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Archive for May, 2012

Frogs makes great subjects.

I’ve been photographing frogs since i started photography, but in the recent years i’ve been looking more and more for them. I just like their big eyes with beautiful details, they are all different. Photographing them can be quite demanding physically and mentally….. you know ….. those hundreds and hundreds of black flies and mosquitoes 🙂

Techniques:

When i first arrive at a pond i get down on my knees and and i scan the surface of the water to spot the frogs hiding in the vegetation, often there is one or more frog close to me that i didn’t saw right away.

Here is an example of a frog that was hiding in the vegetation just at my feet, i had to use my camera handheld to get as close to the water as possible. Pentax K20D, Pentax DFA100mm Macro WR.

Now that i found them i look at my options, if the frog that is farther on the pond offers the best composition i will use my 400mm with extension tubes (if necessary) to get the shot. It’s easier to use a long lens since you don’t have to get as close to the frogs, some will be more tolerant to you and your camera, green frogs and Bullfrogs are quite tolerant in general while Leopard frogs are harder to get close… habitually they just jump away, you just have to be patient and find the right one. When they jump into the water for safety frogs will often came out approximately in the same place, if you wait a little they will came back.

Getting low and moving slowly is the way to go if you want to get close to a frog with shorter lenses, especially if you want to photograph them with a wide angle lens. Even if you’re using a 100mm Macro lens and you want to fill most of the frame with a frog you will need to be quite close. I tried AF and MF and i prefer MF to get accurate focus on the eyes, because they have big eyes the AF target can miss the appropriate part that you want to be sharp on your final photo. Now i have a Pentax K-01 which is a mirrorless camera with a great focus peaking feature that make getting the exact focus very easy and i also can get shots that i was not able to get with a DSLR because i don’t need to look in a viewfinder now.

This shot was made easier because i was using the Pentax K-01 (a mirrorless camera) which have a great focus peaking feature to help manual focusing. Since i didn’t need to look in a VF i was able to take this photo at arms length just above the water surface, the Shake Reduction made it easy to have a sharp shot. Having the right tools  for the job makes it fun and easier. BTW you can see that the frog have a little friend on her nose.  Pentax K-01 with Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR.

Composition and the light:

Frogs live in wet environment here in Canada, so most of your frogs photos will have water in it. The classic composition is a frog head coming out of the water, there is nothing wrong with that. The best way is to get as close as possible to the water level to have a frog’s view, if you can have reflection of a colorful background it will help, in that position you will see those big eyes reflected on the water surface.

Variation in your portfolio is a good idea, try different view and lenses to give dynamism to your shots.

Like this shot here, i took it from above and only one side to create a different view and showing the frog from another angle. Pentax K-01 with Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR.

When i can i will use a wide angle lens to show the frog in it’s habitat, it’s not easy to do because you have to be very close to the frog, i’m using a 14mm lens on APS-C cameras, so the front of the lens is nearly touching my subject! I’m trying this only when i see that a frog is very tolerant to my presence and that she will accept me to get so close.

In that shot i was able to get close to those frogs (they were at least 6 close to me ), by using my 14mm i can show them in their habitat. Pentax K20D with Pentax DA14mm.

I also like to go to different ponds where i can found other species, i have two places where there is a lot of green frogs and even Bullfrogs, i also go to a beaver’s pond where there is Leopard frogs, Spring peeper frogs and Gray Tree frogs that can be photograph on the land and tree (except the Leopard frog) which makes a variety from the shots of frogs in the water.

Above is a shot of a Gray tree frog, they are so fun to photograph because they can take different positions and move in their environment, it gives you great photo opportunities. Pentax K20D with Pentax DFA100mm Macro WR.

Green frog and Bullfrog are often found in the water or close to it so they can jump in the water for safety. Gray tree frog, spring peeper frog and Leopard frog can be found close to water but also farther away, they don’t necessarily jump immediately for safety. The Leopard frog is very quick and try to hide in the vegetation and can also jump in the water while the tree frog will climb in a tree but i found them quite tolerant in general.

In the forest you can also find the Wood frog and the American toad (this one lives in a variety of habitat), they can be hard to spot because they can be very well camouflaged if they don’t move. The toads are not very fast, when they try to escape i just put my hand in front of them and they stop , then i have time to take some photos.

This young toad above was taken on the sandy shore of a pond, he is quite small, i braced my lens on a bean bag on the ground to get to it’s level. Pentax K20D with Pentax DFA100mm Macro WR.

Since i prefer to photograph frogs early or late in the day, then the light on my subjects is often flat, it’s good because it shows all the details of the frogs. But it’s also good to have some frogs lit by the sun, the frogs skin can be very reflective and it can be hard to have a great photo when the sun hits them directly because of the high contrast. Having a soft directional light is more effective and less contrasty, so if you can have that in your shot it will improve it without blown out highlights.

