Grall's work has taken the couple to Mexico, Costa Rica, the Caribbean island of Bonaire, and Australia, among other locales.

"There are so many species in Costa Rica," he said, noting he's still working to identify 20 insects he captured on film. "The diversity there is incredible."

But he is equally likely to be found shooting at such locales around the state as the Eastern Shore, where he recently planned to photograph snapping turtles. He had paid a consultant to help him time the animals' breeding season but still missed out.

"When it goes wrong, you usually have to wait until the following year" to get the photos, he said, chalking it up as one of the hazards of the profession.

The vernal pools are important because they provide breeding grounds for many life forms, he said.

"They are a barometer for the human condition," he said. "When pools decline, it's due to air and water pollution" and is a direct reflection of our stewardship of the planet.

Grall also regularly traipses the grounds of the conservancy, finding creatures to photograph in the various environments there.

"The wide variety of habitats here is incredible," Boyd said. "George took a shot of two black snakes mating high up in a tree on our property that many people probably walked beneath without noticing. If you're not constantly looking around at nature, then you're missing something."

The conservancy has four miles of trails and is open daily from dawn to dusk, she added.

Grall said he still pals around with his childhood friends, and they still go snake hunting to see who can locate the largest and then take photos of each other holding their finds.

"You don't have to travel far or own a $50 billion camera to get good shots," he said.

If you go

What: Return of the Spring Pools: The Amphibian Awakening and More

When: Friday, Nov. 16, 7 p.m.

Where: Howard County Conservancy, 10520 Old Frederick Road, Woodstock

Tickets: $10 for adults, in advance; $12 after Nov. 15; kids under 8 are free.

Information and online registration: