Calm Your Fears

You find that perfect landscape shot. But as you plant your tripod in the soft turf, out from the grass slithers an unexpected visitor...

Baby Watersnake

There are creatures that lurk in the dark… creatures that make our skin crawl… creatures that evoke fear. But what is the source of that fear? Is it truly the long, slithering serpent itself that brings these untamed emotions to the surface? I’d dare say “no”. It is actually fear of the unknown that makes us fear. It is our ignorance of the creatures around us that drives our irrational thoughts.

If you want to get the good nature shots, there are some things you may have to face. When we enter the wilder places, we are encroaching upon critters we may not feel too fond of. But calming your fears through knowledge of the possible wildlife you may encounter not only makes for a more peaceful life, but can make for some great photo opportunities as well!

The majority of the snake calls I receive through my animal control job are, in fact, harmless. Although every caller thinks they have a copperhead or “water moccasin” in their living room, ninety-nine percent of the time it turns out to be some species of rat snake or water snake.

Yes, the water snake genera (Nerodia) are thick, heavy keeled snakes just like the Cottonmouth or Copperhead. And they too prefer and overlap in wet habitats. But a little bit of study of a few key features can turn someone’s uncontrolled hysteria into a mild caution. Both the Cottonmouth and Copperhead have vertically elliptical pupils; the water snakes have round pupils. “But I’m not going to get that close to look at its eyes!”, most people say. So studying the range of each snake and pattern is also a key to identifying.

But either way, stay calm, back off, and let it be. There is no need to go chopping off the head of a harmless creature because of an irrational emotion borne of ignorance. And since it is impossible to get a good nature shot as you run in fear leaving your tripod and camera behind, go ahead and learn a little of the critters in the area you'll be photographing.

Photo credits: William Wise.

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June 19, 2019


Hi William. I downloaded the photo from somewhere, and Dreamstime picked it up without me knowing about it; strange but true.

June 18, 2019


Nice article, I just had an interesting encounter last week. Hiking with my sister, she found two snakes on the path sunbathing. She told me to shot them (with the camera, of course) and let's go. We took a few pics, one brownish, with a zigzag strip running down the back, the other pitch black. I tought they were harmless, to meet poisonous snakes in my home country is extremely rare. I just wasn't in my home country, but by our neighbours. And that area on the Rax mountain has LOT of common adders (Vipera berus). You can check the normal colored one in my portfolio.

June 17, 2019


Well done on this point - it's good to be aware of your surroundings, and take advantage when the opportunity arises.

June 06, 2019


@Rbrucew Bruce, you have to tell me more about your profile photo, I love it! I searched your portfolio but couldn't find a larger version. 

June 06, 2019


Eliane, thanks for reading and for the compliment! William 

May 28, 2019


I love this blog! I have a friend who's a reptile expert and he always posts on social media to raise awareness about snakes... & the photo here is wonderful :)

May 26, 2019


Australia has the best poisonous snakes in the world, but generally they will "run" away if they "hear" you coming, so close encounters and photo opportunities are thankfully rare. If you are close enough to photograph them you are invading their personal space, so watch out.

May 24, 2019


Thanks for the ideas. 

May 23, 2019


Snakes are interesting.  You did a good job getting close.  I have never had an opportunity to shoot one.  Maybe someday one will slither out.  (smile)  Thanks.

May 23, 2019


This is a very nice article! Although I hate snakes, but it's always good to learn something about any creature! Well done shot!

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