Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

My first alligator

with 63 comments

The first time I ever saw an American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) in the wild was on October 6th in the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. Here’s the rap sheet approach again, with front and side views.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 8, 2019 at 4:46 AM

63 Responses

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  1. Yes, yes! I recognize him.That’s the one who ate the duck!!!

    Steve Gingold

    November 8, 2019 at 4:54 AM

    • I remember Peter and the Wolf, with the wolf swallowing the duck. I don’t recall an alligator eating a duck.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 8, 2019 at 7:17 AM

  2. Great portrait of the alligator, Steve. Fantastic colour scheme!


    November 8, 2019 at 5:02 AM

    • I was so intent on photographing the alligator that not until I saw the pictures later did I realize how almost monochromatically brown the scene was.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 8, 2019 at 7:20 AM

  3. I love “the rap sheet approach” terminology. I am also glad we don’t have alligators here. I’d rather enjoy your photographs and care nothing about having a close encounter with the real deal!


    November 8, 2019 at 6:28 AM

    • I’m not normally so mindful of criminals. The front and side views, first of the milkweed and then of this alligator, just happened to fit that metaphor. And as you said, I wouldn’t want to have to worry about alligators during my regular outings in nature. At an exotic locale, visited briefly, and keeping my distance with a 400mm lens, it seemed okay.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 8, 2019 at 7:34 AM

  4. Your first alligator looks tame and peaceful. I guess as we know appearances are deceiving, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    November 8, 2019 at 7:55 AM

    • This one wasn’t fully grown, so I felt more at ease than I would have with an adult. I have to hope that wasn’t foolhardy.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 8, 2019 at 8:16 AM

  5. Hope you were at a safe distance, although he/she looks well-fed and relaxed. I love the color scheme–the brown of the water accented by the multi-patterned critter. Very nice.


    November 8, 2019 at 7:59 AM

    • I was just leaving a comment on your blog when you left this one here. Yes, the monochrome brown color scheme worked well here. The alligator’s texture reminds me now of the texture of the water in the previous post.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 8, 2019 at 8:24 AM

  6. My first shot would have been of it fading in the distance as I ran….

    Marcia Levy

    November 8, 2019 at 8:15 AM

  7. I wish you could have seen one that wasn’t quite so submerged, but the side view is a good one. I never thought to mention that the road we were on bisects two quite different bodies of water: a freshwater pond on the left, and brackish water on the right. The ponds tend to be clearer and more reflective, while the muddy ditches can hide some very interesting creatures — like this one.


    November 8, 2019 at 8:37 AM

    • When we first spotted this alligator it was on the bank near but still fully out of the water. By the time I was ready for a first picture, the alligator was unfortunately facing more away from me than not. I took a few shots, just in case it disappeared into the water altogether, but they weren’t great. Like you, I was happy with the side view I managed to get a little later, after the alligator decided to hang around. The one with it staring at me isn’t bad, either.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 8, 2019 at 8:47 AM

      • There’s nothing quite like being eye-to-eye with a gator. It can be fun trying to out-stare one, but they always win.


        November 8, 2019 at 8:55 AM

  8. Very nice mug shots!


    November 8, 2019 at 8:45 AM

  9. You were in a good location for the shot with the gator blending with the water. I love going “hunting ” for gators. Brazos Bend State Park is a great place for viewing them and I have been going there for years. I have a post ready to go from a trip last week that will be up soon. Unfortunately, we witnessed an alligator having a meal very close to the path.

    automatic gardener

    November 8, 2019 at 8:46 AM

    • I’ve never been to Brazos Bend, so I look forward to seeing the post about your visit there. When you say that you unfortunately witnessed an alligator having a meal very close to the path, at least I hope the meal wasn’t a human one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 8, 2019 at 8:55 AM

      • No it wasn’t, but we passed by on the farthest edge of the 4 foot path. My family was concerned, but the alligator already had its prey, although it did not swim away from us with it, but actually moved closer to the shore.

        automatic gardener

        November 8, 2019 at 8:57 AM

        • I figured not, or else your comment would have ended with an exclamation mark. Even so, if the alligator moved closer to shore, I understand why your family was concerned.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 8, 2019 at 9:02 AM

  10. Hi Steve. Great photos! At first I thought I was looking at Phil Lanoue’s blog. Here’s his most recent alligator photo: http://phillanoue.com/2019/10/02/mister-lonely/. He’s got a whole section on alligators if you’re interested.


