Around this time of year (March) in New England, animals awake from hibernation. This year is no exception and with the record snowfall in and around the Boston area, many creatures are happy to see most of the white stuff gone. The sun is starting to become more and more intense.

I was mountain biking at Ashland State Park in Ashland, Massachusetts a few days ago and came upon a large number of Garter snakes moving slowly through the leaf litter. These snakes must have just woke up from their long winter slumber. They were searching out the small pools of sunlight that made it though the branches, warming the ground. These guys were basking in the heat from the sun.

One thing I noticed was how calm they were. They seemed very groggy and disinterested in my presence. I could grab them just under the head, and hold up their bodies with my free hand. These Garter snakes did not strike or expel a stinky musk. I think they might have been half a sleep, just out from the snake hole!

So I finished my 3 mile loop around the lake and when I got back to my car, I grabbed my Sony Z1U, the Letus35 Extreme and my bag of lenses. I hiked on foot back to the area full of snakes.

I decided to leave the tripod. I wanted to shoot from a snake eye view.

I brought all my lenses thinking I may need to keep my distance and use a long focal length. But I did not. I used my favorite lens, the full manual tack sharp Nikon 55mm f2.8 Macro. My only issue with this lens is that the focus barrel is very sticky inside and it is hard to pull and rack focus.

I got down in the snake infested leaves and sticks and using no tripod, I wedged the Letus rail system into the ground trying to hold the shots steady. I was able to set the focus on the lens set to about one inch and got right in the snake’s face. Most of the shots have a thread of depth of field and a few of the shots I set my focus on just the tiny fork tongue as it flicked through the creature’s jaw. The rest of the snake’s head was out of focus.

The slow motion was at 30 frames per second. I wish I had a Sony EX1 with the capability to shoot the high speed snake tongue action at 60 frames per second. But alas, I must settle for what I am able to afford (for now).

I shot for about forty five minutes and got some great footage. I was never bit, and a few times, the snakes came to me. At one point I was surrounded by about ten serpents looking for their fifteen minutes of fame!

The video was edited with Final Cut Pro and I used the “color corrector 3-way” filter to add more color saturation. I did not vignette this project.

TRT: 4 minutes, 20 seconds
File size: 97.9 MB
Type: Quicktime mpeg4 720p HDTV

Please allow time for the video to download. This is a very large HD file.

Production Credits

Shot and Edited by:
Tom Guilmette

Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts I – Track 6

This video is not to be distributed.