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Photo experience

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 🙂


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.


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.


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:

First bird shots with K-01 and Pentax-67 M*400mm/4.

I finally had a chance to try out how the K-01 would perform on my Pentax-67 M*400mm/4 for photographing birds. I already took some shots of Rabbits, but they were not moving so it was easy for the K-01.

Yesterday morning i found 4 Greater Yellowlegs on the shore of a big river near my home, so i decided to use my K-01 instead  of my K20D. The positive part is that you now have a 3 inches viewfinder to focus and compose your shot with focus peaking to help manually focus your shots. The focus peaking is very accurate and if you need more precision you can always magnify the view to 2X, 4X or 6X.

The biggest drawbacks of the K-01 is the 1 fps in RAW and the image freezes between each shot so when your subject moves you can loose it on the LCD. That camera was not designed for fast action obviously but maybe the next K-02?

IQ is great and the performance of high ISO is better than my K20D is a plus for the K-01…sure i could have buy a K-5 but the K-01 is a great Macro camera and i think it’s where it is the best camera i have ever use for that purpose.

My Pentax-67 M*400mm/4 is an 8.3 pounds beast and i think it requires a camera that is bigger than the K-01 for the best handling, my K20D is a perfect match, sure i will use my K-01 again with that lens mostly for photographing frogs when they will come out for good. The K-01 might be easier to use for bird photography with the DA*300mm/4 or the FA* 400mm/5.6, on a tripod of course, i always prefer a good tripod.

Here is my shots i took with the K-01 all at ISO 1000, 1/200 sec at f/5.6, tripod.

Greater Yellowlegs

Canada Goose

Snails are not only beautiful at the restaurant!

Snails are popular at the restaurant but they are overlooked as a photo subject. Close to my home i have a Park where there is a lot of them and easy to find and photograph . I prefer misty morning or rainy days because on hot sunny days the snails just stay in their shells, they like humid days or habitat.

You will need a tripod but also something that you can use to stabilize your camera at ground level (beanbag, or a ziploc filled with sand), my camera have Shake Reduction (SR) and it’s very helpful for this kind of photography. Now with my K-01 it’s easier to shoot at ground level since i don’t need to look in the viewfinder like my K20D, the live view and focus peaking work very well to compose and focus the shot. A camera with a tilting or swivel LCD would be even easier to use, but the K-01 is still quite easy to use at ground level.

You will need a relatively fast shutter speed….. yes i’m serious …. those snails are always on the move and the antenna (eyes) are nearly always moving. Having the eyes, head and shell in relatively the same plane of focus is not evident since they move their eyes in many directions very often. Flash can help to obtain better light and/or faster shutter speed, i prefer to use natural light.

Most of my photos are done at/or near ground level but don’t forget to look in the trees because they are often hanging on the branches or leaves. Vary your point of view and habitat if possible,  so not all your shots will look the same.

Snail at sunrise in autumn light.

Surrounded by Stone crop flowers.

Young Snail on a weed.

All 3 shots above taken with Pentax K20D, Pentax DFA100mm Macro WR, tripod.

The most useful lens is a Macro lens, the majority of my snails photos are taken with my 100mm Macro because snails are quite small and to better control the background. If i can i will use my 35mm Macro and 14mm to show more of the habitat. My Pentax DA14mm can focus quite close so i’m able to get the snails large enough in the frame and still have place to show it’s environment. You have to be careful with that 14mm since you will be shooting at it’s minimum focusing distance (17 cm) you can cast a shadow with the camera or your head on the subject.

Snail on an Aspen tree after the rain.

Pentax K20D, Pentax DA14mm, handheld with SR, ISO 800, 1/15 sec. at f/11.

Pentax K-01, DFA 100mm Macro WR, ISO 1000, 1/80 sec. at f/6.3, handheld with SR.

I am in the best kept secret column of OPC magazine !

Outdoor Photography Canada magazine (OPC) is a popular magazine here in Canada and in 2011 they started a column (Are you the best or the best kept secret) where they help a photographer that is not well-known by doing it’s bio and publish a photo(s) and what plans he have for the future.

In early february i received an e-mail from the editor that they wanted to feature me in the next publication in that column. I was surprised and honored that they had chosen me ! If you want to read the article you can get a copy of the magazine or go to their web site.


The migrating Canada Geese.

Every year the Canada Geese migrate to warmer climate in autumn and come back in spring to nest here in Canada. They are millions to breed on our land (lakes, ponds etc…), they had some up and down in populations during the history of Canada.

They certainly make a great subject for the wildlife photographer because you can take photos of them in different environments as well as in flight, you can take them in couple or when they all eat in the fields of the local farmers.  They have a personality that i like, but they can be very aggressive between each others.

