I was hiking through Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge on a late April afternoon with a group of friends. We were there to photograph a pair of nesting osprey who had built a nest atop a duck blind in the bay just off one of the trails. It was a great location that provided very good views of the osprey and the nest, and it worked for both morning and afternoon light. Morning light lit up one side of the nest and afternoon light lit up the other.
When we’d finishing photographing the osprey we continued down the trail. These types of locations can be hit or miss, you never really know what you might encounter. Before the osprey nest we’d found a northern black racer snake moving from the brush towards us on the trail. After the osprey nest we watched and photographed a pair of red-breasted merganser diving for fish in the bay. But the next encounter, a lone green frog, is the subject of this story.
We were walking along one of the trails heading back to the parking lot, as it was getting close to the time the gates of the refuge automatically close for the night. The trail splits two wetland areas and runs along marshy terrain. This stretch is often more humid and bug-ridden than some of the other trails, with flying biting bugs and ticks on the grass along the trail. The trail itself is a service road with a patch of grass between the two tire trails. Halfway along this trail we ran into a lone green frog sitting in the middle of one of the tire trails. Honestly, I didn’t even notice the frog. I’d been watching the treeline for birds. But one my friends spotted the frog and started photographing it.
One of the early lessons I learned in wildlife photography is to capture an image early if the shutter sound won’t scare off whatever you’re photographing. This assures you get a shot, even if it’s not the best shot possible. I like to both document wildlife and try to produce the most pleasing photographs I can. So I document first, then take the time to create a pleasing image if the wildlife decides to stick around.
The green frog proved very accommodating. The first photograph I made was from full tripod height looking down on the frog. This was the documentary shot. Even if the frog hopped back into the brush I had an image. I was using a Nikon 200-400mm f/4 lens with a 1.4x teleconverter on a Nikon D300 camera body. With the teleconverter the lens has a focal range of 280-560mm. For the first shot I had the lens zoomed out to 550mm at an aperture of f/8. The ISO was at 500 giving me a shutter speed of 1/100 sec. That’s a little slow for 550mm but the subject was not moving and I was on a tripod.