Saturday 21 October 2023

Fungi season and the challenges of doing photography when having M.E.

 Well Fungi season really kicked off early in the north east (UK) with July giving us mushrooms we often would not see until September/October. Friends on Facebook were posting a few images locally and I was lucky enough to actually manage to get out 3 times over 5-6 weeks, to photograph lots of mushrooms, although each time did result in me being very unwell for around a week afterwards, it was worth it as its what I love to do most.

Below - A Grisette or Tawny Grisette which I took home to photograph as they were in abundance

Northumberlandia is a very small woodland the size of about 2 fields, with half of it created with winding paths and a cafe for visitors, plus activities for children. Its nice and flat, fairly easy to get around on the mobility scooter, plus with so much path covering large sections of the wood which helps me to explore most of it, being able to spot lots from the path. Its easy for me to go along with my partner or friend, let them do the hunting,  throw my mat on the ground, with my lights, tripod, bag etc and snap away any of the more common fungi that they can bring me. I do photograph them as they are found too, but not very often as I cannot be getting up and down too often - most days I do not have the strength or energy, and if I do its really not worth the consequences or worsenning symptoms. So I have to adapt. Hence a lot of my fungi photography is done at home, sat at my dining table, using a mini tripod, focus stacking rail and lights which are permanently set up and small interchangeable backgrounds within reach. I know this is not to everyones liking, but having M.E I simply don't have much choice and its better than not taking any photos. I did overdo things twice and really regretted doing so, so now in October when Ive been out I have hardly taken any photos, but instead brough a few specimens home.

A Russula/Brittlegill of some sort

I managed getting along to Wallington hall once too, although barely managed any photography there as my energy was too low/exhaustion levels high etc. I did find the lovely Brittlegill above and was quite happy with the shots I got of that. 

Below are a pair of Plums and Custard mushrooms which I spotted from the path at the Rising sun country park and spent some time lying in the woods capturing a few focus stacked images of. 

One of the project I started working on a couple of years ago was a list of  different ways that I wanted to photograph fungi. Last year I simply couldnt manage hardly any fungi photography, but this year due to bringing some home I have managed some of my projects in my mini home studio by pacing my activities and ideas. I like to have a project or two to work towards each year but this is a longer term idea. I like the idea of creating a book on creative  photography, but this last year I have slowly been putting together slides for a presentation on creative fungi photography. I am undecided on what format to create my presentation as I am often asked to give presentations to photography clubs but struggle too much with my cognitive problems  and reliability aswell as ability due to fluctuating symptoms. Most days there is no way that I could manage an hour to 90 minutes talk/presentation, even if broken into two parts. So I am considering pre recording shorter parts of a presentation, using slides which will help prompt me, plus having notes in front of me, and having this on video. But I am struggling getting my head around putting a slideshow together and how to go about creating a video, despite watching videos about it, my brain isnt taking in the new info and isnt processing, so I may be reaching out to friends for assistance with this.

A pair of Russula or some sort at Northumberlandia in July

So far I am thinking of breaking down a presentation into shorter 15 - 20 minute sections, recording these and then using several put together for full presentations where I can answer a few questions half way and at the end. It may not seem difficult to most people but when your brain gets frazzled so easily like mine does its not straight forward. I will get there in the end though, whether this year, next year or further in the future.

Two tiny jelly bean like Amethyst deciever mushrooms growing in a rotting tree stump.

The experience I had with judging Allan Walls photography flower competition in the summer has helped me with regards to my plans and building confidence. But it also confirmed my issues with my memory and cognitive problems, I did struggle to use zoom on half of the occassions I needed to. . I was lucky enough to be invited to judge a 2nd floral competition with Allan Walls on video and only managed by having everything written down. Again my memory failed me on several occassions, but I was able to brush over this, with having notes to help. I did love doing this and have been asked to judge again, which I will do. It was a great learning experience and I hope to learn more regarding judging photography competitions in time. I will be looking for a mentor/s 

This month I have been attempting to create a few creative fungi images, mostly from home due to being quite ill. It has been a good distraction. Below is a Shaggy Ink cap which my daughter helped be to obtain, photographed at home, using fairy lights in the background.

I am so grateful that I have hobbies and interests that I can manage from home to keep me occupied when my health is so poor. Hobbies such as photography give me such a great creative outlet, helping me to still feel productive in some way and giving me goals to focus on. When I cant take photos I can still plan projects, enter various competitions and browse the internet, books, art etc for inspiration. Its the one main thing that has helped my mental health throughout the 18 years or so of having M.E.

Speaking of competitions I have had great news on the final round of the EISA Animal kingdom portfolio competition that I entered earlier this year. After coming 1st for the UK I went on to come 2nd place internationally which I am thrilled about and never dreamed that I could achieve in an animal competition - particularly as they were images taken at home, of  ethically sourced taxidermy  insect specimens.

In more competition news, I was not going to enter IGPOTY Still life category this year and had not taken images for the competition, but I did have 4 photos taken this year that fitted the brief and entered them at the last hour. I was most surprised with 3rd place, but very happy, making it by 4the year placing in that category. 

I also discovered this month that I came 2nd in the NPS photographer of the year for 2022.

Whilst I have been unable to do much even at home I have been also slowly creating textures to sell and now have a new texture collection - the Autumnal texture pack which will be available via my Etsy shop this coming week.  

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