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PHOTOGRAPHY OVERVIEW: AMPHIBIANS, REPTILES, INVERTS, O'SHEA PIX

 

PERSONAL ADVENTURES IN HERP PHOTOGRAPHY


Part 2.
THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION:
WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF INSTANT
GRATIFICATION

(First published in The Herptile 2010 35(2):53-63)

In PART ONE I explained the basics of photographic equipment, the concept of depth-of-field and the importance of using flash for herp photography. Much of what I wrote was applicable to both film and digital but in Part One I discussed shooting slide film in some detail. Now I will consider digital photography more closely.

Shooting Digital:
I tried to go digital too early. Everyone was raving about it so I bought a Canon EOS D30* SLR. The results were dire, the images were soft, the resolution was terrible, no way, thought I, can this digital revolution ever take over from film, no way will it compare to the sparkling results I can achieve with Velvia and no way will I ever own another digital SLR. The D30 was consigned to the cupboard and forgotten (Ebay did not exist back then).

* Note: D30, not 30D, which comes later and is a much better camera.

After the fiasco with the D30 SLR I dabbled occasionally using a Canon Powershot A95 compact, another recommendation from a friend, the sort of thing you could have in your pocket for a scenic or a group shot at the end of an expedition, but I did not consider this serious photography, it was a happy snapper, serious photographs were only possible with my beloved EOS 1-V film cameras.

Then in 2006 I was tempted back into digital, largely by seeing the results achieved by Wolfgang Wüster and David Williams, and I purchased a 30D, which was streets ahead of that dreadful D30. Rather than taking two identical film camera set-ups I started to take one film outfit and one digital outfit, the most obvious advantage of the digital photography being the instantaneous gratification and conformation of seeing the image on the screen. My belt and bracers approach of two camera set-ups, just in case one failed, was not longer critical with the digital as back-up to my film camera. The EOS 1-V film camera was still the main unit since I still considered Velvia 100 superior to any digital image, short of these taken with top of the range cameras costing thousands of pounds. Then in 2008 my EOS 30D was destroyed during a journey up the Oriomo River in PNG with Dave. I managed to purchase a second-hand 400D, a basic but decent entry level camera, from a friend of Dave’s in Port Moresby to enable me to continue with one film and one digital camera. When I returned home the insurance company provided me with a new 40D, the camera that has superseded the 30D, and I have since used this higher specification camera for my herp photography, relegating the 400D to scenics and habitats. I have recently purchased a 7D, which is an even higher specification professional camera, shooting 18megapixels and even high definition video. I am still getting used to this camera so cannot comment a great deal more on it yet. One thing I do tend to do with all my serious cameras though, is buy a battery grip to take two batteries, for more power, and make the camera more ergonomic when working. I import my images into Aperture, a professional photographic application on the Mac, a step up from iPhoto. I have also experimented with a Jobo PhotoGPS unit on the 400D, a unit that records the coordinates for any image shot when it has line of sight to the sky and can obtain the GPS connection. My experiences with this item have been somewhat disappointing at present, so I will reserve judgement on it for now.

So now you know the kit I use and whether film or digital I tend to use the same photographic techniques. Now let me tell you a little lesson I learned a while ago.

A Lesson Learned the Hard Way.

In PNG during filming of the 2nd series of OBA I caught a little skink known scientifically as Emoia kordoana. The genus Emoia is legion in New Guinea and the southwest Pacific, Brown (1991) documents 72 species arranged in eight species groups. I have met and photographed 11 species in five groups, so I am working slowly through them. When I caught the E.kordoana, in Baiteta village, Madang Province, it was the first specimen I had ever seen of that species. I badly wanted to photograph it but I was concerned the little lizard would make a bid for freedom so I found a few dead leaves and settled down in the middle of a great flat area of bare-earth in the village centre, put the leaves on the ground, positioned the skink, picked up the camera and focused on……dead leaves. The skink was gone, it had literally disappeared, not under the leaves or under me, nor under the camera. Unless it had pressed the hyperspace button it had sprinted across the open space to the bush in the same time it took me to life the camera to my eye. I did not see that species again until I was in PNG in 2010, when four specimensfell into my drift-fence, and I finally managed to get my long awaited photographs.

