In today's tutorial, we will take a trip to the Caribbean and visit one of its inhabitants. Bill Mangold will let us know how he took his closeup of the Cuban tree frog. For more in-depth tutorials, please see 1xLearning.
The Cuban tree frog, (Osteopilus septentrionalis), is an amphibian, native to the Caribbean. The frog varies in size but can reach a size larger than a man's hand; most, however, are considerably smaller. The frog is an invasive species with a big appetite and a mouth to match. The reptile will eat just about anything. Since its introduction into the US in the early 1900's, the frog has migrated from Southern Florida to Georgia and the Coastal Carolinas. Because of its size, appetite and aggressive nature, it has greatly reduced many indigenous populations of frogs, lizards and snakes. The native populations of tree frogs have been especially reduced. When I first moved to Florida several years ago, there was a large population of Cuban frogs all around my house. As I learned more about their destructive nature I began to hunt them with both a stick and my camera!
Unlike many macro subjects, the Cuban Tree frog does not move very fast. In fact, it is common for one to sit for hours in the same position, sleeping. Thus, the photographer doesn't need to worry about “spooking” them. Because the Tree Frogs are usually sedentary during the day, it is possible to approach them closely and methodically to set up the shot.
For this shot I was able to use my tripod. The first tip for a shot like this is: use a tripod where possible. A good, sturdy tripod will go a long way to obtain a great picture. Although I had previously taken dozens of photographs of tree frogs, most of them were fairly straight-forward literal representations. In the literal or documentary photograph, the Cuban Tree frog appears harmless and comical – everyone loves Kermit the frog! But the reality of the Cuban tree frog is not cute - they are destructive killers! The frog has big eyes and a huge smiling mouth that covers the face from ear to ear. The big comical eyes see extremely well at night, giving the creature the ability to see prey under the darkest conditions; the wide gash of a mouth can -- and will -- swallow just about anything that will fit inside. Thus, for this shot I did not want a literal photographic treatment: I wanted to capture the evil nature of the creature. In order to accomplish this goal, I used a large aperture that has a shallow dof. I reduced exposure compensation by -1.67 to underexpose the scene. I focused on the eye, which I wanted to isolate as the distillation the frog’s predatory nature.
I processed the raw image with NX2. Using the selection tool, I selected the out of focus area behind the frog’s head and reduced the brightness to nearly black. Next I selected the area in the lower left area and darkened it too. I used the View-point tool to brighten and increase the contrast of the eye. The final processing steps consisted of sharpening the eye and reducing noise with NoiseNinja. I am pleased with the photograph: it tells the story that I wanted to tell. Thus, my final tip is that while many great photos are “shot from the hip,” a large number are also the result of careful planning and execution. This is particularly true when the subject is stationary, like the tree frog here.
- While many great photos are “shot from the hip,” a large number are also the result of careful planning and execution. This is particularly true when the subject is stationary, like the tree frog here.
Bill Mangold is an American photographer based in Florida. Earlier he was mostly active in the Street genre, but in the later years he has created many exceptional photos in other genres, prominently macro and wildlife.