Daily Inspiration #1021
By Luke Mikler
My first foray into the fungal kingdom came on a trip I took to Prague in the early 2000s. I had been visiting family in Bratislava, Slovakia and had taken a short trip with my grandpa to visit his brother in Prague. After spending some time in the city, we ventured out into the countryside to spend a couple of nights in a small cabin belonging to my grandfather’s brother, foraging for mushrooms. Coming from Eastern Europe, generations of my family have grown up foraging for food, especially mushrooms. I feel that an interest in foraging for wild food, and mushrooms, in particular, was passed down without me even realizing.
We set out the next morning into the forests that surrounded the small village cabin. Immediately I was thrilled and intrigued with the possibility of what we may come across. I began asking my grandpa and his brother many questions.
“What are we looking for? How do you know what to pick? Have you ever been poisoned?”
I was fascinated by the amount and variety of mushrooms that we found. We were mainly hunting for a species of mushroom similar to the Porcini (Boletus edulis) known in that area as the Dubák (Boletus reticulatus). We found many Dubák, but what really excited me were the countless other species we came across. This was the first time that I noticed the Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) and remember being enchanted by the fact that it did not just exist in fairy tales and cartoons.
A gill shot of Lichenomphalia umbellifera, a tiny mushroom not more than 15mm across the cap.
Nikon D610, Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro + Raynox DCR-250 macro conversion lens
105mm, f6.3, 1/125 sec, ISO500
This trip can certainly be credited with piquing my interest in wild mushrooms. I was pleased to find out that my home in Vancouver, BC, I happened to live in one of best places on earth to take up mycology (the study of mushrooms). Not long after that trip to the outskirts of Prague I joined the local mycological society and began exploring the diversity of fungi found in British Columbia. Due to their size, mushrooms are often overlooked, despite being an important part of many ecosystems. They aid in decomposition of organic material, provide food for animals, insects and humans, and also connect trees with a complex system of underground mycelium (like fungal roots) which allow for nutrient distribution in complex symbiotic relationships.
With a background in fine art with a focus on painting, I’d always been a visual learner and interested in communicating through artistic expression. Soon after taking up amateur mycology, I felt the need to document the strange specimens I was discovering on my outings. The textures, colours and shapes that can be found within the fungal kingdom are awe inspiring. Vibrant reds, deep purples, honeycomb structures, and strange coral-like formations, just to mention a few.
Wide angle shot of my dad walking through one of our favourite chanterelle patches in early fall.
Nikon D610, Sigma 24mm f1.4
24mm, f5, 1/160 sec, ISO1600
Coincidentally, shortly after my trip to Europe, I had bought my first point and shoot camera, a Canon Powershot SD750, and fell in love with photography. As I was becoming more engrossed in the world of fungi, it was my desire to document these specimens that allowed me to improve my photography skills and really made me passionate about the art. Photography, and mycology, has taken me through some of the most stunning landscapes in the province, and perhaps the world. From the lush forests of the Northern Cascades, to desolate expanses of burned forest in northern British Columbia – these are places I can’t imagine finding myself in before my fungal and photographic hobbies took hold.
I gather inspiration from other nature photographers, and find macro work to be the most intriguing; providing a up-close glimpse of subjects we often ignore. I’ve learned an immense amount from studying the work of Nicky Bay, Steve Axford, and Dr. Tan Ji.
I’ve dabbled with many different cameras and techniques in the last decade and have continued to learn at every opportunity. Currently, for my fungal photos, I use a Nikon D610, with the help of extension tubes, macro conversion lenses, reverse lens techniques, and dedicated macro lenses.
As my subjects are generally found in the dim and dark woods, I use different types of lighting in my photographs to make the subjects stand out including softboxes, reflectors and speedlights. It is not uncommon to find me wandering through the woods with an inconveniently sized speedlight softbox hanging over my shoulder. I also love wide angle shots that allow me to capture the stunning locations I find myself in. One of my favourite lenses for these shots is the Sigma 24mm f1.4.
A view of Mt. Slesse, part of the Northern Cascade mountain range. Chilliwack BC, Canada.
Nikon D610, Nikon 50mm f1.4
50mm, f8, 1/400 sec, ISO100 Panorama of 10 photos
I don’t profess to be a master of the art or to be a wise teacher of photography, but I feel confident to offer at least one piece of advice. If you wish to better your photography, choose to shoot something you are passionate about and connect with people who are interested in the same field. Before you know it, your skills will grow exponentially and something bigger and better will come of it. And if not, at least you’ll be having fun while you’re shooting.
Thank you for taking the time to review my submission.