A Ribitting Morning of Frog Images

The Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington Ontario (Canada) recently hosted a display of frogs from around the world. Frogs: A Chorus of Colours was an interesting, educational exhibit as well as an opportunity to capture some images. NOTE: click on images to enlarge.

NIKON D800 + NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8 @ 105mm, ISO 2000, 1/50, f/11.0
NIKON D800 + NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8 @ 105mm, ISO 2000, 1/50, f/11.0

These kinds of events always present challenges for photographers. The display cases are often soiled as it is hard for any venue to keep the glass surfaces clean. This is especially true when elementary school tours attend the exhibit. Lighting can be uneven at best, and the overhead lights and exterior windows often create reflections on the glass surfaces. And, the critters that we are trying to photograph can position themselves in awkward areas of their display cases, making attractive captures difficult.

NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKON 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 77.1mm, ISO 1600, 1/125, f/5.6
NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKON 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 77.1mm, ISO 1600, 1/125, f/5.6

I wanted to take a minimal amount of gear, while still giving myself a lot of shooting flexibility. I settled on my D800 and two Nikon 1 V2 bodies. I then packed my Nikkor 105mm micro f/2.8, an 85mm f/1.8G, my FT-1 adapter, a couple of 1 Nikon lenses (30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 VR, CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR), and my Vello Extension Tubes for Nikon 1. Everything fit quite nicely in my Tenba Discovery Shoulder Bag. I didn’t bother bringing a tripod with me. I forgot to bring my polarizing filter and step-up rings which made shooting at the venue a bit more difficult because of the many reflections.

NIKON D800 + NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8 @ 105mm, ISO 5000, 1/40, f/16.0
NIKON D800 + NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8 @ 105mm, ISO 5000, 1/40, f/16.0

Once I arrived at the venue I decided to start shooting with my D800 and Nikkor 105mm micro f/2.8, taking special care to take an image of the information sign at each display so I could remember the name of each frog species on display.

NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKON 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 126.4mm, ISO 800, 1/50, f/5.0
NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKON 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 126.4mm, ISO 800, 1/50, f/5.0

After completing my first round through the displays I then mounted my 85mm f/1.8G on one of my Nikon 1 V2 bodies with the FT-1 adapter. I soon discovered that this lens did not focus closely enough to be of any real use, so it quickly got returned to my camera bag. I then gave the Nikkor 105mm a try on one of my V2’s and found this combination was quite helpful in getting various specimens to fill the frame so I could minimize cropping in post.

NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKON 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 80.1mm, ISO 1600, 1/13, f/5.6
NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKON 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 80.1mm, ISO 1600, 1/13, f/5.6

On my third trip through the exhibits I used my V2’s and 1 Nikon lenses along with the Vello Extension Tubes and I was able to capture a number of useable images with these combinations. I did my best to keep my shutter speeds at reasonable levels but I ended up taking a few images at under 1/30th.

NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKON 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 77.1mm, ISO 1600, 1/160, f/5.6
NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKON 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 77.1mm, ISO 1600, 1/160, f/5.6

For the last hour of my four hour visit I just wandered around the various displays, checking on some specific species to see if any of the frogs had physically moved to allow me to get some better images.

NIKON 1 V2 + NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8 @ 105mm, ISO 1600, 1/100, f/6.3
NIKON 1 V2 + NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8 @ 105mm, ISO 1600, 1/100, f/6.3

In order to minimize glare I shot right up against the glass of the display cases whenever possible. I purposely wore a black cotton cargo jacket to help cut down my own reflections in the display cases. A few times I took my jacket off to create some shade or remove glare on the exhibits.

NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKON 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 82.9mm, ISO 3200, 1/160, f/5.6
NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKON 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 82.9mm, ISO 3200, 1/160, f/5.6

I also looked for specific positioning of the frogs and tried to capture a range of views, as well as mixing in whole body images with various close-ups.

NIKON D800 + NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8 @ 105mm, ISO 2500, 1/60, f/9.0
NIKON D800 + NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8 @ 105mm, ISO 2500, 1/60, f/9.0

To help reduce distortion from the glass panels in the display cases I tried to shoot directly through the glass rather than on an angle. It was also beneficial to change my shooting angle and in many instances I got some interesting images by getting down close to the floor.

NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKON 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 149.4mm, ISO 1600, 1/20, f/5.6
NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKON 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 149.4mm, ISO 1600, 1/20, f/5.6

Overall I found that my D800 along with my Nikon 1 gear were ideal shooting companions and I got a reasonable number of useable images with each set-up.

NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKON 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 100.9mm, ISO 1600, 1/30, f/5.6
NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKON 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 149.4mm, ISO 1600, 1/20, f/5.6

The various species of frogs each seemed to have its own personality. Some like the African Bull Frog looked like an old man with a stern, grumpy demeanor. Others like the Amazon Milk Frog had a cherub-like appearance with a perpetual smile, while the Waxy Monkey Frogs exuded a serene and contemplative air.

NIKON D800 + NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8 @ 105mm, ISO 2500, 1/125, f/9.0
NIKON D800 + NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8 @ 105mm, ISO 2500, 1/125, f/9.0

To view more frog images captured at the Royal Botanical Gardens click on the YouTube link below.

Special Note to Readers: When using my Vello Extension Tubes for Nikon 1 to capture some images for this article I noticed that some of the flange surfaces had cracked and broken off causing a very weak connection to my V2 camera bodies. I strongly suggest that any readers that have bought these tubes inspect them before each use to ensure they are not damaged and that they fit snuggly. Until the Vello Extension Tubes for Nikon 1 are re-designed with metal mounts I cannot in good faith recommend them to readers.

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2 thoughts on “A Ribitting Morning of Frog Images”

  1. Hey Tom – when I saw this article I almost croaked! OK that is my humor for the day. I had never considered my own clothing on the glass – a great tip to wear black.

    It is so hard to shoot through glass at these little critters. We took a trip to the Dallas Aquarium last year and it was hard to get focus and glare minimized. They have a number of the same – with those blue frogs, I think they are blue poison dart frogs? Pic #5

    Shot 6 is simply amazing! Love the colors and the “perch”. Looks like shot 10 he needs a bit more food. That is one skinny guy.

    Next time I go – I want to try a large rubber hood or a black cloth on the lens. That will help eliminate the reflections too.

    Mike

    1. Hi Mike,
      Glad you enjoyed the article! Yup…the little, blue guy is a poison dart frog. I’ve found the best way to get rid of the glare is to put my lens right up against the glass if at all possible. If you can’t get right up to the glass with your lens, often a polarizing filter will help, although you do lose some much needed light.
      Tom

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