Red-eyed tree frogs are nocturnal, so almost all pictures of it are either of captive animals, or shot using artificial light, both of which I try to refrain from. To achieve this natural light shot in the wild, I had to have the combination of a little resourcefulness and a whole lot of luck.
The shot was taken in the rain forest near Boca Del Drago (Spanish for "mouth of the dragon"), a beach in the Bocas Del Toro archipelago in north-west Panama. The first time I visited Drago beach was actually to shoot starfish in the nearby "star beach", where they roam in their hundreds in shallow waters, making for excellent photo-ops. When it was time to go back to the hostel, the taxi driver with whom we had scheduled a pick-up never showed (naturally!), so we had to ask a local to drive us back. While waiting for him to get his car, we talked to another local and inquired him about the identity of a loud group eating their dinner in a nearby building. The second he answered "biology students", I knew I'd hit the jackpot.
A few days later I returned, determined to see what information I can get from those students. I came without knowledge of the accommodations available on the beach, and when I got there, I was amazed to realize there was only one hostel, and that it only had one room. My room! I checked in, and right away went to introduce myself. It turned out that the house was a biological station belonging to an institution called ITEC, and the students were mostly Americans on a 2-month stay there. After I told them about me and what I was there for, it turned out that they were extremely knowledgeable about the amphibians in the area. Some of them were actually doing research about the Dendrobates pumilio, the world famous poison dart frog, an animal whose picture I'd also wanted to get. When I told them I was especially interested in the red-eyed tree frog, they knew exactly where to find it, and were happy to go there and take a few specimens to the lab for research. The next night we went to a small pool, and in 5 minutes we collected two males and a female.
After a day's observation in the lab, it was time to bring the frogs back to the wild. Since I wanted to get natural light shots, we did it a short time before sunset, in a shaded spot – to avoid damaging the delicate frogs.
I'm very satisfied with these rare natural-light images of this incredibly cute and colorful animal. After the shoot was over and we carefully placed it back in the same location, I felt that this had been a very special experience.