Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Inches from a Rattlesnake!

Every so often, we run into a photographic opportunity that we did not expect or foresee. Last night was one of those times for me. Before I get started, let me emphasize that you should NEVER under any circumstances do what I did. Do not try this at home! With that said, let's proceed.

1/125s @ f/8; ISO 400; SR On; Flash

As I was driving along the road toward home, I saw a snake crossing the road. I immediately recognized the pattern of a rattlesnake. I passed it and then immediately turned around and stopped. This was not a very good location on the road but those things can never be planned. Closer inspection confirmed the presence of a western diamondback rattlesnake. The snake measured somewhere around three feet long. It was not a huge snake but it was not a small one either.

1/160s @ f/8; ISO 400; SR On; Flash

When I first arrived the snake was still crossing the road and attempting to crawl up the curb. Right after I got my gear out, it coiled up and stayed at the top of the curb for the remainder of this event. While gear can be heavy, I was very glad I had brought along my camera bag with a decent amount of gear. This included my two Pentax K10D bodies with D-BG2 battery grips. My DA 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 Fisheye, DA 14mm f/2.8, FA 50mm f/1.4, DA* 50-135mm f/2.8 SDM, and D-FA 100mm f/2.8 Macro lenses were in the bag. In addition, I had the AF-200FG flash and an off-camera cord as well as a Kenko 25mm Uniplus extension tube. This was all packed nicely in my Think Tank Photo Urban Disguise 40 bag.

1/60s @ f/2.8; ISO 400; SR On; Flash

What I really needed was a DA* 300mm f/4 SDM or similar lens or even the A* 200mm f/4 Macro lens. This would have made it much easier to get close-up images of this snake. However, the DA* 300mm f/4 SDM lens has not been released yet and I did not have my A* 200mm f/4 Macro lens with me. The obvious next choice was the DA* 50-135mm f/2.8 SDM lens. This turned out to be a fantastic lens for this purpose. The problem with this lens is that it cannot focus as close as I would like. Here comes the Kenko 25mm Uniplus extension tube to rescue. It turned out to be a perfect combination.

1/160s @ f/5.6; ISO 400; SR On; Flash

Fortunately, the temperature was such that this snake seemed to be a little cold. This allowed me to get within twelve inches of the snake with the front of my lens. The fruit of this danger was fantastic pictures. As I have already said, DO NOT DO THIS AT HOME!

1/160s @ f/4; ISO 400; SR On; Flash

After getting a number of pictures, I wanted to get a different perspective. Most of my shots thus far had been with either the DA* 50-135mm f/2.8 SDM lens with the 25mm extension tube or with the D-FA 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens. I wanted to try something a little different. Since the snake was cooperating so well, I brought out the DA 14mm f/2.8 lens. These would actually be the very first pictures I had ever taken with this lens since it arrived earlier that day. In order to get good pictures with the DA 14mm lens, I had to get very, very close to the snake. This time, the distance was six inches or less. While the DA* 50-135mm lens gives you some working room because it has a fairly long barrel, the DA 14mm lens gives you almost no room because of its short barrel.

1/25s @ f/4; ISO 400; SR On; Flash

I was not about to look through the viewfinder with a short-barreled lens and a camera between the snake and I. It took a number of attempts to get what I really wanted. It was all too easy to focus on the snake's body instead of its head. The shot you see above, which turned out to be the last of the evening, was the best.


Unknown said...

I really admire the pictures even though I am absolutely mortally afraid of snakes. Well done

admin said...

Thanks for your comment. It was a little scary and it was good that the snake was very cold. I would not recommend anyone try this themselves.