Variety in the Woods


Mushrooms on the table are nourishing and satisfying. Mushrooms in the woods are mysterious and a little scary. Maybe I've just read too many fairy tales, but I find myself drawn to their strange shapes and sudden appearances. Mushrooms are beautiful in a weird way, as if they are the negative to the positive of the green plants and trees growing nearby. They do not produce chlorophyl, so in some ways they could be thought of as ghost plants, and they often appear on or near decaying trees. I love to photograph mushrooms—their structures and textures are intriguing, and their pale surfaces soak up light. I sometimes think of them as miniature trees from a magic kingdom—foreign but easy to frame in my lens. I've been working on a series for years, so I'm always on the lookout for new varieties. On a recent evening hike near the Potomac River, I was completely surprised by these mushrooms glowing in a ray of the setting sun. As I bent to focus, I discovered a daddy-longlegs perched on the surface of the smaller one. It was glaring, as if defending its throne, so I got my shots and moved on. I didn't want to discover that it could cast a spell!