Two specimens of the Long-tailed tree skink, Emoia kordoana,
that evaded the author in 2000 and continued to do so until
Dasiama, Central Province, PNG
in 2010.

Ten years earlier, in Baiteta village, I swore I would not allow this to happen again, I had to find a way to prevent herps escaping before they were caught on film. I reasoned that if I was photographing a rare snake out in the open, and it took off, I would be faced with a quandary, lunge after the fleeing snake, and risk the camera around my neck getting damaged as I hit the ground, or carefully put the camera down and then pursue the snake, which by now would have a reasonable head-start. I had to find another solution to photography in the open, a portable solution. I found that solution in the Aussie sleeping system.

Varanid expert Dr Robert Sprackland takes advantage of the author's first photo dome to photograph lizards, Bensbach Lodge, Western Province, PNG, blissfully unaware of the notice !

The Aussie sleeping system does not involve lying on your back in the midday sun with two or three empty bottles of red scattered tastefully around you in the dirt. It is a one-man sleeping system for back-packers. Basically it comprises a black mosquito-dome just large enough to lay out a sleeping bag on the floor, with a zipped side through which you entered and shut out the outside world. The dome section over your head was supported by a couple of those jointed, curved tent supports you find in modern lightweight tents. My first dome, used in Western Australia and PNG, was fairly tall but the next one, used in Indonesia and Tasmania, was just high enough for me to sit, but not stand. A flysheet to keep out the rain was optional.

When I was ready to photograph a bunch of captured herps I would build a set at the bottom end of the dome, then enter with all the snakebags, camera gear, notebook, spare film and batteries I would require and settle down for a steady afternoon of shooting 5-6 films without any fear of the subjects escaping because they, and I, were zipped inside for the duration. Geckos bolting could only go up, and then down again, there was no escape.

I photographed numerous herps using this system but two species stick in my memory and are worth recounting here.

 

Chappell Island, Bass Strait, Tasmania.
We were filming the giant black Chappell Island tigersnakes (Notechis scutatus serventyi) and had caught a large number of them. They were virtually everywhere and I had already one specimen from underneath the Director’s tent. Assisting us in some of our searches were members of the Tassie herp community. Tasmania is not like the rest of Australia, there is a distinct isolationist quality to the place, it looks and feels different (and that is not a bad thing either) but I think these guys liked to look down on mainland Aussies as not quite bushmen like themselves, so imagine what they made of a Pommie, come to catch their largest venomous snake. They were very polite and friendly but when they saw me set up my photo-dome, on a patch of bare ground on the outskirts of camp, to take photographs of various skinks and small ‘tigers’ I reckon it set them thinking of wind-ups. Whatever, it was not long before they turned up with a really humungous Chappell Island tigersnake, I think probably as large as any we saw in Terry Schwaner’s ‘Land of the Giants’, which they presented to me with due reverence, and the aside “bet you won’t take that into that tent with ya Pom!”

What do you think?! Of course I am going to want to photograph this tigersnake, despite the fact that stretched out it was as long as the entire photo-dome and it was as fat as my wrist at the very least. Everyone gathered around as I disappeared inside the dome with the snake in cloth bag, although disappeared is not quite the right word, you can easily see in or out the mossie netting. Not to be beaten, I determined to get the photos, but zipping myself into a space the size of a sleeping bag with a snake as long as that sleeping bag and as fat as my wrist, that was rated amongst the top half-dozen venomous snakes in the world, and with no room to wield a snake stick beyond the slender golden cage hook that I used for finite head positioning, was not something the average health and safety officer would condone as the actions of a sane man.

