Migration on a miniature scale - Behind the Lens

Migration on a miniature scale.

My parents live in Somerset and have a small pond which was full of tadpoles. I had been following their treacherous journey from when they were just a couple of clumps of spawn in early March.

Using my camera on the floor gives me a much more engaging image of the frog, we are eye to eye with the subject.

I had been watching the 4 stages of metamorphosis over the past weeks and finally, the tadpoles were starting to look more like frogs, even if a few had small tails.

Frog in the 3rd stage of metamorphosis, it still has a small tail attached to its body.

I knew at some point they would be making the journey from the relative safety of the pond. They would need a safe dark and damp place to hide, feed and grow. This location would be underneath my parent's oil tank.

I had a call from my mother telling me that some of the small frogs had started making the journey and if I wanted to capture this with my camera I needed to get there fast! The next day I arrived at dawn with my camera equipment and a small bendable light which would be my makeshift flash unit.

Left image. Life just below the waterline in my parent's pond. There are still tadpole swimming around. Right image. Using my flexible touch to illuminate the darker areas of the pond.

This light came in really handy. Because its small and the head is bendable. I can get it in really small locations and I even managed to balance it on a Lilly pad to illuminate the dark areas.

As the sun started to rise and the air was still damp with moisture, I could make out tiny little dark shapes hopping from the pond into the grass and making the long journey to safety under the oil tank.

One of the larger frogs just inches away from safety near the oil tank.

Once I had positioned my self on the floor at the frogs level, I got to work tracking and trying to photograph these tiny amphibians. Photographing these little frogs proved extremely tricky for two reasons. 1st they were tiny so finding them in the grass and focusing on them to take a picture was hard. 2nd the weather conditions were changing constantly. I was shooting manually so each time the weather changed I would have to re-adjust my settings and lighting. My aperture was set to ƒ/2.8 giving an extremely short depth of field, as I wanted the frogs in focus (just the upper part) and the surrounding area blurred out.

Finally, I started to get some interesting images with the frog in focus and the background a blurred mass of green. As the day heated up the migration of frogs slowed. One of the later frogs to attempt the journey wasn’t so lucky and the heat from the sun and the distance to the oil tank was too great.

One of the unlucky frogs not able to make the joureny alive.

I headed back the next day with the same approach. I was surprised to find over half of the frogs had left the pond. Multiple frogs would of made the journey under darkness as it was cooler and safer to travel.

Small frog resting for a moment on my parents lawn.

Their was still activity and I adopted the same technique of lying on the floor with my 105mm macro lens and again using the touch. As the torch was flexible, I could stand it up on its base and direct the light to the frogs quickly.

You really get a sense of scale with this tiny frog resting on a blade of grass.

These frogs were tiny about the size of my finger nail on my little finger. Some were fully formed and some were still in their 3rd stage of metamorphosis with stubby tails.

Late evening and this tiny frog suddenly break the surface of the pond. Frogs tend to move on mass during the night.

They were so small that the grass in the garden would have looked like a jungle to them, as they hopped and crawled over the individual blades. It was amazing to watch as these frogs knew exactly where to move for sanctuary.

This tiny frog has made the first part of the journey over the lawn now it's negotiating the garden path.

I witnessed a similar event at Priddy Pools in Somerset a few years back. Hundreds of tiny toads were making a journey away from a grassy area back to the main pond.

This frog is crawling out of its pond and starting the journey away from the relative safety of its pond.

It was a busy day with many walkers out enjoying the sun. Most were unaware what was happening right under their feet. Lots of these tiny toads were trampled on that day.

My final image and the one I am most pleased with. Its tiny face peering out between blades of grass.