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Posts Tagged ‘amphibians’

Bullfrog_8692

One of my main reasons for wanting to try the Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Fisheye Lens, which was on loan from Gentec International, the Canadian distributor for Sigma lenses, was for photographing Bullfrogs in the wetland on Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario. When my parents bought our family’s cottage over 30 years ago there were great numbers of Bullfrogs to be found and their signature jug-o-rum chorusing would echo through the night air. Today all but a few individuals can be heard singing at night and locating them can be a chore some days. Fortunately, there is one very reliable fella that always hangs out in the vicinity of a very tiny island, covered with sedges and shrubs, within the wetland. I have had the pleasure of photographing this individual for over and over. For exactly how long I am unsure, but I would guess at least three years. I can often place my hand underneath him and he will crawl aboard and allow me to pose him. Do note that amphibians should NEVER be handled if you have insect repellent or sunscreen on your hands – it is deadly to them.

Each of these frog-scapes were photographed handheld, selecting the Live View function on my Nikon D800, auto-focus and a double bubble level in the hot shoe to make sure the froggies were sitting square with the world in the photos. This is the easiest way I know of to capture such images from the dry comfort of a canoe. Often my hands are submerged in order to hold the camera just millimeters above the water’s surface. I found over-cast conditions to be more favorable as with the extreme wide angle view of this lens it was easy to accidentally see my shadow or that of the camera and lens within the frame under sunny conditions. Also if the camera and lens is held above and over the frogs it is easy to get the camera and lens reflecting in the water in front of the subject, but by hand-holding the rig just above the water this problem is eliminated. A slight downward pointed fisheye lens will create the rounded prespective that works beautifully to show the frog’s within their world. And since the world is round, this is a pleasing perspective :)

Below are some of my favorite frog-scapes photographed while using the Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Fisheye lens.

Please remember to click on the photos to see the larger, sharper versions and let us know which is your favorite and why.

Bullfrog_9252

Bullfrog_8817

Bullfrog_9267

Bullfrog_9277

Bullfrog_8684

Bullfrog_8806

Bullfrog_9255

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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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Golden Poison Frog (Phyllobates terribilis)

I have long wanted to photograph tropical species of frogs and had a wonderful opportunity to do so a couple of months ago. All of the frogs in this post are captive bred and raised in Canada. Since many of these photos will appear in the eBook I am writing on frog photography, it was of the utmost importance to me that none of the frogs photographed were wild caught specimens. One of the chapters in the eBook will provide tips and instructions on photographing captive specimens such as the ones you see here.

One of my favorites is the lovely poison dart frog that opens this blog post – the Golden Poison Frog (Phyllobates terribilis). This is perhaps the deadliest of poison frogs. Its skin is coated with an alkaloid poison (batrachotoxin). It is estimated that one milligram of this poison is enough to kill 10,000 mice, 10-20 humans, or two bull elephants. Yikes! Good thing they are captive bred. Poison dart frogs tend to lose their toxicity in captivity as they are no longer feeding on the ants and termites of their rainforest homes, which is where they get their toxicity from. Nonetheless, poison has never looked so beautiful.

Here are a few additional poison dart frogs from the shoot….more to follow in a later blog post.

Please click on the photos to see the larger sharper version.

Ranitomeya amazonica (rare species in the wild)

Zimmerman’s Poison Frog (Ranitomeya variabilis)

Blessed Poison Frog (Ranitomeya benedicts)

Ranitomeya vanzolinni

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Chorus Frog, male, in position to start calling

I have spent the last two nights out in the ponds photographing the Chorus Frogs, Wood Frogs and Spring Peepers. The Spring Peepers emerged about two days ago and began singing. So far, this year is turning out to be one of the best, if not the loudest chorus I have ever heard in my 15 years of living here. While sitting in the ponds, surrounded by a large number of Chorus Frogs, I can honestly say that the sound is utterly deafening this year. I love it! And the best part is these little fellas are quite literally singing all day and all night long. Each night after I have finished photographing the frogs it is so nice to crawl into bed, leaving the bedroom window open, and be serenaded to sleep by these wonderful sounds of spring. Here are a few recent captures from the last two nights. Note, I have never been able to photograph Chorus Frogs in the day as they are too weary and go silent when I get within 50 feet or so of the ponds. At night it is a different story, especially if it is an overcast night. For some reason overcast nights are always more productive. With temperatures predicted to break records, for this time of the year, over the next few days I would not be at all surprised to see the American Toads emerging very soon as well.

