Posts Tagged ‘bufo americanus’

American Toad_9913

The two images presented here were created a few seconds apart. Often I will take several images from various angles and perspectives when photographing frogs and toads at night, especially when I see the ripple effect. The ripple effect is created when the toad’s vocal sac touches the water’s surface while it is chorusing. The vibration of the vocal sac creates the ripples. In each of these images I was immediately drawn to the way the dead cattail leaves were framing the toad along the bottom portion of the composition and while composing I made certain not to cut-off the ‘V’ created by the break in the leaf at the bottom edge.

American Toad_9915

Please remember to click on each of the images to see the larger, sharper versions. Which do you prefer?

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American Toads in amplexus

On Friday night after a significant rainfall I made my way out to the ponds in the abandoned cattle pasture behind my home, lured by the resonating trills of the male American Toads in full chorus. I found many pairs in amplexus (latin for embrace), which is where the male toad grasps the female toad during mating and egg laying. At one point during the night as I sat in the pond, I was surrounded by several pairs of toads that were in the process of laying eggs. It can be difficult to capture decent images of the pairs in amplexus as I find when you try to fit both toads in the frame too many distracting elements from the pond enter the composition. On this night, I decided to concentrate on fitting the males, or at least most of them, in the composition and let the female toad become clipped, but I still made sure that the female toad was a prominent part of the composition by making sure she was front and center within the frame. Above and below are two of my favorite amplexus images from the night.

American Toads in amplexus (note the eggs)

One of the biggest problems with photographing frogs and toads at night is a result caused by using flash to illuminate the subjects. The flash will always create undesirable spectral highlights. The skin of the frogs and toads is wet, as is the vegetation in the pond, and this creates the perfect conditions for the flash to cause such highlights. I spend a significant amount of time (sometimes up to an hour per image) removing these flash generated highlights. Often I will work on an image very large (600-800%) to successfully evict the highlights and quite often I will use the clone stamp tool and vary the opacity (0-50%) depending on where in the image I am cloning. I will be including a chapter that deals exclusively with how I optimize my frog and toad imagery in my forthcoming guide to photographing frogs and toads (I hope to have the book completed and ready to publish by the end of the summer). While some folks to tend shy away from such evictions, I see nothing wrong with performing this type of image clean-up during the optimization process of the photographs. I don’t believe that it changes the natural integrity of the image. Below you will see a before and after example of a male American Toad, with vocal sac inflated, while serenading for a mate. The two images above of the toads in amplexus have already been optimized with all flash generated highlights removed.

Before – unedited raw capture

After – the optimized image file

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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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