodies of a slime mold, most likely Hemitrichia clavata.

Fruiting bodies of a slime mold, most likely Hemitrichia clavata.  ISO 320, f7.1, 1/5 sec.

  • Watch out for stray branches and grass blades in the frame. these can usually be held back by tucking them under a nearby plant or by weighing down with small clothes pins. Garden with care.
  • If the background looks too bright, use the 10 sec. timer and then cast your body shadow over the background.
  • Use LiveView or a right-angle finder to help view in awkward locations.
  • Sometimes dappled sunlight is present, and a diffuser is very helpful in softening the harsh contrasting light.
Working with a diffuser and tripod. Photo by Yuet Chan.

Working with a diffuser and tripod. Photo by Yuet Chan.

  • A reflector can be used to highlight mushrooms in the shade or to lighten-up areas in shadow.
  • Go beyond single specimens and search for intimate macro landscapes: in some situations, the fungi can create beautiful scenes among fallen logs, moss and lichens.
Textures of mixed mosses and lichen

Textures of mixed mosses and lichen. ISO 320, f32, 0.6 sec.

  • To add a bit of spice to that soft light, a small reflector can be used to open up shadows and pop the subject forward.
  • ISO settings should be kept low, and use the DOF preview to find just the right amount of focus.
Pholiota squarrosa, (Scaly Pholiota).

Selective focus on the mushroom, Pholiota squarrosa, (Scaly Pholiota). ISO 100, f5.6, 1/15 sec. (Thanks to Charles Bird for the ID)

  • With Canon cameras, dialing the aperture and pressing the DOF button while looking at live-view will let you see how much DOF you have.
  • And finally, if your camera has GPS, make sure it is turned on so you have a record of the location of special finds!

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Fungi, slime moulds, mosses, liverworts, and lichens can be fascinating, but when you’re taking photos please be aware of your surroundings and try not to trample the area around them. Also, foraging for wild mushrooms is very popular now: remember that harvesting in National Parks is illegal. Please leave them for others to enjoy and photograph.

This entry was posted in Accessories, Alberta, Autumn, Canada, Canon, Elk Island National Park, Equipment, Fungi, macro, Moss, photography, Season, Technique and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .

2 Comments

  1. Andrea Jackson 27 September, 2016 at 11:03 PM #

    Thanks for a most insightful post. I also have a passion for such subjects that are non-moving!

    • Adrian 28 September, 2016 at 5:56 AM #

      I also enjoy photographing these subjects a great deal. The process can almost bring on a meditative state, especially when working in quiet, shaded, mossy old-growth forest.