Low-Key Nature Photography: Exotic Species

Updated: Feb 19

Following on from a previous blog post of low-key owl portraits, here are some more photos shot in low light with Teaching Talons. This time it's a set of more exotic species, comprising reptiles, amphibians, and insects.

Chameleon

A Veiled Chameleon, head-on, photographed in low-key lighting against a black background.
Chameleon Close-Up

This is Cham, the Veiled Chameleon. What a star she was. Chameleons are great posers. We all read charisma into their seemingly considered postures, and of course, they are able to change colour to convey mood and even more character. With eyes that move independently, the hardest thing about these portraits was waiting for both eyes to face the front at the same time. It almost became a game as she moved one around, before switching to the other, never quite pausing with both forward. But as with a lot of animal photography, it's a matter of patience.

A Veiled Chameleon, head-on, photographed in low-key lighting against a black background.
Chameleon Portrait

Each time I think I have a favourite of these chameleon portraits, I change my mind. I'm pretty happy with both of them.

Corn Snake

A corn snake, photographed against black.
Corn Snake On Black

Again patience was required, as I was trying to catch it with its tongue out. For me that's when a snake is most expressive and characterful, and it was the shot I wanted.

And as a bonus, I managed to capture a couple of them.

A corn snake, photographed against black.
Corn Snake On Black

African Bull Frog

OK, I keep talking about patience, but when it comes to photography, that's rarely a problem for me. I could wait for ever for the shot I want. What was a genuine challenge for me was to be in the presence of a frog! I am really not happy around frogs. What can I say - they freak me out! Ranidaphobia, if we're being high-brow about it. And this was no ordinary frog. He's an absolute beast; Bigger than my fist, and full of attitude. But I have to say I love this photo, and it's one of my favourites that I've taken with artificial lighting so far.

This is an African Bull Frog, photographed in low-key against black
African Bull Frog

Fortunately I'm able to look at these photos without too much unease. My issue is more related to their erratic movements, which isn't a concern in a photo. He was also very well behaved. He hardly moved for the five minutes we had him posing 'on-set'. I guess you can see from these photos that he doesn't exactly look like he's about to spring into action (but that's how they get you!). I love a 'head-on' perspective, but how about a more presidential-style angle?

This is an African Bull Frog, photographed in low-key against black
African Bull Frog

Bearded Dragon

Another interesting subject, and an opportunity to portray a real life dragon up-close. I like my subjects to be subtly revealed; fading in from the darkness, which is tricky to do with animals of this scale (certainly compared to my experience with large mammals and natural light). But these dragons, and the frog above are getting very close to the look I want to achieve, so that's very pleasing.

A bearded dragon, photographed against black.
Bearded Dragon (Mushu)

It's great to work with a chilled out subject like this. Staying very still and rewarding me with a quizzical gaze, it leaves me with more time and space to concentrate on lighting and composition. And that eye makes a great focal point.

A bearded dragon, photographed against black
Mushu (Wide)

Madagascan Hissing Cockroach

Not something I'd normally photograph, but it's fun to challenge myself to find character and empathy in a cockroach. These guys are pretty big, and by catching it with its head up and antennae out, I think I was able to capture something interesting. Although it's shot with a flash against a black background, this isn't truly low-key lighting. Working on this scale is something I'll have to practice for smaller critters in the future. Nevertheless I like the outcome, and it sheds light on the kind of animal that's easily overlooked.

So there we go. Some interesting species to photograph, and I'm pleased with this set of photos. They also add to my On Black collection, which is my main focus for photography beside the sister project; On White. Thanks again to Becky for your assistance with this project. I've got some more animals from Teaching Talons still to come, so I'll share those soon. They feature some more domestic species, but in some fun and charismatic poses.


-

George


1 comment
Red Deer Roaring, photographed in black and white

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