Golden Dart Frog (phyllobates terribilis)
Undoubtedly one of the most stunning dart frogs I have had the pleasure of photographing is the Golden Dart Frog.What makes this dart frog so special? It has earned the name The Terrible One because it is the most toxic frog of all. So toxic that simply touching the frog could kill you. The alkaloid toxins on their skin are said to be potent enough to kill three elephants. Pretty powerful stuff for a frog that is not more than an inch in length – gotta love it! Fortunately, this is a captive specimen and is perfectly safe to handle. Poison Dart Frogs get their toxins from the insects they eat in their native homelands. In captivity dart frogs are typically fed a diet of wingless fruit flies and the end result is that they will lose their toxicity.
Several months ago I photographed numerous captive bred frog specimens for the frog photography eBook I am writing. The eBook will an extensive how-to guide to finding, photographing, and optimizing frog images. Since I was wanting to include sections on photographing dart frogs and captive specimens I arranged a session with a breeder that I know. It was very important that I photograph specimens bred in captivity and not wild caught frogs. Why? Because amphibians are the fast declining animal species on the planet – sadly humanity is to blame for this decline. Global warming, habitat destruction, and pollution are just some of the causes. Another major downfall for frogs has been the importing of Bullfrogs (rana catesbeiana) as a food source (frog legs), which has led to bullfrogs escaping and inhabiting 14 countries around the world often with devastating results.
Please click on the image to see the larger, sharper version.
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Posted in Frogs and Toads, Horseshoe Lake, Macro, parry sound, Photo Gear, tagged bullfrogs, d800, frogs, Horseshoe Lake, iso 6400, macro lenses, nature photography, ontario, Parry Sound on September 2, 2013 |
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Male Bullfrog on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
f22 @ 1/40 second
The last couple of weeks have been rather hectic, after returning from the cottage on Horseshoe Lake in Ontario’s Parry Sound Region I was only home for a couple of days prior to heading back to the cottage. During my first of the two stays I spent several nights working with the Bullfrogs. By the time I had noticed this fella with his head lifted nicely out of the water it was already getting quite dark out, as can be seen by the late setting sun reflecting in the frog’s right eye. I could have easily given up and called it a night, but if you don’t push yourself or the limits of your gear you will not know what is achievable down the road. It is very important for photographers to get to know both their limits and those of their equipment.
To create the above portrait of this male American Bullfrog I positioned my canoe in front of him and then sat in the bottom of the canoe for increased stability. Then utilizing the Live View feature of my D800, a bubble-level in the hot-shoe and a Nikon 105mm Micro Lens I framed the image. To capture the low perspective the camera and lens were hand-held at the water’s surface. In fact, both the lens hood and quick release plate were getting wet. As night was quickly falling upon the frog and I an ISO of 6400 was dialed in, which gave me 1/40 seconds at f22. The small aperture was necessary to maximize the depth of field at this close range. The canoe was sitting relatively stable due to very shallow water conditions at this location within the marsh and prior to pressing the shutter I took a breath then I clicked the shutter while holding the breath. This technique will help keep your body relatively still for slower than desired exposures, producing a better percentage of keepers.
When viewing the above image on my computer after I arrived home, I was quite impressed with the low-level of noise present at such a high ISO. It is critical to maintain proper exposure by remembering to expose to the right (ETTR). If you have to brighten a poorly exposed frame you will surely introduce noise into the image. In Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) I did perform a tiny bit of noise reduction and later in Photoshop I removed several dust bunnies Otherwise this is how the image appeared on the LCD screen in the marsh.
After I created several frames of this fella he lunged forward and gobbled up a smaller frog that I had not noticed, in one quick motion. Bullfrogs are notorious for their canabalistic tendencies.
Please click on the image to see the larger, sharper version and the D800 quality at high ISOs.
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Posted in Frogs and Toads, Horseshoe Lake, ontario, Uncategorized, Wetlands, tagged amphibians, bullfrogs, fisheye lenses, frogs, Horseshoe Lake, nature photography, photography, sigma 15mm f2.8 ex dg fisheye lens, sigma lenses on July 23, 2013 |
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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.
