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Amazing multicoloured bioluminescent Ghost Fungi mushrooms at night under an auroral glow

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

I went for a bush walk in a rather remote Victorian forest today and, unexpectedly, stumbled across an isolated patch of Omphalotus Nidiformis mushrooms – the “Ghost Fungi” which give off a very dim eerie glow in the forest at night (to our naked eyes without colour vision, using only rods in the dim light, they appear white).

He they are just after sunset taken hand held with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II Micro Four Thirds camera with Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.2 lens (jpegs straight from camera just re-sized for web):

Ghost fungi

The above was hand held resting on my thigh at 1/4sec, f/3.5, ISO 1250.

Ghost fungi

The above was hand held resting on my boot at 1/4sec, f/2.5, ISO 640.

Ghost fungi

The above was hand held resting on my thigh at 0.6sec, f/4.5, ISO 1250.

So, hoping I was correct, I headed back into the closest town, had a quick bite, then headed back well after twilight had finished, and there they were, once my eyes had adjusted to night vision, the patch of fungi giving off their strange light.

Here are a few I shot with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark II with Olympus mZD 25mm f/1.2 lens sitting on a towel as a support (jpegs straight from camera just re-sized for web – no light painting or artificial lights, and white balance for these was set to sunny day):

Ghost fungi

The above was at f/2.8 (trying to get some more DOF), ISO 1600, noise filter = LOW, long exposure NR on with an 8 minute exposure using the very handy Live Timed function (I didn’t bring a remote to activate a BULB mode – thankfully the OM-D’s don’t need one!) and shows some lovely orange as well as green, with the top left corner being the brighter night sky (perhaps 2 stops brighter) illuminated by an Aurora Australis or Southern Lights.

The still night air without a breeze to be felt allowed me to use these nice long exposures, rather than having to open the aperture up to f/1.2 and loose depth of field even more than I was losing.

I could just imagine all the local insects coming out to dance and sing under the soft light – but it was too cold for most of them tonight – which saved me getting a few bites at least!

Ghost fungi

The above was as for the previous one but f/2.0 at 4 minutes exposure.

And, finally, just for a little fun at 10pm on a winter’s night, all alone in a remote forest, a fisheye view – taken with the unique Olympus mZD 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens sitting on a towel at f/1.8, ISO 1600, 2 minutes to avoid the bright auroral sky washing out – and yes, you can tell it is looking south from the out of focus star trails making an arc around the South Celestial Pole somewhere near the centre of the image.

Ghost fungi

Camera settings for shooting these ghost fungi at night:

  • I used a 25mm lens (50mm in full frame terms) but one could go wider than this
  • getting adequate depth of field while keeping ISO low and exposure duration a minimum is a challenge without resorting to complicated post-processing focus stacking techniques – for the 25mm Olympus lens I prefer the f/2.8 setting but this required 8 minutes exposure at ISO 1600, if using an equivalent 50mm lens on full frame this would require using f/5.6, 8 minutes at ISO 6400 – so any high ISO benefit of full frame is lost.
    • if it is windy, then you will not be able to achieve nice imagery, even if you chose to shoot at f/1.2 and ISO 12800 to gain a shorter shutter speed, it may still be too long if the fungi are moving – go on a still night without wind, and suffer the pea soup fog on your drive home.
    • if you can’t shoot BULB (you didn’t buy an Olympus and you forgot your remote control), then you may need settle with f/1.8, ISO 6400 and 30secs
  • manual focus and a torch is a must – and it helps if your lens has a nice MF clutch, and your camera can do magnified view to allow you to accurately manual focus using a torch to assist
  • I chose to shoot sunny day white balance as I wanted to see what the colours were like compared to our normal visual experience of a sunny day
  • Noise filter should be set to LOW or OFF as ideally you should be removing noise in post-processing (I haven’t done this in these images – I will wait til I get a chance to process the RAW files)
  • Long exposure noise reduction should be set to Auto or ON – this does double the length of waiting for exposure to finish but it removes the thermal noise and you don’t need that!
  • I decided not to use my tripod as I wanted to be at ground level so i rested the camera on a towel
  • turn IS OFF
  • If you don’t have an Olympus camera then you will need to bring a remote trigger for your BULB mode to get past 30secs

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with 25mm f/1.2 is great for this type of photography as:

