Archive for the ‘Macro Photography’ Category

Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens, Nikon Speedlight SB400                                                   ISO 400, f16 @ 1/100 sec.

Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens, Nikon Speedlight SB400, ISO 400, f16 @ 1/100

Water Tiger is the common name given to the larval stage of the Predacious Diving Beetle. During my forays out to the frog ponds I often encounter bizarre, alien-like waterbugs, so recently I decided to use a small 2.5 gallon aquarium and and photograph a few of these interesting critters. The Water Tiger has a voracious appetite and will often devour tadpoles, salamander larva, other aquatic bugs, and small fish. The large sickle-like jaws allow them to over-power prey larger than themselves. My aquarium set-up was quite productive allowing me to successfully create numerous images of various subjects. I will share in a future post soon exactly what worked best for the set-up and how I processed each of the image files.

Please do click on each of the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens, Nikon Speedlight SB400, ISO 400, f16 @ 1/60

Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens, Nikon Speedlight SB400, ISO 400, f16 @ 1/60

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Cuban Treefrog, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Cuban Treefrog (adult), Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

For those folks who missed the quiz please read the early blog post here. So what lens did I use? Edith Levy was closest with her answer of the 70-200mm lens. I actually used my Nikon 80-400mm VR lens to created all of my Cuban Treefrog photos that were created on the island of Cayman Brac in the Cayman Islands. Do note that this is the earlier version of the Nikon 80-400mm VR lens (yes the lens that folks like to trash in their on-line reviews). This lens has a minimum focusing distance of roughly 7 feet, so how was I able to create close-up images of adult and juvenile Cuban Treefrogs? To find out how please follow this link to my most recent article in  the Creative Photography e-mini Magazine, which is published and available for free each month by friend, colleague, and highly talented Denise Ippolito. I have learned a ton of creative stuff from Denise, and you can too by simply following along on her blog and the articles that are feature in the eMini Magazine every month by many creative and talented folks.

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Optimized Version of Cuban Treefrog on Cayman Brac

Optimized Version of Cuban Treefrog on Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

I have just spent the last hour optimizing the above photograph of a juvenile Cuban Treefrog. During my trip to Cayman Brac in the Cayman Islands. Each night I would leave the villa and go for a night-time stroll in search of some night-life. The Cuban Treefrogs were plentiful and I spent many enjoyable hours creating numerous images of them. In the original RAW capture below you do not need to look too closely to identify many of the issue.

Original RAW Capture - Cuban Treefrog

Original RAW Capture – Cuban Treefrog

First and foremost I was not holding the camera square with the world, there are two unsightly, tiny stones on the frog’s lip and if you click on the images to see the larger, sharper version you will see a lot of flash generated spectral highlights. To optimize this image I first rotated until I felt that froggie was square with the world and then using both a series of quick masks and clone stamp tool I painstakingly worked on the image at 400% to effectively evict each of the spectral highlights. The nice thing about the massive image files created by the Nikon D800 is that you can afford to lose a few pixels when rotating and cropping such as this with no degradation to the image quality.

Now for the quiz: to photograph the Cuban Treefrog I used a Nikon D800 and what lens? The frog measured about an inch in length. I will reveal the answer in 2-3 days.

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Gray Treefrog_7662Gray Treefrog and Caddisfly

Early last week I could here a couple of Gray Treefrogs chorusing near my home, so I decided to try to locate them and I did. It was most difficult to photograph these frogs as the ponds substrate was very mucky. Often with each step my feet would sink about 12 inches into the mud. Once I was able to position myself close enough to the frogs I would kneel down in the mud to allow myself to be able to photograph from a low perspective. As I worked my way into position for the above image I was initially bugged by the bug resting on the frog’s head and then I thought that this may just make a fun image, so I happily captured numerous frames of this male Gray Treefrog chorusing with the Caddisfly atop its head.

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Spring Peeper_7343Spring Peeper with Vocal Sac Inflated

With the frog ponds behind my home destroyed, I traveled north to the Parry Sound region to first open the cottage up for another season and to visit one of my favorite temporary ponds that is usually highly productive for American Toads, Spring Peepers, and Gray Treefrogs. The first night was very cool and only the Spring Peepers were out chorusing. Finding Spring Peepers requires a boat load of patience due to there tiny size, but they usually co-operative once you do locate them. The above little fella was found in perfect position on a small silver birch sapling and his placement on the branch would allow for a beautiful poster-like background.

The main problem encountered with photographing frogs at night with flash is spectral highlights. These are blown-out highlights caused when the light from the flash hits the frog’s glossy skin and surrounding wet vegetation. Often I will spend a lengthy amount of time cleaning up these undesirable and unnatural highlights. On occasion, as you can see in the before and after versions below, there will be extensive blown-out highlights. For this particular image there was little good skin left, on the frog’s nose, to work with to evict the highlights so I looked back through the series of images I photographed of this frog on the branch. Sure enough I was able to find another photo where the flash hit the frog’s skin at a slightly different angle resulting in fewer blown-out highlights. I now had my solution. I opened both images into Photoshop and rather than use the ‘Tile’ viewing, I opened them into ‘windows.’ I then made a quick mask of the nose in the image with fewer highlights and moved it into position on the optimized image. The remainder of the flash generated highlights were evicted using the clone stamp tool whereby I would vary the hardness depending on where in the image I was cloning.

