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Snake tales…

August 13th, 2010

One particular aspect of nature photography I have grown to absolutely love is photographing reptiles in their natural habitats. Why would someone so keen on birds turn to other forms of life? Because it is nature at its best! I love picking an area based on knowing what kind of habitat there is and what types of reptiles could be seen out there in those habitats. One of the most amazing people I know for helping me find my reptiles for photography and has taught me everything I know is my friend Graham “The Rock” Turner. His uncanny ability to come up with some incredible photographic opportunities is nothing short of amazing. I still remember the day when he pointed to a rock on a mountain top in the Blue Mountains and said “That looks like the perfect rock for a snake to hide under.” Funnily, I kept looking around the area and found a few native geckos to keep me happy and then I heard Graham say: “I got a Small-eyed!”

Eastern Small-eyed Snake; a potential deadly adversary of a photographer.

Graham's daughter Miranda holding a Lesueur's Velvet Gecko. This gecko is on the menu of Small-eyed Snakes.

Jacky Lizard, a stunning, albeit small local species of Dragon.

I was thinking “Yeah, yeah!” then when I turned around he already held the dangerous little beast in his gloved hand. Analyzing the elapid snake’s behaviour Graham decided to remove the glove to handle it better while he was helping me set up the shots. The snake was absolutely charming, kind of cute (though I read they can be deadly as one fatality has been recorded) so we took it easy. Being in the middle of winter, the weather was on our side, keeping the little snake a bit dormant. We knew that once the sun warms his body, he will quickly speed up his metabolism and may get snappy, so in my defence, I snapped away with the camera rather quickly.

A snake tastes smells with its tongue. This was a small Eastern Small-eyed Snake.

The Eastern Small-eyed Snake rears before attacking.

There is something mesmerizing about my face being a mere 30cm away from a snake that could potentially kill me with one bite, yet I had no fear for one thing he was quite small. Yet I knew the key was to move slowly and deliberately, to lie still and just shoot the images. Graham let go of the little bloke’s tail and the snake sat still. He slowly reared up for he was getting a bit cranky with us then suddenly made a dash right at me. Most people perhaps would have freaked out and jumped up or try to get out of the way. I knew the best thing was to lie still and don’t move as the snake slithered right alongside my arm and next to my warm body, where he rested and lay still. I froze and let Graham do the handling knowing all would be well, which is what eventuated. That was my very first close encounter with a snake.

A small Yellow-faced Whipsnake.

Our many adventures have turned up some incredible animals including Eastern Small-eyed Snakes, Yellow-faced Whipsnakes and many other non-venomous reptiles. It has been an amazing learning curve and the adventure continues as we plan more outings and we do plan a year ahead to visit other areas with a different biodiversity of reptiles.

Portrait of the above Yellow-faced Whipsnake.

Little did I know for a while about what to look for or how to look, but hanging out with Graham has been an awesome learning experience for me for his knowledge, understanding and passion for all wildlife is infectious. So we spend time where we can search for elusive frogs, skinks, dragons and even dangerously venomous snakes for the opportunity of capturing a good photo. They don’t come easy either as we spend hours walking up and down hills, we climb rocky precipices and do a lot of planning ahead with topography maps. All in all, reptiles are a new way for me to become even deeper enthralled in the beauty of natural history photography.

An adult Barking Gecko.

Nature Photography

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