Pool of Wonder

Steven Johnson's Image

Steven Johnson (USA) focuses on a clump of spotted salamander eggs resting on a bed of sphagnum moss in a vernal pool.

Highlighting the beauty and fragility of these underwater worlds is important to Steven. To create his split-level image, he thoroughly researched lenses and lighting beforehand and then took care and skill not to disturb the sediments or animals in this beautiful micro underwater world.

As the pale blue eggs develop, so do the algae within them, turning them green. The algae actually live inside the embryos providing them with extra oxygen - the only known case of this in a vertebrate animal.

Shallow seasonal pools make ideal amphibian nurseries because of the absence of predators such as fish. But development and climate change are reducing the number of suitable salamander habitats. On top of this, less predictable spring rains could mean that pools dry out before the young salamanders can fully develop.

Behind the lens

Steven Johnson

Steven Johnson


Steven is a conservation photographer, Professor of Visual and Communication Arts at EMU in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and Vice-President of the Virginia Wilderness Committee. His photography of the natural world has appeared in Orion, Nature Conservancy Magazine, Ranger Rick, Virginia Wildlife, National Science Teachers Association Press books and numerous conservation publications and journals. When he’s not in the office, you’ll probably find him crouched next to a vernal pool photographing Appalachian salamanders.

Image details

  • Sony α6500
  • 16–50mm f3.5–5.6 lens
  • 1/60 at f8  •   ISO 160  •   Sea & Sea strobes  •   Fantasea housing + Nauticam Wet Wide lens
  • Near Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, USA
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