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Focus on Hots!  Responsible Photography of Venomous Snakes

Full photo story article with photos and text
26 photos, 2,800 words

In a world dominated by social media and driven by sensationalism, photographing dangerous animals can turn deadly in an heartbeat. Almost everyone in the developed world has a camera of some form on their person most of the time, but when it comes to photographing dangerous wildlife - particularly venomous snakes - special considerations must be taken into account. I am proposing an article that summarizes some tips on how to photograph venomous snakes in a responsible way, based on the author's own knowledge and experience photographing these subjects. Safety is emphasized throughout the text, and every topic addressed - from equipment to composition - is made from the perspective of remaining as safe as possible and treating your venomous subjects with respect while still making incredible images. The author has over 20 years' experience with wildlife and nature photography, and five years' experience at a commercial venom laboratory working with over 40 species of venomous snakes from around the world.

Click any photo to start gallery:

  • A yellow and black African bush viper (Atheris squamigera) rests coiled on a limb at the Reptile Discovery Center in Deland, Florida. The unusually-colored eyes adds to its beauty. Captive.
    A yellow and black African bush viper (Atheris squamigera) rests coiled on a limb at the Reptile Discovery Center in Deland, Florida. The unusually-colored eyes adds to its beauty. Captive.
  •  White-lipped viper (Trimeresurus albolabris) from Southeast Asia wrapped around tree limb , Deland , Florida. Note the arboreal species and upward perspective.  Tree-dwelling species often have long strike ranges. Captive.
    White-lipped viper (Trimeresurus albolabris) from Southeast Asia wrapped around tree limb , Deland , Florida. Note the arboreal species and upward perspective. Tree-dwelling species often have long strike ranges. Captive.
  •   A wild dusky pygmy rattlesnake ( Sistrurus miliarius barbouri ) basks on a sun baked road , Florida , USA .
    A wild dusky pygmy rattlesnake ( Sistrurus miliarius barbouri ) basks on a sun baked road , Florida , USA .
  • African rock pythons are one of the worlds largest snakes ; they are non venomous , and kill their prey by constriction. Being a large snake and considered dangerous by state and federal wildlife departments, it deserves the same caution as that of venomous species. Captive.
    African rock pythons are one of the worlds largest snakes ; they are non venomous , and kill their prey by constriction. Being a large snake and considered dangerous by state and federal wildlife departments, it deserves the same caution as that of venomous species. Captive.
  •  Sharp nosed viper (Deinagkistrodon acutus) through glass , Florida , USA. Captive.
    Sharp nosed viper (Deinagkistrodon acutus) through glass , Florida , USA. Captive.
  •  West African green mamba (Dendroaspis viridis) portrait , Florida , USA. Rear overhead lighting gave this image a different feel. Captive.
    West African green mamba (Dendroaspis viridis) portrait , Florida , USA. Rear overhead lighting gave this image a different feel. Captive.
  •  Southern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) among autumn leaves , Florida , USA. Captive.
    Southern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) among autumn leaves , Florida , USA. Captive.
  •  West African green mamba (Dendroaspis viridis) hanging on a branch, Deland , Florida. Captive.
    West African green mamba (Dendroaspis viridis) hanging on a branch, Deland , Florida. Captive.
  •  Pair of white lipped vipers (Trimeresurus albolabris) coiled together around branch , Deland , Florida. Captive.
    Pair of white lipped vipers (Trimeresurus albolabris) coiled together around branch , Deland , Florida. Captive.
  • Carl Barden of Medtoxin Venom Laboratory extracting venom from Egyptian cobra in front of observation window , Deland , Florida
    Carl Barden of Medtoxin Venom Laboratory extracting venom from Egyptian cobra in front of observation window , Deland , Florida
  •  A cape cobra challenges the photographer while Carl Barden stands ready with a snake hook, an invaluable tool for anyone who works with venomous snakes , Deland , Florida
