Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Ribbon snake

with 42 comments

Ribbon Snake 7443

During a field trip to the Shield Ranch on October 18th I photographed this ribbon snake (seemingly Thamnophis proximus rubrilineatus). In case you’re wondering, this slender snake did let me get as close with my 100mm macro lens as it looks like I was, perhaps because I lay on the ground and therefore didn’t seem too threatening. That seems like a good assumption, because as soon as I stood back up to try to get a better view of the colorful ribbon on the top of the snake, it slithered away.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 31, 2015 at 5:08 AM

42 Responses

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  1. What a handsome fellow he is. Friendly-looking, too. The detail is exquisite; his skin looks like it’s been woven. It looks like there might have been some Ashe juniper trees around, too.

    He seems like a good role model for this morning. I’m sitting here watching the blue flash of transformers exploding on the horizon, and see we’re under a tornado warning. I believe I’ll slither away and make coffee before the sort of weather Austin had yesterday arrives here. Areas have had 5″-8″ since midnight, and more’s on the way.


    October 31, 2015 at 5:39 AM

    • You nailed it with the Ashe junipers, which as you know from your stays farther west, have colonized so much of the Texas Hill Country.

      Over the years, I’ve heard transformers exploding, especially in our former neighborhood on the east side of town, but I’ve never seen one explode. Local television stations yesterday reported several thousand people without power in Austin, but ours stayed on; I noticed one tiny flicker that didn’t cause any of the appliances to shut off.

      I can’t say how much overnight rain we had, but the sound of a downpour awakened me about four hours ago. We had a rain gauge, but something (deer? an armadillo?) broke the glass. Too bad, because this would have been a good time to know how much precipitation we had. Camp Mabry, about 7 miles south of us, got almost 5 inches yesterday, the most ever recorded for that date.

      And I’ve said nothing about the snake.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2015 at 7:37 AM

      • I just heard that Austin’s airport reported 4.99 inches of rain yesterday, the most ever for any date there.

        Steve Schwartzman

        October 31, 2015 at 7:59 AM

        • I was concerned about you folks as we heard reports of 4 or 5 inches of rain falling in TX. I am glad that you both sound to be safe enough but Texas has sure had its share of rain lately. This sort of thing does not really solve drought problems although it does fill reservoirs.

          Steve Gingold

          October 31, 2015 at 10:53 AM

          • We’re fine, but some places that are notorious for flooding did indeed flood again. Dozens and dozens (I think hundreds, actually) of low-water crossings were closed, including those along Bull Creek in my part of Austin. I was out photographing there for a couple of hours this morning, given the opportunity for rapidly flowing water and waterfalls. What a difference from just over a week ago, when many creeks (but not Bull Creek) had been dry or mostly dry for months.

            Steve Schwartzman

            October 31, 2015 at 3:14 PM

  2. What a beauty!! How amazing to get so close 🙂

  3. Nice little snake.

    I listened to an interview from an Austin station with a guy stuck up in a tree due to the flooding. His car was swept away.

    Jim in IA

    October 31, 2015 at 7:49 AM

    • I heard about that incident on television yesterday. Many of the usual areas flooded. I just read that most of Palmetto State Park, which is on the San Marcos River about an hour south of Austin, will be under water when the river crests later today.

      In contrast, as I look out my window in northwest Austin now, the morning sky through the trees looks mostly cloud-free, and the leaves on those trees are as still as I’ve ever seen them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2015 at 7:58 AM

      • Cloudy and rainy here today. Beautiful the next few days.

        Jim in IA

        October 31, 2015 at 11:05 AM

        • After I replied to your comment the skies gradually clouded over, the breeze picked up, and we’ve got ourselves another overcast day. No matter, I went out photographing anyhow.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 31, 2015 at 3:16 PM

  4. My garden always has quite a few Ribbon Snakes in the spring. They are usually busy with “other things”, so they are easier to photograph. I am further inland and have had only 3.4 inches of rain this morning. Just got word of tornadoes (or high winds) hitting near coast.

    automatic gardener

    October 31, 2015 at 7:56 AM

    • There’s more than one contrast in your comment. You’ve found plenty of ribbon snakes in your garden, whereas this might well have been the first one I’d ever seen. It’s also a strange comparison when you report that you’ve gotten “only” 3.4 inches of rain. A coastal commenter mentioned the tornado watch in her area this morning. The television yesterday showed buildings destroyed by a presumed tornado in Floresville, which is about 30 miles southeast of San Antonio.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2015 at 8:07 AM

  5. Love snakes and totally love your macro work, What lens are you using? How close were you on this shot? thanks, Missy

    Ada McIver

    October 31, 2015 at 8:00 AM

    • I use Canon’s 100mm L-series macro lens, the front end of which I’m estimating couldn’t have been more than a foot from the snake. Like you, I enjoy a macro view because of the details it reveals in a subject that we might otherwise remain unaware of.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2015 at 8:11 AM

  6. If snakes can be called cute, your little friend here definitely qualifies. Most ground dwellers are not too happy by being approached from above.

