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Book Review: The Art of Fungi Photography
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Clare Disano investigates some intriguing photography techniques from Paul Hobson’s latest book, The Art of Fungi Photography.
CLARE DISANO

Packed full with unusual and creative images of fungi, this book is an essential guide to harnessing tools that will add atmosphere to pretty much all flora.

If you want to develop your photography skills and primarily capture artistic images that are the exception rather than the rule, then The Art of Fungi Photography is the book for you. Whilst Paul Hobson uses fungi as his loyal subjects, there can also be something gained for all wildlife and macro photographers, with a whole host of photography tips and techniques.

Fungi offer really interesting textures and patterns to experiment with and Paul’s suggestions to play with angles and perspectives give you all the tools you need to add a whole new dimension to your images. His techniques and will help you to tap into your own imagination, while gaining some professional insight along the way.

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Fungi art lights

The book begins by covering the ethics of photographing fungi, notably respecting the habitat and not causing damage to either the subject or the surrounding area. He includes safety tips and advice on ‘gardening’ (arranging the immediate area simply for the purpose of the image) and manipulation; particularly using insects and animals, after all some of his techniques are unconventional. Fungi are identified throughout, where possible.

Paul imparts so much knowledge from what must have taken years of fine-tuning. Aside from practical tips on composition, light, shadow and camera settings, to name just a few, the book also serves as professional guidance. He looks at the final use of your images and asks questions like ‘why do we do it?’ to help you ascertain what end result are you hoping to achieve. In to the bargain, we are also offered advice on selling our images and taking the steps to becoming professional photographers.
We are treated to a chapter on each technique, which includes the intriguing ‘Bioluminescence’ and another on the use of fairy-lights. Some of the more creative chapters delve into using multiple exposures and spore prints to create something unique. The use of fireworks is incredibly imaginative and promises to amuse.

Puffball smoking, Lycoperdon perlatum, Sheffield

For the more traditional photographers, there are guides on creating moody silhouettes, bokeh and ‘out-of-focus circles in woodland’. For atmospheric images, both the use of infrared and flame/smoke are guaranteed to engage your imagination. My personal favourites are the Puffball toadstool portraits (with the spores puffing into the air) and obviously including animals or insects, possibly because they add a sense of realism. If, after all of that, you still want something more, you must dip into the weird and wonderful ‘Environmental installation Art’.

Even as a novice photographer, and for those just getting to grips with photography, this book would be hugely beneficial, helping to understand the range of camera settings and equipping you to experiment with some of the techniques, in particular taking a series of shots with subtle changes to the settings to work out the best options for you and your equipment.

Bio-luminese fungi, Sheffield

I really like the fact that Paul uses an objective process to find the best results. This book will save you a lot of time and money, as he even suggests lenses and shares plenty of helpful guides that can be found online. There are also some obliging images that breakdown in to areas with notes on each aspect.

There are so many techniques to test out and get to grips with, including using filters (for infrared) and also some processing methods, to assist your experimentation, with imaging software (with screenshots for guidance).

A lot of trial and error will have gone into fine-tuning his suggestions for this type of photography, saving you from having to go through a lot of time-consuming tasks yourself. Experimentation with settings is key and, with pictures of camera settings to help you, all that is left to do is practice, practice, practice.

The Art of Fungi Photography available via www.paulhobson.co.uk or from Amazon.

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About Author

Paul Hobson

Paul has been a professional wildlife photographer for over ten years, prior to which he was a lecturer in Environmental Sciences in Sheffield. He uses his images to work with local and national organisations and he is a contract holder with the Peak’s branch of Natural England. He writes a monthly article about Peak District wildlife for Derbyshire Life and his work is regularly featured various publications.

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