Friday, February 7, 2014

My Slimy Friends: Salamanders in Nature Photography

If I recall correctly, Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes fame), made some remark about how nature was gross, because something was always crawling or oozing slime on you.
Dear reader, I humbly submit that this is not a bad thing.

This week, we are going to talk about salamanders as unique and beautiful nature photography subjects.

Salamanders are some of my favorite animals. Brightly colored or simple brown, they squirm and squiggle their way through quick-moving streams and underneath mossy rocks. Turn over a stone here and who knows - perhaps a translucent dragonfly larva, or possibly a vibrant orange amphibian.

Eurycea cirrigera - Southern Two Lined Salamander
 Amphibians are an oft neglected subject in the world of nature photography. Not as available as insects, pitifully unglamorous next to big mammals, they tend to shrink away into their damp worlds of moss and wet stone.

Desmognathus quadramaculatus - Black-bellied Salamander
Perhaps that is why I am so fond of them. After all, I cannot resist the contrast of soft vegetation against slimy Caudatan skin. It was love at first sight, really.

Salamanders are delicate animals; soft, overcast lighting and macro lenses do them great favors. As with most other subjects, early morning is the best time to photograph them. Not only do you get the most flattering light this way, but the cold-blooded salamanders will be the most sluggish (read: most willing to sit still for you).

If you do handle any salamanders, make sure to do so gently. Do a little research of the species in your area before you go out, however, as some are toxic. And finally, do not remove animals from their habitats or take them far away from where you found them searching for a "better" photo. Remember that you are a guest in the salamander's dank world.

Southern Two-Lined Salamander
The melting ice and warming temperatures simply remind me, in tantalizing whispers, that salamander season is coming again. So, if you should find yourself near a swampy forest or a cold mountain stream, consider (carefully) turning over stones and logs to look for amphibians.

(All photos were taken at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. The Smoky Mountain region is considered to be a biodiversity hotspot for salamanders.)

Nikon D70 + Sigma 100mm macro

Check out this post for some tips on taking great animal portraits! Please remember to share, follow, and subscribe via the fancy sidebar options! Here is my tumblr and here I am on bloglovin.

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