Parasol Mushroom by Todd Henson

A horizontal view of a parasol mushroom growing out of a small patch of grass.

The Parasol mushroom is an interesting mushroom with a textured cap topped with lots of little growths (they appear to be called scales) and a ring on the stem just below the cap. It gets its name from its resemblance to a parasol (umbrella).

A vertical view of a parasol mushroom growing out of a small patch of grass.

I found this particular specimen in a small cluster of grass right in the middle of a wooded trail in mid-July. I’m very surprised it hadn’t been trampled, but I don’t think the trail gets a huge volume of traffic. I’m also not sure how quickly this mushroom grows so I don’t know how long it had been on the trail.

I was fascinated by how it was growing right in the little patch of grass so I got down on my stomach and captured a couple frames from ground level. You can just barely see the ring on the stem, just below the rim of the cap. I probably should have photographed it from the other side, looking up under the cap, but didn’t think of that at the time.

Lesson for the future: Take the time to work the subject before moving on. With these sorts of subjects you often can’t go back later as it could disappear at any time.

When I first published this post I had mistakenly identified this mushroom as an Amanita rubescens, known as The Blusher. Many thanks to Antonín who pointed out it looked more like a parasol mushroom. After spending more time researching and reading up on both species I agree with him. Identifying mushrooms can be a challenge and I still have much to learn, which is one of the great draws of nature photography. Every photograph I create, and every post I publish, is an opportunity to learn something new. If you ever see any species in my posts you feel I’ve misidentified please leave a comment and let me know. Thanks much!

Young Oyster Mushrooms on a Tree by Todd Henson

A small cluster of young oyster mushrooms growing on a tree in the woods.

Mushrooms and fungi can be a common sight when hiking through the woods. You can find them growing from the ground and on living or dead trees. The mushrooms pictured here are growing from a living tree, and I believe they are a small cluster of young oyster mushrooms which are from the Pleurotus family. I found this cluster just off the trail in a Northern Virginia park in early September.

Front view of a small cluster of young oyster mushrooms.

Notice the interesting shapes of the gills that run down the stem of these mushrooms, how they run down the entire length. As they mature the caps will grow much larger and possibly darken a bit. The stem below the cap will almost disappear, leaving just the large cap and the gills underneath it.

Oyster mushrooms are a popular edible mushroom commonly found in grocery stores, though don’t take anything here as advice on harvesting them. I am still very much an amateur at identifying mushroom species.

Young Ringless Honey Mushrooms and Depth of Field by Todd Henson

Small cluster of young Ringless Honey Mushrooms

I found the mushrooms above in one of my favorite parks along a wooded path in late August. I believe these are young Ringless Honey Mushrooms, also known as Armillaria Tabescens, that grow on the roots of hardwood trees in eastern North America. There were several small clusters in the area, all growing on the forest floor below hardwood trees.

It was still early in the day and the trees were filtering the sunlight, creating a soft light on the mushrooms. I thought these might look nice shot with a shallow depth of field and a completely out of focus background, so I took the camera off the tripod and lay down on my stomach, resting the camera on the ground in front of me to get a ground-level view of the cluster of young mushrooms.

Achieving a shallow depth of field was fairly easy with the long lens I had with me. I shot at 440mm and was as close as I could get to the mushrooms and still focus (around 6 or 7 feet). I used an aperture of f/6.3 and given the level of light I boosted the ISO to 1600 to get a shutter speed of 1/60 second. As you can see, this allows for a fairly shallow depth of field.

But looking at the photo now I realize I should have attempted a few shots with smaller apertures to increase the depth of field and get a little more of the mushroom cluster in focus. There wasn’t anything directly behind the mushrooms, so I could easily have kept the background out of focus. I love shallow depth of field, but I need to constantly remind myself to also create images with a larger depth of field. Maybe an aperture of f/8 or f/11 would have been better. I should have experimented more.

So next time you’re out in the woods, take a moment to look down. Maybe you’ll find an interesting mushroom along the forest floor, something worth photographing, or at least worth studying. And if you do choose to photograph the mushroom take the time to work the subject, experiment, try large apertures for shallow depth of field, but also try smaller apertures for more depth of field. Perhaps even try a very narrow aperture to capture the entire scene in focus showing the mushroom in its environment. It only takes a few extra minutes to work the subject, and it’s almost always worth the time.

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