Photographing Lembeh’s Fascinating Frogfish

A hanging head-on portrait of an impressive bushy frogfish, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia (Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 100mm Macro, f/16, 1/200s, ISO 100)


A very good pal and fellow underwater photographer lately requested me what my favourite underwater creature was to {photograph}. I mulled it over for a second, then proceeded to ship her 40 completely different pictures of frogfish. After I appeared a bit of deeper into it, I spotted I’ve photographed not less than 100 completely different specimens from tropical seas everywhere in the world! Dive spots which have change into well-known for his or her frogfishiness embrace Anilao and Dumaguete within the Philippines, Bonaire and St. Vincent within the Caribbean, South Australia, Blue Heron Bridge in Florida, and the king of all of them, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia. The truth is, each picture on this article was made in Lembeh.

At any time when my information offers the anglerfish sign underwater, my coronary heart skips a bit of, even after seeing so many. The number of colours, shapes, sizes and species means each single frogfish is thrilling. They’ve such expressive faces, they exhibit an entire vary of attention-grabbing behaviors, they usually barely transfer—all of which mix to make them an exceptional picture topic. 

When most individuals consider anglerfish, what involves thoughts are often the black, freakish, fanged, light-producing deep-sea selection. Nonetheless, the cuddly, cute, wacky frogfish additionally belong to the anglerfish household, as do their shut relations, the equally bizarre batfish. Frogfish’s foremost dorsal backbone has developed over time right into a lure that they’ve full, unbiased management over. Every frogfish species has a lure distinctive to that species, they usually range from a bit of knob to worm-like to shrimp-like. And some choose species really lack a lure.


A big painted frogfish fishing within the darkness, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia (Sony a7RV, Sony 90mm macro, f/9, 1/160s, ISO 100)



Frogfish are ambush predators, most regularly discovered mendacity immobile on the seabed or mixing right into a sponge or rock. When prey is close by or the fish will get hungry, they’ll “fish” or “angle.” The lure will get tossed out and wiggled round to entice an unlucky fish near their cavernous mouth. With frogfish having the quickest feeding strike of any animal on Earth, it’s a uncommon event {that a} prey merchandise will get fortunate sufficient to flee. The velocity of the strike creates a vacuum that sucks fish proper down into the monster mouth. After feeding, and even an unsuccessful strike, frogfish will usually carry out a bit of shake and a burp, kicking out a couple of random scales from its sufferer and any particles that will have been engulfed, stretch its jaws, and settle again down to start the entire course of over once more.

Maybe the 2 most wanted frogfish photographs are the luring shot and the “yawn.” Let’s start with the luring shot. As talked about within the introduction, frogfish really go fishing. They’re one of many few fish to make use of this tactic. Why go search for your meals when you possibly can deliver your meals proper to you? Sadly, frogfish don’t solid their lure on demand and sometimes you possibly can spend a whole dive (or a number of) ready for them to dangle it round. The extra snug the frogfish is, the extra probably it’s to go fishing. As soon as the lure is out, the target for a photographer is to seize this conduct in an attention-grabbing method. Extra on that later…


Capturing the luring motion of frogfish is among the most sought-after anglerfish photographs; the photographer’s persistence and the consolation degree of the fish in the end determines success (Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 100mm Macro, Nauticam SMC-1, f/16, 1/250s, ISO 100)


The second frogfish conduct that’s wanted by photographers is the a lot coveted “yawn.” The precise feeding strike of frogfish is blisteringly quick—a lot too quick to react to and {photograph}. Frogfish yawn for a number of causes: They’re feeling confused or threatened, they’re holding their jaws limber, as a territorial show, and to reset their jaws after a strike. The final one is the simplest to get footage of, as, with out fail, after a strike, profitable or not, they may reset their jaw in a protracted, gradual extension. It’s a improbable alternative to seize an superior second!


An image of a bushy frogfish doing the coveted “yawn,” Lembeh Strait, Indonesia (Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 100mm Macro, f/16, 1/250s, ISO 100)


Frogfish can change into irritated by a photographer’s presence. I keep away from utilizing any focus or steady gentle if doable whereas photographing them. A photographer should be eager to not stress any animal when taking pictures. Not solely is it unfair to the animal, however a confused animal doesn’t make for good photographs. As quickly as a frogfish exhibits indicators that it’ll transfer from a specific perch or it turns its again, it’s time for me to maneuver on and go away it’s and let the critter take pleasure in the remainder of its day in peace.


