There is nothing overwhelmingly spectacular about the forest preserves around Chicago: no huge peaks, no giant waterfalls, no magnificent canyons. The forest is up close and you’re in it; you can’t capture the forest for the trees. The intrigue of photography in the forest is finding the subtle; you have to keep your eyes open. Or maybe you just have to have the right eyes to appreciate it: not everyone gets as excited about captures of mushrooms as I do; I just happen to think they are incredibly photogenic and interesting with subtle coloring, texture, and endless arrangements. Finding and capturing the nuances of nature in all its diversity is what makes the forest floor such an interesting and challenging place for me to photograph.
I have mixed emotions about the aesthetics of the mushroom I chose to show you: it’s more odd than artful. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, sitting on the forest floor under a massive oak tree. I didn’t want to destroy it, just to satisfy my curiosity, so I can’t for sure say whether it is bolette or brain. I suspect the former as I found a couple of more readily identifiable bolettes with red pores under the cap and a flesh that quickly stained from yellow to green to a deep blue. I posted the bolette for identification on iNaturalist.com but no identifications have been forthcoming.
If your not a big fan of mushrooms, maybe you like insects? You need a camera that captures detail: the lacy wings of a dragonfly as it clasps to a stem; the pollen clumps attached to the leg of a bee; the glossy black eye of a wasp; the hairs on the legs of a mayfly; a bee working its way through a flower; or the orange and black beetles that contrast nicely with the teardrop shaped, light green, pods.
Every flower is an opportunity for an in the face picture of the full spectrum of colors and intriguing shapes. If you miss the flowers, the fruit might provide you with something equally surprising from the tiny little parasols of the dandelions to the tan prickly seed pods of the Ohio buckeye. After the in the face shot, you might try stepping back to see if you can make a composition with something interesting in the background by getting down to the level of your subjects.
If you’re lucky, you might just happen upon some wildlife. The forest floor harbors snakes, birds, raccoons, and the occasional deer. Wildlife is skittish so it pays to have a lens that brings the picture to them rather than trying to bring yourself to the picture.
The woods is full of interesting textures and surprises. This last one I had some fun with. Any ideas what it is? I turned the picture on its side for the eye and the grin and added a grainy filter to give it more of a leathery texture. The creature is a bee hive turned on its side. The eye is the entrance and the eyelash is the leg of a bee entering its domicile. Nothing quite so prehistoric about it after all.
I love the idea of forest floor photography. I wish I had thought of the name but its already taken here https://www.facebook.com/ForestFloorPhotography/ by a friend of a friend. I looked at her pictures and instantly knew we have similar tastes and style. Of course I like capturing pictures of amazing places. But amazing shots wait at your feet on the forest floor.