Photographing Lembeh’s Fascinating Frogfish

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


A great buddy and fellow underwater photographer just lately requested me what my favourite underwater creature was to {photograph}. I mulled it over for a second, then proceeded to ship her 40 totally different images of frogfish. After I seemed slightly deeper into it, I noticed I’ve photographed at the very least 100 totally 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. In truth, each picture on this article was made in Lembeh.

Every time my information offers the anglerfish sign underwater, my coronary heart skips slightly, 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 a complete vary of fascinating behaviors, and so they 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. Nevertheless, the cuddly, cute, wacky frogfish additionally belong to the anglerfish household, as do their shut family members, 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, and so they range from slightly 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 pace 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 slightly 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 photos 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’ll be able to convey your meals proper to you? Sadly, frogfish don’t solid their lure on demand and infrequently you’ll be able to spend a complete dive (or a number of) ready for them to dangle it round. The extra snug the frogfish is, the extra possible it’s to go fishing. As soon as the lure is out, the target for a photographer is to seize this conduct in an fascinating method. Extra on that later…


Capturing the luring motion of frogfish is without doubt one of the most sought-after anglerfish photos; the photographer’s endurance and the consolation degree 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 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 harassed 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 are going to reset their jaw in a protracted, sluggish extension. It’s a implausible 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 turn out to be aggravated by a photographer’s presence. I keep away from utilizing any focus or steady mild if potential 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 harassed animal doesn’t make for good photos. 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 go away it’s and let the critter take pleasure in the remainder of its day in peace.


Digital camera Tools

Excluding huge 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 deal with macro capturing for the needs of this text.

Each digicam model has high-quality macro lenses which might be conducive to frogfish images. The photographs on this article had 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 shocking painted frogfish, selectively illuminated with a snoot, whereas sluggish 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 pictures 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, that means you’ll be able to have much less water between you and your topic whereas sustaining a wider subject of view. This offers higher element and sharpness, much less backscatter, and higher shade.



Black Backgrounds

Maybe essentially the most sought-after picture type for all macro capturing, 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 exhibiting off the topic fairly effectively. Instruments like snoots can assist this, however black backgrounds are simple to realize with out fancy gear.

The simplest technique to get a black background is to maintain your ISO low and your shutter pace quick, and use a slim aperture. You may select your settings and shoot a body. You probably have an all-black body, good! Now you’ll be able to 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 eradicate any extraneous mild from falling on the background. In case your topic is framed towards open water, you’ll be able to realistically have your strobes in any place and in case your settings are right, the background will likely be black. Nevertheless, 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)



Some of the vital instruments to contemplate close to frogfish images is a snoot. A snoot is solely a tube or beam restrictor that matches on the entrance of a lightweight supply and shapes the sunshine into a way more centered beam. Typically, the additional out of your topic you’ve gotten 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 countless number of snoots in the marketplace as we speak: optical, fiber optic, laser guided, or the Backscatter Mini Flash and Optical Snoot mixture, to call just a few. I exploit the Retra LSD, which stands for Gentle Shaping Gadget. It pairs completely with my Retra Professional strobes and has high-quality optical parts inside to supply the very best beam high quality. The LSD additionally permits the main target mild of the strobe to shine by means of, exhibiting 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 countless imaging alternatives. They will, 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 convey out texture and distinction, eradicate unattractive environment, draw the attention to a particular a part of the body, and so forth. Considered 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 unsightly mud backside: Utilizing a snoot and sluggish shutter, the background melts away and we’re left with a creative 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 sluggish shutter capturing, many individuals may think about this system for use finest with fast-moving topics like sharks in case you are making an attempt to convey the motion of the animal. Frogfish are usually the antithesis of motion. They depend on camouflage and even once they do transfer, they aren’t precisely pace demons. For me, it’s much less about exhibiting movement for the sake of movement and extra about making a dynamic image and fascinating background in a boring or unappealing setting. The aim right here is to make a picture that tendencies extra in direction of artwork than actuality or just capturing movement.

For any such picture, I’ll sometimes set my digicam to entrance curtain sync so the flash fires at first of the publicity. I start experimenting with a shutter pace 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 any such 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 photos potential in shallower, vivid water.


A bushy 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 Subject

Lots of the most intriguing and crowd pleasing frogfish photos are these with black backgrounds. Nevertheless, synthetic backgrounds have turn out to be a extra standard approach lately and may add some new flare and magnificence to your frogfish portfolio. I’ve discovered the simplest synthetic backgrounds to be these which might be reflective and glossy. I as soon as went to a greenback retailer and acquired a complete 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—harking back to one thing that will give a baby nightmares.

The most well-liked synthetic background device as of late is metal wool. It’s simple to convey on a dive and offers an excellent bokeh impact, as it’s so textured. To make a compelling picture utilizing metal wool as a background, place the wool anyplace from just a few inches to a foot or so behind your frogfish. Shallow depths of subject 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 want 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 gorgeous 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 additional magnification and might be a useful device for underwater macro images, 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 implausible 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 eradicate focusing to infinity. You may be photographing very near your topic. The shorter working distance could make inventive lighting strategies harder, so I want to maintain it fundamental for essentially 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 may even be decreased with a diopter, so it’s important 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 normal 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 convey totally different strategies collectively to create actually eye-catching frogfish footage. I exploit 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 generally merely exhibiting 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,