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Page 16 Ashley Hockenberry

Written By onci on Wednesday, July 29, 2009 | 8:31 PM

Field Herping by Ashley Hockenberry

Herpetology is the study of reptiles and amphibians, and these classes of animals are often referred to as “herps.” Whatever you call them, there are some great opportunities to photograph snakes, turtles (both land and aquatic) frogs, toads and salamanders all around us if we look for them.

The summer time is great because the local ponds, meadows and bogs are alive with these creatures, many of them on the move or hunting for food. As the weather warms, turtles and snakes will bask in the sun, providing good photo opportunities.

Why photograph reptiles and amphibians – aren’t they creepy and slimy? Good question. I think you will find that they have a beauty all their own - from very vibrant colours and markings to distinct features. Up close they are amazingly beautiful and uniquely wild.

Perhaps one of the greatest side benefits of searching out “herps” is that you can get a lot of good exercise while hiking. I have recently enjoyed a number of outings for the specific purpose, a few to Northern Ontario and one to West Virginia. The variety of wildlife out there is extensive if we look for it; however, too often we walk right past many of these creatures without even realizing it.

Usually I get lucky and stumble onto something interesting. I had the good fortune of encountering a Blanding’s Turtle crossing the road while driving back from a day of shooting. Frogs and toads can typically be found at the edge of a body of water or bog. Aquatic turtles will bask on logs soaking up the sun. Snakes can be found on or near rocks or some kind of cover which provides habitat and protection. Overturning rocks and logs can also reveal salamanders and snakes.

The key to this type of photography is to move slowly and use your keen powers of observation. Often snakes and turtles will remain completely motionless. It is very easy to walk right past them without realizing it. The key is to have your camera at the ready and be prepared to shoot, as you may only have seconds to work with.

Focal Length: I tend to bring both a zoom lens and a macro lens, to handle both close up shots but also have enough reach to capture animals at a distance. While many handle and pose these animals for shots, this is not always advisable. Some snakes are venomous and even some of the non-venomous ones can deliver a nasty bite. The Snapping Turtle also lives up to its reputation.

Lighting: I try to make use of as much natural light as possible without using a flash, but sometimes you can’t get by without it. If you use a flash, try to use a diffuser with it, especially for macro shots.

I hope I have inspired you to give this a try – it will be worth the effort.

Ashley Hockenberry
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