Obviously you've seen my photos of the gorgeous, bioluminescent ghost mushrooms and you might have found some yourself, but you have no idea what settings to use. I'm here to help.
The short story is that if you have a basic body with a kit lens, you can photograph O. nidiformis.
Let's start at the beginning. Some nature nerdery.
O. Nidiformis grows in shaded bushland with sandy loam soil, often at the base of trees or dead tree stumps (and in mulch sometimes)but might also randomly sprout from the ground. They can be a single fruit, or an impressive cluster. They grow on the ground, and up trees. You need to look down and up when you're hunting them.
The bioluminescent glow is white to the naked eye, in varying degrees over the life cycle of the fruit. In the first fresh days, they will start to glow from the bottom of the gills, in the middle of the life cycle (usually just one night) they'll be super bright over the full fruit, the they'll start to lose glow over the following couple of nights until it's only in the tops of the gills, then the fruit will dry up. Under camera exposures from 30seconds to 5 minutes, you will experience varying shades and brightness of green glow, dependent on fruit life cycle and your gear.
IMPORTANT: Omphalotus Nidiformis is TOXIC. THIS MUSHROOM IS NOT EDIBLE. You should limit handling of the fruits for your own protection.
So... the details. How do we make it pretty?
Charge your batteries, this is going to be a night full of loooooong exposures and battery-draining live view mode. Always bring a spare if you can.
My preferred method is to hunt in full sunlight, return just before sunset and wait out until dark. Then you have light and time to get set up properly before you're fumbling around in the dark. Because this is a winter fungi, often the ground will be wet. I can't stress enough the importance of respecting the natural habitat around where they grow, making sure you take everything with you when you leave and trying not to disturb the area too much. These things grow in areas full of bull ants and millipedes. This is important to know. They don't go to bed at night time. They come out to eat mushrooms and people.
You will need:
Camera - any body will do as long as it's capable of long exposures. - I shoot on a Nikon D750
Lens - again, any lens will work, but you do need to consider the conditions, you'll need a short focal distance because you'll be working close up to the subject. Your 18-55 kit lens will absolutely do the job, and it's what I've used up until very recently. A prime lens will give you a broader low-end aperture opportunity, and that's why I previously used a Sigma 30mm f1.4. My new go-to is my 24-70mm f2.8
Remote - this is going to prove essential. You can use a cable, a wireless remote, or a bluetooth software system like Snapbridge. You need the capability to start and end an exposure without touching your camera. (it's dark. You're not going to find the shutter release button easily)
Torch - a bright one for navigating bushland and a not so bright one for pointing at the fruits to focus. A headlamp with a red light to save your night vision is even better.
Tarp or plastic sheet/bag/etc. - because the ground is usually damp/wet. This is to prevent a wet bum and a wet camera (more on that in a sec) Bring a couple of smaller supermarket plastic bags if you don't have a tripod. you can fold them up to put under your lens and position the camera perfectly for the shot.
Tripod - generally you'll be working close to the ground, so my mini Manfrotto is perfect for this. It holds my over 2kg camera+lens strongly, sits flat on the ground and has a ball head for positioning. This keeps my camera off the wet ground and out of harm's way (unless it rains.)
Umbrella - because water falls from the sky sometimes.
Mozzie spray - these things tend to grow in places where the mosquitoes are 45 feet long and congregate in their billions.
Ok, so once you've found your mushrooms, set up your tarp and sat on it, popped your camera in front of you and organized your composition, shooting proceeds as follows.
I'm assuming it's full dark at this point. Camera in manual mode:
HOW TO FOCUS (after you get your settings where you want them, use the following method for focus.) If you're shooting with a friend, it's always polite to ask them before turning your torch on:
Auto focus mode, with live view so that you can see what you're doing - torch on the fruit, get focus correct - switch to manual focus, turn off live view and don't touch anything else.
Turn your torch off. Can you see the mushroom glowing white?
THIS IS IMPORTANT- If you try to shoot in the dark on autofocus, 1 of 2 things will happen - blurry photo or your camera will complain and not take a photo at all.
A note on noise reduction. This is a personal choice, but be aware that however long your exposure is, will be how long you have to wait to review your image and shoot another. My impatient preference is for noise reduction to be turned off and fix noise in post.
We begin with a test shot. 30 second exposure (or the longest shot you can get before switching to bulb or time mode)with your aperture as wide open as possible (lowest available f number, on most kit lenses it's around f3.5) and iso set around 1600 (we'll tweak this in a minute.) Take the exposure, wait to review it and assess the glow. If there's something at 30 seconds, you're in for a treat. If there isn't, don't despair, just switch to bulb or time mode and remote control, and repeat with 1 minute, 1 minute 30 seconds and 2 minute exposures (same settings as before.) If you're still not glowing at 2 minutes, either your camera has a setting out (double check) or the fruits are either too old or too fresh. Go home. Better luck tomorrow if they're too fresh.
If you've got some glow in your test shots, then you can experiment a little bit with your settings to make it brighter or soften the overall look, depending on your mushrooms' life cycle and conditions. I'll list some upper limits below:
Aperture: I generally shoot wide open at f1.4 on the 30mm and adjust the rest of the triangle to suit.
Exposure: If you're open for more than 4 or 5 minutes for every photo, I would consider that "not worth it."
Iso: This is the one I generally lean on the most to push the light in these images. I'd start around 400 with a big glowy shroom at f1.4, then push it up as I go until the desired brightness is achieved. Over 3200, it's going to get grainy enough that it'll affect your image quality, but it is absolutely a personal preference situation.
Stay warm, stay dry, stay safe (go with a friend if possible)and have fun. Don't wreck nature.