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 Post subject: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: December 23rd, 2011, 1:28 pm 

Joined: November 22nd, 2011, 5:41 pm
Posts: 55
Since this forum is full of photographers, I felt this was the best place to ask. Yesterday I tried for over an hour to pose a D. Monticola. I had his body in a good position, but his head was on this ground. (Which I didn’t like) So for that whole hour I tried to get him to raise his head but he refused. So my question is, how on earth do you get a salamander to raise its head for a photo?


Last edited by Daniel T on December 23rd, 2011, 7:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: HELP!!!!!
PostPosted: December 23rd, 2011, 6:55 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
No idea, but you might want to change the headline. "HELP!!!!!" is a bit generic and has the potential to leave a lot of people uninterested.

Good luck!


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: December 23rd, 2011, 7:07 pm 

Joined: November 22nd, 2011, 5:41 pm
Posts: 55
Alright, will do. Thanks


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: December 24th, 2011, 3:38 am 
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Joined: June 29th, 2011, 12:56 am
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Location: Belgium
Find a little twig or something similar and keep trying to move it up. Be (very) patient. And show us the result ;) .


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: December 24th, 2011, 7:11 am 
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Location: Athens, GA (Columbia, MO)
Jeroen Speybroeck wrote:
Find a little twig or something similar and keep trying to move it up. Be (very) patient. And show us the result ;) .


Agreed. Seems to work better than using your hands. Get the animal posed then gently try to lift the head with a thin twig or the stem of a leaf. Sometimes they will stay. Often they wont, then you just try again. Patience is key.


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: December 24th, 2011, 10:25 am 
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Jeroen Speybroeck wrote:
Find a little twig or something similar and keep trying to move it up. Be (very) patient. And show us the result .

Yeah agreed, it seems most herps will tolerate a small twig adjusting their position over a finger or hand. One other thing I've done, and I know it's a bit of cop out, but if the salamander won't lift its head, you can rest it on a small rock or piece of wood.

-Dell


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: December 24th, 2011, 10:32 am 

Joined: January 3rd, 2011, 10:21 pm
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Location: Rara Avis, Heredia, Costa Rica
I always carry a toothpick or two with me when photographing herp. It's amazing what the animals will let you get away with when you use a toothpick instead of your fingers. I think I use it most often for moving around lizard and frog fingers.

And not that it's relevant at all to this thread, but they're also quite helpful for untangling birds from mist nets.

-Don


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: December 24th, 2011, 11:21 am 
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Getting them to lift their heads is the easy part. Battling reflections and finding a way to make salamanders look interesting in a photo is where you're going to run into the most trouble. :lol:

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: December 24th, 2011, 5:11 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 12:37 pm
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Location: Ft. Smith, Arkansas
A tactic I'll sometimes use is to set them down a bit behind where you want them posed and let them walk up to it, then put something right in front of them, stopping them in their tracks. It takes a bit of work, but a lot of times they'll eventually stop in an decent position, then I'll use a toothpick or a small twig to maneuver them just enough for a better pose.


Last edited by mikemike on March 11th, 2012, 11:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: December 24th, 2011, 9:12 pm 
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Twigs really do work the best. But it takes a lot of practice to get the right technique and touch. I don't have it, but I often have Pingleton wrangling for my photos!


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: December 25th, 2011, 8:05 am 

Joined: January 3rd, 2011, 10:21 pm
Posts: 280
Location: Rara Avis, Heredia, Costa Rica
Natalie McNear wrote:
... and finding a way to make salamanders look interesting in a photo is where you're going to run into the most trouble. :lol:


I feel you on that one. I had an Oedipina alleni that wouldn't do anything for me other than look like a small stick. Two hundred shots later I finally got something passable.

-Don


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: December 29th, 2011, 7:16 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:57 pm
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I actually lift their front legs off the ground with a stick under the chin. Then when you set them back down, they are standing up as much as a salamander can. Posing them on a ledge of some kind can help give the illusion of standing upright too.

