Photographing Amphibians Underwater

Finally the mating season for frogs, toads and newts also started in northern Germany. Time for me to head out and try some underwater photography of amphibians.

Underwater Photography in your Neighbourhood

The term “underwater photography” is often associated with images of pristine tropical coral reefs, sharks or turtles. But the smaller amphibian critters, which inhabit ponds and puddles of your neighbourhood are often overlooked as photographical subjects. Nevertheless, they offer some really nice opportunities for underwater photography.

Equipped with my Olympus OM-D E-M10II and the 9-18mm wideangle lens in an Ikelite underwater housing I headed to a local quarry on a sunday evening, which is home to several amphibian species. Now in early spring I was expecting mating moor frogs (Rana arvalis), common frogs (Rana temporaria), common toads (Bufo bufo) and smooth newts (Lissotriton vulgaris). With some luck I also had the chance to find the secretive spadefoot toad (Pelobates fuscus).

I wasn´t disappointed, when I arrived. Some moor and common frogs were calling out of a pond. My chances were good to get something interesting in front of my camera lens. The smaller water bodies of the site were quite shallow and the water was pretty clear. Dozens of smooth newts pursued their mating activities.

Sunset Moon Pond

Just before Sunset. Moon reflecting in the water surface of a pond.

After Sunset

When the sun hid behind the horizon, I could hear the squeaky calls of common toads. Seemingly out of nowhere dozens of them started gathering at the different water bodies. Carefully I walked to one of the shallower pools. The warty little fellas didn´t seem to be bothered by my presence when I slowly waded through the water. Using a torch I created a narrow lightbeam to brighten up my photographical subjects. As the waterline was pretty flat, I tried to achieve some split shots. I had to rise the ISO values of my camera quite a bit to get short enough shutter times. Luckily the toad sat still on the bottom of the pond:

Toad Underwater

Common Toad underwater | 9mm | f4 | ISO 640 | 1/10 Sec.

Probably attracted by the light, a smooth newt joined the common toad:

smooth newt underwater

Smooth newt and common toad | 9mm | f4 | ISO 640 | 1/10 Sec.

I quickly tried to get some images of the newt, when he walked towards a stone:

Smooth newt underwater

Smooth newt underwater | 9m | f4 | ISO640 | 1/10 Sec.

When the newt left the scenery I concentrated on the toad again, which was still patiently persevering. I carefully moved the dome of my housing a bit closer to get a crisper shot of the amphibian:

Common Toad underwater

Split Shot of a common toad | 9mm | f4 | ISO 640 | 1/10 Sec.

As this was my first try in photographing amphibians underwater, the images are surely not “National Geographic worthy” but they are at least a new and interesting perspective on those fascinating animals (for me). The best thing about this type of underwater photography is, that you don´t need an ocean or a big lake close by. Even a small pond in your backgarden can offer fascinating photographic opportunities below the water surface. Give it a try!

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