17 September 2013

Riga Zoo frogs


It can be very exiting when it comes to shooting animals, as you never know how exactly they will behave. 
I used to keep at home a small zoo as well, with hundreds of animals. Whose mainly were arthropods, and I had seen so many different personalities while keeping and watching them.
Discover how fun can be working with these little exotic creatures.

Here is the direct link to the gallery.

General view on main laboratory with lots of terrariums.
Technical aspect:

The setup: This time almost all species from 2 laboratories were photographed one by one. My portable studio consisted from light diffusing piece of plastic (Axpet sheet from Bayer with great optical characteristics) and several light sources, mainly Nikon and Yongnuo speedlights for leading light, but some old cheap wired china flashes were used for filling as well.
The whole system was triggered using Nikon CLS via built-in camera flash. To avoid any unwanted light from built-in flash I used small piece of foil. 

General view on froggy studio. Here is The Cane toad (Bufo marinus) - a large and massive animal.

Camera & lens: For this studio session I didn't need long working distance, in this case it was even more convenient to use a short macro lens, so I coupled my Nikon D600 with the good ol' Nikkor 55mm f3.5 Ai-s - one of my favorite lenses which is razor sharp and a pleasure to work with in manual mode thanks to it's smooth focus ring and overall solid feeling. I got this on E-bay some time ago had only very positive experince with this extraordinary lens. Although I have Sigma 150 f2.8 macro lens, for example, this little guy does better job here. That is a good thing being the Nikon user, when you can use cheap but sometimes perfect used old lenses like this and get the outstanding results for the price.

All-metal tank-like Micro-Nikkor 55mm f3.5 Ai-s

Workflow: Every time before the new frog was placed on a shooting position, I had to clean up the surface with special purpose liquid to avoid infection transfer and to remove dirt. 
It is also good for the final image outcome when the white surface is polished so often. Frogs came out perfectly isolated directly in camera.

Phyllomedusa sauvagii is about to be placed for some shots.

But then a single frog was in it's place, the interesting part began.

Workflow: Usually it took some moments before the frog started to explore it's new location. During this time I managed to make some entry shots, and when began the process of constantly placing active frog in place. As animals usually refused to stand still, only some ground species and large  toads were calm as mountains. 
And the tree-climbing froggies used to jump to the distances from 50 cm up to 1-1.5 meters. That is a huge jump for such creatures! Once it happened, and I didn't managed to catch one of those Dendrobates frogs, and the next 15 minutes we were looking for it everywhere on laboratory's floor. :)
During the whole session I was watched by the local cat named Margo. It was asking for some fresh frog meet, and was pretty persistent in it's desires. :)

Then talking about cats, it's hard not to mention what this beautiful Long-nosed horned frog (Megophrys nasuta) looks very similar to "the grumpy cat" meme on the Internet. :)
But for me it is more like some character from Tolkien's novels. The Dark Frog Lord. :)

The grumpy frog. :(


After almost 7 hours of taking pictures I came back home with several hundreds of good images to work with. It may sound wierd, but It is a good idea to keep a lot of interesting posture variations for different usage in future. 
I used them for my stock collection and other photographic needs, but that is more important to me, is that they will find themselves in scientific publications of a our kind frog keeper and biologist Ilze Dunce, as well as in Riga Zoo terrarium.
But after all, it was a pure fun to shoot these guys!
More photos from this shooting are available here

These and many other images can be bought on Shutterstock.

Thank you for your attention!

Be sure to check out other similar projects!
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Aleksey Stemmer
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