As a diver and an underwater photographer there are loads of creatures that I love to see, the octopus is definitely one of my favorites but there is one type of creature that features in my top three and that is the Frogfish.

Found in most tropical and sub tropical seas around the world, with a notable exception being the Med, it is surely one of the most unusual fish that we encounter.

So let me share with you some of my favourite pictures of, and along the way some interesting facts about this comical beast.

Scuba Travel, Frogfish, black frogfish
This tiny fellow was about the size of a pea, and was quite a challenge to shoot with a macro lens and diopter.

Frogfish range in size from almost invisible and the help of eagle-eyed guides like the ones at Critters@Lembeh you have more than a fighting chance of seeing them, to some that are real giants reaching the size of a football.

This shot above I am proud of as I found this little pea sized fellow myself.
He was in good lighting so didn’t require much more than a sliver of artificial light to supplement the ambient. I was using my diopter lens attached to my macro port to give me a bit more magnification than normal.

Ok, now the shot below is of a creature of a size thousands of times bigger by weight and volume. Around the size of a rugby or football.

The Female of the Species…..

Frogfish vary in size across species but also within the same species with the males generally being much smaller, and they have to be on their guard come mating time as they could be considered the perfect post coital snack for a peckish female frogfish.
The male has to approach carefully from the side and behind and mouths the female sometimes even removing her eggs himself to fertilise. Although in most cases that have been observed, and this rarely btw, she swims upwards releasing her eggs behind her into the water column which he then fertilises before making a hasty exit, for his own safety.
Im sure some of you are making some interesting parallels in your heads right now!!

Scuba Travel, frogfish, Yawning
This satsuma orange Froggy was the size of a rugby ball and clearly didn’t have too many predators to worry about as he was very visible, even to the untrained eye.

I hinted earlier at their cannabilistic nature and they are in fact wholly carnivorous.
They are ambush predators par excellence, using their camouflage to hide from predators but mostly to lie in wait for unwary victims, which they snatch out of the water column in the blink of an eye.

Dont gulp your food….

They do this by waving a lure called an esca on the end of an adapted dorsal fin called an illicium. They will wait for prey and follow them with their eyes first, and then try and attract the prey by waving the rod and lure in an enticing fashion to the intended victim.
and when the hapless creature is within range they strike.

This is achieved by opening their mouths in a staggering six milliseconds., creating a vortex of rushing inward water which exits through their gills, and if all goes to plan the prey is now being munched by the froggy.

Scuba Travel, frogfish, lure
Here you can clearly see the frog fish lure being dangled to entice it’s potential prey.

Hairy Monster

As I said Frogfish come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and they differ enormously in external appearance, no more so than the famed Hairy Frogfish which is an incredibly popular sighting by all divers frequenting the Straits of Lembeh

These two examples below give you an idea of the unlikely appearance of these strange and comical beasts.

Scuba Travel, Hairy Frogfish, Lembeh
The Lembeh Straits in Northern Sulawesi is a haven for many kinds of frogfish
Scuba Travel, Hairy Frogfish, Close Up
Imagine if this is the very last thing that you see before being devoured in 6 milliseconds !!

Shooting Frogfish

Photographing frogfish can be a challenge but first you need to find them, this is why at Lembeh Resort and other places that are a mecca for frogfish, they have awesome guides with sharp eyed spotting skills and great memories. Frogfish often stick to one spot for awhile and the guides share information between themselves as to their location.
This is a godsend and on a typical dive with Critters@Lembeh the guides will usually find or re-find a few examples for the groups to shoot giving everyone ample opportunity to get their own shots.

I would say that if they are larger they can be easily shot with a shorter focal length macro lens, or even doing some close focus wide angle with your fisheye lens if they are a bigger one. Which is how I shot the big orange one yawning above.

Or alternatively the really tiny ones can be shot using a diopter attached to your regular macro lens.

Scuba Travel, Grey Frogfish
Taking a side on shot like this it’s helpful to have a background that doesn’t overwhelm the fish, or even just a black background. So that you can appreciate its shape in profile.


Stage Lighting for a Panto Villain

Lighting your frogfish can be achieved in as many different ways as their are frogfish in all honesty, if they are small and brightly coloured I have tried back lighting with a flexible snoot, which makes them look like little Halloween lanterns.

Scuba Travel, frogfish, glowing
This Frogfish I have lit using a snoot directly from behind.

Alternatively just a single frontal strobe brings out all their lumps and bumps.

Scuba Travel, frogfish, frogfish eye
Lit form the side like this an orange frogfish can look very menacing.

When Life Gives You Lemons….

I was in a situation once though when I ran out of juice for my strobes so the only light source I had available apart from the sun was a small LED torch that I use as a focus light.
So I cranked up the ISO to 800 and took some shots of a froggie using that.

Scuba Travel, frogfish
Sometimes you need to shoot using whatever you have at your disposal, in this case it was a small focussing light.

Panto Dame

I will leave you after this last shot of a creature I found on a night dive in the Lembeh Straits which must surely be one of the best places in the world to see Frogfish in fact most of these shots were taken there.

Frogfish are master of disguise doing their utmost to blend into their surroundings
They often resemble their immediate surroundings, but I think this one looks like a pantomime dame, with over done make up.

I am leading another trip there this year and I would love to have you come along and see for yourselves what a marvellous place it is and what a fantastic base Lembeh Resort is to be staying at.

Of course it’s not just frogfish there, they just happen to be one of my favourites, and this area isn’t called the weirdest square mile on earth for nothing, with all manner of strange life forms. It really is like visiting another planet.

UPDATE for Halloween, I originally posted this back in July, but surely today of all days Oct 31st is the best day of the year for showcasing these crazy critters.

I realised that I also didn’t link to one of the key blogposts series that I looked at a couple of years back about snooting techniques which is a great macro underwater photography fundamental to get to grips with, and how I shoot a lot of my Frogfish pictures.
So please have a look at my snooting series which is in three parts and the first part can be accessed here, so please click away and enjoy some Halloween lighting fun.

Have a fun Halloween