Photographing amphibians can be an adventure and a challenge. Frogs are very small, some of them are poisonous and require much care when handling them. In nature, daytime species prefer moist and dark places, which means that light will be scarce and low shutter speeds, flash and a tripod are of utter importance. Many of the most beautiful forms only descend from the forest canopy at night and must be “hunted down” with boots and lantern with a guide experienced in identifying the most subtle calls. Yet those living things are among the most diverse and fascinating, not just due to their wonderful colors, but also their unique behaviors and characteristics.
“Focusing on the eyes” is one of the most important elements in general photography, but particularly so in macro photography. The eyes are usually one of the most striking features in wildlife and macro lenses can bring out impressive detail out of them. It is said that the eyes are a window into the soul of a human, and a similar thing can be said about wildlife. The gaze of an animal can express feelings just like we humans do.
Macro photography is also a balancing art between very sharp and detailed subjects and very soft and featureless backgrounds that enable the subject to stand out. Light in the background can create circular figures called “Bokeh”, or disappear entirely into one smooth blotch of color. In other cases, the photographer will also want to use techniques to show the environment in which the amphibian is found, providing a back story to the portrait.
The species below are organized according to the families in the Amphibians of Costa Rica: A Field Guide book by Twan Leenders, an essential tool to identify each photograph to a species. I have made an effort to base my species description on my own observations and words, but undoubtedly have included details from the book itself where relevant. I claim no exclusive rights to those details and encourage visitors with an interest in species identification to purchase the guide. For the more serious amphibian lover, look at Jay Savage’s The Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica: A Herpetofauna between Two Continents, between Two Seas. This is a comprehensive 934 pages book with everything between Costa Rica history, identification keys, photographs and full description accounts for each known species. It was published in 2005 so some species and classifications have changed since, but as a reference book it is a wonder. A copy of this book is found at Yatama Ecolodge.