WORDS BY: RACHEL ZOLLER //

With my iPhone and olloclip macro lens in hand, I meander through the woods in search of unusual things—over looked things—while leading a group of people out for a day of foraging. Their goal is to learn about wild edible mushrooms, my goal is to help them find them—but also instill an awe and curiosity for the world of fungi. Most folks who come along with me already appreciate the mushroom for its culinary value, but there is so much more on the forest floor to soak in. I believe taking notice of all the details in the dirt will make you a more successful mushroom hunter and overall forager...in addition, a more in-depth look of the natural world often caters to a deeper appreciation and respect.

1 From left the right: Do you feel like you're under the sea x7 Macro of Coral Mushroom | Like little lights on the dark forest floor, x14 Macro

Strawberries and Cream Mushroom showing its blood red droplet ooze, x7 Macro Strawberries and Cream Mushroom showing its blood red droplet ooze, x7 Macro

Imagine a group of adults huddled around a pile of slime mold, or a fluid oozing fungus, and instead of ‘gross’ or ‘eeeew’ you hear, “Wow, amazing! Incredible! I had no idea how interesting- intricate-beautiful this could be!” I put on my macro lens while everyone watches my phone screen, and people have a window into an extraordinary world. The overlooked, under appreciated and ‘ugly’ become beautiful, mysterious and intriguing. All of a sudden, everyone’s attention to detail is heightened and the foraging trip becomes an educational experience full of all the ‘weird and wild’ the forest has to offer.

Found hidden deep in a rotting lot, x7 Macro Found hidden deep in a rotting lot, x7 Macro

4 Reflecting on nature, x14 Macro

Moving from the in person moment and to the photography side of things, I have the ability to introduce others to these macro wonders by sharing photos of all these fungal finds. It doesn’t get old, displaying a photo of tiny springtails on a mushroom during a lecture, then hearing the room gasp in wonder. Most people have never seen such things, and to be honest, I didn’t know they existed until I began studying mushrooms and using a macro lens to observe detail. There are tiny worlds resting in the leaf litter, and I love creating experiences for people by showing them something they’ve never seen before. It’s like visiting an alien planet without having to travel at all.

A dusting of orange spores deposited on purple Cortinarius mushroom gills, x14 Macro A dusting of orange spores deposited on purple Cortinarius mushroom gills, x14 Macro

2 From left to right: Coral Mushroom details, x14 Macro | Bird's Nest Fungi in my hand, perspective on how small they are | Slime Mold Stemonitis species, x7 Macro

In my process of learning to identify mushrooms by observing their characteristics, the more I wanted others to see the incredible intricacies within the fungal world. I relish in finding odd details or teeny mushrooms to photograph. The tinier the mushroom, the greater the excitement. And not just for the novelty of finding something small—it’s about what that delicate, strange yet beautiful thing represents. I use my macro lens to take photos of small mushrooms resting on my fingertip, this helps people gain perspective of their miniature size. #fingertipfungi on Instagram!

Fingertip Fungi Famiy, x7 Macro Fingertip Fungi Famiiy, x7 Macro

Slime Mold_ Wolf_s Milk species, x7 Macro Slime Mold Wolfs Milk species, x7 Macro

I began doing this because I wanted to express the contrast between this itty bitty thing on my finger, and the large profound impact it has on our world. Mushrooms are only the fruit of a larger organism—under the ground, out of our view, a network of mycelium is working overtime, removing waste and repairing our environment. This mycelium permeates nearly everything around us, the ground under our feet, trees, plants and even rock—it is massive, powerful and life giving...yet it goes undetected by most people, often the only evidence we pay attention to comes in the form of its fruit—the mushroom. Now, this charming thing resting on the tip of my finger doesn’t just represent something beautiful on the forest floor we overlook...it represents a hidden world, powerfully impactful to us daily, an organism that holds answers to major medical, environmental and agricultural problems of our time.

Mushroom Gill Details, x14 Macro Mushroom Gill Details, x14 Macro

Fingertip Fungi, x7 Macro Fingertip Fungi, x7 Macro

The macro lens has helped me create an educational platform, where I can bring people to those tiny worlds without being tech savvy. I’ll be honest, I don’t understand a lick of photography language or even what ‘makes a good photo’...what I do understand is how to slow down, observe, sit still and enjoy the easily overlooked. From days out in the field, to lectures, classes and the mushroom foraging handbook I am currently writing—the unique perspective the macro lens gives me to educate is incredible. You don’t have to hike a strenuous peak to find something inspiring... I get it, those waterfall destinations, sweeping views of canyons, mountains and all other large natural phenomenons are equally mesmerizing —but have you checked out the rotting log in your back yard lately? It could potentially amaze you in a new way...maybe you’re like me and it will peak your curiosity enough to make you want to understand the connection between those magnificent views and the fungal friends who help shape that scenery. They are connected. As I like to say...let us go discover a world that is tiny, yet larger than us.

Slime Mold, Trichia species, x7 Macro Slime Mold, Trichia species, x7 Macro

Mossy tree mushroom, smaller than a dime, x7 Macro Mossy tree mushroom, smaller than a dime, x7 Macro

Rachel Zoller is a self taught amateur mycologist who teaches mushroom foraging workshops and lectures throughout the Pacific Northwest of the United States. She has a small website and YouTube channel focused on mushroom identification and other fun fungal facts. Many of her mushroom photos can be found on her Instagram page, @YellowElanor. She is currently working a beginner’s mushroom foraging handbook (that will undoubtably have many macro photos taken with her iPhone and olloclip macro lens).

3 From left to right: Under a mushroom cap, creamy pores and a red stem, x14 Macro | Surface detail on a Pigs Ear Mushroom, x7 Macro | Under a mushroom cap, spines of a Hedgehog mushroom, x7 Macro

Slime Mold_ Trichia species, x7 Macro Slime Mold Trichia species, x7 Macro