Getting good pictures of lizard toepads in the field can be tricky. Flatbed scanners are heavy and don’t take well to transit bumps and bruises, and getting a digital camera to focus on the toe, not the glass, requires surgical precision on the manual focus ring. I’ve just found a new solution for an iPhone (or GooglePixel, if that’s how you roll), and I’m eager to share.
You’ll notice that when the camera is facing up the iPhone screen is facing down. Obviously this makes it difficult to snap the photo—enter the app WiFiCam. This app enables you to type the phone’s IP address into your web browser and remotely trigger the camera, as long as both devices are on the same wifi. It’s very simple, and the price was right (free!).
And so here’s the whole shebang:
(Don’t forget to keep a tissue handy for wiping up lizard poop!)
And not to bury the lede, but the results are fantastic (see above).
A few things to note:
- The white plastic platform around the lens ensures perfect focal distance so getting your lizard as close to that plane as possible is ideal. I tried a square of single pane glass but wasn’t tremendously pleased with the results. The above is taken with a cheap plastic petri dish, which works great but scratches quickly. Another option I’m going to look into is a glass microscope slide. (The biggest drawback to the slide is that it’s smaller than the camera lens platform… meaning that the lizard can actually poop ON YOUR PHONE. And believe me, they will.)
- The app works fine for controlling the shutter, but it’d be nice to be able to also control other camera settings like focus point and brightness or contrast. There might be other apps out there that do all of that; I just haven’t tried to find them yet. If you’re taking photos of lizard toepads in a place without wifi (as you most likely are), you can use your computer to create a local network and pair the camera to the computer that way.
- I found that the sidelight was really helpful to get good illumination on the toes. Without the sidelight the camera sometimes adjusts for ambient light behind the foot, making the lamellae hard to see. My headlamp was the perfect size and brightness and worked great.
One last thought: Moment also has a fisheye lens that might do a really nice job of canopy cover photos in the field. That’s on my short list of things to experiment with in the near future!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to improve the system in the comments.