Mushroom Explosion

While it hasn’t ceased to amaze me just how similiar the botany is here in Kent to what I’m famliar with in Puget Sound, there are occaisonal surprises. Like Instant Mushrooms growing in the garden. Big, impressive clusters of mushrooms that quite literally spring up overnight. Perhaps related, every other dish in every restaurant and supermarket takeaway features mushrooms.[1] Fresh from the excitement of using my new GorillaPod to shoot dewdrops, I decided to shoot one of these clusters. I hauled out some lighting gear and got to work.

The first thing I discovered is that the GorillaPod is not stable enough to try to stacking shots, at least while it’s smushed down as low as it can go. It might be passable with a remote trigger, but by the time I’d brought out a boom, light, batteries, cabling, sandbags, reflector, grid, lightstand, flashgun, camera, tripod, white balance card and ColorChecker I was done with traipsing back and forth into the house. So I cranked up the Sigma 105mm to f22, and one of my e640′s to 120w/s, pointed a YN-560 with some blue gel into the shadows, and got to work. Fun! Nothing says “I work with state of the art electromechanical devices to capture light” quite like crawling around on your hands and knees across the garden.

Thanks to the proximity of a fence and other clusters of mushrooms, I only had one good direction to shoot from. Which, in retrospect, is probably a good thing because I would have spent hours fiddling around looking for The Best Shot. As it is, I’m happy with these; I feel I’ve captured the essence of their form and color, provided them with some context, and taken a clear enough picture that any of you mycologists will likely be able to identify them.

The key light was in a 20cm reflector (that’s eight inches, for you colonists still measuring the old fashioned way) gridded to 15° for a very directional light that would emphasize the texture of the exposed surfaces and provide some stark shadows. The key was kept between 500mm (~20″)and 900mm (~36″) up, around 20° camera right and centered just behind the center of the cluster. The fill was gelled to a deep blue (I don’t have the Rosco’s ID handy, but it’s the Deep and Intense Blue) and gridded to 30°. I tried it from a variety of angles, all horizontally just off the ground. I think it works best from 20° camera left and as close as I could get it to the mushrooms without introducing glare; I like the sense of otherworldliness[2] and the blue is the perfect counterbalance to the yellow and green.

  1. [1] In my more cynical moments, I make snide comments about “a culture that survived by eating roots, rodents and fungus”
  2. [2] This is where lesser people would make jokes about “Hogwarts” and “Winter Is Coming” and that sort of thing