Wetlands Macro Photography

Sometimes when you are out and about on your nature drive photographing the wonders of Florida’s ecosystems, you have this inner voice to stop, get out, and take a stroll.

I drive by this particular area at Chassahowitzka WMA all the time but never took an interest to check it out until I saw that there was more water than usual and that was because of all the rainfall. So, I had to check it out, and happy that I did because there is one thing I find more inspiring than photographing nature; is discovering what is living in nature.

Before Florida became a State in 1845, there were an estimated 20.3 million acres (8 .2 million ha) of wetlands. Over time, wetlands have been drained, dredged, filled, leveled, and flooded to the extent that about half of the original wetland acreage remained. – Florida’s Wetlands: An Update on Status and Trends, 1985 to 1996 (fws.gov)

I referenced back to my Florida’s Wetlands book by Ellie Whitney, D. Bruce Means, and Anne Rudloe to find out what specific wetland habitat this area was.  Now, learning about the wetlands ecosystem is challenging.

What is a wetland? Well, there are many versions of what a wetland is, which makes it confusing. Basically, what separates a specific wetland from another wetland are plants, water, soil, organisms, and topography. I separate them by three main categories: Wetlands, Swamps, Marshes, however within those three categories are more classifications. This is where it can be even more confusing. How I keep it simple, I reference to the dominating plants.

Grasses dominate wetlands

Cypress trees dominate swamps

Mangroves dominate marshes

Let me remind you that wetlands can include marshes and swamps. If you are not out there exploring these areas every day for months, it would be hard to determine what is what. It would take me hours to simplify all this, and I really want to show you what my friend and I discovered in the wetlands! So, at the end of this post, I have included some helpful links. 

My first adventure in the wetlands was super exciting. As I strolled ever so carefully through the ankle-deep water, I could see tadpoles scurrying, grasshoppers jumping and spiders gracing the water’s surface.

This area was so exciting for me that I had to share what I saw with a friend. Luckily she wanted to practice using a macro lens on her new camera. We met up at Chassahowitzka WMA a couple days later to explore these wetlands.

When you think that you have seen it all, well, you haven’t. I had no idea that water bugs molted until we found them floating atop the water’s surface.

Exoskeleton of a water bug- photo by Alice Mary Herden

This bug is a member of the giant water bugs (Lethocerinae), which could be an Eastern Toe-Biter (Benacus griseus)or Uhler’s Giant Water Bug (Lethocerus uhleri) either way, its molt was what got me intrigued and loaded with questions. Like what are those tiny green insects and what are those wispy parts attached to the molt used for?

Once I get those answers, I will update this post.

This is why I love macro photography!! How cool and mind-blowing it is to see these organisms you didn’t see while taking the photo only to see them when you review them on your computer! 

Onward to the spiders. The first wetland area was a spider achievement, and I was able to identify three different species of spiders- two species of wolf spiders and a beautiful Six-spotted Fishing Spider (Dolomedes triton).

Six-spotted Fishing Spider – photo by Alice Mary Herden

As we ventured to another wetland area, we literally had a macro photography field day. We both were able to spot more water-adapting creatures than I could have done alone, and it’s also nice to know that you have a friend who doesn’t mind walking in unknown landscapes with an expensive camera!

To the frogs! 

Ya, I have seen tadpoles and frogs, but I have never seen a frog in the last stage of its metamorphosis. 

The photo below is a Pine Woods Tree Frog (Hyla femoralis), and it wasn’t until I reviewed my pictures on the computer that I noticed this frog still had its tadpole tail!

Pine Woods Tree Frog – photo by Alice Mary Herden

While thinking about all these creatures undergoing their metamorphosis, dragonflies undergo a similar process, but it’s way longer than frogs and toads. 

The photo below is of a dragonfly nymph. Dragonfly nymphs will live, breathe and feed underwater for two to three years and as their body grows they will continue to shed their exoskeleton-this is called molting.

Dragonfly nymph – photo by Alice Mary Herden

Did you know that dragonfly nymphs gills are located inside the rectum. They draw water in and out of their hind end, and when they breathe out with force, these tiny underwater organisms can move pretty darn fast! This is just a little fun fact in case you needed to start up a conversation to the person next you while waiting in line to buy some bait for your fishing trip.

We did see quite a few exoskeletons, from grasshoppers to spiders attached to the stems of plants and floating atop the water’s surface, as well as different life stages of dragonflies and frogs. I can honestly tell you this experience helped us understand a little more about life in the wetlands.

I would be interested in taking a couple of weeks to learn more about the organisms living in that wetland area but until then be safe in your travels.

Some tips!

  • Never go out farther than you can squat to take a pic, or else you will get a wet bum
  • Make sure your mud boots do not have holes in them, or else you have to wear your husbands, which are two sizes too big
  • Pack extra socks, towels, and hand wipes
  • Stroll gently in the water
  • Be mindful of these creatures because they have one heck of a time dodging predators just so they can make it to their next stage in their life cycle


Florida wetland plants : an identification manual : Florida. Department of Environmental Protection : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

overview letter revised.p65 (epa.gov)

Classification and Types of Wetlands | US EPA

waterweb_wetlands.pdf (state.fl.us)

4.2. Wetlands | State of the River Report for the Lower St. Johns River Basin (unf.edu)

3 replies

  1. Thanks for the photos! Honestly, this makes me feel slightly less annoyed about all the bugs that swarm me when I am near a lake or wetland since they are probably harassed by bugs too, like the giant water bug with mites.


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