PHOTOGRAPHING SNAKES

  The first rule when dealing with snakes, to be followed AT ALL TIMES, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, is if you're not positive of the identity of the snake, LEAVE IT ALONE. That said, taking esthetically pleasing photographs of wild, unhampered snakes is often exceedingly difficult.  Most are quite alert and wary, and approach is often difficult.   Setting up a tripod and careful composition are a rare luxury with most species.  Second, most species when first seen are stretched out or moving.   A long narrow object taking up a small fraction of the total frame area usually results in an uninspiring image.  Closeups of the head, or shots of the whole body in a nice symmetrical coil are far more attractive.   This often requires some manipulation of the animal, which must be done with great care and UTMOST CONCERN FOR THE SAFETY OF THE ANIMAL.  An "ackler" or assistant is often a must when photographing active snakes.   A commonly used technique by many snake photographers is the "flowerpot" technique.  Short, round containers, such as the base of a flowerpot, are placed upside down and the snake is coaxed to crawl underneath.  Some photographers carry a nested set of plastic flowerpot bases with entry holes cut into the side, and use the one appropriate to the size of the snake.   Once the snake has entered the shelter (which most do quite readily, given the chance), the photographer waits a couple of minutes to allow the animal to acclimate.   The shelter is then slowly removed, and often, the snake remains underneath in a beautiful, symmetrical coil, and will frequently stay coiled for a minute or two while the photographer slowly takes the shots.  Avoid any rapid movements, which will usually incite flight.  Keep in mind that most snakes habitually seek shelter when threatened, so other than simply leaving the animal alone and foregoing photography, allowing it a few minutes to calm down under shelter probably reduces the amount of stress on the snake more than anything else you could do.  Keep in mind also that snakes are relatively delicate animals, with thin, fragile ribs and nearly non-existent protective cranial bones, so you must handle them with great care.  Most snakes are also quite temperature sensitive, and do not tolerate temperatures above 85-90 degreees F well, so never allow them to sit in direct sun on a warm day for more than a minute or two.

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