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Join Andrew McLachlan and Mark Pepper (Understory Enterprises) for an exclusive photography retreat within the Cordillera Escalera, near Tarapoto, Peru. This location is situated within the foothills of the Andes Mountains, in Amazonian Rainforest. The dates for this event are October 19 – October 26, 2019 (6 ½ days of photography). Maximum number of participants is 6 / 8 depending on participants attending (if two couples are attending the tour we can extend the capacity to 8). The minimum number of participants for this tour is 3. The photo tour fee is $3800.00 US Currency. We need to arrive in Tarapoto, Peru on October 19, 2019 and we will depart for home on October 26, 2019. Depending on everybody’s departure time on October 26, 2019, we may be able to fit in one additional half day of photography.

The focus of this photo tour will be landscapes and micro fauna of the Cordillera Escalera. There is nothing quite like watching the sun rise over the foothills of the Andes Mountains as each new day awakens, standing in awe at towering waterfalls, photographing dart frogs in their natural habitat, or venturing out to explore the night life of the Amazon rainforest. One highlight of the night-time excursions will be photographing the endangered Cochran Frog, which has a very limited range in the Cordillera Escalera. We will also be photographing many species of insects endemic to this region. The biodiversity of the Cordillera Escalera leaves no shortage of subjects to photograph.

For more info or to register, please contact Andrew via e-mail.

Mark Pepper

We could not ask for a more friendly and knowledgeable guide. Mark Pepper has been exploring this rainforest environment for over 15 years. Mark has even worked with BBC film crews filming in the area. Using his extensive knowledge and keen eye he will locate several species of dart frogs for us to photograph, not to mention some very fascinating insects!

Some locations during this tour will require the ability of being able to walk several kilometres over uneven terrain in a humid environment. If you have any concerns regarding this please do not hesitate to inquire for additional information.

Our accommodations will be at the luxurious Understory House, which is also equipped with a gorgeous infinity pool over-looking the Cordillera Escalera, within the foothills of the Andes Mountains and Amazonian rainforest. There are two rooms with one queen bed each and one room with two sets of adult bunkbeds. Many of our morning sunrise sessions will be conducted on site, as we have an outstanding view of the sun rising over the mountain range.

Itinerary:

Daily excursions will be determined based on the current weather conditions.
Image review sessions will be conducted both in the field via LCD and at the Understory House via laptop computers.
Breakfast – at the Understory House
Lunch – at various locations during the tour based on each day’s travel plans
Dinner – in the town of Tarapoto at one of the many fine restaurants

What’s Included:

In-depth Photographic instruction
Accommodation at the Understory House
Transportation to and from Understory House and to all photographic destinations
Pick-up and drop-off at the Tarapoto airport for your arrival and departure
Free Wifi at the Understory House
All meals

What’s Not Included:

Your airfare to and from Tarapoto, Peru (via Lima).

Alcoholic beverages
Travel insurance
Medical insurance

The Details

Photo Tour Fee: $3800.00 US per person.

To secure your spot a non-refundable deposit of $1,200 US is due now. The balance of the fee, $2600.00 US, is due no later than March 31, 2019. A signed Waiver of Liability form must accompany the non-refundable deposit. Waiver of Liability forms will be emailed to those wishing to register.

Travel Insurance: Participants are encouraged to purchase their own medical, travel, and trip cancellation insurance.

The Cancellation Policy:

Full refund less $1200 US non-refundable deposit up to 91 days prior to Photo Tour date.

No refunds 90 days prior to the date.

If fewer than three folks sign up you will receive a complete refund that will include your non-refundable deposit.

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Bullfrog in wetland on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D500, Laowa 15mm 1:1 Wide Angle Macro Lens
Ewa Marine Underwater Housing

After spending several additional days on Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario in the provinces Muskoka District I experimented with some additional techniques to creating over/under or split shots of Bullfrogs within their wetland habitat on the lake. During my first attempts at creating these images I was a little frustrated by the amount of time I had to wipe water droplets off the front element of the Ewa Marine housing. This time around I decided to try an old underwater photography trick whereby rubbing a thin film of parafin wax over the element to help repell water droplets. Using an unscented, parafin wax votive candle to rub some wax onto the element and a dedicated micro fibre cleaning cloth that will be reserved for this purpose only I buffed the wax until it was well distributed and no longer visible, however, a very thin film of wax remained. This techinque did help to repell much of the water droplets that I found annoying during my first attempts. I did however, need to perform some minor cleaning of the housing’s element with the micro fibre cleaning cloth to eliminate droplets that would have been problematic for subsequent captures. The best technique still seems to be pre-planning the look of the image and slowly sink the camera below the water’s surface creating images as you to capture that perfect moment. If you raise the camera out of the water to create additional frames, after sinking it, it is most likely that water droplets will become problematic.

