Rattlesnake photography

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NatureKopelli
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Rattlesnake photography

Post by NatureKopelli »

I am interested in taking photos of rattlesnakes someday. I was wondering what would be a safe distance? Has anyone ever been bit while photographing a rattlesnake? Would using some kind of shield or blind to photograph through make it less likely the rattlesnake would know I was there? I should probably have more fear of doing this than I do, but hopefully, that fear will happen once I really see a live one in the wild and keep me safe. Any tips would be helpful.
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azbackpackr
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Re: Rattlesnake photography

Post by azbackpackr »

I used to see them all the time (but no longer live or hike very often where they are plentiful). It would be easy to photograph one using a zoom lens because then you can get further away. They can't strike more than the length of their bodies, and generally will not come at you. So, you can often be 10 or 15 feet away pretty safely, especially if one is just sunning itself and not moving. I wouldn't get any closer than that, though.

Most of us who live in Arizona and hike a lot do respect rattlesnakes, and we watch for them so as not to step on them, especially if during the "snakey" season, but generally we don't spend a lot of time worrying about them or thinking about them or talking about them. It always seems that the topic of rattlesnakes comes up when I am talking either to non-hikers, or to people from out of state. I can't count the number of times a non-hiker has said to me, "Aren't you worried about rattlesnakes?"
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big_load
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Re: Rattlesnake photography

Post by big_load »

I try to keep at least two snake-lengths of distance. I'm not even tempted to get any closer than that.
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te_wa
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Re: Rattlesnake photography

Post by te_wa »

http://hikearizona.com/photo.php?ZIP=132444 was taken from pretty close.. snake was not coiled so it seemed safe enough - here's the idiot in action.. :scared:



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Alston_Neal
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Re: Rattlesnake photography

Post by Alston_Neal »

This is an example of toooo close.
My foot was on the X.
Image
Now this guy was sleeping^^^^^, but if they are up to temp they can move quick.

Coiled they can strike half their body length, stretched out not that far.
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big_load
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Re: Rattlesnake photography

Post by big_load »

Alston Neal wrote:Coiled they can strike half their body length, stretched out not that far.
Yeah, but I like some extra margin for reaction time in case it moves while I'm setting up and taking the shot.
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Thoreau
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Re: Rattlesnake photography

Post by Thoreau »

te-wa wrote:snake was not coiled so it seemed safe enough - here's the idiot in action.. :scared:
Haha, I know of another one who should be in a looney bin:

http://hikearizona.com/photo.php?ZIP=93350

I'm not sure who was crazier. The guy with a hiking pole between him and the snake, or me trying to get close enough to photograph it all. :)

That one wasn't bad though. This one, at night, with a bunch of dumb(er) friends was a bit more risky even with a little zoom action:

http://xanthotech.com/gallery/v/Sedona/ ... 6.jpg.html

That said, I really wish I had more than 200mm to work with when photographing snakes. I've considered the 100-400mm lens for that exact reason in the past, but the cost is hard to get past =(

Nahimana222: The first time ya actually come across one in the wild is definitely an experience. And if ya have any sense of self-preservation at all, that feeling will stick every time thereafter! :scared:
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CannondaleKid
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Re: Rattlesnake photography

Post by CannondaleKid »

Nahimana222 wrote:I was wondering what would be a safe distance?

For you or the snake? :o The more you understand rattlers, what they can and can't do as well as their habits, the closer the safety margin. For me, well, it's probably within a foot.
Nahimana222 wrote:Has anyone ever been bit while photographing a rattlesnake?
Probably someone, somewhere has, but it was probably an 18-24 year old male after downing more than a few Bud Lights. As close as I've been photographing as well as shooting videos, I'm not worried about it. I may purposely get very close at times, but never to provoke an attack.
Nahimana222 wrote:Would using some kind of shield or blind to photograph through make it less likely the rattlesnake would know I was there?
They sense predators and prey by infrared light, so something as large as a person throws off a significant heat signature, so you might have to be pretty creative so it wouldn't know. Even if you were to set up a blind, where would you set it up hoping a rattler would slither on by? It you tried to set one up close to one you already see, it would already know you were there. So I'd say dispense with a blind and just take the photos.