Chorus Frog calling

Chorus Frog calling

Spring Peeper calling

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Tiny Marsh Provincial Wildlife Area at sunrise

Several days ago I drove over to Tiny Marsh for sunrise. I was greeted with a cloudless sky, not the most pleasing of situations for sunrise imagery. However, I ventured out across the wetland trails to see what might develop. As the sun rose above the horizon I captured a few images, minimizing the cloudless sky and allowing the wetland vegetation to dominate much of the image. Shortly after this I decided to walk out along the boardwalk trail to search for my favorite wildlife subjects – frogs. The boardwalk goes through a forested swampy section of  Tiny Marsh. My timing for this was perfect as there were many young Leopard Frogs at rest on fallen branches and resting among the duckweed in the water. I spent the next three or four hours shooting frogs. Since the frogs were in rather unpleasant lighting situations with the blazing sun casting harsh shadows as it streamed through the surrounding forest I decided to use my Nikon SB-400 on a home-made flash bracket to illuminate the scene. When I shoot frogs I always try to get down to their level if possible, so in this situation I lay down on the boardwalk to get as low as possible. The use of the flash solved the harsh, contrasting lighting, but it created another problem that I dislike very much – flash generated specular highlights. So began the task of eliminating these from the images. Often I will work on a photo very large (500-800%) to evict the highlights. I often use a variety of quick masks and clone stamp to complete this task. Due to the glossy, wet look of the amphibian`s skin this can sometimes be a time consuming task, taking 1-2 hours per image on occasion. I do find the extra effort is well worth the end result and when I complete the task why not try running through the photoshop plugin Fractalius.

Below you will see one of my Leopard Frog images from this day showing the original capture, the optimized file and of course the Fractalius rendering.

On another note, I have started a Facebook fan page today, still lots of work to do on it, but you may check it out here .

Original Capture

Optimized Image

Fractalius Version

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For some reason Green Frogs always remind me of the 400 year old folk song Froggie Went-a-Courtin’. I first heard of this song several years ago when Bob Dylan recorded his version of the song. Last week I photographed numerous Green Frogs out in the pond. One frog in particular was quite striking – a uniform green color not the usual mottled appearance that they have. As I was framing a close-up of this fella, pictured above, he lunged forward to bite the lens. When frogs detect movement they usually try to eat what is moving, due to voracious appetites. No worries, I remained unscathed by the attack :).

This season I was finally able to capture Green Frogs with their vocal sacs inflated. This is rather difficult as they only inflate them for a moment, unlike Toads and Gray Treefrogs that inflate their sacs for a longer duration. Here is a selection of Green Frogs from this season.

Green Frog with vocal sacs inflated

Male Green Frog

Female Green Frog

The Happy Couple

Green Frog with vocal sacs inflated

Male Green Frog

When you assume a very low camera position, a frog’s eye view if you will, leave some space in front of the frog and you will be able to capture the frogs reflection also. As you can see in the two images below.

Male Green Frog

Male Green Frog

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Last year for whatever reason the toads that live around my home never arrived at the ponds to breed. It was sad not hearing the toads singing through the night. A void existed in the spring chorus. I am pleased to report that the toads have returned to the ponds this year and I have been busy capturing fresh images of them. With the cool wet weather we have been having the last few days there is little singing going on right now, but warmer weather is on the way in a day or two.

When shooting the frogs and toads in the shallow, vernal ponds behind my home, at night, I always wear my chest waders, an old sweater and use a headlamp as well as a small clip on flashlight. The chest waders keep me dry and relatively warm in the cold water. The old sweater also helps to keep me warm and often I am holding the camera right at the surface of the water, with my elbows deep in the water, so the sweater will keep the leeches and biting water bugs off me. The headlamp is used to search for the frogs and toads while the small clip-on flashlight goes on my home-made flash bracket and helps me focus on these critters.

Toads are my favorite amphibians to photograph. I love there expressions! Chorusing toads are probably the easiest to photograph as the vocal sac is inflated for several seconds at a time. These guys really do have one track minds at this time of year and are very tolerant of my presence in the pond. The last time I was out in the ponds, I lifted a toad in my hand and he sat there and began singing in the palm of my hand until he mistakenly thought my hand was a female toad. Yikes!

