Nature photography at home: Amphibians/reptiles
As natural habitats decline, frogs, toads and reptiles are becoming more reliant on gardens as a place to feed and breed, which is good news for wildlife photographers
What’s the approach?
During the spring frogs and toads migrate great distances to return to breeding pools, and this is a great time of year to photograph them.
Outside the breeding season some species will remain in or close to your garden pond, or may seek shelter in other damp parts of the garden.
A night-time foray with a flashlight will determine what you have lurking in your flowerbeds.
With care, it may also be possible to move some species into a more photogenic location, or even introduce the subject into a small ‘outdoor studio’ that you have prepared in advance.
Limit the time you photograph in this way, though, and always return your subject to where you found it after you’ve finished.
When’s the best time of day?
In the spring frogs and some other species will be active during the day, but at other times of the year evening is best.
What gear do I need?
A short telephoto zoom with a focal length range of around 70-200mm is ideal for photographing amphibians and reptiles.
It’s useful if your lens is close-focusing to help fill the frame. Alternatively, you can fit extension tubes, which enable the lens to focus closer, or fit a macro lens instead if you have one (see also What is a macro lens? Magnification and minimum focus distance explained).
Use a flash for night-time shooting and add a diffuser when working close to the subject to spread the light more evenly.
What’s the best lighting?
Indirect natural light is good for photographing subjects that are either wet or have reflective skins, as it reduces problems with contrast.
When using flash as the sole source of illumination try to diffuse it in some way or bounce it onto the subject to create softer lighting.
What settings should I use?
Some species can remain very still, so providing your camera is mounted on a tripod or supported by a bean bag, you may be able to shoot at shutter speeds down to ½ sec when using natural light.
For flash photography use Manual (M) mode to set the shutter speed at the flash sync speed (usually around 1/200 sec) and use a mid-range aperture of f/8 to provide some depth of field.
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