About a Photo Session with Snakes !

Photo: Dr Rajbir Kaur Sharma

CAUTION: This photograph is not to impress anyone, as mostly people think its a daring act. I have posted this photograph, which has been clicked specially for the purpose, to emphasis on learning things properly about the natural history of snakes, technique, safety drills, etc. Please do NOT handle snakes when you are a novice and without adequate purpose i.e. snake rescue, research, photography, etc. PLEASE DO NOT TRY TO EMULATE THIS PHOTO. I have tried this session after 15 years of self-grooming about safety and snake handling discipline. You may try this, once you have learnt about the subject well, with an expert.Russell's Viper Flickering Tongue

Here, in this photograph, its me Capt Suresh, photographing an adult Russell’s Viper. My wife, Dr Rajbir, helped me for the safety, as she was the snake handler for the photo session. Our children were watching us from the window of the vehicle. They were not allowed to come out at all, doors were locked and one assistant kept them busy and explaining what was going on.

You can see, I was that close to get some closeups of the face, eyes, nostrils, scales and the fascinating flicker of the tongue, which makes the photographs fascinating. Remember, never go that close, if you are not following the `rule book’ sincerely by 100%, its not worth taking risk for a photograph. I knew what I wanted and that is the only way to get those closeup shots. I never compromise with safety while handling snakes, never. So, I had planned the shoot very well for the day, with my wife, she had to finish her domestic chores and get free, manage the small kids who were briefed well about how to behave during the shoot and what we were about to do.

If you notice, I am viewing through `angle finder’ and this can lead me to a mistaken judgment for the distance between me and the snake, in case it starts moving towards me. That’s why its very important to have good snake handler for snake photography. But to get the ground level view of the snake through the lens, one needs to place the camera on ground and you all know that its almost impossible to shoot ground level shots with a DSLR, as it has fixed LCD. One needs this angle finder (see the equipment below), to get good ground level view. And this can be dangerous in this scenario, where one is shooting an aggressive venomous snake ready to strike, while viewing through `angle finder’.

I could manage it by following few things: I had my wife (with snake hook and a tong) to handle snakes for me, I had frozen myself completely, even the focusing was done very gently and I had placed my hand there before the snake was placed in front of me. In fact, the snake was covered under a dark cloth and was unveiled only once I had taken my shooting posture and made myself comfortable, ready to click. My wife had taken clearance from me, if I was ready and she could unveil the snake. This is the best way to shoot snakes with camera, when it is a well organised shoot.

In the beginning, any snake is timid and tries to hide, but as the shoot progresses, they become aggressive and ready to strike. Give them rest after a while. So, be very careful! Do not try this posture and the equipment, till you have acquired all the prerequisites for snake photo shoot: you have read all the precautions, you have an expert snake handler (well equipped) in place, you have learned adequately about snakes, snakebite emergency, etc. Please do not compromise with anything, it has to be 100% safety drill. You are free to ask me questions !! If I know, then you will get a reply soon, otherwise it may take sometime, also I need to be around the internet to reply.

Please read the Page `Snake Photography’ for more details about snake photography technique, equipment, etc.