An unreliable memoir

Archive for September, 2015

Searching for clues

Bay Bolete
For the past few weeks my photographic life has been dominated by fungi. I’ve spent so long staring at fungi that I see them in my dreams. There are other side effects too, such as an insatiable desire to eat fungi. I don’t eat wild fungi because they’re already under too much pressure from picking, and even worse, people who smash them on sight because they’re “poisonous”. But I do eat fungi, so on Friday night it’s off to Waitrose for a foraging trip followed by a weekend of fried mushrooms and garlic, mushroom pate, and mutton and mushroom pie.

Apart from a few easy ones, identifying fungi is real detective work, sniffing out clues such as that faint whiff of rhubarb from a Cortinarius umbrinolens. Thirty years ago I had a scare in a restaurant when “wild mushroom soup” turned my lips and tongue numb for several hours. That’s not the reason I don’t eat wild mushrooms now, but if you do, obviously you need to know what you’re doing. The difference between a tasty Agaricus and a toxic Cortinarius is vanishingly small. In this case, the yellow pores (rather than gills) on the underside of this big Bay Bolete were an important feature, but the blue bruising was useful confirmation.

Bay Bolete, Boletus badius. Sony DSC-HX20V f3.2 4.7mm 1/30 ISO 320



It has been said that in the UK you’re never more than five inches away from a spider. Although this has only ever been said by me, and like most of these famous sayings, it’s not true. But if you’re out on a misty autumn morning when the drops amplify the spider’s webs, you do realize exactly how many spiders are out there.

Sony DSC-HX20V f3.2 4.5mm 1/30 ISO 100

Close to home

Parrot Waxcap

Orchids in the Spring, fungi in Autumn. These seasonal delights are the things that keep me going. This year has been rather good for fungi so far, but it’s slightly frustrating finding endless brittlegills that are essentially impossible to identify to species level. Waxcaps are my favourites, not only because it’s possible to identify them but also because as important environmental indicators they say a lot about the quality of the locations they are found in, and I tend to associate finding them with some of my favourite places.

Of all the waxcaps, the Parrot Waxcap has always been one of the species I’ve wanted to find – if only because they look cute in pictures! Ironic then that my first record of this species happens when a dozen of them turn up five yards from my back door. I’m not complaining. Tomorrow morning I fully expect to draw back the curtains and see a White Tailed Sea Eagle on my bird table.

Parrot Waxcap, Hygrocybe psittacina. Sony DSC-HX20V f3.5 6.1mm 1/250 ISO 100

Waiting for the fall

Waiting for the fall
In a few weeks when the beeches have turned this view will be magnificent.
But not yet.
Not with the mist dripping down my neck.

Sony DSC-HX20V f3.2 4.5mm 1/30 ISO 100


Landscape Morning 2
Life has not been kind to my photography recently, so the rare occasions when I am able to be where I want to be when I want to be there are especially valuable. Autumn is my favourite season and this misty morning landscape says Autumn to me. But landscape photography involves more than a landscape and a camera. It’s about timing, about light, and about what happens after the image has been captured. Just turning up and pressing the button with the settings on Auto is not enough. Modern camera sensors have the advantage of a huge dynamic range, but that means nothing if you don’t use it. And so, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you “Creation”, brought to you by Autumn, mist, Leicestershire, and Adobe Camera Raw Graduated Filters.

Nikon D5200 Tamron 17-50mm f4 17mm 1/2000 ISO 100

Large Skipper

Large Skipper
It wasn’t a vintage summer for butterflies, but I did quite well for skippers, recording all three species which occur in this part of the country.

Large Skipper, Ochlodes sylvanus. Nikon D5200 Tokina 100mm f16 1/90 ISO 200

Marmalade Hoverflies

Marmalade Hoverflies
The Marmalade Hoverfly is probably the most common hoverfly in the UK – it certainly was this year. The only real challenge then is getting them in focus … which I didn’t quite manage here.

Marmalade Hoverflies, Episyrphus balteatus. Nikon D5200 Tokina 100mm f16 1/30 ISO 200

Slowly, slowly

Landscape Morning 1
Slowly, slowly, I might be getting slightly better at this landscape malarkey.