    November 8, 2019 at 8:59 AM

    • I followed your link and see what you mean—even to an alligator with a Christmas hat. If I lived nearer to the Texas coast I expect I’d show alligator pictures here from time to time. With the coast being 4 hours away, I don’t often get over there; this was my one and only alligator encounter.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 8, 2019 at 9:20 AM

      • I’ve never seen one myself other than in photos. It’s certainly not their choice habitat in Toronto!


        November 8, 2019 at 9:25 AM

        • You’re right. We were in Toronto in July and didn’t see a single alligator on the banks of Lake Ontario or along the streets of Yorkville.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 8, 2019 at 9:43 AM

  11. So exciting to see an alligator, isn’t it? I was so thrilled to see one in the water at Middleton Garden. The one I saw was even smaller than yours, and further away. I really like the monochrome image, especially from the side. It looks just like a dragon….
    Here be monsters….


    November 8, 2019 at 9:45 AM

    • That seems to be South Carolina, as opposed to southern Illinois. Here and there be monsters, indeed.

      Yes, the monochrome worked out well, in spite of my not being aware of it at the time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 8, 2019 at 11:48 AM

  12. I’m going to buck the trend and say I like the front view best. What I really like is the symmetry, compositionally.

    Michael Scandling

    November 8, 2019 at 10:53 AM

  13. Did you have to dangle a live chicken in front of him to get this very nice pose?


    November 8, 2019 at 1:43 PM

    • Speaking of animals, the live chicken was me, though I wasn’t really a scaredy cat and doggedly pursued my pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 8, 2019 at 2:04 PM

  14. I agree with Peter Klopp, I’m sure it’s deceptive, but this creature does look tame and peaceful. All the same, I’m glad the waterways around me don’t have these things.

    Robert Parker

    November 8, 2019 at 5:37 PM

    • At one point Linda cautioned me not to get any closer, and so I didn’t. I’ve read that alligators can run surprisingly fast. Even though this one didn’t seem interested in chasing me, there was no point taking chances.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 8, 2019 at 8:56 PM

  15. The rap sheet approach is hilarious, Steve. What a surprise it was when I saw my first alligator in the wild, birding on one of the GA Sea Islands, all by myself in an out-of-the-way spot. I had just spotted a rare bird in the marsh, too. Happily, the gator kept its distance and the bird gave me good looks. 🙂


    November 8, 2019 at 8:11 PM

    • Glad you like the rap sheet ploy, Lynn. I parlayed it from a milkweed to an alligator.

      Obviously you survived your solo encounter in Georgia, but I’ll bet it was a bit scary. It’s interesting how you describe the bird as giving you good looks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 8, 2019 at 9:00 PM

      • 🙂 🙂 It was a Groove-billed ani, very rare at the time for that area, and the first I’d ever seen. It stayed in place long enough for me to be sure about the ID and the aligator moved on.


        November 24, 2019 at 11:56 AM

        • I looked up the groove-billed ani—which of course I’d never heard of—and discovered that it’s found in southern Texas and up the coast almost as far as the area I visited near Galveston.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 24, 2019 at 3:41 PM

  16. I have seen crocodiles, but not in a while. Alligators are in the see you later category (perhaps), although there are other creatures I would like to see before alligators, e.g. hummingbirds. The mug shots of this alligator are excellent. Speaking of mugs reminds me of the mugger crocodiles in India. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-46983559 When I was a child one of my favourite stories was about a mugger and a mongoose. It was written by Helen Bannerman. Her stories are now considered racist and the trend is to stay as far away from them as one would from a real mugger, crocodile or alligator.


    November 8, 2019 at 10:45 PM

    • I should’ve known that world-traveler you would have seen crocodiles. Perhaps the see-you-later part will come in Texas, as it did for me after four decades of living in this state. Here’s information about the song that mentions both: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/See_You_Later,_Alligator. And speaking of origins, your linked article dispels the notion that mugger crocodiles are so called because they mug people.