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 2nd, 2012, 6:46 pm 

Joined: June 16th, 2010, 4:50 pm
Posts: 80
Here's the twig technique in action-
Image

Helps to get the stick or leaf moist. I raise them further than what looks like necessary (as in the picture). Seems like then when they come rest they have a more upright posture.

John


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 2nd, 2012, 7:29 pm 
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Location: Houston, TX
John, you were right; that stupid picture does have a purpose!


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 3rd, 2012, 7:55 pm 
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Location: Athens, OH
And A. texanum/barbouri are the worst offenders when it comes to head slouching...


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 3rd, 2012, 8:43 pm 
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Location: Houston, TX
Everyone always says that but I've never been able to agree.

Image

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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 4th, 2012, 9:26 pm 
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Location: Northern coast of California
Ambystoma gracile is definitely a contender for least-photogenic salamander too. Even if you somehow manage to get it to hold its head up, it still just looks like someone took a big dump in front of your camera.

http://californiaherps.com/salamanders/images/agracileabdn06.jpg

Ensatinas, on the other hand, are pretty easy to photograph because their main defense is standing tall. They do all the work for you!

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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 6th, 2012, 6:52 pm 
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Also, the less hands on you are with the manders the less sticky crap they produce in defence. Especially ensitina


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 6th, 2012, 7:18 pm 

Joined: June 8th, 2010, 7:12 am
Posts: 6662
Location: Hesperia, California.
The bigger stuff, I just Yell At, really loud, till they look up... :crazyeyes:
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Little slenders n stuff, I just have them sit in my hand...
Image
:lol: :lol: :lol:
Naw man... just messing... I'm no photographer, specially with sallys. Generally, I get them walking, put stuff in their way, to climb over, and hope they pause long enough for me to get a lucky shot off.
Image
Good luck... jim


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 8th, 2012, 12:40 pm 
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There is a lot of good advice in here, and at one point or another, I've probably used all of them.

I use the stick trick to get them to lift their heads, although, I will usually pair it with another stick that I use to reposition the feet simultaneously to that when I set it down, it'll support itself.

I keep a bottle of spring water with me and re-moisten the animal periodically. Do not use tap water that may have chlorine and do not use distilled water that can cause osmotic irregularities. A dry salamander will usually try to bolt and find someplace wet - many do respire through their skin after all. If their skin is dry or tacky, this can really affect their O2 uptake they are essentially slowly suffocating. It also works to flush all the dirt and debris off of their skin without trying to pick it off or mechanically dislodging it.

I generally try to handle them the least amount possible. Many sallies are cold-philic. Too much handling by warm hands can really cause them problems up to and including death - I've seen it happen - it wasn't me.

I find that when handled properly, not restrained and kept cool and moist, I have almost never have a salamander produce skin secretions. Producing these secretions are very energetically costly and are hydrophobic (i.e. hard to wash off). A defensive salamander almost always comes across as looking defensive in photos. The body posture and disposition look more natural when it is natural. Forcing an animal to comply almost always results in crappy photos - in my experience. Unless of course, you're trying to photograph a defensive behavior.

I find that if you let them take a step or two on their own, the resulting photo is more attractive, leg/foot position and body alignment is natural. These are things that I try to strive for in my photos to attain fluid body lines, and keep things looking as natural as possible, keep the salamander less stressed and avoid injury to these small critters.

If you keep them cool and moist, they are almost always content to sit-still for long periods of time. Taricha are the exception though. If you find one on the move, there's almost nothing you can do to get them to stop.

Hope that helps,

Rob


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 10th, 2012, 4:12 pm 

Joined: November 22nd, 2011, 5:41 pm
Posts: 55
Ok, so I tried the toothpick method and it worked!

Image
Spotted Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus conanti) by Daniel S Thompson, on Flickr

This was taken yesterday of a Spotted Dusky Salamander. One thing about this method though, it does take time. It took me a little over an hour but I couldn't be happier! Thanks guys!