Digital camera Tools

Excluding massive species like the large frogfish discovered within the tropical Pacific, most frogfish are between 2cm (0.8in) and 20cm (8in). Whereas some people will be photographed with fisheye lenses or specialised lenses just like the Nauticam EMWL, we’re going to concentrate on macro taking pictures for the needs of this text.

Each digicam model has high-quality macro lenses which can be conducive to frogfish pictures. The pictures on this article have been all photographed with both the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 macro on a full-frame Sony a7RV, or the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L macro on a full-frame Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. Relying on the system you’re invested in, 60mm, 50mm or 30mm macros are all good choices as properly.


A surprising painted frogfish, selectively illuminated with a snoot, whereas gradual shutter digicam motion eliminates the environment and creates a painterly really feel, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia (Sony a7RV, Sony 90mm Macro, f/14, 0.4s, ISO 100)


Whereas I usually use longer macro lenses, the shorter focal lenghts have their place. Particularly on full body, a 60mm, for instance, will permit a photographer to seize full physique photographs of larger people, or to go away the frogfish smaller within the body to indicate off environment. The shorter size lenses additionally focus nearer, which means you possibly can have much less water between you and your topic whereas sustaining a wider discipline of view. This provides higher element and sharpness, much less backscatter, and higher colour.



Black Backgrounds

Maybe probably the most sought-after picture type for all macro taking pictures, not solely frogfish, is the coveted black background picture. Frogfish particularly usually select unattractive habitats, so eliminating these environment could make for a way more aesthetically pleasing image whereas displaying off the topic fairly properly. Instruments like snoots can assist this, however black backgrounds are straightforward to attain with out fancy gear.

The simplest option to get a black background is to maintain your ISO low and your shutter velocity quick, and use a slim aperture. You’ll be able to select your settings and shoot a body. When you have an all-black body, good! Now you possibly can add in your lighting. The concept is to contol precisely the place the strobe gentle falls. For black backgrounds you need it to fall solely in your topic, and get rid of any extraneous gentle from falling on the background. In case your topic is framed in opposition to open water, you possibly can realistically have your strobes in any place and in case your settings are appropriate, the background can be black. Nonetheless, inward lighting, cross lighting, snoots, facet lighting, discount rings, and so forth are all strategies that can improve your possibilities of having a wonderfully black background and actually making your frogfish pop!


No fancy instruments wanted to create the black background for this painted frogfish—simply settings and strobe positioning, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia (Sony a7RV, Sony 90mm Macro, f/11, 1/200s, ISO 100)



Probably the most vital instruments to think about as regards to frogfish pictures is a snoot. A snoot is just a tube or beam restrictor that matches on the entrance of a light-weight supply and shapes the sunshine into a way more centered beam. Usually, the additional out of your topic you’ve got your snoot, the broader and softer the beam can be. Due to this fact, as you progress a snoot nearer, the beam turns into tighter and the sunshine edge can be harsher.

There’s a seemingly infinite number of snoots in the marketplace right now: optical, fiber optic, laser guided, or the Backscatter Mini Flash and Optical Snoot mixture, to call a couple of. I take advantage of the Retra LSD, which stands for Gentle Shaping System. It pairs completely with my Retra Professional strobes and has high-quality optical parts inside to supply one of the best beam high quality. The LSD additionally permits the main target gentle of the strobe to shine by means of, displaying precisely the place the sunshine goes to fall and its form.


A painted frogfish within the muck: Utilizing a snoot to selectively gentle simply the fish, the environment disappear, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia (Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 100mm Macro, f/20, 1/200s, ISO 100)


In use, snoots will be an train in frustration to get used to, however they’ll open up infinite imaging alternatives. They’ll, after all, permit a photographer to create the well-known highlight impact. However their versatility can’t be overstated: They will also be used to deliver out texture and distinction, get rid of unattractive environment, draw the attention to a selected a part of the body, and so forth. Certainly one of my favourite makes use of for a snoot is to freeze a frogfish throughout a protracted publicity pan. The flash freezes the frogfish whereas the digicam movement lets the remainder of the body soften away right into a painterly aesthetic.