This Spring Peeper image was created using a Nikon D800 with a Nikon 105mm Micro lens attached. The flash was a Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket (the best flash bracket I have ever used for frog photography). A small mini-mag flashlight is affixed to the SB400 with two elastics. The small flashlight makes focusing on these critters at night a breeze.

Do remember to click on the images to see the larger, sharper versions of each. The image below shows the original RAW capture straight out of the camera with no adjustments made to it, and the optimized image.

A quick reminder to folks about Denise Ippolito’s presentation for GRIPS Camera Club in Kitchener, Ontario on Monday June 3rd at 7:30 pm. Denise is a very talented and highly creative photographer with imagery bound to fill you with inspiration. If you are in the vicinity do make plans to attend.Hope to see you there :)

Spring Peeper Before & AfterBefore and After Versions of Spring Peeper

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Johnstone's Whistling Frog_5985

Johnstone’s Whistling Frog (Eleutherodactylus johnstonei) with vocal sac inflated

Every night as the sun began to set during my stay at Search Me Heart in Port Antonio Jamaica, the nights would begin to fill with the choruses of the Johnstone’s Whistling Frog, also known as the Lesser Antillean Whistling Frog. This tiny little frog, which measures roughly 3/4 of an inch in length, is one of the most widely distributed frogs in the Caribbean, mostly due to trade among the islands. It would be very easy for these frog to hitch a ride among bananas and such being traded between neighboring Caribbean islands. These little frogs do not require water to reproduce as the female will deposit her eggs among leaf litter from which tiny froglets will emerge.

Prior to departing for Port Antonio, Jamaica I did a ton of research to learn of various landscape locations I would want to visit and what wildlife species may be indigenous to the region. During my research I discovered that there is roughly 27 species of frogs in Jamaica. Knowing that in advance I decided I should take along my gear that I frequently use for frog photography, however I did not really want to carry the additional weight of my Nikon 105mm micro lens, so I decided to leave that lens at home and follow my own advice here about the Nikon 80-400mm macro lens solution. By using my Nikon 80-400mm VR lens with the Canon 500D Close-up filter and my Nikon SB400 Speedlight, on a flash bracket, I was well equipped to capture these tiny frogs. I did not know that these tiny frogs would be so plentiful among the vegetation of Search Me Heart’s gardens. Each night before heading off to bed I would spend about an hour or so wandering about the lush gardens with a small flashlight, trying to located the frogs as they sang. In the photo above I had to wait patiently for this little fella to commence singing again after I discovered him among some yellowed foliage of wild banana plants and the frog below would show up virtually every night on the very same leaf to chorus. By frequently searching out these subjects I was able to capture some of my most favorite frog images to date.

Please click on each photo to see the larger, sharper version.

Johnstone's Whistling Frog (Eleutherodactylus johnstonei)

Johnstone’s Whistling Frog (Eleutherodactylus johnstonei)

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Frosted Oak Sapling

Yikes! I was going through some old folders of photos the other day and I came across this series of frosty photos that were photographed during one final walk at the cottage prior to closing up for the winter – way back in 2009. Not sure if it I forgot about them, never found the time to optimize them, or waited for them to get better with age. Each photo was created with my Nikon D200 and the Nikon 105mm Micro lens firmly mounted on a tripod. The images with the Sugar Maple leaves on Haircap Moss were essentially set-up. Often when it looks like there will be frost in the forecast, I will typically look for a few colorful leaves that are in decent condition and lay them out on the moss for a preconceived compositional idea. While I lay sound asleep the frost does its thing, and I awake before the sun has a chance to melt the frosted elements.

Please remember to click on the photos to see the larger, sharper version of each.

Autumn Sugar Maple Leaf on Haircap Moss with Reindeer Lichen

Autumn Oak and Frost

Autumn Sugar Maple Leaf on Haircap Moss

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While they may not be everybody’s cup of tea, Six-spotted Fishing Spiders are often found in frog ponds and they are very easy, and they are usually rather co-operative photographic subjects. While out in the ponds it is hard to pass up such interesting and cool looking critters that are easily photographed. In fact, last year several of the spider images I captured while photographing frogs and toads were featured in a children’s nature magazine, and one of the images was used as a double-page spread. Such ‘b-roll’ images also help to tell the story of life in the frog pond. A simple set-up of camera, macro lens, and a small flash on a user friendly flash bracket such as the Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket to hold the flash out over the lens will do the trick every time. To read more about this set-up please refer to my earlier blog post regarding this set-up here.

