Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
Photographing snakes is not as simple as it may seem. First you have the task of locating a snake to photograph. Then you have the challenge of a less than willing, fast, potentially dangerous animal as your subject. To have success at photographing snakes, you need to follow some guidelines.
Setting Up for Snake Photography
1. Locate a good area to hunt for snakes. Generally, you will have the most luck where the brush is thick, and a water source is nearby. A lake, river, creek or dam is also a good place to find snakes.
2. Educate yourself on the types of venomous snakes in your area. Not knowing a dangerous cottonmouth from a harmless water snake can be a fatal mistake. Learn everything you can about snakes you might encounter.
3. Put on some heavy boots and thick pants at a minimum. Heavy work-type boots can be a lifesaver when dealing with a dangerous snake. If you live in an area that has venomous species, then you may want to consider the knee high boots available at most sporting goods stores.
4. Consider purchasing a snake hook or fashion a large stick into one. This will be handy for moving objects that snakes may be lying under and for moving the snake into a better position. It also is good for hiking.
5. Ensure that your camera is fully ready to go. This should include spare batteries, as well as a camera strap so that you can hang it from your neck. You will need to keep your hands free while searching and moving around the snake.
Finding and Photographing the Snake
6. Look under logs, rocks, brush and fallen trees. These are the most popular places to find snakes. Make sure that you keep your distance and that you use the stick to move these items. If you use your hands, you can get a nasty snake bite.
7. Check on top of rocks near bodies of water as well as in the branches along the banks. Snakes love to sun themselves and can often be found right out in the open. This is particularly true if the area you are looking is not commonly visited by people.
8. Identify the snake species that you find at a distance. If you have any question about the species of snake, then leave it alone or shoot it from at least 10 feet away. A snake can strike at a distance of half of its body length. Give it plenty of room and use the zoom feature on your digital camera.
9. Watch out for other snakes while you shoot pictures. Often where there is one, there are more snakes. You do not want to surprise a dangerous snake.
10. Position the snake out in the open where possible. The snake will often try to escape. If you know for absolute certain that the snake is not venomous, then use your stick to pull the snake into the open. After several tries to escape they will generally sit still or coil up for your picture. Again, use the stick to position the snake; give even non-venomous snakes a wide berth. All snakes have teeth and can bite you.
11. Change your view as well as the settings on your camera to get a number of angles. It is important to have a large memory card or internal memory so that you can shoot rapid pictures of snakes. They want to get away from you and you do not wish to harm the snake or upset it. Shoot your pictures and then move on. Take multiple pictures to ensure a good one.
12. Take advantage of any natural opportunities to shoot snakes as they are found. If you come across a snake sunning on a rock, for example, leave it alone and shoot it there. There is no need to move it from the rock or its natural situation. These are the best snake pictures anyway.