Here are a few images from my last couple of outings. Hope you like them.

In the images below, I came across several Green Frogs in the ponds.The one photographed below was busy feasting on Bloodsuckers (leeches)

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I spent the first several days of this week out in the frog ponds behind my home, during the evening hours, to shoot some fresh frog images during the spring chorus. I am a little out of practice, but did capture a few nice photographs. So far only the Chorus Frogs, Wood Frogs and a small number of Spring Peepers have emerged from hibernation, however, the last couple of night the ponds have been freezing over again, so all is quiet as the frogs lay under the ice waiting for things to warm-up in the morning. I usually wear my chest waders when shooting these critters and sit down in the pond when I find one that appears to be cooperative, but it usually means waiting several minutes for them to commence singing again and the odd time it means getting a pair of chest waders filled with icy cold water. Yikes! This week I discovered a crayfish out on the wet grasses beside the pond. I believe it is a Chimney Crayfish, they are known to inhabit wet meadows and build a clay chimney at the entrance to their burrow. By mid-summer there are usually several of these clay chimneys in my drainage ditch out by the road so I new these crayfish were around, I just never had the opportunity to photograph them.

One of the most annoying aspect of shooting amphibian at nights if you will be plagued with flash generated specular highlights. I use a very small flash light for focusing purposes when shooting them and can use the light given off by the flashlight to judge just how bad the specular highlights will be and can thus change my shooting position slightly to see if any improvements may be possible. However, often I have to clone out the flash generated specular highlights and more often than not I fond that I work on the image large, meaning I zoom it to 500-800% in Photoshop to clean-up these annoying little highlights.

Stay tuned for more adventures from the frog pond in the coming weeks.

Spring Peeper

Wood Frog

Chorus Frog

Chorus Frog

Chimney Crayfish

Chimney Crayfish – defensive posture

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This past spring was a quiet one and that I find quite disturbing. Behind my home lies about 40 acres of abandoned cattle pasture. This is traditionally a wet meadow with numerous vernal ponds resulting from the melting snow. I have lived here for 13 years and every spring we are serenaded to sleep by frogs and toads during the spring chorus. This year was an exception.

Normally, around my home, the frogs emerge from hibernation in the following order: chorus frogs, wood frogs, spring peepers, toads with leopard frogs, green frogs and gray’s treefrogs to follow. This spring began like any other – the chorus frogs were singing their hearts out by the end of March. The wood frogs and spring peepers followed, but as conditions warmed further where were the toads. Perhaps they would not arrive at the ponds until the first warm rainy night. Warm rainy nights came and went, but no toads. The toads never arrived this spring to chorus in any of the ponds within this field. The leopard frogs and green frogs did arrive, but only two gray’s treefrogs were heard chorusing on one occasion. I find this to be disturbing and puzzling. It is puzzling because during my forays to the ponds I could hear toads and gray’s treefrogs chorusing in distant ponds, but why not in these ponds? What happened? Where were they? I have no answers to these questions. Only more questions. I wonder if it is the first sign a frog populations in decline near my home.

All around the world frog populations and other amphibians too are in decline. Amphibians are considered to be  “indicator species.” When their numbers are decreasing it indicates that there is something drastically wrong with their environment – a sign of biodiversity disaster.

Amphibians have been around for some 250 million years and survived when dinosaurs did not, but will they survive the impact of humans. We continue to destroy habitat. Wetlands are filled in and paved over all in the name of “progress.” In Southern Ontario, over 80% of original wetlands have been lost due to human development. Moreover, dryer summers as a result of global warming will mean there is a greater chance of vernal ponds drying out before amphibian larvae are able to complete their metamorphosis into adults. It would only take one or two such occurrences to have a drastic effect on local amphibian populations.

Declining amphibian populations is something that we should all take seriously. It is a warning sign!

Below is a selection of images to celebrate these amazing critters. Many of these images are older ones, captured on slide film with a Minolta X700, macro lens, and a cheap $5 Vivtar flash (purchased from a scrap bin at a Toronto camera store) mounted on a homemade flash bracket. The last two images are recent digital captures.

Hope you like the photographs.

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