Ian Adams Newsletter, September 30 ,2008


VOLUME 5, Issue 2


Ohio Governor's Residence Book Cover

Our First Family’s Home: The Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden (Ohio University Press) was released in May, and is available in both paperback ($16) and hardcover ($28), from this website and from the Ohio University Press website:


During 2007 and early 2008 I made 12 trips to St. Louis, Missouri to complete a photographic commission for the renowned Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG), North America’s oldest botanical garden and a world leader in plant research and conservation.  From more than 700 photographs I made during these visits to MBG, 70 images were selected for inclusion in Missouri Botanical Garden: Green for 150 Years, a new book which celebrates the 150th anniversary of the founding of MBG by English immigrant Henry Shaw in 1859. The book will be released by Missouri Botanical Garden Press in mid-October, and I will be returning to St. Louis to sign copies of the book in the MBG Garden Gate Shop on Thursday, October 16 from noon to 2:00 pm.  Signed copies of this 214-page book will also be available from my website in a few weeks when the book becomes available.  For more information visit MBG’s website at www.mobot.org

2009 Wild & Scenic Ohio Calendar Cover

Browntrout has published their 2009 Wild & Scenic Ohio, Ohio Places and Ohio Nature calendars, featuring my photography. Additional information on these calendars, which may be purchased from your local booksellers or from www.amazon.com or www.browntrout.com is available in the Gallery section of this website.


On October 17-18 I will be returning to Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) in St. Louis to conduct a Digital Garden Photography Workshop. To register for the workshop, visit the MBG website at https://www.mobot.org/iebms/coe/coe_p2_details.aspx?eventid=18555&sessionid=ej3eikejmfd9fb2fe1

Late October usually provides the best fall color in northeast Ohio, and we will be conducting a Fall Color Photography Workshop at Holden Arboretum in Lake County on October 25. To register, call Vonna Zahler at (440)-602-3833 or visit www.holdenarb.org.

My first 2-day Travel Photography Workshop at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) during May and June was very successful and we will be offering another session of the workshop on November 8 and November 22. This in-depth workshop will help you improve the quality of your photography on vacation and other travel trips, and includes a half-day photo shoot in picturesque Chagrin Falls. More details about the program, as well as information on how to register, are included in this Tri-C Travel Photo Workshop PDF.


The searchable Website gallery has now been expanded to more than 1100 photographs, including images from Michigan, New York, Maine, South Carolina and Georgia. More photographs from other states I have visited will be added over the remainder of the year.

During April, we implemented an “eCommerce” version of the ImageFolio software that is used to maintain the Website gallery, and you can now order Epson Ultrachrome color prints of any of the gallery photographs in a variety of sizes directly from the website, together with many of my books and posters.

Cardinal Flowers at Chanticleer Gardens, Pennsylvania


Today’s digital cameras, plus image editors such as Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom, provide many more tools for fine-tuning color than older film cameras. With film, the type and temperature of the ambient light has a profound effect on color. Special films, such as tungsten film for use indoors under incandescent lighting, coupled with a wide variety of color correcting filters, were needed to obtain accurate color. Certain subjects, including many light blue flowers, emit infrared radiation that is not seen by the eye but produces images in which the blue flowers exhibit a purple color cast when photographed with film.

Be sure to read the instruction manual for your digital camera and familiarize yourself with the camera options available for adjusting color. Unlike film cameras, digital cameras have the ability to adjust the color of photographs automatically by measuring the type of ambient light and its temperature. This is known as the white balance. Most digital cameras do an excellent job of rendering accurate color in outdoor light, and I suggest that you set the white balance on your digital camera to “automatic” when using it to take photos outdoors. Under indoor tungsten and fluorescent light, many digital cameras are less accurate with regard to color, and you may want to try one of the predefined white balance settings available, based on the type of lighting in the room. Most digital SLR cameras, and a few point-&-shoot digital cameras, also allow you to adjust the color saturation and hue via menu settings, and some have options that attempt to simulate the “look” of films such as Fujichrome Velvia.

If your digital camera allows you to shoot raw files, these will provide you with additional facilities for color control that cannot be obtained from JPEG files. The color temperature can be adjusted during the raw file conversion process that is the first stage in processing a digital photograph using an image editor such as Adobe’s Photoshop or Lightroom and Apple’s Aperture. Digital SLR cameras and a few high-end point-&-shoot digital cameras, such as Canon’s Powershot G9, provide the ability to shoot in raw mode.