Most often Six-spotted Fishing Spiders will rest on the water’s surface with their back legs hanging onto a cattail leaf or other vegetation on the surface of the pond. If my approach is to quick they will usually follow a cattail stem down to the bottom of the pond and rise to the surface again once they think the danger has passed. These very interesting spiders will frequently prey upon tadpoles and aquatic insect larvae. The first image below you will notice a small tadpole clinging to the cattail leaf beside one of the spider’s legs. In the above image note how the spider was positioned within the frame, so that the front legs are extending out into the two lower corners of the image to help create some symmetrical balance for the spider’s body being centered within the composition. Below you will see three additional images of Six-spotted Spiders including one carrying an egg sac.

Please click on each image to view a much larger version of these very interesting arachnids.

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Wimberley Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up

For many years I have relied on a home-made flash bracket for photographing frogs and toads and butterflies. This bracket was constructed from aluminum strapping purchased at a local hardware store. The design was quite simple and the bracket was easily made. In fact, I simply followed John Shaw’s instructions on how to make such a bracket in “The Nature Photographer’s Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques” that was first published in 1984. This home-made bracket has served me well over the years and certainly allowed me to capture many of my most cherished frog images, however, this bracket also had its share of issues. I often found it awkward to carry in the field as it would not store easily in my gear bag, the weight of the flash would cause the bracket to sway, and I disliked having to hold it during long hikes. Enter the Wimberley Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up, which is by far the best design and the most user friendly macro flash bracket on the market today. A couple of months ago Wimberley was kind enough to supply me with a Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up for my frog and toad photography this season. I have given this flash bracket a thorough workout and can honestly not find a single issue with it or its design. One of the things I like best about this bracket is that it will fold down to a small enough size that I can fit it into my back pocket or a jacket pocket for carrying convenience, I can position the flash in any direction I wish thanks to the multi-jointed design,  and once the locking knobs are tightened the bracket is rock solid.

What I like most of all about this flash bracket is the multi-jointed design that literally allows you to position the flash in any position desired to obtain optimal light on the subject. I find it particularly useful for capturing Gray’s Treefrogs chorusing from tree branches over-hanging the breeding pools or hiding under small over-hangs at the pond’s edge.. I can simply position the flash around any branches or up under the over-hang that may be in the way to get the flash where I need it to be for the image, with my home-made bracket and many other commercially available brackets this is not possible, and if your bracket should by chance bump the branch that the frog is sitting on you have just lost your shot. In the above image you will see the Wimberley Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up as I use it with the M-8 Perpendicular Plate attached. The M-8 Perpendicular Plate will allow you to position the flash bracket a little further out and make the bracket more user friendly than it already is and it will allow you to add a second Single-Arm Set-up for a dual macro flash system if you prefer to use two flashes for your macro work. Check out the pdf instructions for the Macro Flash Bracket here. If you are looking for a high quality macro flash bracket that is solid, offers superior functionality, user friendly, and folds easily for storage and carrying in the field I highly recommend that you take a close look at the Wimberley Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up…I think you will be glad that you did.

In the image below you will see how I use the system when it is attached to the camera. I have used an old Nikon D70 for illustration purposes. Do note that I will often change the position of the flash as each situation may require something a little different. The flash that I most often use is the Nikon SB400, although I will sometimes use a much heavier Nikon SB600. Even with the larger heavier flash attached this bracket is rock solid.

My typical set-up for photographing frogs & toads

And the next image is the home-made bracket that I used for a number of years, but will most likely never use again. The Wimberley Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up will now be my go to bracket for all of my macro flash photo needs. It is quite simply the best bracket to use for my macro photography needs.

Home-made Flash Bracket

Below you will see a few recent Gray Treefrog images that I photographed during the Canada’s Victoria Day weekend while I was up in the Parry Sound region of Ontario. The Wimberley Macro Flash Bracket – Single-Arm Set-up made shooting these images very easy, as I was able to position the flash around some small branches to illuminate the frog as it inflated it’s vocal sac while chorusing above the pond, and for the last image I was able to get the flash to light up the area under a small over-hang where this male was calling.

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Toad Skin Fractalius

It seems like over the last couple of weeks I have been playing a game of cat and mouse with the American Toads (Bufo americanus) that have been chorusing on and off due to the roller coaster ride we have been having with the temperatures. It feels like today they are singing loud and proud in the warm night air, and then tomorrow, when the mercury drops, they have gone back into hibernation. In between my excursions out to the pond over the last couple of weeks I have been doing lots of research and writing for the latest eBook I have begun writing, not to mention helping my daughter recover from a recent flu bug as well as getting over the same flu bug myself. During my toad quests, after capturing a few horizontal and vertical compositions of some of the toads I began to play around with some extreme close-ups of their beautifully textured skin and couldn’t resist the temptation to process one of the images with Fractalius – as seen above. Of all the various species of frogs and toads that I have photographed so far the American Toads are most certainly among my favorites. The males, when calling, seems to have a tough guy attitude, but their antics are also quite comical. If you put your hand or fingers near them when they are singing, and their hormones are going full strength, they will often grab hold of your hand or finger with incredible strength thinking that they have found a female toad. It makes me laugh everytime.

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