Sunday, October 14, 2012

Natrix natrix...but we just call it a Grass Snake

Although I say I have only developed a passion for photography in the last 2 and a half years, my first love of photography began in my teens. I loved natural history documentaries, especially the legendary David Attenbrough's programmes, and grew a keen interest in wanting to photograph the local wildlife around me. Even though people bought me books on wildlife photography to inspire me more, the fact that digital photography was still years away, and whilst I was still at school, to afford any kind of equipment to get the pictures I was seeing in the books, would have just been unheard of for a 13/14 year old boy. It's easy for me to say now, that out of all the disciplines of photography, I would still rate wildlife photography as the hardest. This is simply because (perhaps along with sport) you do not have time to plan the shot. I know you can go out searching for a subject and plan how the photo will look, but when the subject turns up, you just have to snap away, hoping your settings you selected at lightening speed will pull off a gem amongst the many photos you rapidly fired off. Nearly every photograph even professional photographers take gets rejected, but the ratio of wildlife photographers pictures that are taken compared to what gets published, must be ridiculously small. It's one thing to capture the animal of whatever kind, it's another thing to have an interesting picture of that creature i.e. in a wonderful surrounding, displaying some unusual behaviour, a genius composition etc.

Anyways, that is looking at the hard work of it. The fun side is just saying to myself that this Snake I came across on Cuckmere Haven last weekend, absolutely made my day! I spent the weekend in Eastbourne on a sort of break after my wedding (I don't want to say honeymoon, as that probably won't be for a few months yet), and Cuckmere Haven was the last place I wanted to visit, as I knew it is a favourite location of one of my favourite photographers, Charlie Waite. It's a fantastic landscape to capture, but the last thing I expected to see was a Grass Snake! I was coming down the hill towards the river when this Snake, slithered (I almost wrote sprinted then) out in front of me at speed. Now I have seen Grass Snakes out and about before, but again the moment is normally as fleeting as the speed at which it takes the Snake to find cover in the nearest bush or undergrowth. However, true to it's name, there is nothing but short grass on the hill surrounding Cuckmere haven at this time of year. So I was able to chase it down the hill for a long time, whilst stopping occasionally, to try and get as close to the snake as possible, whilst firing off many pictures.

One thing you have to know about Grass Snakes, is that despite being the largest Snake in the British Isles (we only have 3!), it really is not that big. I've been looking at other pictures of grass snake on the net since, and though there are indeed some great pictures, with interesting surroundings, nearly all of them are cropped below 1000pixels across. I have cropped this picture, but still to just above 3000pixels, because although I could crop in closer and still keep the detail, I wanted to get as much of the snake in the shot as possible. Who knows though, maybe I will put a closer shot in another day. Wildlife photography remains a keen interest of mine, but I know that until I can afford all of that 'glass', I'll still have fun capturing these little opportunities that present themselves.


  1. Hey Pete!

    Nice capture here of something completely different for your blog. The point of focus is spot on on the head and eyes. The vignette pulls the eyes right into that area.

    You are right about wildlife photography. Along with sports, if you want decent pictures you need to invest VERY heavily!

  2. Thanks for your comment and thoughts Tim, much appreciated as always!