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Posts Tagged ‘shedding’

I never quite know what I will encounter when I am out wandering in the wild with my camera, like this rather large snake that I almost literally stumbled upon on Monday while exploring in Prince William County. I am fairly certain is an Eastern Rat Snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis), the most commonly seen snake in the state of Virginia where I live, according to the Virginia Herpetological Society. On average, an Eastern Rat Snake in our state is 42 – 72 inches in length (107-183 cm) and I estimated that this one was at least four feet long (122 cm).

The snake was completely stretched out perpendicular to a stream and did not react as I initially approached, which shocked me a little. When I took my initial shots, in which I was not as close as it seems, I noticed that its eyes were somewhat cloudy, an indication that this snake may have been preparing to shed its skin. Knowing that snakes are vulnerable during this stage and more likely to be aggressive, I captured my shots quickly and backed away.

I decided to try something different to capture a view of the entire snake and created a panoramic image in Photoshop using three separate shots. The last image is the result of that little project and I encourage you to click on the image to get a look at the entire length of the snake. In case you are curious, the process is really easy and the software does most of the work aligning the images.

I was inspired to try the panorama by the work of Reed Andariese, an amazing photographer whose blog, Photo Art Flight, I follow. Over the years, Reed has done panoramic composite shots using a wide variety of cameras (including his iPhone) and lenses—check out his recent posting in which he featured multi-image composites taken with a fish-eye lens. Wow!

Eastern Rat Snake

Eastern Rat Snake

Eastern Rat Snake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Humans shed skin cells all of the time—according to one source, in one year, each of us sheds more than 8 pounds (3.6 kg) of dead skin. Snakes have an entirely different shedding process. Several times a year they grow a complete new layer of skin underneath the old layer. During shedding, snakes secrete a fluid to help separate the old skin from the new, and this fluid runs under their specialized eye caps, resulting in the opaque or blue quality of the eye.

Last Friday I encountered one of these blue-eyed snakes while exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Snakes are vulnerable during this stage when their vision is impaired and I was a little surprised to see this snake was in a fairly open area. I think this may be an Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis), but did not examine the snake at length for fear of disturbing it.

Moving as stealthily as I could, I leaned in with my macro lens to capture this image. If you look carefully into the eye (or double-click on the image to enlarge it) you will see that I managed to capture a “selfie” reflection.

As an interesting coincidence, my most viewed posting of 2020 has been a May 2016 posting that also featured a snake with a blue eye. That posting, entitled Blue-eyed garter snake, has had 597 views so far this year. If you are not totally creeped out by today’s photo, you might want to check out the 2016 posting, which has some full body shots as well as a close-up shot of the snake’s head.

Eastern Ratsnake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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