As with the previous post each of today’s featured images were created using the Nikon D500 with the Laowa 15mm 1:1 Wide Angle Macro Lens in an Ewa Marine Underwtaer Housing. Utilizing the Nikon D500’s Live View feature was indispensible to composing and focusing each of the scenes.

 

Bullfrog in wetland on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D500, Laowa 15mm 1:1 Wide Angle Macro Lens
Ewa Marine Underwater Housing

 

Bullfrog in wetland on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D500, Laowa 15mm 1:1 Wide Angle Macro Lens
Ewa Marine Underwater Housing

 

Bullfrog in wetland on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D500, Laowa 15mm 1:1 Wide Angle Macro Lens
Ewa Marine Underwater Housing

 

Bullfrog in wetland on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D500, Laowa 15mm 1:1 Wide Angle Macro Lens
Ewa Marine Underwater Housing

 

Bullfrog in wetland on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D500, Laowa 15mm 1:1 Wide Angle Macro Lens
Ewa Marine Underwater Housing

 

 

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Bullfrog in wetland, Horseshoe Lake, Muskoka, Ontario
Nikon D500, Laowa 15mm 1:1 Macro Lens
ISO 1000
f16 @ 1/50 sec

I have long wanted to experiment with over-under, or also known as split shots, of Bullfrogs in their watery worlds. Several days ago I gave it a whirl for the first time and cannot wait to get back up to Horseshoe Lake to create more of these images. Each of these over-under images was created handheld from the canoe using the Nikon D500 and the Laowa 15mm 1:1 Macro Lens in an Ewa Marine Housing. Why did I use a crop sensor camera to create these images with the Laowa 15mm Wide Angle Macro, quite simply because the 15mm focal length will vignette horribly with a full frame camera inside the Ewa Marine bag. The 15mm focal length on a crop sensor camera works perfectly though. The Live View feature was activated to assist with composing and focusing each of the scenes. I was unsure how the Laowa lens would perform inside the Ewa Marine housing, but was more than pleased with the results, considering that the Laowa lens is a fully manual lens. The easiest was I found to capture these photos was to place the camera and lens inside the Ewa Marine housing but to not use the rail clamp to close the housing. This allows the top of the housing to remain open allowing my hand to easily focus the manual lens. The easiest way to ensure sharp focus while using the Laowa lens and Live View is to enlarge the view to 100% on the LCD screen and focus on the frog’s eyeball. To quickly enlarge the view to 100% over the frog’s eyeball I pre-position the Live View focusing sensor over where I want the frog’s eye to be positioned within the composition. I then press the center button on the Nikon D500’s multi selector to immediately attain a 100% view, allowing me to accurately focus on the frog’s eyeball and capture the intended frame.

I am often asked “How do I get so close to these frogs?” The answer – large bullfrogs tend to be more tolerant than the juveniles. A slow approach works best as do slow movements inside the canoe. Any sudden movement triggers a flight response. Once the canoe is in position beside a chosen subject I kneel down in the canoe and slowly move the camera into position. For many of these images the front of the lens is only about 2-3 inches away from the subject.

Bullfrog in wetland, Horseshoe Lake, Muskoka, Ontario
Nikon D500, Laowa 15mm 1:1 Macro Lens
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/320 sec

 

Bullfrog in wetland, Horseshoe Lake, Muskoka, Ontario
Nikon D500, Laowa 15mm 1:1 Macro Lens
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/640 sec

 

Bullfrog in wetland, Horseshoe Lake, Muskoka, Ontario
Nikon D500, Laowa 15mm 1:1 Macro Lens
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/640 sec

 

Bullfrog in wetland at dusk, Horseshoe Lake, Muskoka, Ontario
Nikon D500, Laowa 15mm 1:1 Macro Lens
ISO 320
f16 @ 1/50 sec

 

Bullfrog in wetland, Horseshoe Lake, Muskoka, Ontario
Nikon D500, Laowa 15mm 1:1 Macro Lens
ISO 800
f16 @ 1/500 sec

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Brown Booby in flight, Cayman Brac
Nikon D500, Nikon 28-300mm VR Lens @ 90mm
ISO 500, f6.3 @ 1/5000 sec.

