How do YOU cope ?

How do YOU cope ?

Postby Neil » Sun Mar 07, 2010 5:51 pm

I mentioned in the "What is it" ? section the dilemma I am having in obtaining good quality photos of fungi and finding less specimens or finding more fungi, but at the expense of poorer quality photos.
Whilst I had my Lumix TZ3 camera which I kept on a belt pouch, I could still take with me in the field all the necessary equipment for recording and collecting specimens.
But I felt the time had come when I wanted to obtain some top notch photos, so after reading lots of reviews and test results, I finally splashed out on a Nikon D90 + 18-200 ED VR2 and the Nikkor Micro 105mm 2.8 VR2.
Naturally I was impressed with the quality, but never realised the depth of field with a 1:1 macro lens would be so narrow and therefor the only way to have greater DoF was to use a smaller aperture and you guessed it, that meant I would have to take a tripod with me which I wanted to avoid at all costs. Not only is a tripod more cumbersome, but it takes a lot of time to set up meaning you are either holding up the rest of the group, or if alone, less time to search for fungi.

To try to get round this I bought a Canon G10, but that has now left me with a very expensive (for me) Nikon white elephant which I am now using on my microscope and only get to use it in the field when I find something really good and I know it will still be there the following day when I come back with all my gear.
Not everybody is able to go back the following day, but I only have a small m/cycle and can only carry so much.

Does this have to be a case of 'you can't have both' or is there another way round this ?

Neil Mahler.

Re: How do YOU cope ?

Postby jonathan need » Sun Mar 07, 2010 7:41 pm

Hi Niel,

I am afraid to say i believe that good quality images and group forays just do not work at all.

There are alternatives to tripods such as bean bags or monopods or even flash but you cannot rush things. The secret to a good image is the tripod .

The whole point is that it slows you down, giving you time to make a good composition and check your exposure on the cameras historgram.

Check the background for distractions and eliminate camera shake.

There is another alternative but it is not to everyones taste. For my own comercial reasons i photograph fungi on a white background creating cutouts for books and magazines, all my images are taken on site where i find the specimen, unless i cannot id the specimen then i bring it home..
You can photograph a specimen quite quickly once you have the settings worked out . I carry a small piece of white perspex with me on all my group forays just in case. Just compensate with exposure by one fstop to keep the background white and bobs your uncle.

_DSC0021.jpg (143.15 KiB) Viewed 13552 times
jonathan need
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Re: How do YOU cope ?

Postby Neil » Sun Mar 07, 2010 8:37 pm

I was afraid this was going to be the answer. Actually, I had thought of a bean bag, but another problem I did not mention is viewing the composure - I'm not as nimble as I used to be and not having an angled viewfinder means I have to use live view or break my neck or rely on luck and pick the best of a series of blind photos as I prefer to take things in situ, and if scarce or rare would never remove the specimen to obtain a better shot (this is where I would take issue with you).

You seem to prefer Roger Phillips approach to photographing fungi, and I must admit the photo you attach works well, but again I prefer MJ's approach of in situ shots as these tell you so much more and is easier for size comparison. The only drawback with an in situ shot would be when there is only the one specimen and a photo montage showing the underside would be easier with a white background I guess.


EDIT. My lack of technical wizardry may have led me to misunderstand how you take your photos, I just assumed you unearthed your specimens and placed them up against a piece of perspex, but I guess you can perform all sorts of tricks with Photoshop which I do not yet possess.
Last edited by Neil on Sun Mar 07, 2010 9:27 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Re: How do YOU cope ?

Postby David Winnard » Sun Mar 07, 2010 9:24 pm

Hi Neil,

Photography is all about compromise. The 105mm macro is an awesome lens, my girlfriend uses it on her D300 and the results are great. I am usually carrying around a 500mm f4 and a huge tripod anyway so my 180mm macro is nothing when lugging around all that. I generally find however that using a good bean bag for mushrooms is better than a tripod - since i can get a bit lower to achieve the style i like. But a good tripod should be easy to set up and quick, my gitzo can be set up in seconds and is made from carbon fiber so is incredibly light.

At the end of the day i would do what is right for you.

I go for walks not to far from me to find specimens then will go back later that day or the next and photograph them, so i carry my G10 on the recon walk and then go purely for photography the next time knowing where and what i want to photograph.

Hope it may have been a bit of help.

David Winnard
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Joined: Mon Aug 24, 2009 11:25 am

Re: How do YOU cope ?

Postby Leif Goodwin » Sun Mar 07, 2010 9:50 pm

You could always buy a small tripod. I think Benbo do a mini version, which has single section legs. It does not go high, but most of the time for fungi that is not an issue. A modest head would work on that tripod if all you use is a D90 and 105mm micro lens. Cullman do some light modest priced heads. I think the name is Magnesit. My view is that if you want high quality photos, you have to take time to get a good composition, and arrange reflectors and diffusers if needed. It also helps to spend time searching nearby for better specimens, as the first you find are often not the best. I find that photography and group foraying do not go together. One approach would be to use the group to find good fungi, then go back the next day for photos, assuming they have not been snaffled. An alternative is to use a twin flash arrangement with a hand held camera. I knew someone who did that, and got good results, with film. I used to carry a bean bag, but they weigh a lot and an L-plate is lighter and more versatile.
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Re: How do YOU cope ?