Having zipped us in, I carefully eased the tigersnake out of the bag and onto the set. It really was a large snake, like a large black cobra sans hood. I spent the next 5-10 minutes (I was not counting) settling it gently, slowly, carefully, on the set and then adjusting its head position with the woefully short snake hook. The Tasmanians, chatter ended, crowded to watch, causing me to request that movements be kept to a minimum. With the snake coiled less than a third of its length in front of me, I reached back with one hand and slowly brought up first the two flashguns on small tripods, which I positioned to right and left, then the camera, and rocking back and forth, movements I thought the snake would fail to register, and avoiding more obvious side to side movements, I proceeded to shoot film. With two cameras I managed to shoot over 50 frames of this majestic tigersnake, full coiled body, anterior body, head only, even focused shots of the bloated tick on her neck, of which I gratefully spared her once the photo session was over. When I started I had an audience of 8-10 persons, when I finished maybe 20minutes later, the audience was gone. I never heard them go and was completely unaware of their parting, I was concentrating on other things. But clearly the Pom was not gonna get tagged for their edification, so the novelty of a guy taking pictures of a coiled snake with a parasite inside a mosquito net tent had worn off.

Chappell Island tigersnake Notechis scutatus serventyi,
with large tick, Chappell Is., Bass Strait, Tasmania.
Click on image to enlarge.

 

Rinca Island, Komodo Group, Indonesia.
During filming around the nest of a Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) I had captured a Southern Indonesian spitting cobra (Naja sputatrix). This snake had turned up right in the middle of an important ‘piece to camera’ that I had been recording, and I had immediately broken off to go after it, such was OBA, we always reacted to incidents as they occurred. I had bagged the snake until I had time to photograph it and later, while the crew were at lunch, I had set up the ‘dome’ to get those photographs.

This time I had an extra item of kit in the ‘dome’ with me, a pair of goggles for the spitter, but it is not possible to wear goggles and look through a camera so I used them purely to get the cobra positioned as I wanted it on the set, and then, rocking gently backwards so it was unware of any movement, I removed the googles and picked up the camera. Flashguns to either side I waved my hand, the cobra hooded and I rocked in to take the first of a series of frames of it hooding, left eye closed, right eye protected by the camera as I peered at my subject through the viewfinder.

I was completely absorbed in the process of photographing the spitting cobra when it started, the shaking of the dome. In fact I think it had been happening, gently, for a minute or so before I truly registered it.

“Stop that” I said over my shoulder to Terry (sound) or Des (camera), both practical jokers who I had pulled stunts on myself and probably thought this an apt moment for revenge.
The dome shaking continued as I tried to focus on the hooding cobra, in fact I would say it intensified, the cobra itself seemed to be more focused on the dome shaker than me as it raised itself up and threatened over my right shoulder.


“Bloody, pack it in, can’t you see I’m busy” I said as I turned to confront my grinning cameraman or sound recordist, but instead found, a foot behind me, a 2/3 grown Komodo dragon with the corner of my photo dome in his mouth as he worried it in an attempt to get inside with us. I don’t think I need to explain to you, kind reader, that being in a 6x2ft sleeping dome with a spitting cobra is one thing, but sharing that limited space with a near-adult and apparently hungry Komodo dragon is a somewhat less desirable option. Not wishing to work out how we could accommodate the dragon too I used the command we all use under such circumstances… “Shoooo”, accompanied by a little arm-waving, to emphasise the fact that I was not kidding. Fortunately the dragon left, but he also left some snake-sized holes in the corner of my previously escape-proof photo dome.

During the 3rd series of OBA I was working with a different cameraman and watching me taking photographs in my somewhat less than whole ‘photo-dome’ he asked me if I had seen the new Cubelites. I hadn’t but I checked them out when I got home.

Indonesian spitting cobra, Naja sputatrix,
Rinca, Komodo Islands, Indonesia.
Click on image to enlarge.

 

The Cubelite.
Now this is a clever piece of kit. Oddly enough I had worked out the concept and had thought of approaching a tent manufacturer with the odd-ball idea of producing a portable unit which would allow photographers to build a set, control their photographic subject, and their illumination, and still obtaining top quality images as good as in any studio, whilst working in the field. Then low and behold, someone had one just that, so my dreams of Dragon’s Den humiliation faded and I purchased a 90x90cm Cubelite, produced by Lastolite of Leicester, England.