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Posted in Frogs and Toads, Macro Photography, ontario, Reptiles and Amphibians, Wetlands, tagged caddisfly, frogs, gray treefrog, nature photography, ontario, photography, wetlands on June 7, 2013 |
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Gray 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 Peepers, Parry Sound, Ontario
To follow-up on my previous post regarding Spring Peeper clean-up, there is on occasion when I may find it necessary to perform little clean-up at all. The above image illustrates one such situation. These treefrogs were located far up a sandy bank of the pond among some small twigs. I do not often encounter such interactions between spring peepers and I have never photographed two in the frame with one singing before, so I was delighted to find this very co-operative pair. As you can see it would be a nightmare to attempt cleaning up the grains of sand from the frog’s skin and I do think the grains of sand and small twigs help illustrate the environment in which these frogs were found. I did perform some clean-up of the flash generated spectral highlights as this is a night-time capture. Night-time is my preferred and most productive time of day for frog photography. Why? Most frog species are nocturnal and are most active at night.
Please click on the image to view the larger, sharper version.
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Posted in Frogs and Toads, Macro, Macro Photography, ontario, Reptiles and Amphibians, tagged frogs, muskoka, nature photography, ontario, photography, spring peepers, wimberley macro flash bracket on May 29, 2013 |
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Spring 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
Before and After Versions of Spring Peeper
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Posted in Agriculture, Declining Populations, Frogs and Toads, ontario, Reptiles and Amphibians, Wetlands, tagged declining amphibian populations, essa township, farm drainage, frog ponds, frogs, habitat destruction, nature photography, ontario, simcoe county, spring chorus, vernal ponds, wetlands on April 22, 2013 |
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Those of you that have been following along here at the blog know that I have been photographing frogs and toads in vernal ponds found in an abandoned cattle pasture behind my home for a number of years. Vernal ponds are temporary pools of water that are critical habitat relied upon by frogs and toads as breeding sites every spring. Each and every spring chorusing frogs and toads would filled the air with song. Late last fall, the land which was zoned for agriculture was sold to an industrious farmer who promptly cleared every tree that lined the plots of land and then plowed the land. By plowing the land the farmer wiped out much of the frog and toad population in the immediate vicinity of my rural home.
As the temperatures began to warm this spring I would listen intently from my back deck listening for the songs of chorus frogs, which are always the first frogs to emerge from hibernation. A couple of weeks ago I heard the calls of one or two individuals. As the temperatures warmed further, the calls of the chorus frogs should have been incredibly loud, but not so. One or two individuals was all I ever heard. Last week the final nail in the coffin was delivered to this field as a farm drainage company arrived and tiled the field to drain the land, making it suitable for the planting of crops.
No longer will I hear or photograph the seven species of frogs that would breed in these ponds, or the snapping turtle that would come to gorge on the frog’s eggs. No longer will I see the chimney crayfish that would rise from beneath the ground on wet nights, or the bizarre insect larvae that depend on such habitats, and the fairy shrimps will no longer dance through their watery world.
This field had been laying fallow since 1975, but was always zoned for agriculture. I honestly feel that all agricultural lands that are left unattended to for such lengthy periods of time should undergo environmental assessments prior to turning the soil for agricultural purposes again.
Amphibians are the most threatened species on Earth, mostly due to habitat destruction, global warming, and the deadly chytrid fungus. We are responsible for each and every one of these that affect the world’s amphibian population.
Below you will see a selection of photos showing the tile drainage being buried. The field is so wet and soggy that a backhoe was need to pull the tile plow through the muck and frequently it looked as though the backhoe would flip into the soft muck of the field. In the first image below you will see the before and after versions of my favorite pond. The before image was photographed in the spring of 2012 and the after image was taken last night. In both images if you look on the left side you will see the abandoned barn. In the before image the barn is hidden slightly by the tree-line.
