Of Newts, Crayfish and Clean Aquariums

We had had two courses in “set building” for photography during the MSc. One for normal sets “on land”, one for aquatic sets.

The main information that I took away from the aquatic set-course, was that cleaning the aquariums (if possible with ethanol or alike) before filling the aquarium and in between taking photos, was of priority. Otherwise, spots and water stains, which one hadn’t seen on set, seemed to magically appear on the photos afterwards.

A few years back, I had taken a handful of images of Smooth newts. An empty aquarium had surfaced in my parent’s house and a nearby pond had turned into newt-haven over the summer, thus photographing them was the logical step. I hadn’t bothered to create a natural look, as we did in the course by planting plants and putting in gravel. Instead, I had aimed for a more unnatural image, using a white blanket as a background and letting shadows lurk into the frame.

Female Smooth newt Triturus Lissotriton vulgaris

Looking back at those images now, I wish I had put more effort into cleaning the glass aquarium back then.

However, after trying to photograph a live Spiny cheek crayfish for my MSc project, I have learned that even a carefully prepped and cleaned aquarium won’t prevent the occurrence of all spots and alike. The continuous movement of the crayfish was enough to whirl up most parts of the underground. At the end of the shoot, the water was near to hazy with detritus. Nevertheless, thinking about it, I am sure that similar floating particles occur when crayfish walk around in their natural territory as well…

Spiny cheek crayfish Oronectes limosus


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