    Steve Gingold

    October 31, 2015 at 10:55 AM

    • Cute, small, and slender, that’s how I’d describe this guy. If you’re a small ground dweller, movement overhead could definitely mean a predator.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2015 at 3:18 PM

  7. He’s gorgeous. Certainly special serpent seen by supine shooter 🙂


    October 31, 2015 at 12:03 PM

    • A welcome alliteration—and with my initials. After being out photographing for a few hours, I feel like getting supine now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2015 at 3:20 PM

  8. Great shot! Handsome snake. I’d have to skip the supine closeness though I know the narrow fellow wouldn’t bite. I inadvertently scooped up two, one long and one short, the other day cleaning off the butterfly garden. Of course I dropped the debris and critters and let out a scream though I wasn’t really afraid per se; it was just the surprise of the garters’ movements in the dried leaves in my arms. Guess they were chilled when I lifted them.


    October 31, 2015 at 2:22 PM

    • Better to be afraid and discover there was no reason to be, than to act fearless when there really is danger. I’ll bet you were relieved when your encounter proved to be of the first kind. Encountering two snakes at the same time is something I’m not sure I’ve ever done.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2015 at 3:25 PM

  9. Pretty spectacular, the detail is absolutely stunning.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    October 31, 2015 at 2:35 PM

    • I don’t see that many snakes, so this was a good opportunity and an unexpected benefit of the field trip.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2015 at 3:27 PM

  10. That’s really pretty!


    October 31, 2015 at 11:05 PM

    • There are many people who don’t find snakes pretty, but I’m glad you do.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2015 at 11:28 PM

      • I like snakes. I think that most, and I would argue that ALL, properly respected and treated, are beneficial. Each summer I save quite a number from certain death on the roads and give them sanctuary in the secluded little canyon at one edge of my property.


        October 31, 2015 at 11:45 PM

        • I didn’t know that you were such a benefactor of snakes, Terry, nor that you have a secluded little canyon at one edge of your property.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 1, 2015 at 5:52 AM

  11. Excelente fotografía, y una bella serpiente.
    Saludos y buen domingo.

  12. Nice portrait of the likable little snake. Thanks for sharing how you were able to get as close to it as you did – my photos of snakes have usually been from 5 feet above as they slither for the shelter of deck, rock, mulch or vegetation. Now I’ll know better.

    Bob Kamper

    November 1, 2015 at 9:30 AM

    • With many plants, too, and especially wildflowers, I often find that getting down low, which is where they live, yields better pictures than the ones that come from aiming down. Of course plants can run away, so there’s plenty of time to try out different angles and compositions.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 1, 2015 at 9:56 AM

  13. Beautiful creature! I am often surprised by garter snakes in my garden but love to see them.


    November 1, 2015 at 3:33 PM

    • It just struck me that they’re like colorful living shoelaces.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 1, 2015 at 4:56 PM

      • Great description, Steve! We had two who snuck into our basement and shed their skins. My husband found them coiled in a pile of audio cords, just another surprise moving cord! Fortunately, he was able to catch and release them back into the wild 🙂


        November 1, 2015 at 6:24 PM

        • There’s another non-traditional snake metaphor for you: audio cords.

          If your snakes had snuck into a shed and shed their skin, they would have validated the name of the structure.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 1, 2015 at 6:39 PM

  14. I am considering the image of a living shoelace………. but unfortunately that led me to genuine dead snakeskin shoelaces and shoes. 😦


    November 2, 2015 at 3:53 AM

    • Too bad the living shoelace became genuine dead snakeskin. Perhaps you can train your imagination to keep from slithering from the first image to the second.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 2, 2015 at 4:22 AM

  15. What a beauty! I am charmed by the snake. Does that make *it* a snake charmer?


    November 2, 2015 at 3:03 PM

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