  • the image stabiliser is fantastic when using it hand held for the dusk shots
  • ISO 1600 or 3200 is usable, and that is all you really need for the night shots
  • the flip out LCD screen means you don’t have to get down level with the camera on your stomach and get real dirty or have crawlies all over you
  • the 25mm f/1.2 not only is an amazing lens which focuses twice as close as similar full frame lenses, but it has a wonderful manual focus clutch
  • accurate manual focus is easy using magnified view mode
  • noise reduction phase displays a count down so you know how long you have left
  • if your torch is getting dim, you can have the Live Timed mode automatically activate Live Boost so you can see in the dark better
  • normal timed exposures go to 60 secs not like most other cameras where you need a remote control to activate BULB mode to get past 30secs
  • Live Timed mode allows you to visualise how the image is developing (eg. every 30 secs):
    • if you stuffed something up like composition, just terminate the exposure rather than wait until your planned exposure finishes
    • you can see how the histogram and image exposure is devloping, and then terminate when desired – this is how I chose to terminate the fisheye shot – when I saw the sky was starting to blow out
    • unlike BULB mode, you can set a duration for it to last and it will self-terminate the exposure without you having to be there with a remote control – this allows you to use another camera to do something else such as take Milky Way astroscapes while you wait 16 minutes for an 8 minute exposure and 8minute dark frame.
    • you don’t need a remote control – just wait for it to time out or press the shutter button to terminate exposure.
    • you can see from 5m away what the status is – is exposure still occurring or is it in noise reduction phase when its OK to turn torches on, or is exposure complete

For more mushrooms, see my previous post

Handheld night street photography with Olympus E-M5 and Panasonic 20mm pancake lens – Melbourne’s “White Night” event

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

On a warm balmy summer night, Melbourne hosted its 2nd “White Night” event of all night long cultural activities which attracted unprecedented crowds surpassing even New Year’s Eve crowds.

In such crowds a tripod is just asking for trouble, and a kit zoom lens is not going to suffice.

Many of the attractions were projected images on Melbourne’s buildings and what better way to capture these in dense crowds than to use the Olympus E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera hand held with a tiny Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens which of course is effectively image stabilised thanks to the E-M5 making it an awesome compact night street photography combination.

These were all taken at ISO 800, mostly at shutter speeds 1/10th-1/50th sec and at f/1.7 (except the last one which was f/2.8).

The night begins:

the night begins

Birrarung Marr art installation:
Birrarung Marr art installation

The band plays under Flinders St railway station clocks:

the band plays under Flinders St railway station clocks

Projected buildings:
projected buildings

projected buildings

projected buildings

Projected love messages on the Yarra River:
projected love messages on the Yarra River

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 with 12mm lens makes hand held urban street shots at night easier and more enjoyable with more security

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

Last week I went on a road trip to outback Australia to play with my new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera and primarily used it with the lovely but moderately expensive Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 12mm f/2.0 lens.

I love walking the streets at night to take urban street scenes at night when they have a totally different character, but carrying a tripod and a big camera when you are by yourself is just asking for trouble!

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera with the Olympus 12mm lens is small enough to easily fit in a jacket pocket so you can be discrete and hide it when there is potential for trouble, furthermore it means you can still go into a pub for a drink and not draw attention to yourself.

This combination allows you to easily do fun night shots as the image stabilisation combined with the 12mm f/2.0 lens, EVF so you can still see your subject in the dark, fast AF in the dark, adequate DOF for street landscapes even at wide apertures, and high image quality at ISO 1600 breaks barriers that no other system can match for hand held shots at night of static subjects, easily beating my Canon 1D Mark III pro dSLR for this purpose.

You can hand hold this lens down to shutter speeds of even a half a second if you are very careful, although I would recommend you try to limit yourself to 1/4 or 1/6th second to get more reliably sharp photos.

At f/2.0 or f/2.8 and ISO 1600 at 1/4 sec you can get into some quite dark environments and take successful shots, plus the slow shutter speed allows you to add some motion blurring effects if need be.

Here is a typical hand held shot walking around the remote outback mining town that is Broken Hill – which I think is actually quite a lot safer than Melbourne at night but still, I wouldn’t want to push my luck!

a Broken Hill pub at night

This is essentially straight from the camera (although converted to B&W, cropped and resized for the web in Lightroom).

Shot details: Olympus 12mm f/2.0 lens at f/2.0 with ISO 800 and shutter 1/20th sec hand held.

I have also posted these earlier related blog posts:

This combination makes an awesome, compact, high image quality, versatile travel photography kit, just add in a walkabout zoom lens and a 45mm f/1.8 portrait lens, and you are set!

Europe holiday – Denmark – part II – Halloween in Copenhagen

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Our visit to Copenhagen just happened to coincide with Halloween and Copenhagen’s Tivoli amusement park opened for the week of school holidays, and of course was packed with families making the most of the Halloween theme and rides.

