Posts Tagged ‘Thamnophis sirtalis’

I was a bit surprised recently to spot an Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) with blue eyes at Huntley Meadows Park. Normally, a garter snake’s eyes are clear and bright and if I can get close enough, I can sometimes see my own reflection.

As I moved closer, I could see that the bluish covering over the eyes was somewhere between translucent and opaque, looking a little like cataracts. The snake was aware of my presence and flicked its tongue when I got too close, but did not try to slither away. A search on the internet revealed that the eyes turn this blue color when the snake is getting ready to shed its skin, a process that generally takes about a week.

When my macro lens is on my camera I feel drawn to move closer and closer to my subject, as you can see in the first image. This shot gives a good view of the blue eye, but doesn’t give you much a sense of the snake’s environment. When I pulled back to include the snake’s entire body, you get a look at the sinuous curves of the body, but the eye is almost lost. The final image here was a mid-range shot that was a kind of compromise—some of the body shows, but the eye has greater prominence than in the second image.

Which image do I like the most? It’s hard for me to decide, but I think it was a good idea to photograph the snake at different distances to give myself some options. I’m going to have to try that approach more often.

garter snake

garter snake

garter snake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Now that it is spring, I have started carrying around my macro lens, which I was able to use to get this really close-up shot today of an Eastern Garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) at Huntley Meadows Park, my favorite local spot for nature photography. The snake was curled up in a mossy area and seemed to be a little sluggish. Consequently, he did not slither away when I got down low and moved in close to take this photo.

CORRECTION: Fellow photographer and blogger Walter Sanford, who is much more of an expert in snakes than I am, has identified this snake as a Common Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus), not an Eastern Garter snake.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Snake eyes are often cold and menacing, but somehow this snake that I encountered yesterday seems to have warm brown eyes that look almost like he is smiling.

This snake, which I think is a Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), was curled up in some underbrush near the edge of the marsh. It was a real challenge getting a clear view of his head, the more so because I was using my 135-400mm lens that has a minimum focusing distance of almost seven feet (two meters).

For this shot, I used my tripod so that I could get an exposure of 1/30 second at f/9, with the lens zoomed out to about 350mm. I like the fact that I was able to capture some of the beautiful texture of the scales on his skin. You can easily see how I had to look for little sight windows through the brush, which is mostly blurred and hopefully is not too distracting. Finally, I am happy that I managed to capture some of the sinuous curves that help to guide the viewer’s eye to the snake’s head.


Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Some days it seems like anything that catches my eye is a potentially viable subject. This was the case last Friday when I was walking in a marsh in a local park and came upon this snake. Much of his body was concealed, but the upper body was exposed enough for me to attempt a head-and-shoulders portrait. Oh, wait a minute, I guess a snake does not really have shoulders, so I guess I was attempting a head-and-neck portrait.

The snake was beautiful in his own way, with wonderfully textured skin and stunning gold accents around his eyes. I thought he was probably a garter snake, but after a bit of research I am now convinced he is an Eastern Ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus), not a Common Garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis). If you are at all interested in the differences, there is a wonderful article entitled “Telling Garter Snakes and Ribbon Snakes Apart” at http://www.gartersnake.info (yes, that’s the actual web address).

As I was admiring his beauty, he may have decided to remind me that he is a predator as suddenly he opened his mouth wide, really wide. I was looking through the lens at him and the effect was magnified because his head filled a good portion of the frame of the viewfinder. My first thought was that he was sizing me up as a potential snack. I had the presence of mind to snap a picture before his mouth snapped shut. A vine covers part of his mouth in the photo, but I decided to include it to show you how wide his mouth really is.

Now I understand how he is able to do things like swallow frogs whole. I’m glad I’m a lot bigger than a frog.

Eastern Ribbon Snake Posing for Portrait

Eastern Ribbon Snake Sizing Me Up

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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