Local Artist Exhibit at Mountain Made Gallery
Saturday & Sunday, Oct 14 – 15, 2023
Kitsy Stratton’s Photo Collection of Elegant Fungi
As you might know the area around Asheville if famous for our long autumns. Fall here in Western North Carolina is a true extravaganza of Mother Nature strutting her stuff.
As the trees don their vibrant hues of red, orange, and gold, the Blue Ridge Mountains becomes a canvas of colors, drawing “leaf lookers” from both near and far.
But while many come to witness the breathtaking “leaf season,” there’s another, lesser-known treasure that emerges from the forest floor: fall fungi better known as mushrooms.
The Joy of Fall Mushrooms Hunting in Western North Carolina
Mushrooms, with their myriad shapes, sizes, and colors, are a wonder to behold. The thrill of hunting for these elusive organisms, identifying their unique characteristics, and capturing their beauty through photography is an experience like no other.
The Hunt: Strolling Through Nature’s Wonderland
The forests of Western North Carolina are a haven for mushroom enthusiasts. As the leaves begin to fall, the moist and cool environment becomes a fertile ground for the various types of fungi to flourish.
Every step taken on the forest floor might reveal a new mushroom species, making the hunt an exciting game of discovery.
Whether you’re a seasoned mycologist (a researcher or scientist who studies fungi) or a curious nature lover, the thrill of spotting a mushroom shyly peeking through the fallen leaves or sprouting up from a decaying log is unparalleled.
It’s like nature’s version of a treasure hunt, where the prize is the joy of discovery.
The Identification: Solving Nature’s Puzzle
Identifying mushrooms is a fascinating exercise in observation and knowledge. While some mushrooms are easily recognizable, like the iconic fly agaric with its red cap and white spots, others can be trickier to pin down.
Carrying a field guide or using a mobile app can aid in the identification process, turning the experience into an educational journey.
However, a word of caution: many mushrooms have very toxic, even fatal look-alikes. It’s essential to remember that while all mushrooms are fascinating, not all are edible!
The joy of identification lies in understanding and appreciating their diversity, not necessarily in consumption. So please don’t eat anything that is not verified safe by an experienced mushroom hunter or chef.
The Photography: Capturing Nature’s Art
Photographing mushrooms is an art in itself. These fungi, with their intricate details and vibrant colors, make for stunning subjects. The challenge lies in capturing their essence against the backdrop of the autumn forest.
Being able to use a macro lens to help highlight and clearly photograph the minute details of a mushroom’s cap, gills, or stem is a rare talent.
Skillfully playing with light, shadows, and angles can bring out the depth and texture, making these mushroom photographs come alive.
One such artist is nature photographer, Catherine “Kitsy” Stratton.
Kitsy creates emotional nature photographs of her many outdoor adventures.
When asked how long does it take for her to create one of her pieces, she said, “Of course the amount of time spent on one of my photographs is different from time spent on an oil painting. I’m happy to report that I now spend a lot more time than I used to, on both mediums.”
“Years ago, when I shot Black & White film and did my own darkroom work, I could spend hours burning and dodging a print until I was satisfied. I even became quite proficient at touch up work using ink and a tiny brush. When I started taking color photos of my children and then scenic images, I believed I had one shot at a good image.”
“Luckily, I had very ‘smart’ cameras – film as well as digital. I have only recently learned the predominant benefits of post-processing digital images. Once again, I can spend hours pushing and pulling aspects of an image, until it satisfies what I am wanting to express.”
The Connection: A Moment of Reflection
Beyond the mushroom hunting, identification, and photography, there’s a deeper connection to be made with nature.
Sitting amidst the forest, surrounded by trees, native animals and the sounds of rustling leaves, you can’t help but feel a profound sense of peace and wonder.
Mushrooms, in their short-lived beauty, remind us of the fleeting nature of all life. This realization, coupled with the serene surroundings of walking in the ancient Appalachian forests can make for an almost meditative experience.
So Autumn in Western North Carolina, with its stunning fall foliage, offers more than just a visual treat. These mountains are rich in biodiversity, we invite both young and old nature lovers to discover the magic of fall fungi.
So, the next time you find yourself in our area during “leaf season,” remember to look beyond the trees. The forest floor, with its myriad fungi and mushrooms, also awaits your discovery.
And who knows? You might just find yourself falling in love with the fungi of fall. We invite to come by Mountain Made Gallery and check out Kitsy Stratton’s wonderful collection of nature prints for yourself.