If your subject includes one or more objects that are white or neutral (e.g. middle gray) in tone, then color correcting these photographs in Photoshop or Lightroom (e.g. using the white balance tools in Adobe’s Camera Raw converter) is very straightforward. However, what do you do if the scene contains neither of these tones? I was faced with this situation recently when I had to photograph more than one hundred kinds of roses for a new book on rose growing. Many of the roses were red, pink, or yellow, and I wanted to be sure that the precise color of each rose was accurately rendered in the photograph. The solution was to use a calibrated gray card, which was placed in the garden scene next to the rose, photographed, and removed. The same photograph was then taken without the gray card. Back in my office, the photo with the gray card was color corrected in Photoshop during the color conversion process using Adobe’s Camera Raw converter, and the same correction was applied to the photo taken without the gray card. Voila – perfect color! There are several brands of gray card; I recommend the Whibal card developed by Michael Tapes. Here’s a link to his website:


Although I usually avoid using any of Photoshop’s “Auto” commands, the Auto Color command can provide good results, especially if your image includes areas that should be white or neutral in tone. For the best results, be sure to select the “Find Dark & Light Colors” and “Snap Neutral Midtones” options before using the Auto Color command.

Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom, and Apple’s Aperture all provide an extensive array of tools for adjusting color in digital photographs. For fine-tuning specific tones in the photograph, I find Photoshop’s Curves, Hue/Saturation, Select Color and Color Balance commands to be especially useful. There are also a number of sophisticated techniques for color correction carried out in LAB mode developed by color correction guru Dan Margulis that are well worth exploring if you are looking for the ultimate in color control of your digital images. His books, Professional Photoshop: The Classic Guide to Color Correction and Photoshop LAB Color: The Canyon Conundrum and Other Adventures in the Most Powerful Colorspace deserve a prominent place in your library if you are serious about obtaining great color in your digital images.

Yellow Spindle Coral Mushrooms, Holden Arboretum, Ohio


During the 1980s and 1990s I belonged to an organization called the Ohio Mushroom Society, an eclectic band of individuals dedicated to hunting, gathering, identifying, studying, eating, and photographing wild mushrooms. Several times each year during spring, summer, and fall we would gather at weekend mushroom conventions known as forays in and around the Buckeye State. Each morning and afternoon, groups of mushroom hunters would head for the woods, armed with baskets, waxed paper for wrapping the mushrooms, field guides, and other equipment deemed essential for tracking down the fleeting fungus. The photographers, including yours truly, would stagger under the weight of enough camera equipment to fill a commercial portrait studio.

Back at foray headquarters, the fungal fruits of the day’s hunt were sorted, arranged on paper plates, and presented to local and visiting mycologists (mushroom experts) for identification. Slide programs with titles like “An introduction to the genus Amanita” and “Bolete identification for beginners” were presented, and the air was filled with the delicious odor of wild mushrooms being sautéed in butter and olive oil as mushroom chefs demonstrated the preparation of Shaggy Mane Quiche, Oyster Mushroom Chowder, Morel Bisque, and other culinary fungal delights. All too soon the foray was over, the shriveled remains of hundreds of mushrooms were dumped into garbage bins, and the faithful headed home, dreaming of their next fungi foray.

Mushrooms grow in a variety of natural habitats, especially woodland areas and grassy open spaces. Because many kinds of mushrooms grow in association with specific types of trees, mixed woodlands with many different hardwoods and conifers will usually provide the maximum number of mushroom species. Some fungi, such as those in the Agaricus and Lepiota groups, favor grassy areas and are often found on lawns and golf courses.

Weather conditions and the season are also important considerations when searching for mushrooms. Few mushrooms appear during freezing winters in the northern U.S., but they often fruit abundantly during mild, wet winters in many southern states. Some mushrooms, including the highly prized morels, fruit mainly in spring, but most species appear later in summer and fall. Mushrooms generally need wet conditions to trigger their urge to fruit; abundant rainfall over a period of a week or more will usually produce bumper crops, while hot, dry conditions inhibit their growth.

There are thousands of species of mushrooms in North America, and new ones continue to be discovered each year. Identifying mushrooms in the field can be challenging, even for experts. A keen eye for detail and a good field guide to mushrooms are two of the keys to success in mushroom identification. The National Audubon Society Field Guide To North American Mushrooms, by Gary Lincoff (Chanticleer Press) is one of my favorite guides, available from www.amazon.com for $14.25. To further hone your mushroom identification skills, consider joining a local mushroom club or society. In my home state of Ohio, the Ohio Mushroom Society has many expert members, publishes a bimonthly newsletter, hosts several forays from spring to fall, and offers a family membership for only $10 a year. The OMS website is: www.ohiomushroom.org/oms

Some wild mushrooms, such as morels, chanterelles, and oyster mushrooms, are prized as edibles. Many mushrooms are inedible, some are poisonous, and a few species, such as the Destroying Angel and Deadly Galerina, are lethally poisonous and are responsible for numerous mushroom fatalities. Don’t even think about eating any wild mushroom unless you are absolutely certain as to its identity.

