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)


An excellent buddy and fellow underwater photographer not too long ago 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 pictures of frogfish. After I seemed a bit of deeper into it, I noticed I’ve photographed at the very least 100 totally different specimens from tropical seas all around the world! Dive spots which have change into well-known for his or her frogfishiness embrace 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 reality, 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 a complete vary of attention-grabbing behaviors, they usually barely transfer—all of which mix to make them an outstanding photograph topic. 

When most individuals consider anglerfish, what involves thoughts are normally 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 kinfolk, 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 range 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 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 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 pictures 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’ll be able to deliver your meals proper to you? Sadly, frogfish don’t solid their lure on demand and sometimes 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 habits in an attention-grabbing manner. Extra on that later…


Capturing the luring motion of frogfish is without doubt one of the most sought-after anglerfish pictures; 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 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 preserving their jaws limber, as a territorial show, and to reset their jaws after a strike. The final one is the best to get photos of, as, with out fail, after a strike, profitable or not, they are going to reset their jaw in an extended, gradual 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 change into irritated 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 taking pictures. Not solely is it unfair to the animal, however a pressured animal doesn’t make for good pictures. As quickly as a frogfish exhibits indicators that it will 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 get pleasure from the remainder of its day in peace.


Digicam 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 will be photographed with fisheye lenses or specialised lenses just like the Nauticam EMWL, we’re going to deal with macro taking pictures for the needs of this text.

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


A surprising painted frogfish, selectively illuminated with a snoot, whereas gradual 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 typically use longer macro lenses, the shorter focal lenghts have their place. Particularly on full body, a 60mm, for instance, will enable 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 discipline of view. This provides higher element and sharpness, much less backscatter, and higher colour.



Black Backgrounds

Maybe essentially the most sought-after picture fashion for all macro taking pictures, 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 displaying off the topic fairly nicely. Instruments like snoots may help this, however black backgrounds are straightforward 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’ll be able to select your settings and shoot a body. You probably have an all-black body, excellent! 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 remove any extraneous mild from falling on the background. In case your topic is framed in opposition to open water, you’ll be able to realistically have your strobes in any place and in case your settings are appropriate, the background will probably be black. Nonetheless, inward lighting, cross lighting, snoots, facet lighting, discount rings, and so forth are all methods 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)



One of the vital vital instruments to contemplate almost about frogfish images is a snoot. A snoot is solely 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 probably be. Subsequently, as you progress a snoot nearer, the beam turns into tighter and the sunshine edge will probably be harsher.

There’s a seemingly infinite number of snoots available on the market right this moment: 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 Machine. It pairs completely with my Retra Professional strobes and has high-quality optical parts inside to supply the most effective beam high quality. The LSD additionally permits the main target mild of the strobe to shine by means 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 will be an train in frustration to get used to, however they will open up infinite imaging alternatives. They’ll, after all, enable a photographer to create the well-known highlight impact. However their versatility can’t be overstated: They will also be used to deliver out texture and distinction, remove unattractive environment, draw the attention to a particular 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 an extended 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 unsightly mud backside: Utilizing a snoot and gradual 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)


Gradual Shutter

Talking of gradual shutter taking pictures, many individuals may take into account this system for use greatest with fast-moving topics like sharks in case you are attempting to convey the motion of the animal. Frogfish are typically 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 displaying movement for the sake of movement and extra about making a dynamic image and attention-grabbing background in a boring or unappealing setting. The aim right here is to make a picture that traits extra in direction of artwork than actuality or just capturing movement.

For one of these picture, I’ll usually set my digital camera to entrance curtain sync so the flash fires originally 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 digital camera parallel to the frogfish, blurring out the background, whereas leaving the frogfish good and sharp. A sneaky tip for one of these picture is to make use of an impartial density (ND) filter to additional lower out mild. That is useful to permit for longer exposures in addition to making these pictures potential in shallower, shiny water.


A bushy frogfish photographed utilizing gradual 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 attention-grabbing frogfish pictures are these with black backgrounds. Nonetheless, synthetic backgrounds have change into a extra in style method in recent times 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 purchased a complete choice of shiny and reflective gadgets, 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 might give a toddler nightmares.

The most well-liked synthetic background device lately is metal wool. It’s straightforward to deliver on a dive and provides an ideal 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 discipline work greatest with this system, 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 stupendous painted frogfish, photographed with a shallow depth of discipline 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 will 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 will’t be implausible 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.

It is very important keep in mind that diopters scale back the minimal working distance and remove focusing to infinity. You’ll be photographing very near your topic. The shorter working distance could make inventive lighting methods tougher, so I choose to maintain it primary for essentially the most half when photographing tiny frogfish. I typically will simply shoot them with strobes pointed straight on the fish or pointed throughout at one another for inward lighting. Depth of discipline may even be lowered with a diopter, so it’s important to verify 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)


Upon getting tried every of those methods and mastered them, it’s time to mix all of them! I like to deliver totally different methods collectively to create actually eye-catching frogfish photos. I exploit diopters with synthetic backgrounds, for instance, or gradual 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 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,