      I had to look up Helen Bannerman: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Bannerman. Most of us today would agree that certain works of the past, whether books or motion pictures, are racist. Unfortunately some people now hurl the term so casually and reflexively that the only meaning a neutral observer can discern is “someone or something I disagree with.” O tempora, o mores.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2019 at 6:10 AM

      • Thanks for reminding me of the Later Alligator song. As for Bannerman’s mugger story; I read it to my children when they were little. I asked my daughter recently whether she thought it was racist. She said she didn’t remember any racist features of the book but she said she couldn’t understand why I read a book to them which showed a mugger crocodile being blown to bits. She was horrified by that, apparently! As a child I was fascinated by that part of the story; not horrified. How differently we see the world!


        November 9, 2019 at 11:41 PM

        • When you started your first comment with “I have seen crocodiles, but not in a while,” I thought you were alluding to the song, which begins “See you later, alligator; little while, crocodile.” Your second comment makes me think you didn’t have the song in mind after all.

          Yes, how differently from each other adults see the world, and how differently children see it from from each other and also from adults. The different reaction your daughter and you had about the crocodile being blown to bits touches on a hot topic in some modern discourse: whether violence in cartoons and video games makes the people who watch them more likely to accept or commit violence in real life. As with so many things these days, believers on opposing sides of the issue cite studies that come to opposite conclusions.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 10, 2019 at 7:06 AM

          • You are right. I wasn’t thinking about the song when I wrote my first comment. “See you later, alligator. In a while, crocodile” was a common expression in my younger days. I think the catchphrase came before the song. My grandparents knew it and they certainly were not fans of postwar singers. But how they knew it, I don’t know.


            November 11, 2019 at 2:46 AM

            • I did a little looking but wasn’t able to track down any occurrence of “See you later, alligator” before the time when the song became popular.

              Steve Schwartzman

              November 11, 2019 at 7:01 AM

  17. Your zoom lens came in handy for this one.


    November 9, 2019 at 7:49 AM

    • It sure did. I wouldn’t have dared to venture as close as a shorter focal length would have required.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2019 at 7:55 AM

  18. Hope you were far away!!


    November 9, 2019 at 8:45 PM

  19. It’s eerily gorgeous!


    November 10, 2019 at 6:33 PM

  20. Gorgeous, slick pictures! The simplicity of the pictures make them almost abstract.


    November 12, 2019 at 9:02 AM

  21. These images transported me back to Louisiana, where alligators often basked in the shade, sun, lurked in water hyacinths – and sometimes attempted to steal the just-caught catfish on my line. (rod and reel) — one once petrified a friend of mine who is skittish of all things in nature – especially snakes. We were in my little john boat and I was paddling. We saw an alligator in the shadows beneath the cypress trees, and it was all but invisible on the log. Suddenly it lurched and dashed to the water and disappeared – so very fast – I remain amazed even 25 years later. My friend was ready to go home, and I learned a good lesson – an alligator can most likely catch a human on foot if it has the desire and opportunity!

    I read your most-recent post (goldenrod) while off line; the photos did not load, so next time on line I’ll refresh that page. You mentioned a freeze, and I wondered if you’ve also claimed new images of frostweed!

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    November 14, 2019 at 8:42 PM

    • You’re tuned in: yes, on Wednesday morning I staked my claim to a new trove of frostweed ice pictures, two of which appeared here in a post on Thursday. How different my experience of lying on the ground in freezing weather is from yours paddling a boat in swampy and presumably warm and humid Louisiana. People speak of a biting frost, but that’s nothing compared to the bite of an alligator, which fortunately neither you nor your fearful friend experienced. Frostweed ice can’t run after me, even if I metaphorically run after it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2019 at 5:51 AM

  22. I’ve seen many, many gators in my lifetime, but you never forget the first one! Absolutely amazing to look face to face with such an awesome and formidable creature! I took my young daughter to see her first when she was 15, and now we go back to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia almost every spring. Great photos. Thanks for posting! William

    William Wise

    February 18, 2020 at 11:18 AM

    • Well, I certainly won’t forget this one. I’d probably seen alligators in zoos when I was a kid, but this was my first “real” encounter, which is to say it was in the wild, like your sightings in the Okefenokee Swamp.

      I’m glad you appreciate these pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 18, 2020 at 11:22 AM

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