Finding and photographing Ghost Mushrooms

Ghost fungus is both parasitic and saprotrophic (feeds on decaying matter) and it plays an important role in breaking down dying or dead trees upon which its fruiting bodies will be found, growing in clusters. During the daytime, one could easily mistake them for oyster mushrooms, but Ghost Fungi are definitely not edible and could make someone quite sick if consumed. It’s best admired with cameras. In total darkness, these fungus will appear as a faint, ghostly white glow to the naked eye, with the brilliant green bioluminescence being brought out by long camera exposures.

There are many ways to find locations for this beautiful fungi species. The forests around southeastern Australia are wonderful places to engage in fungi finding adventures and by being in these places during the autumn months in cooler, wetter conditions, you will be in the best possible position to come across your own clump to admire. You can find online groups to become members of and see who posts sightings from what areas close to you. You may find some people will willingly share, others will not. There are online reference sites such as Atlas of Living Australia, National Parks and Wildlife Atlas, and iNaturalist and even enthusiast groups on social media that will help you pinpoint good spots where the fungus has been recorded. So, get out there and start searching! Good luck!

Canon EOS 1DxMkII, EF100mm f/2.8 USM, ISO3200, f/11, 162-second exposure, tripod and remote release.

Photographing these fascinating fungi at night can be a little challenging, but with a bit of planning and fairly basic camera equipment, you can get some decent results.

I prefer to shoot these during a new moon, rather than current conditions in early May with a lot of light pollution from the waxing gibbous moon, which introduced interesting hues and extra, unwanted light into the frames. To photograph ghost fungus, you don’t need a lot of gear. A digital SLR or mirrorless camera body, a basic lens, a tripod, and a remote release cable are all you really need. And, of course, you would need a torch for focusing as well. If you don’t have a remote release cable, you can always use a 2-second self-timer to make an exposure. Cameras in the prosumer to professional range will always yield better results due to their better high ISO performance and to get a half-decent exposure I generally use ISO1600 to ISO6400 or even higher. You can get away with even a cheap 50mm f/1.8 lens, but different focal lengths will give you different perspectives and composition possibilities. I use the OM System (previously called Olympus) and love it due to its smaller size and ease of taking all my gear on long hikes, or in my carry-on luggage when travelling by plane.

Olympus OM-1, M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro lens set at 22mm, ISO6400, f/4, 60 seconds, tripod and remote release.

Once I find a clump of ghost fungi, I choose my lens and start looking through the viewfinder to visualise the final image. When I’ve decided what that will look like, I set up my tripod, attach my quick-release plate to the camera base, insert the remote release to its socket, and affix the camera to the ball head on my tripod. I have a custom mode set on my camera for night photography, so I simply select that custom mode and adjust ISO, aperture, and shutter speed accordingly. I start with ISO3200 and an aperture of f/2.8 with a 30-second exposure and then I will adjust settings as I see fit with consecutive shots. I use the smallest single AF point, one shot focus (so not continuous focus as I would with say birds or other wildlife), then once I’ve acquired desired sharpness, I simply turn the autofocus off. You could simply use manual focus to begin with and magnify the image with the LCD live view to acquire sharpness. Either way works just fine.

Since I shoot at a large aperture (small f/stop number), my depth of field will be severely compromised, even when using a super wide-angle lens, especially the closer I get to my subject. To minimise this problem, I will sometimes try to line up a shot in a way that I have as much of the clump of fungi along the same focal plane and parallel with the sensor. Otherwise, I will shoot several images with slightly different points of focus and combine the finished and processed files via Adobe Photoshop during post-processing. Remember that I am not changing the scene, I am just using the technology to my advantage.

Photographing under bright moon makes the mushrooms look much more alive than just having a pure green bioluminescent glow.
Olympus OM-1, M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro lens set at 38mm, ISO1600, f/2.8, 60 seconds, tripod and remote release.


I only ever shoot in RAW format, as I find that suits all my photography needs just fine, and I get a much larger digital file with more information. I prefer to spend more time shooting than post-processing, so I tend to not over-process images as a rule. Fast Stone Image Viewer (free software) is my preferred software to cull through my RAW files. This piece of software has been my go-to initial review software for at least the last 12 years. You can, of course, use your camera manufacturer’s proprietary software that you should be able to download for free from their support website.

Once I have selected an image, I open Photoshop via ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) and adjust the different sliders to taste. When I am happy with the settings, I can save the adjustment as a preset for any other image I process from the same shoot, and I can apply that to the subsequent RAW file conversions to save me time. Once in Photoshop, I copy the layer and run Topaz Photo AI in the background and adjust noise filter settings, apply sharpening (if needed), and save the layer so it is applied to the PSD file (PSD = Photoshop Document; the native file format of Adobe Photoshop). With this type of night photography, using high ISO and long exposure generally means there will be noise in the RAW files, even when taken with professional cameras. Topaz Photo AI is an amazing product that plugs into Photoshop (and can be used stand-alone too) and it really helps with image optimisation. To finish off my PSD file, my standard step is to add a curves layer and adjust it according to what I envisage. I save the file, then crop to taste (if cropping is needed) and use an action to make the web-sized image for upload to social media, websites etc. I have the PSD file ready to submit for publishers or other interested parties requiring a high-resolution file.

It’s not daylight in the top left corner, it’s brightness from moonlight during the long exposure.
Olympus OM-1, M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro lens set at 12mm, ISO1600, f/2.8, 60 seconds, tripod and remote release.


I sometimes have chats with other photographers who are completely against subscription software and say to me: “I hate Photoshop this or I hate Photoshop that” and “I’ll never subscribe to software!”. Adobe Photoshop is one of the industry standards and an amazing piece of software that can really optimise a photographer’s workflow and enable them to make their images look as good as possible without overdoing things. There is a simple message, for the cost of about three lousy cups of takeaway coffee one can subscribe to Photoshop and Lightroom on a monthly basis. That’s not a huge amount of money and the software updates are automatically downloaded and installed for the user. Visit the Adobe Creative Cloud website for pricing plans.

This is a blend of two images, one shot without flash, but lightpainted, to show the entire habitat and one with just the green glow. A careful layer blend mode was used to illustrate this beautiful fungi in its habitat.

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