Red Eft

Yes, even the great ones fail and fail horribly. Case in point-

I was out in my woods the other day trying to get some good pics of salamanders. Not an easy thing to do but if you are going to do it this is the time of year to try. In Spring, the woods are wet so salamanders are happy to walk about and are also easy to find under rotten logs. As the months go by and the woods dry out salamanders bury further into rotten logs and deeper underground to find moist places to live.

The other nice thing about this time of year is that it is often cool outside thus discouraging these little cold-blooded critter from moving too quickly. I know this doesn’t seen like a problem but you would be surprised how quickly the little bastards can scurry away. As you might be able to tell by my choice of words, there was a lot of scurrying and not so much photography.

The first thing to know about photographing small things that move is that using a tripod is almost impossible. As soon as you get the tripod in place whatever it was that you were trying to photograph has moved to a different location. You spend all your time adjusting your tripod and no time actually taking a picture. Small, moving critters have to be photographed hand-held.


Red form- Red-backed Salamander

I had two lenses with me- my Nikon 200mm macro lens and my favorite Nikon 24-120mm all purpose lens. I tried the 200 macro first thinking that the increased working distance of the 200 would be less likely to spook the salamanders. The problem with the 200 was that it was too slow. Even at ISO 4000 I was only getting shutter speeds of 1/10 of a second. As you can plainly see, that is much too slow.

So I switched to my trusty 24-120 and shot a few slower moving Red Efts (not actually salamanders but newts). Even with these little guys- 1″ to 1.5″ long- I missed far more than I got. Getting the auto-focus sensor on the head of a newt is not easy. You can see that the middle of the body is in focus but the head is not.


Red Eft

I took about 80 shots (shooting in bursts of 5-6 shots and picking the best one) and kept 2. None of my pictures of the salamanders came out. I am going back up into my woods to try again next week but I am going to be using a radically different technique then- I hope my results are a wee bit better. Stay tuned.


Red Eft