Equipment:

You will need rubber boots with rain gear or waders to get down and stay dry in the wet and muddy shores of the ponds, because you will get wet and dirty. If you want to get close to the ground with your equipment a tripod that can get low or a bean bag will be helpful, i also use swimming aids for kids that i can inflate to the right firmness to support my lens.

As for the lenses, i have used lenses from 14mm up to my 400mm to get photos, just use the one that you need to do the job. Like i said earlier, i now also have a Pentax K-01 that is great for shooting at ground or water level with it’s big LCD, live view and focus peaking feature. Having a stabilized lens or in-body stabilization is very helpful when you need to handheld your camera, it’s a feature that i really like now as well as the high ISO performance of the newer camera.

Hope you will appreciate the frogs and give it a try at photographing them, they are very important and they are in danger as well as their habitats, so we have to protect them.


How i use the K-01 for ground level photography.

Many peoples on forums ask how well the LCD of the K-01 is useable because it does not tilt or swivel. So i decided to do a video on how i use my K-01 for ground level photography and to show you at which angle i can see the LCD and still being able to compose and focus accurately.

You will see that i use my thumb instead of my finger to press the shutter release button, it’s the best way to do it, i tried with my finger but from this position it’s not comfortable and not as steady.

Sorry for the model in the video, Brad Pitt was not available 🙂

By chance i had a fresh haircut last night and i’m also freshly shaved from this morning…. i’m at my best !

Here is the video:

K01 viewing

Here is the photo i took in the video, more of a snapshot than a real photo.

K-01 with DA35mm Macro Limited, ISO 800, 1/200 sec.at f/6.3, with SR.

Here is another shot i took this week using the same combo and technique:

All photos on my site are copyrighted, property of Steeve Marcoux.


Showing Wildlife in their habitats.

When i started photography (and most people for that matter), all i wanted was getting closer to wildlife to have a close shot of the animals. It’s always fun to have a great portrait of an animal, i still do that when i have the occasion. But now, whenever i can, i try not to get too close and show the animal in it’s habitat, i think it will be the kind of photos that will sell more and more now that the environment in which the animal live is considered as important to protect than the animal itself …. well i hope it will be in most countries!

It’s not always easy to show an animal in it’s habitat, often there is distracting elements that you can’t crop from your composition.

In this shot the Great Blue Heron was at the base of a waterfal that is not natural. I was able to frame the heron against the waterfal and still show the heron in this particular environment without showing the artificial construction. I could have gotten closer but i would have lost the background and it would have been “yet” another Great Blue Heron portrait. Sony NEX-3, Pentax-67 M*400mm/4.

It’s more like taking a landscape photo but with an animal in your composition, so you need the same thing as a landscape photo: good composition, beautiful light certainly helps and an interesting landscape or atmosphere. The rule of thirds is still a valuable starting point, placing the animal at one of the crossing points makes for a dynamic photo, if necessary you can place the animal elsewhere in the frame if it makes for an even stronger composition.

This photo was already posted here on my Blog but i think it shows what i mean about showing an animal in it’s habitat. Those Canada Geese stayed very late at that place, they left when they had no more place to go  on that pond (free water), so even in december you can have great opportunities to show how an animal can survive in their habitat even if it gets cold. Pentax K20D, Pentax-67 M*400mm/4.

Don’t forget the small animals that can be found at your feet, i like to use my 14mm lens at or near it’s minimum focusing distance and show a frog, snail or insect in it’s habitat. Unfortunately not all wide angle lens can focus very close, especially zoom lenses where the minimum focusing distance is often not as close as a prime wide angle lens.

This close-up of a Snail on Stone crop and moss is interesting because we can see the details and textures of the animal but doesn’t show too much of the snail environment . It was taken on a rainy morning around sunrise. Pentax K20D, Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR.

This one was taken on another morning but close to where the shot above was captured. Here i took the photo with my Pentax DA14mm which can focus very close for such a wide angle (0.17 meter and a repro ration of 0.19x), which is very useful to take the kind of shot like this one. With such a wide angle i was able to show the snail environment and create a dynamic photo, the snail looks like is following the rock path along the water to go back in the vegetation in the background . Pentax K-01, Pentax DA 14mm, at f/8, handheld, SR (Shake Reduction) activated.

Next time you will go hunting wildlife with your camera,  keep in mind to also capture them with a wider perspective, showing the animal in it’s habitat can give viewers another experience when looking at your images.


The Super Moon.

I went with my wife and my 2 young girls to see the Super moon at sunset, we went to the shore of the St-Lawrence river near my home where i hoped to have a good view for taking some photos. There was some elactrical pilone and houses but not too bad, luckily some Canada Geese were there to see the moon also, i included them in my shots.

On our way back home we saw 2 Barred Owl in flight, they flew just in front of my truck, we got a good view of them!

Here are my resulting shots all taken with my Pentax K20D and Pentax-67 M*400mm/4: