Look Closer with Dr. Mat
A regular Blog from Western Australia.
Dr. Mat will present a variety of life forms including Jumping Spiders, Velvet Worms, Fungi and more. Check out the archives for previous entries!
Fungi of Western Australia
Welcome to our next installment of Looking Closer with Dr. Mat
With the rains of winter, the southern forests come alive with fungi. This year especially has been quite a wet winter and the fungi are particularly bountiful.
This time of year I try to do a few fungi walk through parts of suburban Perth as well as the southwest as the fungi are fantastic photographic subjects. Abundant, diverse, colourful and best of all they don’t run away when you try and photograph them! The five images I’ve chosen for you today represent a diversity of size and type, as well as a mix of Perth and southwest forest species.
Let’s start off with a common but spectacular late-season species I shot in the Karri forest. Anthracophyllum archeri, the orange fan fungus.
The ones I have shot here are particularly large fans at about 40mm across, growing on quite a chunky stick. Usually, I see this species up to about 20mm growing on small spindly sticks. The tops are quite a pretty burnt orange colour but they are truly beautiful from underneath. I was lucky to find these ones on a broken branch lying on the ground so I was able to flip the whole lot over to get this shot. The lighting in this image is from an off-camera flash and you can see it really adds some dimension to the highlights and shadows, catching the structure of the gills.
Next is one of my favourite species from the southwest. Artomyces austropiperatus, the crowned coral fungus.
This decomposer fungus seems to be one of the first species to sprout up in the winter and I’ve seen it on both rotting wood as well as out of the ground and leaf litter. The delicate, upright towers and turrets remind me of a fairy tale castle. I deliberately shot this one from a tripod and without flash because I wanted to capture the late afternoon light coming through from left of frame.
Let’s look at a traditional “mushroomy” species now. Cortinarius perslendidus, the splendid red skinhead.
At least I think it’s this species! I forgot to check whether it had a yellow mycelium or a pink mycelium, which would be a different species. A third Karri forest species, this skinhead is not busily decomposing the fallen wood, it is a mycorrhizal species that is symbiotic with tree roots. I always have a little trouble lighting this species because one of it’s characteristic features are paprika-red gills, and getting the light and camera angle right can be tricky. Creative use of off-camera flash can usually direct the light enough to create a pleasing image. It also helps to find a patch of them on high ground so you can get a really low angle.
Let’s move on to a species that I shot in Perth but can be found in lots of different habitats. Cyathus species, A bird’s nest fungi.
These little things look less like fungi and more like some kind of insect egg case. They start off as little balls and about 6mm across and then they open up at the top to reveal tiny little “eggs” inside. These eggs are really little bundles of spores that are splashed around and dispersed by raindrops. I’ve actually produced a video on this species so if you’d like to check it out head over to my YouTube channel “Look Closer”.
The fifth species I’m going to share with you is a rather spectacular one and unique among this selection in that it is bioluminescent. Omphalotus nidiformis, the ghost fungus.
I found this specimen in metro Perth but they can be seen all across southern Australia. I’m told there are some particularly good spots to see them in South Australia. Don’t be fooled by this and other photos you may see of this species, the glow is quite faint and appears white in real life. You have to let your eyes adjust to the dark for a minute or two before you can discern it. I borrowed a technique used often in astrophotography to get this image through multiple long exposures. This image is a composite of five 3 minute exposures (f5, iso 1000). The five images have then been mean-stacked in post-processing software. This has the effect of reducing the overall noise in the final image. Finally, a denoising filter has been passed over the stacked image to clean up whatever noise is left. It isn’t a difficult process but it does take some time to produce good results, which means you really have to consider your composition before you start shooting. I think it’s worth the effort.
There you have my wintery offerings of fungus from a rather wet and soggy south Western Australia.
Happy fungus hunting!