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.
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.