People and Places
02/07/2018
Capturing ghosts and other dark arts by Kate Sears

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Don’t they just look magical? But there’s a secret to seeing these ghost mushrooms glow. Omphalotus nidiformis, as they are known in the science world, can’t be seen by the human eye. The fairies let us in on a little secret, however: by using a few tricks with your camera, you can expose these fantastic fungi.

Langwarrin resident Lauren Whiteman explained that ghost mushrooms don’t naturally glow bright green in the bushes. Human eyes will only actually see a dull blue-grey glow because our eyes are not made for seeing such fine detail in the dark; sometimes you only see the faint glow out of the corner of your eye.

“It’s the long exposure of the camera that picks out the bright green,” said Lauren, who has a Facebook page called Lauren Nicole Photography. “Though the last few nights I have been out with other photographers we have found them by their bluish-grey-white glow. Most of my photos were taken with one to two-minute exposures, f2.8, ISO 1600 on a Canon 80D.”

Lauren tells Mornington Peninsula Magazine that, once you find a ghost mushroom, the trick is to remain very quiet so you don’t spook it … no, not really — but do bring a small tripod and artificial lighting to light the mushroom so you can focus your camera. Once that’s set up, lock the focus, turn off all lights, and take your picture or use a remote trigger so you don’t move the camera.

Her tip? “I set my camera to ‘BULB’ or ‘Manual’ mode — typically 60 seconds to 135 seconds — and use an f2.8 lens. A 50mm macro lens is a better option than a 100mm lens as there is often other trees and foliage in the way and you won’t be able to get the gills in the picture. You want the underside of the mushroom rather than shooting down on to the tops, as the tops often aren’t as bright.”

Stunning though they are, these mushrooms are poisonous and will make you very ill if you eat them. They are found at nature reserves through Langwarrin, Frankston and the surrounding areas. Lauren, as an avid landscape and nature photographer, urges others to tread lightly and not disturb the area around the mushrooms because disrupting new spores or interrupting new mushrooms from growing will in turn mean their natural beauty won’t be shared with the community indefinitely.

This mostly self-taught photographer and mum of four is a member of the Frankston Photography Club and has recently chosen to study law to further advocate for children and families in crisis after working as a case manager in home-based care. Photography is her creative outlet and she’s adamant that residents and visitors alike are informed about the wonderful natural phenomenon that is the ghost mushroom.

Lauren hasn’t been able to capture the fairies among the glowing mushrooms … not yet anyway.

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