Wild mushrooms display an amazing variety of shapes, textures, and colors, which make them excellent subjects for close-up study and photography. They are also one of nature’s most cooperative subjects, for they never fly away, bite, sting or wave in a breeze. If you want to practice your macro photography skills, mushrooms are an excellent choice.

Although you can take snapshots of mushrooms with a hand-held point-&-shoot digital camera, you will get better results using a single-lens-reflex (SLR) digital camera supported by a sturdy tripod. Shooting in “raw” mode, rather than JPEG, will provide you with more exposure latitude, as well as better control over the color rendition in the photograph, and using a tripod will allow you to fine-tune your compositions and use the small f-stops and long shutter speeds that are often needed to optimize exposure and depth-of-field when photographing mushrooms in the subdued light of woodlands.

For mushroom portraits and intimate close-ups of groups of mushrooms, you will need to focus closer than most standard SLR lenses allow. For example, the closest focus distance for both the Nikon and Canon 70-200mm zoom lenses is around 5 feet, giving a reproduction ratio of about 1:6. The Canon 17-85mm and Nikon 18-70mm zoom lenses will focus closer, to just over 1 foot, but the reproduction ratio is still only 1:6, which isn’t close enough to get a frame-filling photo of small mushrooms. To get these lenses to focus closer, you’ll need to invest in some close-up lenses or extension tubes. Close-up lenses screw onto the end of the lens like a filter, while extension tubes are mounted between the camera body and the lens.

Nikon no longer offers the excellent 52mm 3T and 4T and the 62mm 5T and 6T close-up filters, though you may be able to find them used on eBay. Canon offers close-up filters in 52mm, 58mm, 72mm and 77mm sizes, ranging in price from $75 to $150. Other companies offering close-up filters include Marumi and Raynox. Make sure you purchase apochromatic, two-element close-up lenses for the best results, and avoid cheap single-element close-up filters. You can stack close-up filters to obtain the degree of magnification you need.

Extension tubes also work well, and are less expensive than close-up filters. Be sure to get “automatic” extension tubes, such as those made by Kenko, to ensure that you retain your camera’s automatic through-the-lens (TTL) exposure metering facilities. Extension tubes work well with prime lenses, but may interfere with focusing and/or zooming controls on zoom lenses, so be sure to check for compatibility with your lenses before purchasing an extension tube set.

Macro lenses offer the ultimate in convenience and image quality for photographing mushrooms. They allow you to focus close enough to obtain a 1:2 (half life-size) or 1:1 (life-size) reproduction ratio, and preserve all the functions of the digital camera. A macro lens in the 90-105mm range is ideal for mushroom photography. I use a Sigma 105mm Macro lens for many of my mushroom close-ups. Macro lenses in the 50-60mm range are very sharp, but have a very limited working distance, which means you’ll need to be on your stomach just a few inches from the mushrooms to get a frame-filling photograph. Longer macro lenses, such as the excellent Nikon 200mm Micro Nikkor and the equally effective Sigma 180mm APO Macro lens, have plenty of working distance but are heavier to tote around in the woods.

Long exposures of several seconds are often needed when photographing mushrooms, so a sturdy tripod with the ability to position the camera near the ground is essential. I use a Gitzo G1328 carbon fiber tripod, which does not have a center post and can be placed flat on the ground for low-level compositions. The aluminum Manfrotto 190 XB tripod is an affordable tripod that also works well for close-up photography. I use mirror lock-up and a cable release with my Nikon D2X to further minimize any possibility of camera movement during the exposure. Image stabilization and autofocus are wonderful features for hand-held photography, but you’ll want to turn off both of these features and focus the lens manually when photographing mushrooms using a tripod.

False Caesar's Mushroom, Cuyahoga Valley, Ohio

When you find a mushroom or group of mushrooms that you would like to photograph, don’t be in too much of a hurry to set up your tripod. Examine different compositions while hand-holding the camera to determine the best viewpoint for the photograph. Does a vertical or horizontal composition seem to work best? How much of the background do you want to include in the photo? To create a diffuse background that will make the mushrooms stand out, position the camera as close to the ground as possible and use the largest f/stop that will render the mushrooms in sharp focus.

Camera positioning and focusing are critical for good mushroom portraits. One way to deal with the shallow depth of field at close distances is to align the camera at a right angle (90 degrees) to the major plane of the mushroom subject. This will minimize the extent to which you will need to stop down the lens to achieve adequate depth of field. Remember to focus on a point that is about one-third to one-half of the distance from the front to the back of the mushroom (s) to maximize depth of field. Since depth of field is controlled by the f/stop setting, use the “A” (Aperture-preferred) mode on your digital camera when photographing mushrooms.

