Monday, April 6, 2009

Wide-Angled Salamanders

Over the past few years I have been photographing a small population of rare, IUCN Red Listed Green Salamanders in the Southern Blue Ridge Escarpment of South Carolina. As I mentioned in an earlier post, green salamanders are known for inhabiting small crevices in fairly dry granitic outcrops. Although I made my first photos of the elusive species a couple of years ago (See Outdoor Photographer article, November 2008), I was disappointed that the images didn't show more of the amphibian's unique habitat.
A few days ago, I visited my site for the first time in months and my friend Alex Garcia and I were amazed to find two large specimens literally sitting out on the rock before us. Ultimately, we would find three individuals. After making a few standard images, I decided to try out my wide-angle macro technique. I was really excited with what I was seeing through my lens but knew that the image needed some fill-flash. Alex was kind of enough to be my assistant for the shoot. He diffused the flash through a sheet of tracing paper which was held fairly close to the subject and set the strobe on wide-angle. Although I would've like to have had more depth-of-field, I was still really pleased with the results and am looking forward to making more salamander and small animal portraits like this in the near future.


Anonymous said...

Very nice work - especially with natural light. Are you using extension tubes or a tele-extender - probably not an extender if you are shooting wide-angle. Or are you using a lens that focuses that close naturally (if so, what lens)?

I know this is contrary to the literature, but I've found that the Nikon 60mm seems to give more depth of field before compromising sharpness at 1:1 when focused at infinity with extension tubes than it does focused down to 1:1 without tubes. See this test.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to say that you have phenomenal depth of field in these photos. I didn't mean to imply that more would be better, just curious how you did it and wanting to share knowledge.

Zhakee said...

Very nice images. I'm surprised the salamanders didn't leave while you were setting up the right lighting. Pretty creatures.

Clay Bolt said...

Hi Glen and Zhakee,

Thanks for your comments.

I'm using a 20mm Nikon Nikkor Lens with a PK11 extension to accomodate the wide-angle macro technique. I typically use a 50mm macro lens for my standard macro work but it doesn't allow me to see the subject's background and surroundings like the 20mm.

Zhakee, I tested out my fill flash setting on a nearby rock and used my finger as the subject so that I could get the right light balance. Working distance with this set-up is about 1.5" so, your right, I didn't have long once I began to make the photographs.

Hope this helps!


Zhakee said...

I didn't realize you were that close to the salamander. So did the little guy get scared and freeze, or slowly wander on its way and you only had brief seconds for your pics?

Clay said...


They will stay still for a few moments but eventually decide to move on their way.


Anonymous said...

Thanks! Very interesting. I'll hopefully be able to try the wide-angle/extension-tube technique when I get my new camera. It produces great results!