I was intrigued by cameras long before I knew how to properly use one. My sisters and I laugh remembering a time I was wandering at a snail’s pace down our driveway with my eye glued to the viewfinder of a 35mm I was fiddling with for the first time. At some point as I moved along watching the light meter while adjusting the aperture, a revelation struck me and I mumbled out loud, “…so the darker it is…the less light!” They burst out laughing. Lost in my own world, I didn’t realize what was so funny until they repeated what I had said.

I learned how to process film and develop photos in my high school darkroom, and I continued that exercise in college alongside my studies (art history, Spanish and computer science). Then a pivotal day came years later in 2008 when I visited a favorite trail in Berlin, Massachusetts. Entering the woods, I was surprised to see mushrooms everywhere. It had just rained and a great many of them had recently pushed up through the leaf litter, glistening in all different shapes, textures and colors. They were poking out from every shady nook, every mossy tussock and every little hole in rotting logs. Amazed and excited by the sheer abundance, I started taking pictures of all of them.

little marasmius mushroomMy favorite discovery that day was a minisicule, white parasol mushroom that I happened to notice when I looked down. (I later learned it was a Marasmius species.) Its half-translucent cap glowed like a tiny beacon out of a dark quilt of last year’s matted oak leaves. I got down on the ground to look closer. It was a most delicate lifeform, with a black stalk no thicker than a spider’s leg and a ghostly white bonnet held aloft. It was a frail yet stalwart sign of life that had shot up out of a bed of death and decay. Delighted at discovering this demure little life in the shadows, I put my lens very close to it and took the picture above which helps enlarge it like a magnifying glass to appreciate the detail. I was happy to have captured something of the modesty and strength I saw in that tiny mushroom’s essence. “Beautiful things don’t ask for attention,” said the photographer framing snow leopards in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The elegant truth in that statement is why this mushroom (and the photo) will always be special to me.

This image and the trove of others I took home from that walk ignited a fresh passion for both photography and nature. Walking in the woods, the fields, the mountains and the swamps has always felt like returning home. Being alone and quiet, relaxing and opening all of my senses to rediscover the things the robin knows – the timeless silence, the voice of the wind, the slow arc of the sun across the sky or the vastness of a star-filled night sky. I take photos as souvenirs of the natural world that we inhabit but no longer truly live in. Having shielded ourselves from the harshness of the elements with wood, concrete and double-paned glass, we have made our lives comfortable but cut off – unless we deliberately seek the outdoors. I hope my photos can serve as a reminder of the boundless beauty of our former home.