Originally released in August of 2010 the Nikon 28-300mm VR lens has to be one the most versatile lenses available. Often you can find this lens in the used gear department for approximately $700 CDN. Like most folks, before I purchased this lens for my own gear bag I read several on-line reviews. I did not believe that the lens could really be as bad as folks were leading on. Here is a selection of some items that I noted during my internet readings:

  • softness in the center, sharpening up out towards the corners, and the some more corner softness
  • stopped-down results are downright blurry at the telephoto end of 300mm @ ƒ/36)
  • the 28-300 isn’t a really sharp lens and the corners are mush
  • zoom range exhibited shockingly poor off-axis image quality
  • is not a pro level lens nor one I’d use for critical shoots
  • I’m assuming this lens was defective as I couldn’t get a sharp picture no matter how hard I tried

I determined that in order to find out for myself I would need to add this lens to my gear bag. Right before I boarded the plane for my Cayman Brac Photo Tour in February I did just that. It is now one of my most favorite lenses. The lens does have one annoying habit, or at least my copy does. When the lens is pointed downward the zoom creep is very evident. Nonetheless, my honest opinion is that this lens does produce stellar results when good technique and creative vision is applied. Often I can be found in-the-field with my 28-300mm lens attached to one of my Nikons ready to capture those fleeting moments where changing lenses is not an option. The 28-300mm range is perfect for such circumstances.

I have never been one to trust the so-called internet experts. I much prefer to take gear out into the field and put it to the test. A real world review illustrating the quality of the lens with photographic examples.

Having the ability to zoom from 28mm to 300mm is a definite plus. On Cayman Brac I was able to photograph nesting Brown Boobies at close range and then quickly zoom out to 300mm to capture Brown Boobies in flight as they approached the cliff edge on their return to their nests.

Brown Booby pair at the nest, Cayman Brac
Nikon D500, Nikon 28-300mm VR Lens @ 55mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/400 sec.

I also find the lens to be a powerful tool for my landscape work as illustrated in the below image of a winter wheat field at sunset near my rural home in Thornton, Ontario. A Singh Ray 3-stop reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter was also used in the capture of the sunset scene below.

Winter Wheat at Sunset, Thornton, Ontario
Nikon D800, Nikon 28-300mm VR Lens @ 82mm
ISO 100, f16 @ 3 seconds.

Having a minimum focusing distance of a mere 1.6 feet throughout the entire zoom range is also a huge bonus to my frog photography. In the past I would have to switch lenses to create my signature frog-scapes and close-up portraits. With the Nikon 28-300 I can simply zoom the lens from wide to telephoto and create both scenarios in mere seconds, as illustrated in the two Bullfrog images below.

Bullfrog, Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 28-300mm VR Lens @ 48mm
ISO 500, f8 @ 1/800 sec.

 

Bullfrog, Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 28-300mm VR Lens @ 300mm
ISO 500, f8 @ 1/640 sec.

While photographing Wood Ducks in Toronto, Ontario I am also able to create stunning portraits and close-up feather details due to the short, minimum focusing distance. While I was photographing feather details of a Wood Duck hen that had chose to sit beside me on a particular outing I had noticed that a lovely drake Wood Duck had also come into close proximity allowing me to zoom out and create a tight head shot of him. The versatility of the Nikon 28-300mm lens allowed me the opportunity to create both these images without the need to switch lenses , which would likely had caused one of the two birds, or both, to move further away.

Drake Wood Duck, Toronto, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 28-300mm VR Lens @ 300mm
ISO 2000, f5.6 @ 1/250 sec.

 

Hen Wood Duck Feather Details, Toronto, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 28-300mm VR Lens @ 300mm
ISO 1000, f11 @ 1/80 sec.

While walking along the shoreline of the Caribbean Ocean in Cayman Brac I came upon a dead crab. The shell of the dea crab was beautifully colored with interesting details too. To create the below macro shot of the crab shell details I used my Canon 500D Close-up Filter on the Nikon 28-300mm lens and stopped down to f22. There is some minor softness in the extreme corners of the image but this is due to the curvature of the shell. Ideally I should have used the focus stacking method to gain perfect sharpness in the corners.

