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Photographic Challenge?

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Photographic Challenge?

Postby BushSnake » Fri Nov 09, 2007 8:07 pm

Photographic challenge:
I have thought of a project that I will try in December and January. I've read a few articles of people trying to photograph snakes while striking. I have yet to see ANY descent result but maybe someone here has tried it? I have tried with a little egg-eater but holding a camera in one hand and provoking the snake with the other produced only something like this:

Image
(This was the best one :D My excuse is that it was taken in the field!)

The plan is as follows: Build a light beam trigger that is easily movable and aim it just above the snakes head. This wil then hopefully trigger the camera which will be maually focused with a flash, etc. In bright daylight it can possible be done without a flash using burst exposures but the flash will allow for a greater depth of field which hopefully result in sharper focus. I will try with a egg-eater first but ultimately the goal is to take a picture of a fast striker (adder). Obviously the setup will have to be perfect for the adder since I don't want to get my hands too close to the model. Any advice or ideas especially with regards to "safely provoking" it to strike? Very few pictures are worth a trip to the hospital.

Also, I have heard many different opinions as to how fast an adder can strike? What is the maximum speed at which these creatures can strike?
We must remember that a photograph can hold just as much as we put into it, and no one has ever approached the full possibilities of the medium - Ansel Adams
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Postby armata » Fri Nov 09, 2007 8:30 pm

The trouble with adders is that they are not long lunging strikes like cobras or mambas but short stabbing strikes. 1/10th second or so.

You need to fire in bursts of 5fps and set the camera (digi) to highest ISO. If you want a head on shot then you need a barrier around the lens, perspex shield or something. If you want a side shot then you need a buddy.
I realise that this will take a camera toward the top end of the market and also relevant flash.

I have also seen shots that have 'cheated' - shots head on of a viper yawning and captioned 'striking'
easy to tell the difference
Most of all be safe. Mole snakes may also be a good canditate for this.

You may need a reasonable wide aperture as well, so some depth of field would be sacrificed.
' I get my kicks on Route 62 '
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Postby Mongoose » Fri Nov 09, 2007 8:41 pm

My dad used to use bellows and a 50mm lens and he used to photograph spiders.

With the set up he had, he had to be about 3 - 4 cm away from the spiders.

He once photographed a Jumping spider sp. and with the spider being that close to the lens, it saw itself in the lens and it often jumped on to the lens.Somewhere he has photographs of the spider jumping towards him in the air. Sadly he has lost lots of his slides and things etc..
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Postby armata » Fri Nov 09, 2007 9:28 pm

Jumping spiders are extra cute and bags of character - those eyes!!

Looks like your dad was/is a pretty competent photographer catching those little guys on camera.

I often wish I had someone like your dad wandering through the fynbos with me - I do struggle to name some of the plants.
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Postby alexander » Fri Nov 09, 2007 9:30 pm

Image
Image
the first one is good, but i only have auto focus-so its not in perfect focus and i also need a better macro lens.

lol@Tony i think u talking about my dad when it comes to the plants?
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Postby armata » Fri Nov 09, 2007 9:34 pm

Yeah Alex its me age getting mixed up with goose.

Dunno maybe goose's dad knows about plants too???
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Postby armata » Fri Nov 09, 2007 9:37 pm

Yes Alex you see you have the long lunge there with a herald, same with mole snake worth a try, and also egg-eaters as we have seen.
Adders will be a challenge.

Those of you who are going to give it a go, be very careful with venomous particulatly elapids.
be safe guys, I know I'm nagging again, but thats me eh?
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Postby froot » Fri Nov 09, 2007 10:23 pm

This topic has the best shots of a D. scabra in strike mode that I've ever seen.

http://www.sareptiles.co.za/forum/viewtopic.php?t=6782

The speed, exposure and focus are just perfect.

I devised an electronic circuit for an old film slr camera many years ago for lightning photography. It used a light sensor to trigger the shutter so as a lightning bolt flashed the light from the flash triggered the circuit. It worked very well but it was too slow to catch the bolt of lightning. Striking adders are also 'quick as lightning' but the reaction time for the camera may not be adequate. I like the idea of using a beam to trigger the camera even if you get the last stages of the strike. You'll need plenty light in order to maximise the shutter speed and avoid blurry shots.
Worth a try IMO.
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Postby BushSnake » Fri Nov 09, 2007 10:27 pm

I don't mind the nagging. It prevents me from becoming too complacent.

As for the photos, the red lip is the kind of thing I want to try but forgive me for saying those shots were just luck. I have "accidentally" photographed butterflies as they take off producing some nice images but my current rate of producing usable images like those are about 1 out of 5000. Obviously snakes strike more regularly but still. By "calculating and triggering" the shot I think one would be able to get frame fillers and head shots but that will obviously take some practice. The short stabbing motion of adders might actually be easier because the body movement is a lot less than with colubrids and elapids. I have decided not to think about cobras because it would be hard to make them stay in one place waiting for a strike. You can keep a egg-eater or an adder at a very specific point.