I won’t describe the Cubelite, you can easily go to the website and view it. Suffice to say it is a white cube with a removable base, front and rear which allows for the building of an elaborate set and numerous way to illuminate it with strategically positioned flashguns. The most important aspect is that the only real escape route for the subject is out front, over the photographer (at 90x90cm this unit is not one you can climb inside like the ‘photo-dome’, but if you really want to, Lastolite do make them that size. The whole unit collapses, with a little practise, into a circular series of metal coils and white material which itself goes inside a blue sleeve about 60cm diameter.

I have found the Cubelite immensely useful and portable for photographing herps in he field, and it even featured in the episode of Safari Park (Central TV) in Namibia in 2007. The most humorous moment I can think of, and not quite in the tigersnake or dragon league, was when I was travelling to PNG in 2006 via Cairns, Queensland. Australian Customs pulled me to one side to inform me that the x-ray scanner gave them reason to believe that I had a coiled snake in my luggage, but why anybody would be smuggling a snake out of Australia and into PNG defies logic. Anyway, we unpacked all my baggage and eventually at the bottom of my pack we came to the blue bag containing the Cubelite.


“Open it please” he said.
“It may take sometime to get back in the bag” I offered, being at that time quite inexperienced at the correct way to coil the metal rings to get them to lie flat.
“Please open the bag”, said the officer.
“Okay” said I, and unzipped the blue bag to pull out the flattened Cubelite, whereupon, like a caged beast released from its captivity, it sprung forth and fully erected itself as a 90x90cm cube of white material on the table between us.
Recovering from his shock, the officer said, “Um, you can put it away now sir”.
“Easier said than done”, said I.

I now use the Cubelite for the majority of my herp photography in the field and have managed to photograph some pretty impressive species using it, such as the Zebra spitting cobra (Naja nigricincta) and Papuan taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus canni). This sort of photography, of extremely dangerous species in close proximity, takes time, and it brings me to another important component of wildlife photography.

 

The author photographing a
Timor flying lizard Draco timorensis,
using EOS-1V, EF-100mm macro lens and two mini-tripod mounted Speedlites slaving off-camera, triggered by ST-E2 IR transmitter, in a Cubelite set.
Click on the image to view the flying lizard
from Loré, Lautem District, Timor-Leste.

The set prepared to photograph a
Southern white-lipped python, Leiopython hoserae,
EOS-1V film camera with two Speedlites slaved off an ST-E2 IR transmitter.
Click on the image to view the python
from Dasiama, Central Prov., PNG.

 

Zebra spitting cobra Naja nigricincta,
in Cubelite set, Ongava Game Reserve, Namibia, photographed inside the Cubelite set.
Click on images to enlarge.

 

We have looked at equipment, we have covered some techniques, which when perfected result in ‘skill’, and of course there is always a great deal of luck. Luck in getting to go to the home of the species concerned, luck in catching it to photograph, and luck in getting it to pose in the right position for the money-shot. The first two of these can be easily dealt with by photographing herps in captivity. So it is the third slice of luck I want to deal with here, because one of the most important components of this sort, or any sort, of wildlife photography is Patience. You must have patience when it comes to getting your herp to settle on the set, you must take your time and not frighten it, and provided you are not trying to work against the clock and rush things you will eventually managed to get it settled in a life-like position, no matter how active it was and how impossible this seemed, when you started. Once the herp is settled gently raise your camera, making slow, smooth, steady movements that do not alarm, and fire off a few frames. Then use the slender snake hook to slowly improve your subject’s pose and continue shooting until you are satisfied. Try different flashgun positions, bracket the f-stops, ie. shoot f16, then either side at f22 and f11, and before you know where you are your will getting some great photographs, full body, anterior body and head, close-up head, tongue-flicking (that takes some patience and a lot of failed attempts but it is worth it).

So now it is time to move onto one or two more specialised techniques and special lenses.

Wide-angle Panoramas.
Who would have thought you could take macro-photos with a wide-angle lens. Well you can and rather interesting ones at that, images that make great title slides for lectures or reports or book covers, if you get the composition right.

