Cordyceps from our Macro Photo Workshop

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

During one of Untamed Photography’s “Best of Macro” photography workshops in the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest in the heart of Tambopata, we had the privilege to get close to the cordyceps fungus. This interesting but alien like object was spindly and spiky in all ways tricking our guests minds and intriguing them to find out what it was. As the other photographers look around, they notice more of these fungal like objects in the area. Here Mark Fernley, our wildlife photographer and guide tells the others about these fascinating and obscure objects.

FACT: The Cordyceps fungus is an airborne genus of sac fungi that includes 400 different species of entomopathogenic fungi. All have specific individual host species. All Cordyceps species are parasitic mainly on insects and other arthropods. Others can be parasitic on other fungi. When the Cordyceps fungus attacks a host, the fungus mycelium replaces the host tissue, like other species of Cordyceps called Ophiocordyceps unilateralis (formerly Cordyceps unilateralis) the fungus invades the brain of a host, insect. This type of infection causes insects such as ants to become disorientated and act in an unusual way. The hosts infected brain directs the insect upwards making it want to climb up to a raised part of the vegetation off the ground. This ensures the parasite's environment is at an optimal temperature and humidity, and that maximal distribution of the spores from the fruit body that sprouts out of the dead insect is achieved.

After a time, the infected host begins to fuse to the surface of the leaf, vine or bark and where ventral shoots forces the insect to clamp tightly to the surface and die. Over time, small white shoots start to sprout out from the body and eventually envelop it completely. The fungal shoots come in many shapes and sizes depending on what species the host is. They can come in varying sizes and shapes of white bumps, white curly long sprouts, and star shapes for example. The host becomes a so called sustainable root on which the fungi grows.

When the fungal spores are fully grown, they arise released by the winds of the forest and nearby insects then get infected by the airborne process.

To photograph these natural works of art, we notice that to capture the shapes and fungal shoots in full clarity and focus, we start by focusing from the very front of the object and photograph every frame slowly working to the back. After about a good 30 shots, the images will then be put onto (Helicon Focus) a stacking program and the images will create a single image with a fully focused depth of field showing detail of this weird and wonderful macro world.

The Amazon Macro WORKSHOP/TOUR

Located deep in the lowlands of the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest, in the heart of Southern Peru, you will be taken into some of the most untouched and least explored corners of the Amazon Rainforest. Set aside the Tambopata River, this mind blowing     7-day photography workshop takes us on an exciting journey through the forest, getting extremely close to the macro world!

You will start in the small town of Puerto Maldonado and be taken into the rainforest depths, guided by the professional, award-winning wildlife photographers who will assist you to capture the best macro photographs possible. You will be tutored on macro photographic techniques and ultra-macro photography using professional photo stacking programs.

Each day will include rainforest treks with photographic opportunities including all frog species, snake species, insects, flora, and fungus. Untamed Photography’s photographers will help you gain the best shots to create that perfect Amazon Rainforest macro portfolio. We also take pride in teaching you information of each species that we see during your stay to help you document each photograph.

During your stay here at the lodge, you will have the opportunity to go on night walks and gain shots of all wildlife specifically the macro world that inhabits the rainforest. Here you will improve your skills using flash or lighting with your camera of the small nocturnal life.

Along with macro photography, you are free to photograph the many other species that roam the rainforest of Tambopata Region here in the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest.

Learn from professional wildlife photographers in the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest.

View workshop: BEST OF MACRO