We’re only two months into 2023, and I’ve already had many “firsts” in my photography life. For the first time, I traveled to the Amazon for the unique wildlife opportunities, used the OM-1 (the best Micro Four Thirds camera today), took my Panasonic G9 underwater at my favorite spring, and more. I’ve also been developing a new lighting setup for my reptile and amphibian photos. So, here’s a bit of catching up for you!
It starts with the Amazon rainforest, specifically the Peruvian Amazon. Since my main focus in photography are reptiles and amphibians, it was a paradise. By the end I got to see 68 species of reptiles and amphibians, more than half of which were frogs. And I still haven’t even scratched the surface of what the Amazon has to offer.
Frogs, especially tropical species of fascinating colors and shapes, have always been some of my favorite animals to photograph. This trip, I got to see such an amazing diversity that I became even more obsessed with them.
Although my go-to lens with frogs is my trusty Olympus M.zuiko 60mm f/2.8 macro, I challenged myself to use my Panasonic Leica 9mm f/1.7 for some wide-angle close-ups. With a working distance under an inch, I had to get creative with my lighting. I used the Laowa Twin Lite KX-800 with flexible arms and a homemade diffuser to light my subjects.
Of course, my main muse, snakes, took the spotlight frequently as well. A dream species of mine was the emerald tree boa, an iconic species I’ve longed to observe in the wild since I first learned of its existence. I was ecstatic one night when I looked up towards the canopy and spotted the unmistakable green coils in the tree above me.
Another boa species native to the Amazon is the Amazon Tree Boa, I saw many of different colors, but the “Halloween phase” I’ve shown below was my favorite. With his bright yellow eyes and intricate dorsal pattern, he made for a great subject for some dramatic, angled lighting.
Another snakey highlight was the Aquatic Coral Snake shown below. This snake was a bit challenging to photograph because the scales were so reflective. By getting my large diffuser close enough, I was able to create relatively soft light, though.
This venomous snake shows us clearly why the old rhyme, “red touches black, friend of jack” or whatever version, is not a viable method of determining if a snake is venomous or not outside of the U.S. (and shouldn’t be used anywhere really).
Snakes and frogs weren’t the only animals I photographed. Monkeys were plentiful in the rainforest, and these glow worms beside a creek made for a unique photo opportunity.
Leaving the Amazon was tough, but it was made easier when I was greeted by a copy of the new OM System 90mm f/3.5 and the OM-1 that had been sent to me for testing. Now back in the U.S., there were no longer frogs and bizarre bugs around every corner, but I still managed to find some critters to shoot 2X macro.
I even tried out 4X macro with these weevils by using a 2x teleconverter in conjunction with the 90mm f/3.5 Such a setup holds promise for focus stacking, but it’s certainly a challenge to shoot handheld. Not impossible though!
When I went back to Florida, I couldn’t be kept from the water any longer! I got to work again on my underwater photography. With my Panasonic Lumix G9 safe in an Ikelite DL 200 housing, I photographed some iconic native Florida wildlife in crystal-clear spring water.
This manatee made a close pass, and seemed intrigued by my dome port. The Panasonic Lecia 9mm f/1.7 makes it appear further away, but this 1000-pound marine mammal was right near my camera!
I also enjoyed working with this dragon-like common snapping turtle and morning sunrays to create an ethereal scene. Sun rays are quickly becoming one of my favorite subjects to add to underwater photos, and I’d like to explore the possibilities further in the upcoming months.
Later that day, this mother manatee and her calf graced me with their presence. Shooting against the light underwater can cast some typically undesirable shadows, but in this case I really like the high-contrast and textured appearance created by the water surface and sand. The water is so clear it feels like the image is taken in another world where beasts float through thin air – which is similar to how it felt in person, too.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this small montage of my recent endeavors! Already I feel I have a year’s worth of new experiences in 2023, and I’m seeing some improvement in my techniques. Here’s hoping the rest of the year goes as well. I’m always happy to answer questions regarding my work in the comments.