First you decide on a suitable background for your subject. If it is a treesnake it might be a rainforest setting, maybe with a waterfall in the far background and an attractive lichen-covered branch in the foreground. An island-dwelling desert lizard might benefit from strategically placed boulder in the foreground and a nice view of the sea with palm-trees in the distance. Of course you will now realise that this sort of photography is only really possible ‘on location’ and it does not involved the Cubelite (although the one I own has a removable back so it might just work). There is also the risk of loosing your subject species so make sure you have some standard shots already in the can before you move onto this style.

For this method you need your widest wide-angle, although I think I would avoid the fish-eye lens which is fun to play with and produces some weird effects, but since you are after true-to-life images, not ideal for this job. You also need a tripod because this shot will not be possible hand-held. Set up your camera on the tripod a matter of inches away from the branch or rock on which you plan to place your subject, so close a snake could easily climb from the branch to the lens. This is also an important consideration with venomous snakes since your camera and maybe yourself will certainly be within strike range, so take appropriate precautions.

Composition is important. Do not have you subject slam-bam in the centre of the image but tastefully off-set to one side (your subject should still be in a bag in the shade at this point). Look through the viewfinder and check to make sure there are no items in the picture that will spoil it. Since you want both the subject in the foreground in focus, and the background panorama, you will want a huge depth-of-field, virtually from the subject to infinity. Remember figs1-3 and you will realise you can only shoot this photograph using f22 or f32. But you will not be illuminating the background with flash, you will be using natural daylight, so you are going to need a very slow shutter speed to allow enough light to pass through that miniscule aperture to successfully create the image you want. Hence the tripod, there is no way you can hand-hold the camera for this photograph. Shoot some experimental frames, without the herp present, until you are satisfied you have the right aperture (f-stop) and shutter speeds to correctly expose your image. I have tried to get this sort of shot when I was only using film but it never quite worked out. Now with the instant results of digital you can tweak your settings until they are perfect in a few minutes. In your composition try to avoid stark contrasts such as bright sunlit areas and deep shadows, and avoid windy vegetation waving around because at the slow speeds you are using they will create blurred images. A nice, evenly lit, windless day is perfect. To avoid the effects of camera-shake use a cable release so you do not even touch the camera on the tripod, or use your built-in ten-second self-timer. And going back to composition, because of the way we hold cameras we shoot most photographs in landscape format, ie. wider than tall. But most book covers, the Herpetological Review and The Herptile, are portrait format, taller than wide, so remember to compose and shoot a few shots in that format too. This may require a good quality, steady and versatile tripod head to turn the camera 90° from landscape without tipping over.

The panorama is now organised and will be lit by daylight on a very slow shutter speed, but what about the subject. It is close to the lens and is not ideally lit by natural light so out comes the flash kit again. Either the Macro Twin Lite mounted on the lens or a Speedlite Transmitter on the camera hotshoe and a hand-held Speedlite flashgun set to ‘slave mode’ which can be positioned to point directly down onto the subject. When all is ready introduce your subject in front of the camera, take time to get it settled, focus on it in the foreground (I always prefer Manual to AutoFocus for herp photography), position the flashgun in the left hand and press the self-timer or remote cable release with the right. The shutter will open, the flash will fire and illuminate the subject, and then, after what seems like an age, the shutter will close again wit ha loud click and the photograph is taken. Take a look at what you have achieved, bracket the f-stops, reposition the flashgun and shoot a few more.

Timor island pitviper, Cryptelytrops insularis,
in habitat, photographed using EOS 40D, EF-28-105mm wide-angle zoom lens, natural light and fill-in flash, Lore, Timor-Leste.

Click on image to enlarge.

 

I am not saying this is how all photographers get these herp in panorama shots but it works for me. Whatever the technique used, the final results can be exhilarating. If you want to see what is possible and how much more exciting and informative these images can be than the tight shots achieved with macro-lenses I advise you to take a look at Lee Grismer’s (2002) Amphibians and Reptiles of Baja California which contains numerous excellent images of herps in their own habitats, in both landscape and portrait formats.

