Chasing the Rain: My Treasure Hunt for the World’s Most Beautiful Mushrooms
“In 1993, after finishing a presentation to a group on the East coast, I had an epiphany.
I realized that through my photography, I was in a special position to help raise awareness of and appreciation for mushrooms and other fungi. . .and I really believed
mushrooms needed me.” So begins the latest photo odyssey, Chasing the Rain, by mycophotographer extrordinaire, Taylor F. Lockwood.
Lockwood has a mission: to melt the frost of fungiphobia in America. He has set out to find and photograph the world’s most beautiful mushrooms, and to share with others the images that result from this global treasure hunt. Most mycophiles will be familiar with his other astounding collection of mushroom photographs, the coffee table book titled Treasures from the Kingdom of Fungi. Taylor “discovered” mushrooms in December 1984. After seven years of heat, smog, and rock-and-roll, he had relocated from Los Angeles to Mendocino in northern California. It was an unusually warm, wet winter and within a week of moving into a cabin situated among the redwoods there, Taylor noticed mushrooms coming up all around him in the forest. He was so taken by their beauty that he was compelled to photograph them. Lockwood singlehandedly turned mushroom photography on its ear. Prior to Taylor’s work, mushrooms were typically photographed when they were not at their best: sometimes with chew marks from slugs and forest critters, with holes in them, covered with dirt or obscured by leaves or sticks, old and dried out or wet and rotten. He saw them as beautiful objects, and sought ways to capture them in their most pristine form, to take portraits of them with the best lighting techniques, to show their true colors in unfiltered light. The results are stunning. His work has garnered him respect and acclaim from his mycological colleagues, from the media (through reviews and use of his images in many publications), and from his dedicated fans who come to see his slide shows and collect his images in the form of gallery prints, books, videos, and other mushroom-art products.
During his early years of mushroom discovery, Taylor embarked on his first international mushroom hunting trip traveling to the Soviet Union in 1989. Inspired by his trip to Russia, Taylor embarked on many other international expeditions to bring back images of mushrooms most people will never have an opportunity to see firsthand. He has a desire to not only connect with mushroom lovers from other cultures, but to connect those diverse people to each other through their common love of mushrooms. This has made for a special brand of diplomacy—mushroom diplomacy—and has taken him to some remote spots, as well as those more familiar and just as interesting. Many of his travel stories are featured, along with his images, in this new book Chasing the Rain: My Treasure Hunt for the World’s Most Beautiful Mushrooms.
Through his anecdotes on photographing mushrooms in various climes and conditions—dodging deadly snakes in China, warding off swarms of mosquitoes in Borneo, outsmarting a band of monkeys in Bali, hunting at 14,000 ft. in Tibet’s thin air, from the Amazon to Tibet and from New Zealand to Nigeria —Lockwood chronicles the connection between people who hunt mushrooms all over the world. “One memorable foray was with a young Shona man named Felix. We found some Amanitas and an intriguing pink Bolete (pictured). On another walk, we found what looked like a common yellow Rhizopogon (also pictured). Felix explained that when he was young and tending his father’s cattle, he would find them, break them open, and eat the inside for a little nourishment and moisture. However, he was very nervous about touching the capped mushrooms. Apparently, that practice came with admonishing taboos.” Chasing the Rain is the fruit of Lockwood’s search for the world’s most beautiful mushrooms. Through his lens, we are taken on a gentle journey that is sometimes exciting, oftentimes funny, and always close to the earth. I could go on all day, extolling why anyone (especially mycophiles) would find Lockwood’s books to be absolute treasures, but you should simply do yourself a favor and purchase them. You will be so glad you did.
Lockwood continues to maintain an active travel and public speaking schedule, and is currently on a nationwide digital slide show and book tour celebrating the release of Chasing the Rain. I’ve heard from many who have caught his talk on this current tour and have told me that audiences are overwhelmed by his tales and images. I recommend contacting him if your club would like to book him for an appearance.When asked “Where is your next exotic mushroom hunting expedition?” Taylor replied that, “Actually, I’ll be traveling around the country this fall on the Chasing the Rain book tour. I hope to get some hunting time in then, especially in the Appalachian Mountains. I have a wish list for some more exotic locations including Costa Rica, Brazil, Guyana, Africa, and Papua New Guinea.” Taylor, please take me with you!—
— Review by Britt Bunyard
— Originally published in Fungi