Since I am actually doint it for myself it would be pointless to "cheat". I will use a Canon 30D with either a 100mm macro or a 300mm lens. The 300mm lens helps to increase the distance between the camera and the snake. I have considered building a multiple flash system that can discharge at the rate that the camera can fire but its going to be a lot harder (yet another challenge). That will of course enable me to use F16 and even smaller apertures. The macro lens has a minimum focus distance of 10cm but because you need to prepare for a movement in a certain direction, it would be foolish to try for a frame-filler. Rather crop out a bit later. I will see what snake crosses my path. I have seen adders and egg-eaters but haven't yet seen mole snakes strike.
We must remember that a photograph can hold just as much as we put into it, and no one has ever approached the full possibilities of the medium - Ansel Adams
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Postby armata » Fri Nov 09, 2007 10:39 pm

Never seen a mole snake strike??? you have a real pleasure awaiting you and very filmable too.

Please don't think B/snake that I was suggesting that you would cheat, its just that I have seen pics in mags that were of this genre.
The average picture researcher would not pick it up, but a herpetologist would.

Anyway good luck,
BTW the tele lens may be a better option, as well as safety, it will flatten perspective and the image will stand out more, yes?
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Postby BushSnake » Fri Nov 09, 2007 11:37 pm

I also saw those pics of snakes yawning. Puffies and cottonmouths are favourites! Wasn't accusing you! :D I now many photographers that photograph anything from butterflies to snakes and even plants but are always cheating in one way or the other.

The telephoto will compress the image so it might not produce the best background ever but I will first try to safely photograph the snake before I worry about the background. Because I will probably start with a small egg-eater (more common for me) I will probably be forced to us emy favourite lens - the 100mm macro.

I am a bit worried about the reaction time of the camera but I will have to see. Electronics are capable of really fast triggering but whether the camera can react fast enough remains unknown. A photographer (I think his name is Steve Dalton?) that specializes in birds and insects in flight managed to get some incredible images using a old SLR as well. The one trick he used was to use a very dark environment, open the shutter for long periods (a few seconds) and use the movement trigger to trigger the flash. I will experiment in a week or two and let you know. The more I think of it the better a multiple flash system sounds.

As for the mole snake: Because I normally go out butterfly hunting in the day I have seen more diurnal snakes than nocturnal ones. In fact, I have seen more mambas in the wild than any other species. (I will NEVER catch a mamba) Some common snakes seem to elude me...
We must remember that a photograph can hold just as much as we put into it, and no one has ever approached the full possibilities of the medium - Ansel Adams
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Postby Bushviper » Sat Nov 10, 2007 8:50 am

I have two concerns about this. The risk of getting bitten is of slight concern but my biggest concern is that some poor snake is going to get harassed and stressed so that you can take, or attempt to take a photograph.

Some snakes like egg eaters will "perform" for a few minutes at a time. The amount of energy used up by this snake is monumental when you consider his nutritional intake. Stressing him just to get the shot is not something I would endorse.

Certain snakes like the little herald would do this naturally when captured and is going to be released in any case, and capturing these opportunities is fine.

On a personal level I was involved in filming a puffadder striking. I found out the hard way that most of them will only strike when they know the aggressor is within range. I have a whole video of getting my first snake bite!

If you can set your equipment up and film feeding time that will consistently produce a strike although at most you will only get one chance a week.

Please keep the snakes' well being in mind so that you do not contribute to its stress and possible demise.
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Postby armata » Sat Nov 10, 2007 11:56 am

Yes, you are right BV there are certain ethics involved, and snakes do tire quickly.

We had to film a cottomouth strike for a BBC doc and we had 12 snakes of equal size and appearance that we rotated. Did a similar shoot with WDB rattlers using about 10 snakes. The programme was 'Supersense', some years ago now.

I think you should overide autofocus and preset the focus where you estimate the head will finally be using the appropriate fstop for DOF.
Different settings for the 'lungers' and 'stabbers'.
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Postby BushSnake » Sat Nov 10, 2007 12:21 pm

I will definitely try not to stress the snakes too much. I'd rather spread it over time (i.e. days and weeks) because I doubt whether I'll get 10 snakes at once. I think the triggering method will require less strikes to produce descent photos but that is still very optimistic. I will try to change snakes as often as possible though.

Manual focus is the only option since the auto focus will take far too long. That is why I would like some striking speeds so I can predict where the focus point should be? I heard on a TV program by person X that they strike at 21ft/s (= 7m/s). The problem is that I am not sure I can trust the TV and certainly not a guy that says "it's all a warning...I've been bitten guys..."
We must remember that a photograph can hold just as much as we put into it, and no one has ever approached the full possibilities of the medium - Ansel Adams
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Postby BushSnake » Thu Dec 27, 2007 9:04 pm

Ok. So this is how I spend my holiday. May sound nurdy (it really is) but I went ahead and built the trigger for my camera. At least most nurds are not doing it to photograph reptiles!

The trigger works well but the delay in the camera is a bit slow. I can't really do anything about it so I hope its sufficient! I played around with falling drops of milk and a Bitis corkuta (a little plane that is launched by slamming an air bag). The system is currently not portable and that will have to change if I want to start with living creatures but at least it's a start. The nice thing is that a fairly good "striking picture" is taken everytime the "snake" passes the beam. This means that if I set the thing up well, I only need one strike to get a nice photo which will not harm the snake at all.

The milk droplet:
Image

The Bitis cork-uta
Image

BTW - don't ask about my toys! The "snake" can actually hurt you seeing as it only hits the ground 3m after the photo is taken and has very sharp teeth :D

Any ideas where to start with living creatures? I was thinking frogs as they are easy to find. My other idea is a chameleon because you certainly won't harrass the little beast by feeding him. The biggest problem is finding one!
We must remember that a photograph can hold just as much as we put into it, and no one has ever approached the full possibilities of the medium - Ansel Adams
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