Fun-gal Hayley May searches out fun-guys at Zealandia EcoSanctuary

Written by Judi Lapsley Miller

Always up for a good pun as well as a good photo opportunity, volunteer ‘Sanctuary Storyteller’ Hayley May took on the challenge to do a photo essay on fungi for Zealandia EcoSanctuary this autumn.

Entitled ‘An Enchantment of Fungi’, the photo essay was wildly successful. Not only did it achieve Zealandia’s aims for an increase in awareness of the seasonal fungi explosion, but it got many positive comments and likes on social media, was blogged about by Wellingtonista (who were inspired to visit) and featured on Adobe Spark’s curated #FridayReads ‘Week in Sparks’.

Screen shot - An enchantment of Fungi photo essay.

Hayley’s brief was to “show the beauty of fungi” and thereby encourage people to “look down and appreciate these overlooked organisms”. The key message was that “fungi are beautiful and interesting and are all around us”. The overarching approach was to engage people through aesthetics, which would then translate into actions such as visiting especially to see fungi, asking the Zealandia guides questions, and to give people a knowledge foothold that might inspire them to care more about fungi and their place in the eco-system.

With a three-month lead-time, Hayley spent many Sundays at Zealandia in search of fungi, refining her skills at macro photography. With the delay in autumn rains this year, it wasn’t until the last weekend that the conditions were perfect – many of her best photos were taken on and around just the one tree on one day. But all the previous visits were not in vain because it allowed her to refine her technique. Armed with her kit of soft brushes, toothpicks and skewers, misting bottle and handy Sherpa and light-holder Janice McKenna, she took the time to carefully set up each shot. Errant leaves were positioned gently out of the way and distracting detritus deflected. Unlike bird photography, her subjects kindly stood still, but often the lighting was challenging as fungi tend to prefer damp and dark locations.

Gettin the perfect fungi shot; Photo credit Janice McKenna.

Storyteller group convener, Judi Lapsley Miller captioned the photo essay. Her aim was to use evocative words that not only captured the magic and beauty of the fungi, but suggested more (e.g. “a tangle of orange pore conch invades the forest” was chosen because this fungus is an invasive exotic). Although the focus was on aesthetics, it was also important that the fungi identifications were accurate. Mycologist Geoff Ridley happily leant his skills to the essay. It was a deliberate choice to just use the common names (sociable ink cap, artists pore bracket, black bird nest…) and leave the Latin names off, but links to Geoff’s blog ‘Spores, moulds, and fungi’ and the LandCare T.E.R:R.A.I.N website gave readers an opportunity to follow-up for more detailed, scientific information.

The storyteller team chose Adobe Spark to showcase Hayley’s photos. Spark allows fast content creation with simple-to-use templates, and provides mobile-friendly, high-quality graphics. With just a flick of a finger, viewers can glide through the presentation. Responsive design ensures the presentation looks good, no matter the screen size or orientation. In this case, it was the right tool for the job!

Mobile screenshot.

About Hayley: Hayley May is an amateur photographer shooting primarily with a mirrorless Olympus E-M5 camera and Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45 mm or Lumix G Vario 35-100mm lenses. By day she is a milliner who works in the film industry. See more of her creative photography on her Flickr site.

About the Storytellers: The Sanctuary Storytellers are a diverse group of volunteer writers, photographers, journalists, designers, and editors. Their purpose is to tell Zealandia’s stories to the outside world, using a variety of approaches and media. They do traditional science communication stories, but are also interested in engaging people about wildlife and conservation through art, aesthetics, and personal stories. [Volunteering at Zealandia]

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Interpreting the heritage of New Zealand