I feel it is OK to remove distracting twigs, leaves or other objects near the mushrooms, and I sometimes temporarily turn a log, complete with attached mushrooms, to allow a better view of the gills or other structures underneath the mushrooms. Be sure to return the log to its original position after you’ve completed the photography session, so the mushrooms and any tiny critters under the log are not disturbed. If you want your mushroom photos to be useful as aids to identifying mushrooms, use a knife to dig up one or two complete mushrooms, including the base of the stems, and pose the uprooted mushrooms as part of the photograph. You may also want to score the gills or stem with a knife to show any color changes that take place, which can be an important aid to identifying the mushroom. Some mushroom photographers routinely dig up an entire group of mushrooms and pose them for photography in another location, such as a patch of moss, grass, or other attractive ground cover. In general I prefer to photograph mushrooms “in situ”, but if your objective is to win mushroom photography contests rather than document mushrooms in their natural habitat you’ll need to practice your skills in “gardening” and mushroom arrangement!

Good lighting is also very important in mushroom photography, and the worst lighting, in my opinion, is bright sunlight. In fact, I prefer to avoid even searching for wild mushrooms in the woods on bright sunny days, when the glare and sunlit areas on the forest floor make it much harder to locate mushrooms. Trying to photograph a sunlit white mushroom against a background of dark earth in shadow is an exercise in futility. Even if you employ the latest High Density Range (HDR) techniques to compress the extreme contrast range, the photograph looks garish and artificial.

The best kind of lighting for mushroom photography is the soft, even light from a bright overcast sky or shade. The clouds act as a giant light diffuser, eliminating harsh shadows and allowing the subtle colors, textures, and details of the mushrooms to emerge. You can often create a similar effect on a sunny day by shading the mushrooms with your body (or someone else’s) or diffusing the light with a Photoflex Litedisc or Flexfill collapsible diffusion screen. These lightweight cloth diffusion discs are spring loaded and collapse into a very small space for storage and transportation. You’ll need discs that are at least 20 inches in diameter when expanded. Photoflex and other companies also offer smaller opaque gold and silver discs that can be used to reflect light under the mushroom, which is invariably shaded.

What about flash? In general I have a strong preference for natural light when photographing wildflowers, graphic patterns in nature, and many other close-up subjects. On the other hand, I usually photograph dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies and other flying insects with flash, which provides lighting of a predictable color temperature and amount, and which can “freeze” any slight movement of the subject during the exposure. However, a regular flash generates light that is very directional, which can result in harsh shadows and blown highlights if the light from the flash is not diffused in some way. Some mushroom photographers use a variety of diffusers with flash, which provides a great deal of control over lighting, but requires lugging around a lot of equipment in the field. My preferred approach is to use a ringlight, which provides bright, even lighting without harsh shadows. I use a Nikon SB29s ringlight for my dragonfly photography, and I am testing the ringlight for mushroom photography also – I’ll let you know my findings in a future newsletter.

The subdued light in woodlands during summer can also create a color cast in your mushroom photographs, so you may want to carry a calibrated gray card, such as a Whibal card, which can be used as described earlier in this newsletter to correct the color in your photographs. This is less of a concern if you use flash, which provides light of a consistent color temperature.

To stimulate your interest in mushroom photography, I have uploaded 25 mushroom photographs to my website gallery. Enter “mushroom” in the search box to access the photos. Most of these photos were taken using 35mm color slide film during the 1980s and 1990s, but I have included a few more recent photographs taken with digital camera equipment.

If you enjoy viewing photographs of wild mushrooms, be sure to visit the website of noted mushroom photographer Taylor Lockwood, who has traveled the world in search of photogenic fungi. Mr. Lockwood’s website includes hundreds of photographs of colorful mushrooms, and he offers books, posters, and other items featuring his mushroom photography. His latest book, Chasing the Rain: My Treasure Hunt for the World’s Most Beautiful Mushrooms, is full of his best mushroom photos as well as his adventures pursuing mushrooms around the globe. Here’s a link to his website:


The North American Mycological Association (NAMA) whose mission is “to promote, pursue, and advance the science of mycology”, is another organization you may wish to join if you want to learn more about wild mushrooms. Here’s a link to their website:


Finally, there is a new magazine, Fungi, published 5 times each year, dedicated to meeting the editorial needs of amateur and professional mycologists. To quote from their website’s Home Page, “Each issue of FUNGI will explore the world of mycology from many different angles. With regular features ranging from toxicology to medicinal mushrooms; from photography to book reviews, FUNGI will inform and entertain everyone from beginner to professional mycologist. “ Here’s a link to their website:


If the weather gods cooperate, the woods will be filled with mushrooms, some of them very colorful, for the next couple of months until late in the fall. I hope that these notes will encourage you to try your hand at mushroom photography.

Good luck pursuing the fleeting “fotogenic” fungus among us!!

Best wishes,

Ian Adams

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