June 1, 2013


If you already know what a herp is and like them, and you are into photography, chances are that this workshop is for you!

TreefrogIf you don’t know what a herp is, then this paragraph is for you… Herps are what herpetologists study. A herpetologist is a biologist who specializes in the biology & ecology of one or more of the thousands of species of snakes, lizards, turtles, crocodilians, frogs, toads, and salamanders that inhabit the earth.

Many nature photographers who specialize in “wildlife” photography shoot a lot of bird images because birds are found pretty much everywhere. Well, reptiles & amphibians are found almost everywhere as well, and you can get “up close and personal” with them without the long (i.e., expensive) lens normally needed for bird photography! There are 94 wild amphibian species, 79 wild reptile species, and 70 (or more!) exotic herp species in North Carolina, providing a total of well over 400 photo subjects when you consider different life stages and color phases of those 243+ species! How many of those 400 photo subjects do you have in your files?


The objective of this course is to help interested photographers produce pleasing pictures of herps –both in-the-field pictures and captive/studio pictures. We will do this primarily with captive native & exotic herps in temporary sets constructed during the workshop, though there will also be a field herp component. We hope that all participants learn some of the basics of herp photography and leave having learned to think more creatively about getting the shot, as well as taking home some great shots of a diversity of herps in a variety of settings!


This is an INTENSIVE day of herp photography where Robert Smith and Gary Carter will share their cumulative years of herp photography experience with nothing held back. They are sharing all the things they learned the hard way from camera basics to lighting techniques to set construction and more.

Our day will begin with a quick presentation on herp photography and techniques. This presentation will emphasize technique, not gadgetry. We will talk about herps, equipment, techniques, and demonstrate some “behind-the-scenes” things we will learn to enhance our pictures.

Shooting a ToadThen we will build 3 different demonstration sets to learn how to quickly construct sets to photograph captive herps or other herps in controlled situations. We’ll construct natural-looking terrestrial & aquatic sets as well as a solid-color background for “cover shot” type shots.

After constructing those sets, the group will divide into 2 teams for a round-robin hands-on herp photography opportunity of different herps (likely a representative snake, lizard, and frog) using 3 different sets than were constructed during the set construction exercise. Each team will have up to 4 participants and will spend 45-minutes with each species/instructor. We will focus on how to get natural-looking pictures of that particular group of animals in a captive or controlled situation. We will discuss camera settings, photographic techniques, particular problems, and other appropriate topics as the team works together so that each person has an opportunity to photograph the representative animal. Depending on the situation, all the team members may be able to photograph an animal at once or the participants may work with each other & the instructors to wrangle the critter and modify the light using diffusers and reflectors.

After the round-robin herp photography opportunity, we will break for the provided lunch.

Each participant is encouraged to bring up to 10 images (digital or printed) for a show-and-tell with the entire class after lunch. After the show & tell, we will have an opportunity as a group to discuss the tricks, tips, and techniques we worked on during the morning.

TreefrogAfter the show-and-tell session, we will again take to the field with cameras in hand to take pictures of native and exotic herps both in situ and using the 6 or more sets that we have constructed. There are 5 frog & toad species that are common on the property, and chances are that there will be many tiny Fowler’s toads hopping around the pond edge during this workshop; there are also 2 salamanders that are reasonably common on the property. At least five snake species are regularly observed on the property. We will also have more native & exotic captives that can be photographed on the existing sets or in a new set. The instructors will work with all the participants addressing individual questions and providing guidance to small groups as we explore the native habitats and photograph more captive herps. We anticipate having a variety of treefrogs (hopefully including a red-eyed treefrog), lizards (including geckos), and snakes (both native and exotic) on site for this workshop – stay tuned as the date gets closer for confirmation of species!

Before leaving, we will all gather for a summary with another question-and-answer session.


June 1, 2013

We will begin promptly at 8:00 AM on Saturday, June 1, 2013, and we will plan to complete our daytime photography around 5:00 PM.


This hands-on workshop will be held at Gary Carter’s outdoor photographic facility designed by a photographer for photographers where the “For Everything There Is a Season”bird and herp photography weekends are held. In case of rain, the majority of our shooting will be under (or at the edge of) sheds, though we will also take that opportunity to talk and demonstrate shooting in the field under adverse conditions.

Carters Trail
4023 Hines Chapel Road
McLeansville, NC 27301*Note that Robert and/or Gary may also bring this workshop to a location near you if you can get a group of 6 or more photographers. We have discussed potential sessions near Biloxi, MS; Atlanta, GA; Pensacola, FL; or Tampa, FL.
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Participants are responsible for their own transportation. We can arrange travel from the local Greensboro (GSO) airport if needed.


We recommend two local sources for lodging, though there are many others in nearby Greensboro, NC.

Hampton Inn – Knox Road
McLeansville, NC

Holiday Inn Express –I-40 & I-85
Greensboro, NC


Snacks and drinks will be available throughout the day. Sandwiches (assemble your own), chips, and cookies will be provided for lunch. If you have dietary restrictions, allergies, or other special requests (like a favorite drink), please let us know.

What to Bring

An open mind! Seriously, bring the camera gear that you would normally use to photograph herps, whether that be a point and shoot or an advanced DSLR. A DSLR is preferred with a longer macro lens and/or a mid-range telephoto (70-300 or 80-200) with perhaps an extension tube. The most important criteria for a lens for this workshop seems to be an ability to focus on say a 3” long subject and fill the frame; this usually means a fairly close minimum focus distance. An off-camera flash with some sort of flash bracket will also be handy. Because the day is chock-full of herp photography tips, we won’t have too much time to dwell on camera basics, so it is expected that you be somewhat familiar with your camera (having at least read the manual). Having said that, if you’ve just bought a new camera & aren’t familiar with it, feel free to come along on this opportunity, but you will get more out of the day if you are already familiar with your camera.

