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May 2012

Words and pics by Shaen Adey

Frogs are cute, but tricky to photograph. For starters it took me forever just to find these little creatures. Then even longer to get in close enough to frame them and still get the exposures correct. Time was limited as the frogs soon became airborne. But I’d come prepared, with a willing friend whose sole task was to follow the bounding frogs through the undergrowth so that I could set up and try again.

I used a Canon EOS 1V camera with a 100mm macro lens and an extension tube. The camera was mounted onto a macro bracket with two extendable arms that held both my flashes. The flexible arms gave me control over the light angle, whilst a dual cable setup from camera to flash fired both flashes simultaneously. My 100mm macro lens produces a 1:1 object-to-image ratio - basically a life-size image. I wanted to get in a bit closer so I added the extension tube. So far it probably sounds more complicated than it really is – if you want to try macro photography of this sort, just follow this step by step process. Simple.

With both flashes set on maximum power I was getting an exposure of f22 at 1/200th of a second. I cannot go higher on the shutter speed as that’s the maximum flash sync speed. The f22 aperture was ideal. It gave me a maximum depth of field (crisp sharp images from tip to tail) and a good focus on the eyes.

Prior to going in to photograph the frogs I established a rough idea of the correct exposure settings by photographing something similar in size and tone. With my flashes set on full power I test fired the camera constantly, watching the indicators on the flashes. When they lit up green I knew that sufficient light was reaching the subject. I turned the aperture on my camera up until the indicators turned red. This meant I’d gone too far and was now underexposing the images. From there I went back one step to the last green setting and that was the perfect exposure.

In the good old film days I would have fired all the shots at the same exposure and then clip tested the film but digital cameras make life so easy, as you can immediately see if the image is exposing correctly.

The photography is of course the easy bit. Now all you need to do is get out there and find them frogs. Keep chasing them and chasing them. It takes patience and a sense of humour – but the results are worth it.

Nightjar Travel