Crab Shell Details, Cayman Brac
Nikon D500, Nikon 28-300mm VR Lens @ 300mm
Canon 500D Close-up Filter
ISO 100, f22 @ 1/40 sec.

For those of us longing for some cooler temperatures in this heat wave, I have included a winter river detail image from my Muskoka Winter Waterfall Spectacular Workshop this past January 🙂

Winter River Details, Muskoka, Ontario
Nikon D800, Nikon 28-300mm VR Lens @ 300mm
ISO 100, f16 @ 1.6 sec.

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Newly Emerging Leaves in Muskoka, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens

Spring arrived very slowly to the Muskoka area this year, but nonetheless it has arrived in all it’s splendor. I am often drawn to the newly emerging leaves within the forest but on a bright sunny and cloudless day there is often too much contrast within the forest however, looking up changes the perspective to one that is quite photogenic and even allows the opportunity to incorporate the sun into the composition as I did with the above image using the Laowa 12mm Zero D Lens.

My most favourite past-time in spring includes getting out into the vernal ponds to photograph the various frogs that show up in vast numbers to breed. Although the frogs have been chorusing for a number of weeks I was unable to find time in my schedule to get out into the ponds until this past weekend. I was excited to finally get out and try my new home-made flash diffuser mentioned in the This Might Just Be The Best Flash Diffuser Ever! blog post. As I expected I was more than thrilled with the performance of the flash diffuser in the field. Due to the larger size of the diffuser I did have to be cautious with my approach to the frogs and be careful that the diffuser did not bump any corresponding branches or foliage that may disturb the frogs, thus interrupting their singing. Below are a few of the images I captured over the course of the weekend exploring the vernal ponds. During these excursions I was delighted to encounter a Wood Frog at one of the ponds. It has been a great number of years since I have seen a Wood Frog in the woodlands of Muskoka.

Spring Peeper chorusing
Nikon D500, Nikkor 105mm Micro Lens

The below image of the chorusing Spring Peeper was particularly challenging to photograph as he was singing beside a rather fresh pile of Moose scat. Positioning myself as I would normally do would have seen me laying in the scat, therefore, a different approach was much needed. To gain a low perspective and avoid the moose scat I utilized the Nikon D500’s tilting LCD screen so that I could hold the camera at ground level using LIve View to compose and capture the image.

Spring Peeper chorusing
Nikon D500, Nikkor 105mm Micro Lens

 

Wood Frog
Nikon D500, Nikkor 105mm Micro Lens

The below image of the Green Frog among Hair-cap Moss really illustrates the usefulness of the home-made diffuser. Under normal flash conditions there would be many unpleasant shadows created by a bare flash. The polystyrene diffuser softens the light, eliminating any and all harsh shadows.

Green Frog
Nikon D500, Nikkor 105mm Micro Lens

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We have two new dates for the Frogs of the World Photographic Workshops (with an optional add-on Photoshop session from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.) that will be held at the Crinan Community Centre near London, Ontario. The dates are as follows:

Saturday, May 26, 2018 10:00a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Optional Add-on Photoshop Session 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.)

Sunday May 27, 2018 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Optional Add-on Photoshop Session 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.)

The space for each workshop is limited to a maximum of 8 participants to allow ample time for folks to photograph each species of frog.

These are the only workshops available whereby you will be able to capture stunning imagery of 15 – 20 different species of frogs from all over the world. We will be photographing numerous varieties of dart frogs endemic to the Amazon rainforest, several tree frogs of Costa Rica and South America, as well as the bizarre Leaf Frog of the Malaysian jungle. It would cost tens of thousands of dollars to explore the jungles of the world on your own in hopes of photographing a mere fraction of these species. These workshops, in partnership with Understory Enterprises, will bring you an incredible opportunity to photograph these 15 – 20 species of frogs in a comfortable atmosphere with natural studio set-ups. The recommended gear for photographing these tiny frogs is a macro lens and off camera flash. Alternately, using high quality close-up filters such as the Canon 500D filters will allow many lenses such as the Nikon 80-400mm or Canon 100-400mm to focus close enough for these small subjects. Please contact me here if you have any equipment inquiries when registering for this workshop. I also have custom made flash diffusers that will allow folks to capture stunning imagery using camera mounted flash as well.

New to these two workshops will be an optional 2 hour add-on Photoshop session for folks that wish to see learn how I edit and optimize my frog photography. I will also be on hand to guide each participant through optimizing a couple of their own images from the day.

