Mushrooms From Hell!

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ISO 160, f/10, 31mm, 1/15 secs, tripod, manual focus

Inspired by a Practical Photography video on still life, I experimented with this wooden mushroom with a variety of backgrounds. I don’t have any fancy lighting equipment so I had to hold a desk lamp in place and find things to prop up the backgrounds. And in the shot above, the “things” were actually my sister and my mum…

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For many of my shots, the strong light from the desk lamp was harsh and left sharp highlights as you can see above. In the first shot, the lighting was too flat (maybe because it was far away?) and the background (a waistcoat) wasn’t big enough to fill out the frame with that pattern placement. In the second photo here, I’ve actually changed the background colour in Lightroom from yellow that to help the mushroom stand out. Although I like the shadow, the mushroom doesn’t stand out from the background enough on the left, the tones are too similar.

ARGH!

Actually I found this photography frustrating and stressful. Where do I begin? Having to hold lots of things at awkward angles, slightest movements knocking your shots out, Constant readjustment of tripod and camera angle, out of focus shots, most shots looking flat and uninteresting, uninspiring backgrounds…. it all wound me up and made the experience feel like a lot of effort for little reward. The Practical Photography guy made it look easy, though he had a proper soft light and a top-down angle on his subject, plus experience! Perhaps when I’m wiser and more experienced I will enjoy this kind of photography more? Also I’m not sure if my lens choice was correct. 18-45mm at the far zoom end? I could have used my 80-200mm (which would have meant being half way across the room to get it in shot), or my 20mm pancake which would have been harder for framing.

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ISO 160, 34mm, f5.5, 1/125 sec, tripod, manual focus

In the end the best images came from shining the light through art paper, naturally bouncing up to light the mushroom from below. I increased the exposure in Lightroom to show more under the mushroom cup, also adding contrast and boosting shadows to add drama. Although I didn’t realize my original vision (mushroom in a green landscape!),  instead I discovered something far more interesting which made the shoot worthwhile once I saw it on the big screen! Mushrooms from hell!

If anyone has any thoughts or advice about still life photography, especially if you’ve found frustration like me, or want to talk about my lens choice – please leave a comment!

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