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Coprinus disseminatus     Crumble Cap

The above picture  of Coprinus disseminatus, taken circa 1954, was one of the pictures I took with the first Praktica using extension tubes and a four element  50 mm, f3.5 Tessar lens.   As was common practice in those days an object was included for scale; in this case a 1943 dime.

 Click here for a picture of this marvelous machine.


There was a time many years ago when Leica dominated the 35 mm scene and the standard lens photographed no closer than about three feet.   Macro was out unless you could afford a prohibitively expensive reflex housing to attach to your Leica.  The Exakta came along with a prohibitively (for me!) expensive, complicated Single Lens Reflex.  But then along came the PRAKTICA, the poor man's Exakta, although still not cheap for me by the less than affluent standards of the times.   Wonder of wonders, however, when I came to Canada from Scotland in 1954 as a Graduate Student at the Ontario Agricultural College, the Plant Pathology division of the Botany Department owned a PRAKTICA and JOY of JOYS I was allowed to use it.   It had an f3.5, four element Carl Zeiss Tessar lens (old reliable) and shutter speeds that went down to 1/2 second plus B (bulb) for long exposures !   No light meter in the camera of course.  You guessed the exposure or used a light meter if you had one.  I didn't at the beginning but picked up a second hand Weston later.

Colour slide film of the day was Kodachrome and as I remember in the beginning it had an ASA of 10 but they later upped it to 20!!!  So you were not going to take many shots in the woods.  The thing to do was 'uproot'  the specimen and bring it into the sun or take it back to the lab for 'further action'.  I photographed collections under photofloods with blue (balanced for daylight) bulbs.  I took the picture as fast I could or the specimen was cooked and shriveled under the  photofloods.

To get close to the specimen you used extension tubes.  You unscrewed the lens and screwed in metal tubes between the lens and the camera body.   This extended the lens from the camera and allowed you to focus much closer to the subject.  It  cut down the light significantly and this played havoc with the exposure timing.  Also, it didn't do much for the very dull  ground  glass viewing screen.  So, it was difficult to compose and the screens had a rapid fall-off in light intensity towards the edges. But if you persevered with a little experience, and a borrowed a light meter, then the system worked well enough and was a joy compared with Plan B (there was no Plan B!).

At the time I regarded the Praktica as one of the wonders of modern science and couldn't wait until I had saved up enough money to buy one.  It took me quite a few years before I managed this (Pentagon).   Later,  they actually had light meters built in (Pentax Spotmatic) that read the light intensity at the film plane (I said THAT would never work!).  Look at what we have now! DIGICAMS that do EVERYTHING!     

Photographing fungi was for many years a major challenge but that was part of the fun.

My inspiration for photographing mushrooms and other fungi came from Captain Paul de Laszlo who took the wonderful pictures of mushrooms for John Ramsbottom's delightful book on 'Mushrooms and Toastools'.  Click here for more exciting information on Ramsbottom's clasical contributionto the mycological literature.