Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Those Magical Mushrooms or You Light Up My Life

Greetings to all,

Today the rain stopped so I could at least get out and stretch a bit. I did some indoor photography in the morning and then I just had to get out. After all this rain cabin fever was setting in. Those of you that live in places where it rains a lot can relate. Outside it was foggy and heavily overcast. The prefect conditions for doing some macro work. I decided to go out and wander about and see if I could find some mushrooms to photograph.

Before I went out I gathered the necessary items I would need to be comfortable while photographing. First on my list was a set of kneepads. Crawling around on your hands and knees on the forest floor can be tough on the knees so they are a big help. Second was a ground pad like the type used for back packing to lay on. This allows you to fully stretch out on the ground without getting very dirty. A major plus if it has just been raining and it allows you to get down and dirty for those really low shots. Think Mushrooms! The next item is one that I have found to be almost indispensable. A small LED flashlight. These are just perfect for lighting up underneath the crowns of mushrooms. I tape a short cylinder of tagboard about three inches long to the end of it with electricians tape to narrow the spread of the light a little. As always I brought a 100mm macro lens, ground pod and a shutter release as the majority of shots would have long exposures and very small f stops. See one of my older posts for a very simple ground pod and a nice poster of mushroom images.

After finding a mushroom I do a bit of selective gardening around the mushroom to clean things up a bit. Care must be taken not to go too deeply or it will disturb the mycelium and make it difficult for the mushroom to reproduce next year. Then I lay out the pad, lay down and work to get a good composition. The majority of fungi are best photographed from ground level and from the side. there are obviously exceptions to this however, the best angle typically is right at ground level. This means gettin' down on your belly. A right angle viewfinder is a plus for some folks that can't get that low. After getting the composition and focusing taken care of I start on the exposure.

Using an ISO of 100 or 200 will often give longer exposures in the six to eight second range if I use Aperature Priority and set the lens at f16 or F22.0. This allows me to paint using light from the flashlight on portions of the mushroom I would like to stand out. It also gives the most depth of field; something that is really needed when doing macro work. To paint using the flashlight I like to swirl the flashlight in a circular motion over the area that I am painting. By continually moving the flashlight you eliminate hot spots from showing up so easily. The distance you use the flashlight from the mushroom can vary. I typically hold it about 8 inches to a foot away. So much is going to be dependent upon the situation and the power of the flashlight.

I try to shoot a number of different compositions and exposures. It is critical to check your backgrounds for lingering little items and hot spots. I can't count the number of times I have caught myself thinking. I don't remember that being there. We get so focused on our subject that we miss the little things around it.

When you are done please be sure to replace any leaves or sticks back around the mushroom that you may have moved when you were setting up.

So get creative and make some great images,

God's light and love to all,


Friday, February 5, 2010

Playing in the Sand Box

Greetings to All,

I have a friend named Joe Benoit that is a superb photographer. He and I have been photographing off and on together for a long time. The great thing about being around Joe is that you can learn some pretty cool things from him. For one thing he loves to experiment and try things that are out of the box so to speak.The other great thing is that he is extremely organized. He keeps all these neat articles in binders on photographing things in fun,unique and bizarre ways. So whenever I'm in a photographic slump so to speak I can always rely on Joe to spark my interest in shooting something in a new and different way so to speak.

Today was one of those days. A few days back Joe suggested we get together for a fun day of photography as he has a few things he wants to show me. Oh and by the way could I freeze a couple of cookie trays full of water for him. Ok, I can do that.
So when Joe showed up this morning we shot ice that was covered in food coloring and backlit with gelled flashes. Then we shot smoke from an incense stick. After that we shot a few things that I have been wanting to try. We shot an egg being hit with a hammer and the we did an old stand by of a lemon slice being dropped into a drink. Basically we had fun playing in the sand box so to speak.

Just before Joe left he gave me some polarized filter material. Then he showed me how to shoot plastic objects using polarized light. I'll hopefully get some time to play with that on some upcoming rainy day.

God's light and love to all,