Come dressed prepared to spend some time on the ground on your belly. While many of our controlled situations will be waist level or higher, our wild and in situ photo opportunities may require laying on the ground, and for some of the amphibians, this may mean in very wet and muddy conditions. If you think that you might end up laying in the creek or pond, bring a change of clothes! Bring rain gear if the weatherman is predicting rain.

So basically bring the things you would normally take to the field to photograph herps. For those of you who want a list, here are some things that we normally carry when planning to photograph herps:

Camera body

Lenses (macro, medium telephoto, extension tube)

Lighting (flash, diffuser, reflector, polarizing filter)

Support (tripod, monopod, beanbag, frypod)

Control devices (snake hook, bags, buckets, covers, misting bottle)

Change of clothes (if you think you might get dirty, muddy, wet)

Small headlight (if you plan to participate in the optional night-time photography session)


The price for this hands-on workshop is $345.00 per person. This price includes lunch, provision of subjects, and instruction/support from Robert and Gary. Note that this workshop requires a minimum of 6 participants.

If a non-photographing guest wishes to accompany you on a workshop, please contact us for pricing.

Payment for workshops must be received in full at time of registration. You will not be officially registered until your payment has been received. Payment may be made through PayPal or check made payable to Robert Smith.

Payment may be sent to:

Robert Smith
P.O. Box 1034
Biloxi, MS 39355-1034

Use the below links to register and pay via PayPal – You don’t have to have a PayPal account.


About the Instructors

Robert Smith and Gary Carter both currently shoot Nikon equipment, but are familiar with Canon & other systems. Gary and Robert believe that a camera is a tool, and that it is the basic photography techniques & basic herp knowledge that are what is necessary for taking pleasing herp pictures. Gary and Robert added a small herp studio and captive herps to the“For Everything There Is a Season” photography weekends 5 years ago and herps have been heavily featured during their Little St. Simons Island and South Alabama photography workshops.

Robert Smith

Robert is a wildlife biologist by vocation. Herps were where Robert started his photographic learning curve 24 years ago when his boss handed him an SLR and a case of slide film and told him to take pictures of every herp he could capture or see on 128,000 acres! Robert has participated in many herptile inventory & population assessment studies and helped discover a “new” population of striped newts. Herps remain one of Robert’s favored nature photo subjects. You can explore some of Robert’s herp galleries here: http://photobiologist.com/v/HERPS/.

Gary Carter

Gary has been a nature photographer for over 30 years and is widely published. The three-plus acres behind his house have been certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a Backyard Habitat, but are in fact an immense photographic set designed by a nature photographer for nature photographers. People come from all over the world to photograph birds and macro subjects in Gary’s backyard. While Gary is much better known for his bird pictures, he has quite a herp picture collection as well; you may visit a few of Gary’s frog images here: http://garycarterphotos.com/main.php?g2_itemId=2316 , lizard/salamander images here: http://garycarterphotos.com/main.php?g2_itemId=3197, and snake images here: http://garycarterphotos.com/main.php?g2_itemId=2812.

What Others Are Saying

“I had the great opportunity to shoot with and learn from Gary and Robert in a south Alabama swamp. It was not only a blast, but brought me to another level photographically speaking. The lessons I learned helped me capture both first and second place in the 2010 Outdoor Alabama photography contest in the reptile and amphibian category.” – Chris Funk

Cancellation Policy

We need at least 6 participants to conduct this workshop. We anticipate that we will easily fill this workshop, so reaching the minimum should not be a problem. If for some reason we have to cancel the workshop, we will notify you of the cancellation and why. We will also offer you another date or refund your money. We will give you as much notice as possible. We normally do not cancel when the weather forecast is for rain, snow, etc., as those times provide some outstanding photo opportunities.

If you need to cancel for any reason, please notify us as soon as possible prior to the start date of the workshop. We must receive written notice of your cancellation, at which time the following fees will apply:

If you cancel 90 or more days prior to the start of the workshop, your fee will be refunded less a 10% cancellation fee.

If you cancel 60 to 89 days prior to the start of the workshop, your fee will be refunded less a 25% cancellation fee.

If you cancel 30 to 59 days prior to the start of the workshop, your fee will be refunded less a 50% cancellation fee.

If you cancel less than 30 days prior to the start of the workshop, there will be no refund.

If you are concerned about becoming sick, family emergencies, travel delays, weather conditions, or any other situation which might prevent you from attending the workshop, we encourage you to consider trip insurance. The following link will take you to a web site that offers trip insurance through several vendors:


Special Terms and Conditions

Our workshops are held on a combination of private and public lands, and you agree to abide by all the rules, regulations, restrictions, and ordinances that govern the land we are visiting. Failure to abide by all the governing rules or authority could result in removal of the participant from the workshop with no provision for refund.

As with all of our workshops, the health and well-being of our participants and subjects comes first. If we feel like you are stressing or negatively impacting other participants, we will let you know. If we feel like we may be stressing or causing harm to a subject, we will walk away and leave it in peace or return him to his traveling container if it is a captive subject.

If you have any questions, please contact Robert at 336-339-3497 or at robert@photobiologist.com. Robert and Gary hope your plans will permit you to join us for this special photo opportunity!



Fire-bellied Toad

2011 Examples

Barking Treefrog

2012 Examples

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