Tilt-and-Shift.
Canon produce a series of tilt-and-shift lenses for architectural photography but what bearing that could have on photographing herps might be difficult to understand. These clever, and rather expensive, lenses reduce the parallax you observe when you look up at two skyscrapers that seem to curve in towards one another, or along a railway track when the lines appear to converge. The lenses can be shifted slightly off the film plane or tilted slightly at an angle, and the effect of this latter action is to greatly increase the depth-of-field available for an object that extends away from the photographer. Chris Mattison told me about these lenses, many years ago, and I bought one. It took a lot of experimentation with film to work out its capabilities. I had hoped to use it for photographing large crocodiles or stretched out anacondas so that the entire subject was in focus. After all my experimentation I cannot say I have ever really used the lens seriously but I do look forward to dusting it off and playing with it on a digital camera, where I can see the results immediately. Canon has just brought out a couple of new TS-E lenses and I have to say I have my heart set on the 24mm version, I just don’t have the necessary £2,000 ($3,100) I would need to buy one.

Multi-macro.
I have left my favourite lens to last. Canon produce a lens called the MP-E 65mm. It is a macro-lens, but it does not go down to 1:1 life-size! It starts at 1:1 life-size and goes down from there to 5:1, five times life-size. This is more micro than macro.

Oddly for a macro-lens the maximum f-stop is 16 but that is sufficient to get the results you require. Even at f16 and 4:1 or 5:1 the depth-of-field is minimal and the slightest movement by subject or photographer will result in an out-of-focus image. That is why a tripod is recommended, and not just a tripod, there is a Manfrotto rack system that will move the camera and lens forwards or backwards in millimetres to achieve the optimum depth-of-field. That is all very well for controlled work in the studio but I wanted to use this lens hand-held.


“Can’t be done”, I was told.


Oh yet is can if you use the Macro Twin Lite (MT-24EX) for illumination.
I have to say, it does take a steady hand to get the shots and it takes a lot of practise, and patience, but it is eminently possible. You need to take up a comfortable position where you will not feel the need to shift position for a few minutes, and then focus on the subject at around 1:1 or 2:1 (life-size or twice life-size). Make sure your MT-24EX is set for the focussing lights to come on when you tap the shutter  (C.Fn.9) and you are set. Focussing lights on, focus on the subject and gently zoom in by turning the lens through 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, all the way to 5:1 whilst doing your best to keep it centred on the subject. My one complaint to Canon is that the focussing lights have an annoying habit of switching off after 20 seconds and this is often not long enough to frame the required shot. You are then plunged into darkness and when you tap the shutter release again to switch them back on invariably you find you have moved slightly, cannot find the subject and have to start again. It takes practice.

Eventually you find you can quite easily achieve what seemed impossible, producing some amazing images of tiny invertebrates or close-ups of a pitviper’s pit (remembering all the time how close you are to your subject). Anyone who came to my talk at the 2009 IHS Herpers on Safari at WMSP may remember the series of photographs of a scorpion that I took at different magnifications using this lens. They are reproduced here.

 

Timor buthid scorpion Lychas mucronatus,
photographed with EOS 40D, EF-60mm macro and MP-E65mm macro lens, 2x convertor, and MT-24EX Macro Twin Lite flash unit, showing increasing magnification possible hand-held.
Click on image to enlarge.

 

I wanted to take this lens one stage further. I could obtain images that were five times life-size but I wanted to try for ten times life-size. I considered the purchase of a canon EF 2x Extender, which would be mounted between the lens and the camera and effectively double the focal length of the lens and the magnification possible.

“Can’t be done”, I was told.


The Canon website said this lens said the extender could only be used with the really long grey telephoto lenses discussed at the start of this article, for birders etc. and as if to emphasise that fact, the extender is only available in the same grey paint, not the usual black of regular lenses. I investigated why it could not be used with other lenses and discovered it was because the front elements of the extender extend beyond its casing and they would interfere with, even damage, the rear elements of a regular lens. But maybe not the MP-E 65mm since its rearmost elements were well inside the lens. I asked Jessops to obtain an extender for me to try out, and guess what it not only fitted perfectly, it did what I wanted it to do, it doubled my magnification and make it possible for me to hand-carry a camera outfit that would allow me to shoot images 10x life-size. You heard it here first, you CAN use the 2x extender with the MP-E 65 macro-lens.