It was a freezing cold night with intermittent showers but that did not stop the locals from having fun (Panasonic GH-1 Micro Four Thirds camera with Leica D 25mm f/1.4 lens).

Halloween at Tivoli

During the day, Tivoli was much more bearable for an Aussie without thermal underwear!

Tivoli

Meanwhile back at Copenhagen’s Central Station, it was time for a toilet break for the young one while the tourists wait as the sun gets lower (Olympus E510 with ZD 50mm macro lens):

Tivoli

Europe holiday – Denmark – part I – cyclists heaven

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Coming to Copenhagen from Stockholm in October, one is immediately aware of the substantially higher numbers of tourists and multiculturalism.

The Copenhagen restaurants and bars still seem to be dominated by tourist-oriented British/American food as I mentioned in the previous post on Stockholm, but it does have some very nice Italian restaurants which served great food, and not just pizza and pasta.

The numbers of cyclists seem to have increased exponentially, and they were the main threat to my personal injury – it seems cyclists assume they have right of way, even if pedestrians have a green light, and many of the cyclists just don’t stop to give way to you – you do have to be a bit more aware here!

I had not researched Denmark prior to going there, and thus I was caught off-guard by Denmark’s love affair with cycling – I suspect that if you were a young adult and didn’t cycle to work in Copenhagen, you might be regarded as a second class citizen. I was fascinated by the clothes the Danish wore whilst cycling – no helmets, but it seems, fashionable clothes and even high heels is the trendy way to travel here. They have bikes designed for every purpose, and the ladies generally used bikes with elevated handles to allow them to sit very elegantly with straight backs.

I just can’t imagine this degree of cycling taking off in Australia with its rigid bike helmet laws discouraging fashionable cycling!

Denmark's love affair with cycling

After I returned to Australia, I was telling friends about this cycling culture, where even ladies would be seen cycling home in the cold and rain at 9pm at night, and they informed me that Copenhagen had become so famous for this, there has been a web blog devoted to Copenhagen Cycle Chicks – a blog which presumably started off as a sexy voyeuristic site but seems to have become more a social documentary site – it is worth a check to see what I am talking about. However, I am not sure how the Danish ladies feel about this, although it does seem many love the attention.

It is certainly fascinating watching how the Danish people carry everything on their bikes, including their children in boxed carriages at the front, yet apparently, they have a very low rate of cycle injuries per kilometer cycled.

Our first night in Copenhagen coincided with their annual cultural night which was a great way to get acquainted with the city.

Ice sculptures on Copenhagen’s cultural night taken with the Panasonic GH-1 Micro Four Thirds camera with Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 lens without flash:

Ice sculptures on Copenhagen's cultural night

See more of my Denmark photos here.

Europe holiday – Rome IV – a fast lens can be used without a tripod at night

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

Using a tripod whilst traveling is a big pain, especially when you have to carry it all day in high security risk areas and then set it up in crowded locations.

A potential alternative is using a high quality wide aperture lens, and for this trip, I had the superb Panasonic Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 lens which gives great image quality even wide open, all I could wish for was that Panasonic would incorporate image stabilisation into their camera bodies as Olympus have done, but I don’t think that will be happening any time soon.

Selling paintings at night in Piazza Navona (ISO 800, 1/100th sec, f/1.4):

Selling paintings at night in Piazza Navona

Inside the church opposite the Trevi Fountain at night (ISO 800, 1/30th sec, f/1.4):

Inside the church opposite the Trevi Fountain at night

Note that I have used the native 16:9 aspect ratio of the Panasonic GH-1 to squeeze a bit more height into the images as an effective focal length of 50mm in 35mm terms with this lens can make things a bit tight.

Instead of the Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 lens, one could use the much lighter, compact, less expensive, Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 which would give a wider angle of view but require a longer exposure time at f/1.7 instead of f/1.4.

On camera flash would not have been helpful inside this church, so for those using slower lenses, the main alternative would have been to raise the ISO – ISO 1600 at f/2.0, ISO 3200 at f/2.8, ISO 6400 at f/4.0 and ISO 12,800 if you happen to have only a f/5.6 kit lens, although if it had IS, then perhaps a lower ISO may be possible by using an even slower shutter speed and being very careful with camera shake.

Image quality with a point and shoot digital camera or even a kit lens on a dSLR would be poor inside this church – this is part of the reason Micro Four Thirds makes a great travel photography compromise – optimising size vs image quality.

If one wished to capture images at greater than 16 megapixel resolution such as with the newer Canon dSLRs, then a tripod becomes indispensable for nearly every shot at lower shutter speeds – if you don’t use a tripod in these situation, you may as well be using a 10 megapixel camera as you will not be gaining any more resolution, and your file storage is impacted for no real benefit.