BTW, if you were to get bitten, the older/larger the rattler the less likely it will inject venom in defense. They save their venom for prey, and as I mentioned before, when it sees your large heat signature, it KNOWS you aren't it's prey, and knows it can't swallow you whole, so it just wants you to go away.

Now if you are climbing slowly and you reach a hand up over a rock and it only sees the small heat signature of your hand, then it very likely will inject a full dose of venom.

While I have a significant amount of respect for rattlers, I have no fear of them. Having grown up in South Africa I had plenty of snake encounters-of-the-stepping-on-kind :scared: with puff adders, pit vipers and black mambas yet I was never bitten. (I didn't say I wasn't struck at, just never did they connect)

Here's a few shots of just one of my closer encounters in the last year:
http://hikearizona.com/photo.php?ZIP=173034
http://hikearizona.com/photo.php?ZIP=173035

And here's a nice closeup video of an Arizona Black Rattlesnake:
http://www.changephoenix.com/10/videos1 ... attler.swf

While I have some rattler photos here on HAZ, I have many more photos and a number of videos on my website.
http://www.changephoenix.com/funstuff.html
Here's my rattlesnake-specific page:
http://www.changephoenix.com/10w/10rattlesnakes.html
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te_wa
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Re: Rattlesnake photography

Post by te_wa »

CannondaleKid wrote:Probably someone, somewhere has, but it was probably an 18-24 year old male after downing more than a few Bud Lights.
ya see, that is the type of person who drinks fizzy yellow crap beer. no one alive would ever ask someone else to "hold my beer" if said beer was an Avery Russian Imperial Stout. no way..
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NatureKopelli
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Re: Rattlesnake photography

Post by NatureKopelli »

te-wa wrote:http://hikearizona.com/photo.php?ZIP=132444 was taken from pretty close.. snake was not coiled so it seemed safe enough - here's the idiot in action.. :scared:
Very nice photo! Thanks for sharing....very brave indeed!
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NatureKopelli
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Re: Rattlesnake photography

Post by NatureKopelli »

Alston Neal wrote:This is an example of toooo close.
My foot was on the X.
Dang, that is close! Lucky it didn't get stepped on...beautiful snake and photos...thanks for sharing! :)
"To me, a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug." ~Helen Keller
"You have to touch a tree and feel it..." ~Dr Alex Shigo...Touch Trees! Hug Trees!
Lizards make me smile :)
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NatureKopelli
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Re: Rattlesnake photography

Post by NatureKopelli »

Thoreau wrote: That said, I really wish I had more than 200mm to work with when photographing snakes. I've considered the 100-400mm lens for that exact reason in the past, but the cost is hard to get past =(
A telephoto lens would be nice to have in this case! Would love one for bird watching too....someday, maybe... :)
"To me, a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug." ~Helen Keller
"You have to touch a tree and feel it..." ~Dr Alex Shigo...Touch Trees! Hug Trees!
Lizards make me smile :)
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NatureKopelli
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Re: Rattlesnake photography

Post by NatureKopelli »

CannondaleKid wrote: They sense predators and prey by infrared light, so something as large as a person throws off a significant heat signature, so you might have to be pretty creative so it wouldn't know. Even if you were to set up a blind, where would you set it up hoping a rattler would slither on by? It you tried to set one up close to one you already see, it would already know you were there. So I'd say dispense with a blind and just take the photos.

BTW, if you were to get bitten, the older/larger the rattler the less likely it will inject venom in defense. They save their venom for prey, and as I mentioned before, when it sees your large heat signature, it KNOWS you aren't it's prey, and knows it can't swallow you whole, so it just wants you to go away.

Now if you are climbing slowly and you reach a hand up over a rock and it only sees the small heat signature of your hand, then it very likely will inject a full dose of venom.
I was kind of picturing something like an arm shield similar to the type used in sword battles...to crouch behind in case it strikes. Something that I could fold up and put in my pack...maybe with a little opening to stick a lens through also.

Thanks for the info on snake bites...hopefully, will never happen! From what I understand, I will be lucky if I find one.

