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Photographing Reptiles

( Originally Published 1902 )

Outfit required is the same as for animal work.

THE idea of photographing reptiles does not, as a rule, appeal very strongly to us. We think of little that is beautiful in connection with this order of animal life. And yet, if we stop for a moment to consider, we will find that not only do the reptiles offer us material that is extremely interesting, but many forms are really beautiful. Some of the lizards, for example, or the snakes, are graceful and at the same time beautifully marked. Even the frogs are no mean subjects for the camera; very effective pictures can be made with them if the surroundings are carefully arranged. When photographing a frog there are many ways of treating the subject : in the water, such as a shallow pond, on land, or, what is most satisfactory, in an aquarium. The latter offers the greatest possibilities; as the creature is unable to get away, you can arrange the accessories to suit. Moss-covered stones, grasses, and aquatic plants all help to make the picture beautiful and interesting. Curiously enough, a photograph of water taken at close range does not give the effect of water. A piece of glass inclined downward toward the camera does much better. It may be placed on gravel or any-thing equally suitable, and a piece of sod placed so as to conceal the edge will give a perfect effect of water, reflections and all.

In photographing tadpoles during their different stages of development, they should be put in an aquarium. A piece of glass laid horizontally against the front glass will keep them from the bottom and near the front. With full sunlight the reflections from the glass will not cause trouble, provided the background is not dark. When photographs of snakes are wanted, the first thing to do is to learn to handle them without fear. With the harmless varieties there is no reason why we should be afraid of them ; but our instinctive dread of anything snake-like is difficult to overcome. Once we let our common sense assert itself, it will be found by no means difficult to photograph any of the smaller snakes. A snake taking a sun-bath will usually allow us to approach to within a few feet if we move quietly so that it will not be frightened. Of the reptiles there are few more exasperating than the common box-tortoise. He will shut himself up in his house and positively refuse to be seen or photographed. I have spent hours in unsuccessful attempts to secure pictures of these exclusive creatures. Either they will keep their shell tightly shut, or else they will be too active and keep on the go with such vigour that a good picture is almost impossible.

In order to illustrate some of nature's wonderful methods of protection by means of colouring, marking, and form, we can find few better or more striking examples than some of even the common varieties of insects. There are some which closely imitate flowers, leaves, twigs, bark, or grass, while others, such as some of the grasshoppers which live in dusty or sandy places, are without conspicuous markings, and of a colour that corresponds almost exactly with their surroundings. In a drawing, however well executed, we always have a feeling of doubt as to its accuracy, and this doubt increases in proportion to the closeness of resemblance between the insect and its surroundings. It is therefore to the camera that we must look for a truthful and convincing picture of these extraordinary examples of nature's handiwork.

Photography - Recent Discoveries And Applications
Some Experiences When Photographing Reptiles


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