This site supports my family, but my family also supports this site. Brittany, my 13 year old, frequently provides support through subjects she raises or finds. This time, it was an at-least 54" (1.4m) black rat snake that she carried home.
Black rat snakes are somewhat common here. They are non-venomous and usually docile after a short initial fright. This one, however, was anything but docile. It was out to get anything near it.
And of course, an angry snake provides a more dramatic picture than a friendly one. So, with the new Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext 1.4x Lens
begging for subjects, Brittany and I had a short photo session with the snake.
The first photos (just snapshots) were of course of Brittany holding the snake – for the memory – and to freak out her friends. I grabbed the handy Canon EOS Rebel SL1
and with a Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS STM Kit Lens
for these shots.
Having held the snake for a good period of time, Brittany was ready to photograph the snake herself. She goes everywhere with a Rebel T3i
and a Tamron 18-270mm VC Lens
in a Think Tank Photo Digital Holster 20
over her shoulder. But, she needed a second hand to operate the camera with – and didn't want her snake to escape before getting the shot. We quickly moved on to more serious photogrpahy - snake portrait photos to be specific.
I usually have specific shots I am looking for at any given time. For this session, I was looking at the 200-400's maximum magnification and AF accuracy at minimum focus distance. Both proved to be quite good.
This snake was not about to pose in a more-woodsy environment, so we shot right in the front yard. Groomed front yard grass is not ideal for nature subject backgrounds, but getting down very low (only my hand between the grass and the lens plate), using a long focal length (560mm, f/5.6) and moving in close allowed the background and foreground to be completely blurred. This position gave a nice perspective of the always-ready-to-strike snake. It was not too hard to focus the snake's attention on us (and it was incredibly fixated on the dog), so I was able to position myself in relation to a nice background.
The highlight of this shoot was the snake moving toward Brittany and suddenly striking her front lens element. Brittany squealed. I laughed (knowing that she was not at risk as her hands were farther back from her extended long lens – I was closely monitoring). The snake eventually calmed down. And we let it crawl away.
One photography-related snake characteristic I like is their curves. Snakes naturally create the curves that photographers are frequently searching for. Note also that longer focal lengths allow you to stay farther away from dangerous situations.
Now, the next time your kid brings home a snake, you know what to do.