Late autumn and early winter is a great time to head out and look for fabulous fungi and magical starling murmurations.
Coming in all different shapes and sizes, they provide an endlessly interesting subject for the natural world photographer. From classic toadstools to more intricate coral or large bracket fungi, they can be interpreted and photographed in a number of ways.
To find your subjects, head out after a few days of rain when the air is damp. Woodland is often the best bet for a range of subjects, but parkland and open fields also host a variety of species. Picking up a fungi guide will help identify habitats for certain species, as well as giving you some great information on the species you find.
Once you find a patch, look around for the best individual growths. Try to avoid those with large bite marks or broken sections for nicer looking images. I would recommend taking along a small paintbrush and a rocket blower, as these are great for helping to remove small bits of distracting dirt from subjects.
In terms of images, try and get down low for those perfect clean portraits. Working with shallow depth of field for out of focus backgrounds. Alternatively going in close with a wide angle to give a little more context to the image, can also produce great results.
In terms of gear, fungi are a very accessibly subject and you’ll be able to get great results on a decent compact camera. But more advanced users will want to invest in a macro lens, which provides a unique way of viewing the more intricate details of fungal forms. Additionally, using a reflector can be a huge help to light subjects in dark woodland corners, to give images a little more punch. Another great way to light your images is with a torch, giving a perfect way to create dramatic lighting on duller days.
A beanbag is often my choice support for working with fungi – they’re easy to position low on the ground while also offering a very stable support. Use in conjunction with a remote release and mirror lock-up for the sharpest results.
As winter starts to set in, now is the perfect time to head out in search of starling murmurations. Huge flocks gather over certain areas of the country, performing wonderful displays before settling in for the evening roost, giving wildlife photographers some truly unique opportunities.
Starling murmurations take place all over the UK in a variety of sizes. To get the most spectacular views, it’s best to head to one of the most well known sites to see the birds numbering in the tens of thousands. Great locations include RSPB Ham Wall, Gretna Green, RSPB Lakenheath and Brighton pier.
The best time to head out is on a cold clear day. These will result in increased opportunities, not only for seeing the birds but also creating images. Cloudy or rainy days result in the starlings often performing for less time and roosting earlier.
As for equipment, take a mix of longer telephoto and wide-angle lenses. This will allow you to focus on smaller sections of the murmurations with longer focal lengths, while also being able to get the whole scene in view with a wider angle. Fast glass isn’t a necessity, but an f/2.8 or f/4 lens will certainly increase the shooting hours available (especially if, like myself, you don’t want to be tied down to a tripod when the action kicks off).
Tom Mason is one of the UK’s most exciting young wildlife photographers and conservationists. He leads workshops and seminars and writes a monthly blog for the RSPB. See more of his work here.