Europe holiday – Rome III – sometimes you need a good tripod

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

For part of my Europe holiday I was traveling with a Nikon fan who not only had all his pro lenses with him but bought a good quality medium sized tripod just for the trip as his main tripod was just too big to travel with.

One night in Rome, he kindly allowed me to use his tripod for some night shots as using the 14-140mm lens at f/5.6 for a telephoto shot, hand holding it was out of the question.

Ironically, he was not able to get the following types of shots with his Nikon D700 and 70-200mm f/2.8 lens as the tripod, as good as it was, was just not sturdy enough for that lens.

These were taken with the Panasonic GH-1 Micro Four Thirds camera with Lumix 14-140mm lens – the smaller the camera and lens, the smaller and lighter the tripod you can use – another big bonus for the travel photographer.

A Vatican guard (140mm focal length – 280mm in 35mm terms, ISO 100, f/5.8, 1.6 seconds):

A Vatican guard

Saint Peter’s from the distance (95mm focal length – 190mm in 35mm terms, ISO 100, f/7.1, 4 seconds):

St Peters

A celestial smiley face to bring cheer and good luck

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

It’s Dec 1st, 2008 and tonight we had the pleasure of a conjunction of the crescent moon, Jupiter and Venus making a smiley face in the evening sky.

This alignment of the crescent moon, Jupiter and Venus apparently will not occur again until 2052, although the next time Venus and Jupiter have a close conjunction is in May 2011 and March 2012 so for those that missed it, here is what it looked like from Melbourne, Australia.

I took the opportunity to play with my Canon 1DMIII with EF 24-105mm L lens from my letterbox.

moon, jupiter, venus

For the tech heads, I removed the UV filter to minimise lens flare from the street light and the settings used were 24mm focal length, f/4, 3200ISO, 0.5sec exposure.

No post-processing, just resizing and compression for the web. Click on the image for a 1000 pixel wide view.

I also tried with an Olympus OM 21mm and 24mm lens but whilst both gave excellent results, they did have a more pronounced lens flare.

Of course, I could have moved over to the park and avoided the street light but I felt this added interest and lit up the foreground nicely.

And just for the Olympus guys… here is a shot with the Olympus E510 with ZD 50-200mm SWD lens at 50mm which I have cropped just a little and applied a blue monotone tint in PS but no other PS other than resize and compress for the web.

Olympus - moon.

This image was taken at f/4.5, ISO 400 at 6 secs exposure with antishock set to 5 secs (mirror lockup). I purposely over-exposed the moon to bring out foreground detail.

The ZD 50-200mm at 200mm giving 400mm eq. focal length reach in 35mm terms actually took a very nicely cropped shot just of the moon, venus and jupiter, but lacked the contextual interest of the foreground.

Those in Europe should be lucky enough to see the moon occult Venus in a similar way to the following occultations I imaged of Jupiter and Mars a few years ago.

“The last time London was treated to such a favorably placed Venus occultation was back on October 7, 1961. And after 2008, there will not be another similarly favorable Venus occultation for the United Kingdom until January 10, 2032.”

I captured an uncommon event in 2005 when Jupiter was occulted by the moon:

jupiter occultation

and.. an even rarer event, a grazing occultation with Mars when Mars was almost at its closest to Earth in 2003 in tens of thousands of years – hence bigger and brighter than usual.

mars occultation

More of my astrophotography can be found here:

More information on this event can be found at space.com.

Other blogs to cover this event:

And, if you are in America, the moon has moved to the other side of Venus and Jupiter resulting in a sad face, which I guess is representative of the state of affairs over there :)

see:

and compares with past events:

and don’t miss this image of a sequence of shots at the same time each day for a full month in New Delhi showing Jupiter marching towards Venus using an 18mm lens. Three days of photography are missing because of clouds and haze in the evening, 12th, 16th and 30 November. The crescent moon starts at the bottom on 1st November, goes just at the edge of (behind) the building, and upwards, and returns in the scene on 1st December to form the now famous Celestial Smiley!

  • The octagonal building in foreground has a bit of astronomical history, Humayun – a mughal emperor in India, was an astronomer, one evening he was trying to locate Venus in the evening dusk when he heard the muezzin’s call for evening prayers, he rushed and fell down the stairs to his death (a few days later). The octagonal building was the library of Humayun.
  • Several DSLR cameras were used, Canon 450D, Canon 1000D, Nikon D80, Nikon D70. The images were first scaled (in photoshop) bringing them equal to a Canon 450D, as most of the photos were taken with this camera. Alignment (Translate, Rotate, Scale) was done in Images Plus, and composite was constructed using Startrails software.