The more you photograph them the more you learn their body language and can anticipate their next move. When they swing their beak up and down and you hear their  “Honk … Honk … Honk”, you can be sure they are ready to take off,  so be ready. In autumn during the hunting season it can be difficult to get close to them, a hide might be your best bet. I found them easier to get close during the spring migration in my region.

Seeing those big birds flying over me and hearing the sound of their wings and their “Honk” as they pass by me is always an experience that i will remember all my life! I hope that i will be able to enjoy photographing them and share the Canada Geese migrations with my kids for many more years to come.

Warning … dead frogs.

This morning i went to one of my favorite pond (more of a waterhole) to photograph frogs, my first try this spring. I wasn’t prepared for what i found, at least 20 green frogs were dead in the pond, smaller and bigger ones as well.

I don’t know if it’s due to a disease or i also found information on the web that on smaller artificial pond in peoples backyard the decaying leaves can release toxic gas and the frogs can suffocate during the winter ?

I saw only one frog alive that jumped in the water… that’s all !

Here are two photos i took this morning of the dead frogs.

This one looks like he nearly made it out of the deadly water.

Bring a camera with you as often as possible

It’s probably not the first time that you hear that tip, but now the photographers have more and more choices of high quality compact camera systems that are easy to bring everywhere without having a 25 pounds camera bag to lug around !

Great shots can happen everywhere and at anytime, having a camera with you even if you don’t have the “right lens” for the photo, it forces you to compose with the equipment you have. The light might not look good right now but you never know when it can change into something spectacular.

Family activities:  In september 2010  i went with my family (my wife and my 2 girls) at our local “base de plein-air” (summer camp), it’s a forested area where the kids can play, walk in the trails, skate…

I brought my DSLR with just 2 or 3 lenses but i always have my Macro lens with me since even in bad light i can manage to take a shot of a small subject. While my kids were playing i was looking around in the forest and suddenly saw a Gray Tree frog at the base of a big tree. The frog was very well camouflaged on the moss covered trunk and made a great shot.

Pentax K20D, Pentax DFA100mm Macro WR, tripod.

Before going to work: Nearly everyday that i’m going to work i bring a camera with me, sometimes it’s my full Pentax DSLR kit and sometimes it’s my NEX-3 with some lenses depending on what i expect to photograph. I don’t always come home with a good shot or not necessarily always  take photos. Luck will be on your side one day and you will have beautiful light on a great subject or you will encounter an animal that will let you take unexpected photos ! By having my camera with me i was able to take some very good photos over the years and at the same time enjoying the natural world.

Here are  shots i took on my way to work this year:



Pentax K20D, Pentax DA*50-135mm, ISO 100 at f/11, tripod, MLU

Pentax K20D, Pentax DA*50-135mm, MLU, tripod.

Pentax K20D, Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR, handheld, SR activated.

February 2012 looks like spring !

This year february is looking more like we are already spring, warm, nearly no snow on the ground and spider are active in the forest !

Here is some shots taken this week before we finally received about 10-15 cm of snow on February 24th.

Both taken with Pentax K20D, Pentax DFA100mm Macro WR, at f/16, tripod.

Favorite Frog and Toad shots of 2011

In the last 2 years i developed a passion for photographing Frogs and Toads in their environment and trying to compose beautiful shots. Here is my favorite collection of 2011, hope you will like them ! In 2012 i will try to take different kind of photos, so stay tuned , spring is slowly coming here in Montreal.

Recording the small world around us.

Over the years i can say that i developed “my photographic Eye” for finding small subjects in the natural world. When i walk in a forest my eyes are always scanning for something interesting on the ground or the trees, even when i don’t have a camera with me i’m looking at the world around me to see what i can find. Having a Macro lens or a lens that can do “close-up” is very useful for that kind of photography, i use all my Macro lenses (35mm, 50mm and 100mm) or sometimes i will use extension tubes with a 150mm or 200mm lens.

When the light is not so good you can always photograph small subjects, you can block the sun with your body or shirt if necessary. Rain is great since it adds raindrops to your subjects and the colors are more saturated. In autumn cold nights can bring frost on the ground and you suddenly have a lot of great new opportunities but you have to shoot fast before the sun melt the frost!

The advantage of that kind of photography is that you don’t have to travel to an exotic country to find inspiration, it can be done at your local Park, a nearby forest or even in your own backyard. Take your Macro lens and go outside to find new subjects and experiment some new compositions.

When i’m going to work i often take with me a camera and i stop to a local Park that i can find different subjects depending on the temperature or season. This shot was taken on my way to work, the day before it was raining and during the night the temperature dropped quickly and the raindrops were all frozen on the leaves that were on the ground.

Taken with my Sony NEX-3, SMC Macro-Takumar 50mm/4, ISO 200, at f/16,Tripod.

I found this interesting ice on the shore of a beaver pond on a cold morning at sunrise. I tried different angles but this one is my favorite.

Taken with a Pentax K20D, DFA100mm Macro WR, ISO 100 at f/16, Tripod.

