I saw a group of fly agarics, very nice for a beautiful night portrait. But when I arrived at the site in the dark, they had disappeared, broken down. Maybe run over by dogs, maybe taken by passers-by, but gone.
Fortunately the flashlight showed a few nice specimens in a meadow along the path. I knelt in the grass, put the flashlight on the camera bag and started to set up my gear: small tripod under the camera, setting ISO / shutter speed / aperture, focus… and then I heard something buzzing and rustling in front of me.
“Must be a beetle!” I thought hopefully. It sounded like a big one. Also nice for a night photo!
The insect jumped to the light, and tried to sort of crawl into the flashlight.
Not a beetle, but a European hornet. Our largest native wasp, even larger than the so-called terror wasp, the Asian hornet. One of those whoppers that you can hear flying by like a helicopter. Immediately afterwards, a second one landed in the illuminated grass. That one also seemed very interested in the light.
European hornets are quite large in their own right, but I did not know that they grew even three times as large in the dark. And that each hornet split into several individuals during the night. That is to say, these two insects sounded like there were five or ten of them.
The first one became bored with the flashlight, and began to inspect my camera. The second one flew first to the light, then to my camera bag. I wondered how I could lie down and operate my gear without running the risk of accidentally grabbing an insect. And I wondered if these two would be the only ones. A memory came to mind: that time when I accidentally sat on the edge of a lake on top of a wasp’s nest in the ground, and after being stung twice in my leg had to run to avoid worse. And I remembered the articles I’d collected about dogs, hikers, and cyclists accidentally getting too close to a ground nest of European hornets and being attacked by an angry swarm. Then the first hornet decided to inspect me.
I turned off the light and took a little distance. And after a minute or so, when all movement and noise subsided, I carefully walked back to get my stuff and go home. No night photo of the fly agarics today.
I didn’t go back until two days later. And what I hoped for, succeeded this time: catching the spores being spread by the fly agaric. There is a lot of Photoshop in this photo, but the spores are really real! Wonderful to experience the magic of the forest this way.
I learned a few things. The fly agarics are always redder on the other side of the path. European hornets are three times larger at night than during the day, and split into several individuals at night. And for forest photography you sometimes need a little patience