II. Vernal Pool Certification Criteria & Documentation Requirements ~ March 2009 – Page II.4 Tips for Photographing Evidence Required for Vernal Pool Certification1 The biological and physical evidence required for vernal pool certification must be documented by photos and/or video (or audio for frog/toad chorusing) of suitable quality (resolution, focus, indicators of scale) so species identification can be confirmed and pool features be reliably assessed. Because this often requires close-up photographs in generally poor lighting conditions, some general “rules of thumb” are included below to help you produce good photos/video: Cameras that compensate for low light conditions and close-up focusing provide the best photos; most digital cameras are capable of this but fixed focus cameras (i.e., “point and shoot”) typically do not focus closer than 2-4 feet (if used carefully they usually produce suitable photos). Hold the camera as steady as possible or use a tripod to avoid blurred images. Take several photos, or extra photos using different backgrounds and light settings, to be certain you end up with a clear photo. Process or view your photos immediately so you can return to the pool for better photos, if needed. POOL Photos (Physical Evidence) Photographs of the vernal pool need to be clear and show as much of the pool as possible. They must include a landmark to authenticate the pool location (e.g., stand of trees, stump, a boulder, rock wall, etc.). If unable to photograph the entire pool in a single photo, try to photograph the pool in a “panorama” series. When photographing pools ‘holding water’, also include photos of any inlets or outlets (e.g., streams, culverts) observed entering or leaving the pool. ORGANISM Photos (Biological Evidence) Biological evidence from the pool needs to be documented by photographs/video that confirms amphibian breeding (i.e., mated pairs of frogs/toads, congressing salamanders, spermatophores, egg masses, larvae, or transforming juveniles) or the presence of fairy shrimp (see Certification Criteria for specific requirements). Mated pairs of wood frogs and congressing salamanders typically need to be photographed at night. A flash can sometimes illuminate the water surface, impeding the view underwater, so a flashlight can be used to illuminate subjects underwater. Spermatophores are found on the bottom of the pool. Reflections on the surface can sometimes block underwater images and can be eliminated in two ways: 1) position an object (or person) to cast a shadow over the area you are photographing, or 2) use a polarizing filter on your camera. To photograph egg masses, place a light-colored background (e.g., yellow foam meat tray, Frisbee, white board) behind the masses so they are clearly visible against the dark water and more easily identifiable; they should not be removed from the water and only minimally disturbed. Also try and include something in the photo for scale (e.g., backing tray with measurement markings, a hand, net, etc.). Larvae and fairy shrimp usually need to be briefly removed from the pool to be photographed. Place larvae or fairy shrimp in a small container (e.g., margarine tub, foam meat tray, clear plastic baggie) filled with pool water or photograph in your hand. a. Salamander larvae - place in container filled with pool water and photograph from above to clearly show the gills and, if possible, a side view of the body. b. Wood frog tadpoles - photograph in or out of water but positioned to show the belly (i.e., gut coiling) and gold flecking over the belly and sides. c. Fairy shrimp - place in white or clear container filled with pool water and photograph. d. Transforming juveniles – photograph so tail and/or gill remnants are visible; photos should be taken from above and/or a side view for proper identification. 1Based on Wicked Big Puddles: A Guide to the Study and Certification of Vernal Pools, 3 rd Edition (March 2003) by Leo P. Kenney, Vernal Pool Association (www.vernalpool.org) and is used with permission.