Photographing Lembeh’s Fascinating Frogfish

A placing head-on portrait of a powerful furry frogfish, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia (Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 100mm Macro, f/16, 1/200s, ISO 100)


An excellent 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 photographs of frogfish. After I seemed a bit of deeper into it, I spotted I’ve photographed at the very least 100 completely different specimens from tropical seas everywhere in the world! Dive spots which have turn out to be well-known for his or her frogfishiness embody 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. Actually, each picture on this article was made in Lembeh.

Each time my information provides 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 fascinating behaviors, they usually barely transfer—all of which mix to make them an exceptional photograph 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 family, 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 differ from a bit of knob to worm-like to shrimp-like. And some choose species truly 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 incessantly 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 typically carry out a bit of shake and a burp, kicking out just a few 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 truly 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 carry your meals proper to you? Sadly, frogfish don’t solid their lure on demand and sometimes you possibly can spend a complete dive (or a number of) ready for them to dangle it round. The extra snug the frogfish is, the extra doubtless it’s to go fishing. As soon as the lure is out, the target for a photographer is to seize this habits in an fascinating manner. 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 stage of the fish finally determines success (Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 100mm Macro, Nauticam SMC-1, f/16, 1/250s, ISO 100)


The second frogfish habits 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 pressured or threatened, they’re retaining their jaws limber, as a territorial show, and to reset their jaws after a strike. The final one is the simplest to get photos of, as, with out fail, after a strike, profitable or not, they are going to reset their jaw in a protracted, sluggish extension. It’s a unbelievable alternative to seize an superior second!


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


Frogfish can turn out to be aggravated by a photographer’s presence. I keep away from utilizing any focus or steady mild if doable whereas photographing them. A photographer should be eager to not stress any animal when capturing. Not solely is it unfair to the animal, however a pressured animal doesn’t make for good photographs. As quickly as a frogfish exhibits indicators that it’s going to transfer from a specific perch or it turns its again, it’s time for me to maneuver on and depart it’s and let the critter get pleasure from the remainder of its day in peace.


Digicam Gear

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 might be photographed with fisheye lenses or specialised lenses just like the Nauticam EMWL, we’re going to give attention to macro capturing for the needs of this text.

Each digital camera model has high-quality macro lenses which might be conducive to frogfish pictures. The photographs 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 might be invested in, 60mm, 50mm or 30mm macros are all good choices as effectively.


A surprising painted frogfish, selectively illuminated with a snoot, whereas sluggish shutter digital camera 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 point out 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 subject of view. This provides higher element and sharpness, much less backscatter, and higher colour.



Black Backgrounds

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

The best strategy to get a black background is to maintain your ISO low and your shutter velocity quick, and use a slender aperture. You possibly can select your settings and shoot a body. When you have an all-black body, excellent! Now you possibly can add in your lighting. The thought is to contol precisely the place the strobe mild falls. For black backgrounds you need it to fall solely in your topic, and get rid of any extraneous mild from falling on the background. In case your topic is framed towards open water, you possibly can realistically have your strobes in any place and in case your settings are appropriate, the background will likely be black. Nonetheless, inward lighting, cross lighting, snoots, aspect lighting, discount rings, and so forth are all strategies that can improve your probabilities 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 contemplate almost about 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 targeted beam. Typically, the additional out of your topic you have got your snoot, the broader and softer the beam will likely be. Subsequently, as you progress a snoot nearer, the beam turns into tighter and the sunshine edge will likely be harsher.

There’s a seemingly infinite number of snoots available on the market at present: optical, fiber optic, laser guided, or the Backscatter Mini Flash and Optical Snoot mixture, to call just a few. I take advantage of the Retra LSD, which stands for Mild Shaping System. It pairs completely with my Retra Professional strobes and has high-quality optical parts inside to supply the perfect beam high quality. The LSD additionally permits the main target mild of the strobe to shine by way of, displaying precisely the place the sunshine goes to fall and its form.


A painted frogfish within the muck: Utilizing a snoot to selectively mild 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 might be an train in frustration to get used to, however they’ll open up infinite imaging alternatives. They will, in fact, permit a photographer to create the well-known highlight impact. However their versatility can’t be overstated: They can be used to carry 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 digital camera 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 sluggish 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)


Gradual Shutter

Talking of sluggish shutter capturing, many individuals would possibly take into account this method for use greatest 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 aren’t 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 fascinating 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 digital camera to entrance curtain sync so the flash fires initially 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 digital camera 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 reduce out mild. That is useful to permit for longer exposures in addition to making these photographs doable in shallower, vibrant water.


A furry frogfish photographed utilizing sluggish 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 Discipline

Lots of the most intriguing and crowd pleasing frogfish photographs are these with black backgrounds. Nonetheless, synthetic backgrounds have turn out to be a extra fashionable method lately and might add some new flare and magnificence to your frogfish portfolio. I’ve discovered the best synthetic backgrounds to be these which might be reflective and glossy. I as soon as went to a greenback retailer and acquired 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 most well-liked synthetic background device as of late is metal wool. It’s straightforward to carry on a dive and offers a fantastic bokeh impact, as it’s so textured. To make a compelling picture utilizing metal wool as a background, place the wool wherever from just a few inches to a foot or so behind your frogfish. Shallow depths of subject work greatest with this method, because it permits the bokeh bubbles to increase pleasingly and the precise metal gained’t be in focus and distracting. I choose to make use of a snoot to mild the frogfish and a second strobe—with or with out coloured filters—to mild the metal wool within the background.


A phenomenal painted frogfish, photographed with a shallow depth of subject 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 might be a useful device 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 unbelievable topics. Sure high-quality diopters like these from Nauticam, Kraken, or AOI can truly improve picture high quality. I personally use a Nauticam SMC-1 and have simply picked up a Kraken KRL08S.

You will need to do not forget that diopters cut back the minimal working distance and get rid of focusing to infinity. You may be photographing very near your topic. The shorter working distance could make artistic lighting strategies tougher, so I choose 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 subject can even be decreased 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 commonplace lighting, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia (Sony a7RV, Sony 90mm Macro, Nauticam SMC-1, f/6.3, 1/200s, ISO 100)


After getting tried every of those strategies and mastered them, it’s time to mix all of them! I like to carry completely different strategies collectively to create actually eye-catching frogfish photos. I take advantage of diopters with synthetic backgrounds, for instance, or sluggish shutter speeds with colourful synthetic backgrounds. On the finish of the day, although, keep 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,