Cold Week

This week of January 16 to 22 was a cold one, temperature dropped to around -25°C during the nights in the region of  Montreal. I like those kind of temperature especially when a warm day is followed by a cold night, fog and/or frost are more frequent with that combination. When it happens i look for habitat where there is free water during the winter because it’s the best places for great photo opportunities !

I took my camera with me on my way to work and took some shots during the week but my favorite came from yesterday morning at the old Canal Soulange in Pointe-des-Cascades. There is some waterfalls along the old canal, not natural ones but fun to shoot anyway. I tried different compositions and lenses but i finally like this one because it shows enough to give an idea of the place to the viewer and at the same time we can see all the details in the ice.

Taken with a Sony NEX-3, Sony SAL70-300mm/4.5-5.6 G series, ISO 200, 1/15 sec. at f/11 at 70mm, Tripod, RAW.

ZOO can deliver great opportunities

Photographing animals in a Zoo is not like being in the wild, but if you’re ready to accept photos taken in a Zoo as a chance to get close-ups of hard to find or get close to animals, then you can get some great shots.

One of the hardest thing in a Zoo is trying to compose your shots without showing the fences or other human made structures unless you want them to be part of your composition. I use a long lens near wide open aperture, i shoot with my 400mm at f/5.6 and if i can stop down when the background allow me i will use f/8 to get some depth of field.

I prefer an overcast day to shoot in a Zoo because the fences can be very reflective when the sun hit them and they can show in your photos even if they are out of focus. Sunny days can be good also if you can avoid fences and go early or late during the day. By placing your lens as close as possible against the fence and using a wide aperture the fence betweem your camera and your subject will become invisible in your photos. When doing this i use manual focus because the AF of the camera can pick-up focus on the fence instead of on your subject.

Winter is a good time to go also, snow will cover the ugly ground often found in the enclosure of the animals, your subjects will have their winter coat on as well. Falling snow can add atmosphere and give a different look to your photos.

Shoot a lot and have fun, you never know when you will get a great shot !

Both shots taken at the ZOO Ecomuseum of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue on the West Island side of Montreal.

Pentax K20D, Pentax-67 M*400mm/4, at f/5.6, Tripod.

Why i like Shake Reduction.

I have been using Pentax 35mm SLR and DSLR for a long time when i bought my K20D, i didn’t care much about the Shake Reduction (SR) system. The advantage of in-body image stabilization is that all lenses are stabilized, even my old Takumar (M42) lenses ! I learned to like SR by using it more and more, sure i prefer to use a sturdy tripod as often as i can but there is time when a tripod is not practical.

I do a lot of frog photography, the lens i use the most often is my DFA 100mm Macro WR handheld and i crawl on the ground to have a frog eye’s view, so SR is handy for that kind of shots. If my shutter speed is very slow i use a ziploc bag filled with sand to stabilize the lens to help SR, i was able to shoot at very slow shutter speeds with this technique. I also use lenses from my 14mm up to my 100mm Macro lens for taking frog shots handheld. I don’t use SR often with my 400mm lens (about 8.3 pounds of glass and metal), i prefer to use it on a tripod.

I think it’s even useful with wide angle lenses when i want to go very low to the ground when i want to show frogs, mushrooms and flowers in their habitat. I certainly got photos that i wouldn’t have been able to get with a tripod because i needed to get in a position where it would have been impossible to set-up a tripod.

The photo of this young American toad was taken with a Pentax K20D, DFA 100mm Macro WR, ISO 800, 1/5 sec. at f/9.0 handheld with SR and braced on a small bean bag.

Shooting in the rapids.

First post on my Blog here, i will regularly post a photo and describe the technique, equipment used and conditions in which it was taken.

When i woke-up it was -15°C outside, a good temperature to shoot around rapids of a river! I went to a river close to my home i knew there will be some ice forming on the rocks in the rapids. There was some fog over the river and some ice had formed on the rocks!

I took photos with different lenses, from my 14mm to 50-135mm lens, my favorite shot was taken with my 35mm Macro lens directly into the rapids. The rock covered with ice got my attention because it looked like a reptile back (or a Dinosaur back spine). You need a good pair of warm and waterproof rubber boots to go into that cold water. When i was finished shooting my tripod was covered with ice, the lower part of my tripod leg were frozen in ice and couldn’t close them. My camera is weather resistant (Pentax K20D) so everything was OK, my lens (Pentax DA 35mm Macro Ltd) is not sealed but the water frozed quickly on cold lenses, i used my nail to remove ice on the lens.

The photo was taken with my Pentax K20D, DA35mm Macro Limited, ISO 100, 1.3 sec. at f/16, tripod and Mirror Lock-up (MLU). Since i always shoot in RAW i did some Post Processing in Photoshop, i did use the burn tool on the rock to put back some character to it.