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 10th, 2012, 5:01 pm 
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Location: Northern coast of California
Just found out first hand the toothpick trick doesn't work for Contia tenuis. I couldn't find any salamanders next to my house.

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 12th, 2012, 7:03 pm 
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Location: Litchfield Park, AZ
I live in Arizona.... whats a salamander? :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 13th, 2012, 9:36 am 
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Location: Pacific Northwest
Natalie, I've always had a pain with contia, except for an individual I found under a board with no seal when it was about 38 out with frost on the ground, that one was easy to shoot.

And not all northwestern salamander shots look like terds. the stick method works on them also.

flash used and sky blocked out overhead
Image

natural light no flash
Image

I think torrent salamanders can be a pain, and the only van dyke's salamander I've found wasn't the greatest poser.


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 13th, 2012, 9:40 pm 
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Location: Litchfield Park, AZ
I hate you all....even your "bad" photos look great!


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 16th, 2012, 10:30 pm 
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I'll just post this here since it'll be useful for salamander photography too. What's the best way to reduce reflections on extremely glossy animals? For this shot I took today I held the softbox off to the side, hoping that would prevent reflections, but it didn't really work. Would a polarizing filter help at all? I know that they are useful at reducing reflections in water, but does anyone on here use them for herps?

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 17th, 2012, 8:40 am 
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Location: SF Bay Area
Natalie McNear wrote:
I'll just post this here since it'll be useful for salamander photography too. What's the best way to reduce reflections on extremely glossy animals? For this shot I took today I held the softbox off to the side, hoping that would prevent reflections, but it didn't really work. Would a polarizing filter help at all? I know that they are useful at reducing reflections in water, but does anyone on here use them for herps?


Hey Natalie,

I think you may have done yourself a disservice with the soft box. Using a large surface area like that actually increases the size of the reflections - that's why I like the puffers because they keep the size of the reflections down. I think some amount of reflection is fine. I was even experimenting with using long exposures and no flash on shiny animals, and you still get reflections from the ambient light. The reality is they are shiny critters and are always going to give off some sort of reflection. Your best bet will be to minimize the mount of surface that is perpendicular to the lens, which are the surfaces where you typically get reflection.

A couple of years ago I looked into what it would take to use a polarizer to cut down on reflection,and it is possible, but it sounds wholly impractical for field shooting. The gist is that you not only need to use the polarizer on your lens but you would also need to off-set a polarizer 90 degrees on each flash head so you would end up blocking out the correct reflections.

I am doing some experimentation with my flash set-up this winter, and I'll keep you in the loop as to what I figure out.

Cheers,

Rob


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 17th, 2012, 10:27 am 
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Thanks for the info, Rob. I was using the softbox because I wanted to add some softness to the light, particularly because I was shooting in an oak woodland with a relatively small aperture, where harsh shadows would be distracting. I do like the way the background looks, but you're right, the diffused flash creates bothersome reflections on the snake.

Here's a shot I took of a Rubber Boa with just the puffers on the flash heads:

Image

The reflections on the snake are fewer, though I think a lot of that has to do with the angle of the snake in this particular shot. However, I find the harsh shadows on the pine needles to be distracting, especially the one casting a shadow on the snake.

Here's a third shot taken only in ambient light:

Image

This snake has the most reflections because of the sky overhead, but the pine needles look the best in this shot, with no harsh, distracting shadows. This shot was taken in the shade on a sunny day, so the the reflections on the snake were originally blue - the photo looked horrible when I first put it on the computer and I almost deleted it. But I adjusted it in Lightroom to make the reflections white/gray, like they would be on a cloudy day, and the shot looked much better after that. The reflections are still pretty distracting.

I might eventually get a polarizing filter and play around with it, but it's an expensive option that may or may not work. :\


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 17th, 2012, 2:39 pm 
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FWIW, I still prefer to use a softbox on shiny animals. The reflections are larger, but softer, and the overall lighting is superior.