    A cape cobra challenges the photographer while Carl Barden stands ready with a snake hook, an invaluable tool for anyone who works with venomous snakes , Deland , Florida
  •  Portrait of East African green mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps), Deland , Florida. Captive.
    Portrait of East African green mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps), Deland , Florida. Captive.
  •  Puff adder (Bitis arietans) staring in defensive posture , Deland , Florida. Captive.
    Puff adder (Bitis arietans) staring in defensive posture , Deland , Florida. Captive.
  •  Extracting venom from a cape cobra , Deland , Florida
    Extracting venom from a cape cobra , Deland , Florida
  •  Baby ball python , pie bald coloration , sitting at the edge of someones fingers ,Deland , Florida.  If photographing venomous snakes is not appropriate for you personally, there are a variety of other, less-dangerous reptiles.
    Baby ball python , pie bald coloration , sitting at the edge of someones fingers ,Deland , Florida. If photographing venomous snakes is not appropriate for you personally, there are a variety of other, less-dangerous reptiles.
  •  Close up image of king cobra having venom extracted into collection vial , Deland , Florida, USA.
    Close up image of king cobra having venom extracted into collection vial , Deland , Florida, USA.
  •  Terciopelo , or fer de lance (Bothrops asper) , close up of head among coils through glass , Deland , Florida, USA. Captive.
    Terciopelo , or fer de lance (Bothrops asper) , close up of head among coils through glass , Deland , Florida, USA. Captive.
  •  A feisty monocled cobra being handled by professional while visitors watch , deland , florida, USA.
    A feisty monocled cobra being handled by professional while visitors watch , deland , florida, USA.
  •  Yellow eyelash viper half coiled , perched on branch , Florida, USA. Captive.
    Yellow eyelash viper half coiled , perched on branch , Florida, USA. Captive.
  •  Close up view of an eastern diamondback rattlesnake having its venom extracted , Reptile Discovery Center , Deland , Florida, USA.
    Close up view of an eastern diamondback rattlesnake having its venom extracted , Reptile Discovery Center , Deland , Florida, USA.
  •  Baby Ball python , spider color morph ,Deland , Florida, USA.  Ball pythons appear in many color morphs due to inbreeding, but are non-venomous and easy to handle for anyone not ready to begin photographing venomous species. Captive.
    Baby Ball python , spider color morph ,Deland , Florida, USA. Ball pythons appear in many color morphs due to inbreeding, but are non-venomous and easy to handle for anyone not ready to begin photographing venomous species. Captive.
  •  Boxes of anti venom to be used to treat snakebite , Deland , Florida
    Boxes of anti venom to be used to treat snakebite , Deland , Florida
  • Head detail of a green tree python (Morelia viridis) using side-lighting; captive; Florida, USA. Though this species is non-venomous, its arboreal nature makes it a more irascible species. Arboreal snakes also typically have longer teeth than terrestrial snakes, as they are designed to catch birds mid-flight!
    Head detail of a green tree python (Morelia viridis) using side-lighting; captive; Florida, USA. Though this species is non-venomous, its arboreal nature makes it a more irascible species. Arboreal snakes also typically have longer teeth than terrestrial snakes, as they are designed to catch birds mid-flight!
  • A captive banded rock rattlesnake rests on a rock; Florida, USA.
    A captive banded rock rattlesnake rests on a rock; Florida, USA.
  • A stream of yellow venom from an eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) shoots out of its fangs and down the side of a glass during a venom extraction; Florida, USA.
    A stream of yellow venom from an eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) shoots out of its fangs and down the side of a glass during a venom extraction; Florida, USA.
  • Scale detail of a yellow and black African bush viper (Atheris squamigera) in coils; captive; Florida, USA. Lines, colors, and patterns make interesting subjects on the more colorful or ornately patterned snake species.
    Scale detail of a yellow and black African bush viper (Atheris squamigera) in coils; captive; Florida, USA. Lines, colors, and patterns make interesting subjects on the more colorful or ornately patterned snake species.

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