Nikon D5200 Tamron 17-50mm f8 22mm 1/350 ISO 100

Scrape scrape

I hadn’t anticipated scraping the photographic barrel this early in the year, but a combination of Life and The Weather means I am. Consequently, expect to be subjected to my Greatest Hits album for a while, either until the weather improves or Life goes away and stops bothering me. These are shots from the summer that slipped through the net somehow and never got published.

Peacock, Aglais io. Nikon D5200 Tamron 150-600mm f8 300mm 1/125 ISO 200

The Sycamore

The Sycamore
In a meeting, when someone says There’s a wasp on your back, is the socially-correct response to:
a) Yell OMG, GET IT OFF GET IT OFF and start windmilling your arms around?
b) Pass out?
c) Say Oh, what species is it?
Clearly, the correct answer isn’t (c), as I found out a few days ago. Seemingly what this does is to get you lots of funny looks and rapidly earn you a reputation as a golfloathingrugbyhatinglentilknittingyoghurtsnackingbunnyhuggingweirdo.

The funny looks scenario played itself out again yesterday when I met this beautiful Sycamore moth caterpillar while walking home across the park. It was clearly on a mission, trundling down a busy path and oblivious to the bike types whizzing past, but I judged the probability of death by rubber to be unacceptably high so I transferred it to one of the London Planes where it headed upwards, presumably looking for somewhere to pupate. See you next year my friend. Unaccountably, rather than public approval, I found myself in the golfloathingrugbyhatinglentiletc situation with the passers by. Aren’t people weird?

The Sycamore, Acronicta aceris. iPhone 5s 4.15mm f2.2 1/277 ISO 32


Crested Coral

Crested Coral

My first fungus foray of the season. Not bad, six species.

Crested Coral, Clavulina coralloides. Nikon D5200 Tokina 100mm f16 1/250 ISO 100

Seeking Solitude

Martinshaw Woods

Seeking solitude, a walk in the woods. Not as solitary as I would have liked…

Nikon D5200 Tokina 100mm f3.3 1/180 ISO 800

Oak Bush-cricket

Oak Bush-cricket

Said to be a completely arboreal species (but this one was happy on the ground). It is the only UK bush-cricket which is largely carnivorous, eating a range of other insects. Quite nocturnal so rarely seen – but probably not that rare.

Oak Bush-cricket, Meconema thalassinum. Nikon D5200 Tokina 100mm f16 1/250 ISO 100

Meet the Ancestors

St Peter The Poor Fisherman

One branch of my family lies buried in this churchyard. Abandoned many years ago, the church of St Peter The Poor Fisherman clings stubbornly to the coast, continuing to defy the joint efforts of the sea and the Church Preservation Society to undermine it.

Full fathom five thy father lies
Of his bones are coral made
Those are pearls that were his eyes
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

Nikon D5200 Tamron 17-50mm f3.3 17mm 1/45 ISO 800

Lesser Stag Beetle

Lesser Stag Beetle
We don’t get full fat stag beetles in this neck o’ t’woods (because they’re effete southern softies), so ‘appen you’ll have to make to with this macro shot of a Lesser Stag Beetle.

Lesser Stag Beetle, Dorcus parallelipipedus. Nikon D5200 Tokina 100mm f16 1/250 ISO 100

Lesser Stag Beetle

Drizzle on the lens

Stoke Beach

It’s possible that I’m not as bad at landscape photography as I think I am. Over the last year, on the occasions when I have managed to be in a location worth photographing at the right time of day, the weather has not co-operated. It certainly didn’t this weekend. I was there but dawn failed to show up to our assignation. She has been unreliable recently and I’m getting pissed off with her infidelity.

Nikon D5200 Tamron 17-50mm f8 35mm 30s ISO 100


Common Blue Damselflies

Common Blue Damselflies, Enallagma cyathigerum. Nikon D5200 Tamron 150-600mm f11 260mm 1/350 ISO 400

Orange Swift

Orange Swift
The Orange Swift is a rather nice late season moth. This is a male (more orange).

Hear that noise? That’s the sound of a photographic barrel being scraped.

Orange Swift, Triodia sylvina. Sony DSC-HX20V f3.5 5.8mm 1/40 ISO 200



Back to school.

Nikon D5200 Tamron 17-50mm f8 50mm+22mm 1/250 ISO 100