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 17th, 2012, 2:59 pm 

Joined: October 28th, 2010, 3:26 pm
Posts: 355
This article may be of interest:

http://www.naturescapes.net/042004/wh0404.htm


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 17th, 2012, 3:57 pm 
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J-Miz wrote:
This article may be of interest:

http://www.naturescapes.net/042004/wh0404.htm


I believe that's the exact article that I was looking at. I think the other trick Natalie, is to get the flash heads further away from the lens. I have a new bracket that I'm playing around with to see how that works, but I'll probably get some of this film also and see how it works.

Cheers,

Rob


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 17th, 2012, 6:02 pm 
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Location: So. California
Schell, exactly. By moving the flash(s) further to one side or the other will reduce the reflections. The book "Light, Science and Magic" goes into great detail regarding reflections off of many surfaces, including polished metal cylinders (like a rubber boa). The phrase "angle of incidence equals angle of reflection" can't be stated enough. Move your flash away from the center of the camera and experiment where the light reflects back towards the camera. You can reduce most of the reflections by moving the flash out of what they call "the family of angles". The light is going to reflect off of the snake no matter what you do; it's how the flash heads are angled as to where the light goes. Some reflection is OK though, and helps show the texture and depth of the animal.

BTW- that's a very good article.


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 18th, 2012, 4:44 pm 
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I guess I'll have to practice a bit more holding the flash head further from the camera. I was probably holding it at about a 45° angle from the camera, but that doesn't seem to be enough.


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 20th, 2012, 4:53 pm 
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Here's a shot I just got of Dicamptodon ensatus this afternoon, and I like the lack of reflections. It took me about 50 shots to get it right (shooting on an indoor set so my camera wouldn't get killed by the rain), but I'm pretty happy with the result. I tried holding the softbox at pretty much every angle I could reach and shooting the lizard in various positions, but eventually I got it right by holding the softbox almost directly above the animal but slightly off to the right. I guess this allowed the side facing the camera to be illuminated, but at an angle that didn't produce reflections. I'll have to keep playing around with this when I find more salamanders.

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 20th, 2012, 7:53 pm 
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Here is a photo of the new flash set-up. I need to decide on diffusers, but I'm very happy with the preliminary results. I'll post some up when I get out to shoot some sallies. Please excuse the iPhone photos.

Image

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 20th, 2012, 8:16 pm 
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Nice shot of the Dicamp, Natalie. I did the rain thing today and I still have more mud to clean from the camera :lol:

Actually only drizzle and light rain, but I had the camera in it for an hour. I needed to pull the fogged up filter off the lens.

Here's one from today (Ensatina do like to pose):

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 21st, 2012, 9:35 am 
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Rob - Wow, great setup! Can't wait to see what kind of photos you and that beast can produce. :thumb: Can flash brackets like that be manipulated so the flash head is above the lens?

Owen - Fantastic shot! Yeah I initially tried shooting the dicamp outside in the rain, but having to deal with water dripping onto my camera, my umbrella blowing away, and the salamander crawling off was just too much to deal with after like five minutes, haha. It looks like you succeeded though!


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 21st, 2012, 9:50 am 
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Rob, I recognize those little Novoflex ball heads. I used them on a home made bracket, but I found the bracket not friendly for 3 hour hikes. I mostly use my ring flash when hiking.

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 21st, 2012, 10:31 am 
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Yeah, it's definitely not light or compact, but for most of my photography, neither of those things are needed. Also, when broken down it doesn't take up much more space than my MT-24. The bracket itself isn't very heavy, but this set-up has 12 AA batteries, which doesn't help the weight :lol:.

Natalie, yes, this bracket has another arm that comes up on the Z-plane. If I were only using the MT-24, it would be necessary to get the vertical component that my hot-shoe flash is serving in this configuration. The drawback is that the bracket is VERY difficult to wield and aim.


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 22nd, 2012, 10:26 am 
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Here are a couple of shots from last night. These are not the greatest shots and there are a few more things to try and coordinate the flash heads while shooting, but I'm pretty happy with the preliminary results.

California Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma californiense), Sonoma County DPS
Image

California Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma californiense), Sonoma County DPS
Image


Last edited by Schell on January 22nd, 2012, 12:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 22nd, 2012, 11:47 am 
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Great shots, Rob. I was surprised how few reflections you were getting! I need to adjust the LCD screen on my camera, because all of my shots came out horribly, horribly underexposed, despite the fact that they looked alright on the camera. I have the screen brightness turned up all the way to make it easier to review my shots during the day, but that was my downfall last night. Here's one I kind of managed to salvage, but you can still tell by the loss of data in the shadows that it used to be really underexposed.

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 22nd, 2012, 12:03 pm 
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Thats too bad Natalie. Perhaps we can go out again. I'd like to get some better shots as well.

Re your screen: I had that issue recently when shooting my Humbolt Co. A. flavipunctatus. It took me nearly an hour to salvage this shot

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: January 23rd, 2012, 2:32 pm 
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Especially in broad daylight, I always take a look at the histogram to check out the exposure.


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: February 21st, 2012, 9:33 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:57 pm
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expose for the highlights instead of an average, and keep the light behind you or shoot in deep shade. a reflector can be really nice for shiny things because it won't throw huge white light on it. Flash sucks for shiny stuff.

Image


if you need longer exposures use a tripod or good bracing.


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: February 21st, 2012, 5:28 pm 
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Very nice lighting. I disagree that flash sucks for shiny stuff. Flash shot straight at shiny stuff can reflect back to the camera if you don't take in account the angle of the light hitting the subject. As Erik said, a reflector is good because it will change the angle the light strikes the subject in relation to the camera. Sometimes this stuff is hard and requires some planning beforehand and flexibility while shooting. As someone once told me, "If it was easy anyone could do it".


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: February 23rd, 2012, 3:18 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 12:37 pm
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Location: Ft. Smith, Arkansas
Great shots and tips everyone.
This winter I picked up an entirely new flash setup from what I was using this year. Yesterday was my first chance to really mess around with a bit...

Image
Eurycea tynerensis - Oklahoma salamander by michaelrayspencer, on Flickr



Nikon D7000
Tamron 90mm macro
Hotshoe mounted Nikon SB700
2 off cam mounted Nikon SB R200 speedlights.


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: February 24th, 2012, 6:47 am 
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Some amazing striking shots here. Erik, I've only seen like 5 Blue Sides but yours is just sick. Makes my favorite shot, seem bad now. I need to get up North for them again.


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: February 27th, 2012, 6:17 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:57 pm
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Thanks Justin - but I only stop to shoot the pretty ones. Come on up any tuesday in salamander season and we'll go.


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: March 11th, 2012, 11:58 am 

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Location: Ft. Smith, Arkansas
Sometimes it's easier to move them a bit and let them do what they do best... or shoot them as found. All I did with this guy yesterday was give his tail a little tap to get him to move slightly...

Eurycea lucifuga - Cave salamander

Image
Eurycea lucifuga by michaelrayspencer, on Flickr

This image was shot at near total darkness down a corridor of a small cave. I shot with a hot shoe mounted Nikon SB-700 as well as an SB-R200 sitting on a rock a bit out of frame on the left.


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 Post subject: Re: Salamander Photography?
PostPosted: March 16th, 2012, 11:24 am 

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Posts: 156
Location: East Coast
Holy moly those are some big rigs! At one point in time I opted to buy an external flash but I found even that extra piece to bothersome to carry. Any suggestions for minimizing glare when using an on-board flash? Sometimes it works out alright for me, other times not so much. In particular, I have more trouble with the tiny small bumps often found on frogs, rather than the smooth, broad surfaces of a salamander. Wet moss or grass for a background can give me the same trouble.


A decent looking Ambystoma tigrinum
Image


Some not totally totally terrible bumpy frog skin- Smilisca sila
Image


And... whoa... way too much bump shine on a Pseudacris kalmi
Image

Again... I'm only using the on board flash on my rebel xti... any suggestions for home made diffusers or anything like that?

thanks!

will


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