Brahminy blindsnake Ramphotyphlops braminus,
Same, Timor-Leste, photographed with EOS 40D,
MP-E65mm macro lens and MT-24EX Macro Twin Lite.
This snake is as thick as the inside of a biro and
continually on the move making successful photography
a real challenge.
Click on image to enlarge.

 

Not that I often need 10x life-size but it is nice to know it is there if I want to achieve it, filling the frame with an area only one-millimeter across. This set-up can achieve what a camera-lucida system costing tens of thousands of pounds can achieve, but it is portable and whilst expensive, it is a whole lot cheaper than the alternative. I love it !

Author photographing a
Lichen huntsman spider, Pandercetes sp.,
on a tree using EOS 7D with MP-E 65mm macro lens and MT-EX24 Macro Twin Lite,
with LowePro Vertex 200AW back-pack.
Click on the image to view the spider.

But with all this camera gear you need a comfortable and versatile camera bag. I used to use my much-loved Billingham bag, but I now carry an extremely versatile LowePro Vertex 200AW, which will pack all my camera bodies and lenses, and my laptop (but not my flashguns which I carry separately in LowePro Rezo 190AW). Not only will my the geat fit inside it is also very comfortable to carry for long periods, I have trekked in PNG for several hours without noticing the 12kg of kit on my back, but best of all, it is within the airline carry-on baggage size allowance (if not the weight when it is stuffed) and provided you do not make it look heavy you should get away with taking almost all your valuable camera gear as carry-on.

 

References.
Brown, W.C. 1991 Lizards of the genus Emoia (Scincidae) with observations on their evolution and biogeography. Memoirs of the California Academy of Sciences Nop.15. 1-94.

Grismer, L.L. 2002 Amphibians and Reptiles of Baja California, including its Pacific islands and the islands of the Sea of Cortez. California Univ. Press, Berkeley. xiv+399.

 

 

In Conclusion.
I hope this marathon journey through my photographic epiphany has inspired you to consider taking up herp photography, and spend more time in image composition, depth-of-field, lighting etc. I have not covered everything, how could I, and why should I? It might even encourage other herp photographers to share their tips and techniques with the rest of us.

I have always found photography an exercise in experimentation. Try something out to see if it works. If it doesn’t, don’t repeat it, if it does, fine-tune it and do it again, but most importantly, have fun!

And just for the hell of it, a few more macro images shot with the EOS-S 60mm macro and MP-E 65mm macro lenses.

 

Eyes.

Lichen huntsman spider, Pandercetes sp.,
Central Prov., PNG, with MP-E 65mm macro lens and MT-EX24 Macro Twin Lite
.
Timor flying lizard, Draco timoriensis,
Loré, Timor-Leste with EOS 40D, EOS-S 60mm macro lens and MT-EX24 Macro Twin Lite.
Tokay gecko, Gekko gecko,
Samé, Timor-Leste with EOS 40D, EOS-S 60mm macro lens and MT-EX24 Macro Twin Lite.

Fangs.

Fang of Papuan taipan,
Oxuyuranus scutellatus canni,
pushed through material of Cubelite for support, with EOS 7D, MP-E65mm macro lens
and MT-EX24 Macro Twin Lite.
Fangs of giant scolopendrid centipede from underneath, with EOS 7D, MP-E65mm macro lens and MT-EX24 Macro Twin Lite.

 

and Bugs.

Horsehair worm (Nematomorpha), free-living adult stage alongside human hand for scale. Larvae are parastic on beetles, locusts and crustaceans. Viqueque, Timor-Leste, with EOS 40D, EOS 60mm macro lens and 580 Speedlite flash gun triggered by ST-E2 IR transmitter, and head and tail shot at 10x life-size using MP-E65mm macro lens and MT-EX24 Macro Twin Lite.

 

Ant lion, Loré, Timor-Leste, larvae ant-eating form of a lacewing (Myrmeleonitidae), with EOS 40D, MP-E 65mm macro lens and MT-EX24 Macro Twin Lite.
Red spider mite from Timor-Leste soil, with EOS 7D,
MP-E 65mm macro lens and MT-EX24 Macro Twin Lite.

 

 

 

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