DPG is a comprehensive underwater photography website and community for underwater photographers. Learn underwater photography techniques for popular digital cameras and specialized professional underwater equipment (wide angle, macro, super macro, lighting and work flow). Read latest news, explore travel destinations for underwater photography. Galleries of professional and amateur underwater photography including wrecks, coral reefs, undersea creatures, fashion and surfing photography.
Dive Photo Guide


Behind the Shot: March of the Tadpoles
By Shane Gross, March 5, 2024 @ 06:00 AM (EST)

A cluster of western toad tadpoles swarm the camera

I wish I could tell you some grand story of heroism that resulted in my shot “March of the Tadpoles,” which went on to be awarded in the Underwater Photographer of the Year competition. The truth, however, is a very simple story. My partner and I went for a day of fun snorkeling and just wanted to see and experience the millions of tadpoles I’d seen friends photograph.

I’ll tell you what happened that day anyway, I suppose, but first let’s back up. Like many of us, I first became aware of the tadpole lake back in 2012 when Eiko Jones first started posting images of it, and it got picked up by National Geographic. I remember thinking about how much atmosphere was in his image and how I wanted to learn more about the little western toad tadpoles.

Ever since then, it was on my list of cool places I’d like to visit someday. At that time, I was living in The Bahamas so a remote lake on Vancouver Island seemed very far away. But the seed was planted. Fast forward 10 years and I find myself living on Vancouver Island, and it was time to discover the tadpole lake for myself. Having never been there before, my hopes weren’t too high. I said to my partner, Kayla, “Want to go snorkeling in a lake? There might be tadpoles….” Obviously, she jumped for joy while clapping and away we went!

The famous tadpole pond as seen from above

We arrived early in the morning and snorkeled for a couple of hours until we were frozen. We saw a few tadpoles, but nothing like what Eiko had experienced. A paddleboarder glided over and told us he was there to film tadpoles for the BBC and that they are usually more active in the afternoon. I thought that was nice of him, as some people can be very competitive and would want us to leave. He has a British accent, so if you know him, please pass on my thanks. We warmed up and went in again after lunch.

Now, things were really starting to heat up. Streams of tadpoles were coming up from the depths of the lake into the sunlit shallows to eat algae off the lily pads, logs and lakebed in a feeding frenzy. I tried every angle I could think of, played around with my camera and had some fun. Our favorite part was when we would hold still, the tadpoles would start nibbling on us! It tickled. I didn’t think too seriously about it; I just enjoyed our time in the water and hoped I got something interesting.

A solo tadpole, silhouetted against the sun

A soon to metamorph tadpole, showing off its newly developed feet!

I was shooting with a Nikon D500, Aquatica housing, 4-inch mini-dome and dual Sea&Sea YS-D3 strobes. The awarded shot was taken at a little spot I spent a lot of time waiting in, where a large fallen log created a gap in the lily pads. This let me see the treetops in Snell’s window, which gave the image some depth and tells more of the story. That’s why I settled on it being my favourite image of the day and ended up entering it in Underwater Photographer of the Year.

Some images are painstaking and take years of honing, but let’s not forget that sometimes it’s important to simply get in the water and have some fun. It can be rewarding not only for our sanity and our souls, but it can also get you on the yearbook cover in the 2024 Underwater Photographer of the Year competition and a nice comment from Alex Mustard—and a DPG “Behind the Shot” article!

The award-winning “March of the Tadpoles” image, awarded in the 2024 edition of Underwater Photographer of the Year

For more of Shane’s stunning award-winning work, please give him a follow on Instagram and check out his website, www.shanegross.com.


Be the first to add a comment to this article.
You must be logged in to comment.
Support Our Sponsors
Travel with us

Featured Photographer

Follow Us