Please click on the images to see the larger, sharper versions.
Before and After
Backhoe tipping into pond while pulling tile plow through
Tractor driving through pond with weeping tile spool
View of the pond from the road after tiling – the level has dropped significantly
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Posted in Animals, Frogs and Toads, Reptiles and Amphibians, Wetlands, tagged bullfrogs, canadian geographic, chytrid fungus, frogs, Horseshoe Lake, nature photography, ontario, photography, sigma 8-16mm, sigma lenses, wetlands on April 4, 2013 |
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Bullfrog in Wetland on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
For those folks who have been following the blog for some time now you may recall my review of Sigma’s 8-16mm ultra-wide angle zoom lens. For those who are new to the blog and for those who might like to read the review of this great lens again please click here for the complete article with loads of accompanying images photographed with the lens.
In the April issue of Canadian Geographic Magazine the above photo has been used as a double-page spread for the beginning of the article ‘A Frog for the Killing‘ found on pages 46 & 47. Bullfrogs are an invasive species in British Columbia and are a very serious threat to the ecosystem in that province and must be eradicated. The frogs are not to blame – we are! Bullfrogs have actually invaded at least 15 countries as a result of importing them for the farming of frogs legs. Bullfrogs are known carriers of the deadly chytrid fungus which has decimated frog populations throughout the globe. To better understand just how this deadly fungus is affecting frog populations I urge you to please click this link.
The use of the image above as a double-page spread is a testament to the image quality that one can achieve with this amazing lens. I have primarily used the lens for bullfrog images in the wetlands of Horseshoe Lake, located near Parry Sound, Ontario. And because the lens focuses very close I am able to fill a large portion of the foreground with the frog while maintaining the vast expanse of their wetland homes. I have also used this lens with great success in my waterfall photography as well. If I had to describe this lens in three words I would have to say it is a “ton of fun” to use.
The Canadian distributor for Sigma lenses in Canada is Gentec International. I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to Gentec International for loaning me this lens to create specific photographs that will be featured in my eBook on Frog Photography, which is in the writing stage and will be an extensive guide to creating stunning images of these amazing amphibians.
Please do remember to click on the above image to view the larger, sharper version.
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Posted in Caribbean, Frogs and Toads, Macro Photography, tagged amphibians, caribbean, frogs, jamaica, johnstone's whistling frog, lesser antillean whistling frog, nature photography, photography, port antonio on March 9, 2013 |
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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)
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Posted in Birds, Frogs and Toads, Horseshoe Lake, Landscapes, ontario, tagged bird photography, Birds, frogs, Horseshoe Lake, landscape photography, muskoka, nature photography, ontario, photography, stock photography, top 12 for 2012, waterfalls, wetlands on January 1, 2013 |
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Male Bullfrog in wetland on Horseshoe Lake, Ontario
Looking back over the past year I realized I probably photographed a little bit more wildlife than landscapes, which is some what different for me. Mostly I was photographing frogs and toads for various chapters in the frog book that I am currently writing. As a result it is easy to see why my top 12 images from 2012 contains a few frog photos
Here is a selection of a few of my favorite images created in 2012.
Tiny Marsh Provincial Wildlife Area, Ontario
Eastern Massassauga Rattlesnake, Killbear Provincial Park, Ontario
Rosseau River at Lower Rosseau Falls, Ontario
Over-under juvenile Bullfrog
Willet on Liebeck Lake, Ontario
Horseshoe Lake wetland at sunset, Ontario
Common Loon with chick on Horseshoe Lake, Ontario
Zimmerman’s Poison Frog
Beaver Pond, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario
View from the dock at sunset, Horseshoe Lake, Ontario
The White-breasted Nuthatch image above represents the last photograph captured for 2012. It was visiting my suet feeder set-up frequently yesterday while I was out in the blind for another round of winter songbird photography.
Wishing everybody all the best in 2013.
Happy New Year!!!
Please remember to click on each of the photos to see the larger sharper version.
See ya soon!
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