Coffee, tea and snacks will be provided during the workshop.

To register for this workshop folks may contact me by clicking here for availability and for making arrangement for payments, which are accepted by email transfer or by cheque made payable to Andrew McLachlan.

The cost of the workshop is $195 plus taxes. Folks that wish to sign-up for the 2 hour add-on Photoshop session please add $65 plus taxes.

Please specify when registering for these workshops if you wish to sign-up for the Photoshop session afterwards.

Cancellation Policy

Full refund, less a $25 administration fee, 31 days prior to the workshop date

No Refunds 30 days prior to the workshop date

Hope to see you there!

 

On an alternate note, due to the severe inclement weather this weekend the Tiny Marsh Teaching Moment Photographic Workshop has been rescheduled to Sunday April 22nd. Please contact me by clicking here at your earliest convenience if you wish to join this event at one of south-central Ontario’s largest and most impressive wetland complexes.

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Sachatamia albomaculata

On Tuesday, April 3rd I spent the day testing a new DIY flash diffuser while photographing numerous species of frogs for some of the soon to be announced frog workshops. Most of the species featured in today’s post will be available at the next workshop. I can honestly say that this is the absolute best way to diffuse flash when photographing frogs. I am certain that this method of flash diffusion will also work incredibly well for insects too. Often when using flash to photograph frogs there will be some flash generated spectral highlights. Over the years I have become quite skilled at removing such highlights in Photoshop, but the process is time consuming. In today’s blog post my newly created DIY flash diffuser was used to photograph each of the species that are featured. How much post production did I do to each of these photos? The answer is not much at all. Aside from a few tweaks in Adobe Camera Raw and removing a few dust bunnies in Photoshop these images are essentially as is, straight from the camera. I spent no more than about 5 minutes optimizing each of the images in today’s post. There were no flash generated spectral highlights to be concerned with. I cannot wit to get into the wetlands near my home, with my new DIY flash diffuser, to photograph the frogs and toads during the spring breeding season this year

How much did it cost to make my new DIY flash diffuser? The price of a 1 kilogram plastic jar of Kraft peanut butter! The other items I already had on hand and they included an elastic and polystyrene foam sheeting.

Below are a few photos of my newly created DIY flash diffuser and an explanation of how I constructed it to follow.

DIY Flash Diffuser Set-up

 

Polystyrene Foam Sheeting

 

DIY Flash Diffuser Components

 

Since polystyrene foam sheeting is rather flimsy and you will need the plastic peanut butter jar (or something similar) to support the foam sheets. Polystyrene foam sheeting is typically used as a packaging item to protect various goods from damage during shipping. I cut the bottom off the plastic jar and I also cut the jar lengthwise to spread out the plastic, to form a concave shape. Creating a concave shape will allow the lighting top be equal distance from the subjet providing a more evenly diffused light. I also made one cut to the top of the jar which easily allows me to mount it onto a 77mm lens hood and hold it firmly in place with an elastic. You will also want to have the plastic jar slope upwards away from the lens as it does in the first photo of the DIY flash diffuser. I did this by simply running boiling water over the plastic to soften it and then bend it by hand. I then taped two layers of foam sheeting directly to my old Nikon SB600 and three pieces, cut to shape, onto the main diffuser. I found this quantity of foam sheeting provided me with the perfect amount of diffused light to completely eliminate flash generated spectral highlights. Take a look at the remaining frog images below. I do think the benefit of using such a simple and inexpensive diffuser speaks volumes. Even the catchlight in the frog’s eyes is more pleasing, allowing us to see more of the eye ball details with this DIY flash diffuser. If you have any questions about how to construct your own DIY flash diffuser using the materials mentioned above please do not hesitate to contact me for further assistance.

 

Atelopus sp. Limon

 

Dendrobates auratus “el Cope”

 

Dendrobates auratus “Yellow”

 

Dendrobates tinctorius “Lorenzo”

 

Dendrobates tinctorius “Patricia”

 

Epipedobates anthonyi “Ankas”

 

Megophrys aceras

 

Oophaga sylvatica “Diablo”

 

Phyllobates vittatus

 

Ranitomeya flavovitatta

 

Ranitomeya immitator “Chazuta”

 

Ranitomeya sirensis

 

Ranitomeya ventrimaculata

 

Theloderma asperum

 

Sachatamia albomaculata

 

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