A painted frogfish on an unpleasant mud backside: Utilizing a snoot and gradual shutter, the background melts away and we’re left with an inventive impression of habitat across the fish, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia (Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 50mm Macro, f/7.1, 1/4s, ISO 100)


Sluggish Shutter

Talking of gradual shutter taking pictures, many individuals would possibly take into account this system for use finest with fast-moving topics like sharks in case you are attempting to convey the motion of the animal. Frogfish are usually the antithesis of motion. They depend on camouflage and even after they do transfer, they don’t seem to be precisely velocity demons. For me, it’s much less about displaying movement for the sake of movement and extra about making a dynamic image and attention-grabbing background in a boring or unappealing setting. The purpose right here is to make a picture that traits extra in direction of artwork than actuality or just capturing movement.

For the sort of picture, I’ll usually set my digicam to entrance curtain sync so the flash fires at first of the publicity. I start experimenting with a shutter velocity of round 1/4s. I compose the picture, press the shutter, and the flash goes off, freezing the frogfish, after which I jerk the digicam parallel to the frogfish, blurring out the background, whereas leaving the frogfish good and sharp. A sneaky tip for the sort of picture is to make use of an impartial density (ND) filter to additional minimize out gentle. That is useful to permit for longer exposures in addition to making these photographs doable in shallower, vivid water.


A bushy frogfish photographed utilizing gradual shutter drag and a snoot, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia (Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 50mm Macro, f/11, 0.4s, ISO 100)


Synthetic Backgrounds and Shallow Depth of Area

Most of the most intriguing and crowd pleasing frogfish photographs are these with black backgrounds. Nonetheless, synthetic backgrounds have change into a extra widespread approach lately and might add some new flare and elegance to your frogfish portfolio. I’ve discovered the best synthetic backgrounds to be these which can be reflective and glossy. I as soon as went to a greenback retailer and purchased an entire number of shiny and reflective objects, from pipe cleaners to marbles and holographic paper. I’ve tried all of them, some with nice success and others with lower than nice success—paying homage to one thing that will give a baby nightmares.

The preferred synthetic background instrument lately is metal wool. It’s straightforward to deliver on a dive and provides an important bokeh impact, as it’s so textured. To make a compelling picture utilizing metal wool as a background, place the wool wherever from a couple of inches to a foot or so behind your frogfish. Shallow depths of discipline work finest with this system, because it permits the bokeh bubbles to develop pleasingly and the precise metal received’t be in focus and distracting. I favor to make use of a snoot to gentle the frogfish and a second strobe—with or with out coloured filters—to gentle the metal wool within the background.


A good looking painted frogfish, photographed with a shallow depth of discipline and metal wool to create the blue bubbles within the background, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia (Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 100mm Macro, f/2.8, 1/250s, ISO 100)



Diopters present further magnification and will be a useful instrument for underwater macro pictures, together with for miniscule frogfish. In Lembeh, for instance, I noticed a number of frogfish smaller than a pinky nail. However simply because they’re tiny doesn’t imply they’ll’t be improbable topics. Sure high-quality diopters like these from Nauticam, Kraken, or AOI can really improve picture high quality. I personally use a Nauticam SMC-1 and have simply picked up a Kraken KRL08S.

You will need to keep in mind that diopters scale back the minimal working distance and get rid of focusing to infinity. You can be photographing very near your topic. The shorter working distance could make inventive lighting strategies harder, so I favor to maintain it primary for probably the most half when photographing tiny frogfish. I usually will simply shoot them with strobes pointed straight on the fish or pointed throughout at one another for inward lighting. Depth of discipline may even be lowered with a diopter, so it’s essential to ensure your focus is spot on in order that the attention of your topic is razor sharp. Excessive-quality diopters like these talked about above will assist with this.


A miniscule painted frogfish photographed with a high-powered diopter and customary lighting, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia (Sony a7RV, Sony 90mm Macro, Nauticam SMC-1, f/6.3, 1/200s, ISO 100)


Upon getting tried every of those strategies and mastered them, it’s time to mix all of them! I like to deliver completely different strategies collectively to create actually eye-catching frogfish footage. I take advantage of diopters with synthetic backgrounds, for instance, or gradual shutter speeds with colourful synthetic backgrounds. On the finish of the day, although, bear in mind the frogfish is the star of the present. They’re extremely particular as is, so typically merely displaying off the fish for the sake of the fish is all that’s wanted for a compelling picture.


A lumpy, bumpy juvenile clown frogfish, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia (Sony a7RV, Sony 90mm Macro, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 100)


To take a look at extra of Byron’s frogfish work, please give him a comply with on Instagram, and take a look at his wesbite,