Living in the past IV

juvenile eastern/black rat snake Pantherophis alleghaniensis coiled in small tree
Another from 2010, I was delighted to find this itty-bitty black rat snake (though I suppose it’s properly eastern rat snake, even though we should have used up the ‘eastern’ modifier by now, but Pantherophis alleghaniensis to be technical) when it was crawling across the near-vertical surface of a tree in the backyard – I mistook it for a bicycle chain for a moment. I admit this is a semi-staged photo, because I captured the snake and set it loose in a better background where I could work with it easier and thus get a better angle. What shows distinctly, at least to me, is the harsh lighting – note the sharp shadow to the right. This was before a whole lot of experiments and design changes in light softeners and diffusers before arriving at the macro lighting rig that I currently use, which may yet again be modified this winter.

If you go to the original post, you’ll see that it was identified by a different scientific name. This is because it changed in the intervening 12 years, multiple times actually, as species relations and distinctions get refined. It was, in fact, stumbling upon one of the new names for this very species that started me checking on some of those that I didn’t photograph too often, which eventually became checking damn near all of them before posting, after I suddenly discovered that they’d done it for one of my regular subjects a few years before, without even telling me. Rude. In my Sibley Guide to Birds are numerous red asterisks that I’ve placed alongside species names that aren’t current anymore. Meanwhile, the eastern rat snake is even under refinement right now, as biologists discuss how many subspecies there really are…

But anyway, I consider this a dynamic pose with an inkling of scale if you’re paying attention, and a good illustration of their coloration at this age. The light angle eliminating the shadow from the supra-orbital ridge (the ‘eyebrow’) makes the snake look quite surprised, which isn’t ideal, part of the reason I’ve done so much work on lighting over the years.