But, I am totally excited about trying to photograph rattlesnakes now! Thanks for sharing! :)
"To me, a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug." ~Helen Keller
"You have to touch a tree and feel it..." ~Dr Alex Shigo...Touch Trees! Hug Trees!
Lizards make me smile :)
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Canyonram
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Re: Rattlesnake photography

Post by Canyonram »

Plenty of rattlesnakes in the designated campgrounds along the Corridor Trails in Grand Canyon (Indian Gardens, Phamtom Ranch-Bright Angel campground, and Cottonwood). Deer mice populations are high due to hiker crumbs and the rattlers congregate in the rocks/vegetation around the campground. The mice go for the Gorp and the snakes go for the mice. They'll rest during the day and are often hidden right next to the spot where people pitch their tents. Look around the cactus---you'll find them curled under clumps of prickly pear, perhaps taking advantage of the shade but also the protective barrier of cactus spines/glochlids. Ground squirrels, collared lizards, and Corvids will mob a rattler when they discover one so watch for this behavior. The ground squirrels are pretty bold (like a drunken teen-ager) and will harass the snake until it moves on. The snakes are on the move in early morning as they try to get to cooler harborage---they will suffer the same heat stress as a hiker if they get caught exposed to rising temps---this is a good time to see one on the move (check the photos below at Grandcanyon Treks with the rattlers stetched out and zipping to a new location). If you do spot one in the campground, let the Ranger on-duty know---they have the gear to safely retrieve the snake and relocate it outside the camping area---until he comes back later.

There used to be some blackberry vines along the trail leaving Indian Gardens out to Plateau Point---the Park Service is trying to remove the plants since they have invaded deep into the Canyon---these were planted by a Park Ranger in the 40's. The bushes used to be heavy with snakes---not just rattlers---especially when the berries rippened and drew the other animals in to feed.

Rattlesnakes are not obliged to warn you with a 'rattle.' There are cases of defensive strikes with no warning and no defensive posture by the snake.

http://www.grandcanyontreks.org/snakes.htm

Here's a video of one crossing the path at the Bright Angel campground: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3EllZqagf8
You can hear the creek in the background. He moves over the exposed water line serving the campground.

If you do get a photo of a snake in the Canyon, send the info along to Nikolle Brown. She is a wildlife bioloist interested in compiling a biogeography of snakes (not just rattlers) in the Canyon. black-catnik@worldnet.att.net

A large Grand Canyon Pink rattlesnake used to curl up in the rusted cans next to the mining cook house on Horseshoe Mesa. Next time you go down that way, look over the tops of the rusted pile to see if the snakes are still using that as a harborage area. Say hello for me.
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Re: Rattlesnake photography

Post by Canyonram »

Hello Nahimana222,

You posed the question about being bitten while photographing rattlesnakes. Here's a 'Wilderness & Environmental Medicine' article from 1997 that looked at the various ways people are bitten when handling snakes.

http://download.journals.elsevierhealth ... 70958X.pdf

'Gorp' website has a long online article on Snakes & Snake bites. The chapter on Epidemiology of Snake bites is here:

http://www.gorp.com/weekend-guide/trave ... 53475.html

You might need to sign up as a member of the website to read the entire document.
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Re: Rattlesnake photography

Post by paulhubbard »

Found this little guy in my back yard while pulling weeds. He was rattling, but with only two "buds" on his rattle it didn't make hardly any noise. Caught him with my snake iron and relocated him into the desert.
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Re: Rattlesnake photography

Post by kevinweitzel75 »

Dam, hes just a baby! Cute little thing, but wont want to find him in my backyard (If I had one).
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Re: Rattlesnake photography

Post by outdoor_lover »

paulhubbard wrote: Caught him with my snake iron and relocated him into the desert.
Snake Iron? :) Have I been out of Golf so long that they have come up with a club that you use to "snake" the ball across the green? :)

Good Job on the Relocation, I really like to see that!
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Re: Rattlesnake photography

Post by Al_HikesAZ »

Sand wedge? You gave him a wedgie? :)
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Re: Rattlesnake photography

Post by outdoor_lover »

Al_HikesAZ wrote:Sand wedge? You gave him a wedgie? :)
:sl:
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty & well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, totally worn out & proclaiming, "Wow What a Ride!"
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