Postby Neil » Sun Mar 07, 2010 11:17 pm

Cheers Leif,
I've had a Slik 444 sport for about 15 years to go with my birding scope, but that Benbo mini looks interesting and looks lighter still.
My Nikkor Micro 105mm is surprisingly heavy and I feel I am going to have to insure the body is securely screwed onto the tripod, but I do worry about the weight of the lens putting a strain on the bayonet fitting in the camera body.
Nikon do a twin flash set up (for flowers etc. I assume) but would you think this would leave the shot a bit 'flat' or would you be quite happy with the anticipated result ? I find the existing built-in flash gives surprisingly natural colours.
Oh, and what is an L Plate ?


Re: How do YOU cope ?

Postby Dave H-Tranter » Mon Mar 08, 2010 9:07 am

Hey up again Neil - I followed the clue and found you here ha, ha. My response to your problem is - now wait for it - 'I just don't know'. All my photo's are literally smash and grab and hardly any time goes in to them. When with a group I just find photo's are a 'no, no' as everyone is hanging on and with work and family commitments I usually can't find the time to go back and photograph the specimen. My good lady and young daughter though will help carry a few things when they are on the walks and that helps out. The only real time I get to photograph things is when we get out alone and then it is a case of do we take the binoculars, telescope, cameras, large and small tripods, insect pots, which books (flowers, fungi, insects, birds etc), knife, chemicals, wet wipes, snacks, notepad, video camera, kitchen sink etc.

Basically I think one has to be determined and decide on the day - am I going photographing or am I going mooching? I am a habitual moocher and not a photographer (digital just helps me get lucky now and again) so the camera usually gets left at home. The thought of sitting about fiddling with dials and preparing a shot just makes me shudder. When out and about I can't keep still and like to cover some ground so as a consequence...

Sorry Neil - useless advice - but I hope you find comfort in that you are not the only one frustrated ha, ha :D

Be good to see some of your shots by the way!

Oh Jon - really interesting shot that - well presented and professional looking - I like it but I do like the in situ shots too where a bit more character can be added.

Fungal 'Frustrated' Punk Dave
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Re: How do YOU cope ?

Postby Mervin Nethercoat » Mon Mar 08, 2010 6:39 pm

Hi Neil,

Another alternative for a tripod is the Gorilla Pod. I've used it a lot. The legs can be bent around branches (or even the frame of the car door) or simply set on the ground. Go for the one designed for an SLR with zoom lens, that'll be more robust and hence more stable. However, I do agree with a comment above about the Benbo. Believe me, you will notice such an increase in quality of photos. You won't have to worry about length of exposure. I use a battered mark one Benbo over 25 years old but I've also got a baby Benbo. The comments about slowing down are really relevant. That way you are much more likely to see more species anyway, particularly the smaller ones.

The other must-have accessory is a reflector; I use a Lastolite that packs up to 8" diameter but springs open to 20" dia. Using this eliminates harsh shadows from flash and as your camera is on a tripod anyway you can move the reflector while looking through the viewfinder to achieve the best results.

A couple of Christmases ago I dropped a hint to dad and he bought me an angled finder that fits over the main viewfinder and enables me to look down and see the image rather than laying on the floor and getting mucky! These aren't expensive and I wouldn't be without it now.

I look forward to seeing some of your images.

Mervin Nethercoat
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Re: How do YOU cope ?

Postby Leif Goodwin » Mon Mar 08, 2010 7:55 pm

That's a good point Mervin makes. When you slow down, you might be surprised by what you find on the ground where you are kneeling, or within arms reach.

Neil: I use the latest Nikon 60mm lens and it is fairly light, and good quality. Still, the camera body does weigh a bit. I have the Nikon macro flash, and I'm not sure it is suitable for fungi as it is not that powerful. I am sure it is fine for small ones, but maybe not the large boletes, but I've not tried, so that is a guess. The main problem with flash is that you either lay the fungi on the ground (which works well), or you photograph them in situ, in which case some of the background will be black, and hence unnatural. The advantages are that you can throw away the tripod, and you get natural colours, as white balance can otherwise be a nightmare, or at least for me. One alternative is to use a micro 4/3 camera with macro lens on a light tripod. These lack a veiwfinder, but they are small, and light. Okay you still have a pile of carp to carry, but less than otherwise.

An L plate, is a right angled bracket that bolts onto the base of the camera body, and which allows you to attach the camera to the tripod head in portrait or landscape orientation. Does that make sense? I find it very useful when photographing very close to the ground, as it allows the base of the camera to be almost touching the ground.
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Re: How do YOU cope ?

Postby Neil » Mon Mar 08, 2010 8:28 pm

Thanks for all the great responses guys.
I think I shall continue to take my G10 on group forays and if anything really good is found, come back the next day with the macro gear and maybe with a new mini Benbo tripod and reflector.
I usually find myself going back the following day in any case to try to cover any areas that we were not able to get to on the day.

Cheers all.

Neil Mahler.


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