Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A green not seen

with 68 comments

There have been several times when I’ve walked close to a snake I didn’t see, including a rattlesnake in Palo Duro Canyon a couple of decades ago. The latest walk-by occurred on December 7th in Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Metro Park. The Lady Eve, walking behind me on the path, caught sight of a slender green snake maybe a foot long that I’d passed, and she called my attention to it. That’s why you’re getting to look at this portrait of what seems to have been a rough green snake, Opheodrys aestivus.

Our word serpent goes back to the Latin verb serpere, which meant ‘to creep, to crawl.’ Similarly, reptile traces back to the Latin verb repere, which meant the same thing. In contrast, our word snake is native English, with the modern form having developed from Anglo-Saxon snaca. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the figurative sense of snake as ‘a treacherous person’ was first recorded in the 1580s. Treacherous people have been around for a whole lot longer than that.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 12, 2020 at 4:36 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

68 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. What a fabulous shot!


    December 12, 2020 at 4:52 AM

  2. Such a beautiful creature. I’d not heard of this one; now I hope to see one. The missing or damaged scales are an interesting detail.


    December 12, 2020 at 6:25 AM

    • In trying to identify the snake I learned there’s also a genus-mate known as the smooth green snake. The range map at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smooth_green_snake shows it in your area but not mine, so I figured what I found in Austin was a rough green snake. And yes, those damaged scales are an interesting detail; I was so focused on getting pictures I don’t think I noticed them at the time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 12, 2020 at 6:47 AM

  3. Oh, the rough green snake is one of my favorites in these parts! You’ve done well to capture it in such a pose! They are a fast-mover and pencil thin, making them difficult to catch! I had a close encounter with one a couple of years ago. I was mowing along the alley fence where wild grapevine grows, when a rough green snake fell into my lap! It wasted no time in throwing itself off of my lap and onto the ground, escaping into the grasses. It happened so fast that I had no time to scream.


    December 12, 2020 at 7:16 AM

    • Ah, close encounters of the serpent kind. It’s understandable how you’d be startled—or terrified—by a snake falling into your lap, even a slender, harmless snake like this one. You’ve obviously gotten over it, given that you call the rough green snake one of your favorites now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 12, 2020 at 8:03 AM

  4. Great shot and a great color. This critter looks like it’s quite curious about you, too.

    Robert Parker

    December 12, 2020 at 7:50 AM

  5. It’s neat and very tropical looking to me. I know I pass by bazillions of things I never see. Proven by friends who have stood beside me and photographed things I never saw with me right beside them!!


    December 12, 2020 at 8:10 AM

    • I’ve often wondered how many things I’ve missed, and you’ve had the same thought. Our attention can’t be everywhere all at once, so some things inevitably don’t register. Plenty of times I’ve had the experience, when walking a trail and returning the same way, of noticing something on the way back that I’d overlooked on the outward-bound segment. Sometimes it’s been a pretty prominent thing, too. That’s what a change in perspective can do for us.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 12, 2020 at 8:17 AM

  6. Snakes are very hard to photograph. If one is lucky enough to see one, they are not very cooperative and slither away before you get a chance to take a picture. Great shot, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    December 12, 2020 at 8:22 AM

    • This one climbed a meter or so up a tree in an attempt to get away. That actually made it easier for me to take pictures of it. Then it returned to the ground and finally went off into the undergrowth.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 12, 2020 at 8:26 AM

      • You must have zoomed in on this critter with great precision getting such a well-focused image.

        Peter Klopp

        December 12, 2020 at 8:34 AM

        • No actual zooming was involved this time. I used my 100mm macro lens, and even with a relatively high ISO of 800 I didn’t get a smaller aperture than f/6.3, so there wasn’t much depth of field. You can see that I got the camera’s focal plane roughly parallel to the side of the snake’s head so I could get as much in focus as possible.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 12, 2020 at 9:48 AM

  7. Excellent capture! 🙂


    December 12, 2020 at 8:46 AM

    • Thanks. I did pretty well, given the circumstances (as explained in my second reply to Peter).

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 12, 2020 at 9:49 AM

  8. Handsome little one! Glad Lady Eve saw it and that you shared your slithery friend with us.


    December 12, 2020 at 8:56 AM

    • Four eyes notice more than two, that’s for sure, and in this case made it possible for the green to slither your way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 12, 2020 at 9:51 AM

  9. Excellent.


    December 12, 2020 at 9:09 AM

  10. Ditto on what @Tina said. The sinuous serpentine curve of the subject in the photograph is highly seductive, reminding one of the anti-same-sex marriage folks phrase “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” In this case, we can be thankful that it was Steve and Eve. And the Lady Eve, we can be sure, is the apple of your eye, to stretch the metaphor to the point of ridiculousness…

    Robert Kamper

    December 12, 2020 at 9:30 AM

    • What’s a meta for, if not for stretching? Yes, we’re the rhyming duo, consisting of two, oh.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 12, 2020 at 10:02 AM

  11. Delightful! Good spotting by the Lady Eve. We have slender green snakes here that are smaller that this. Utterly beautiful. I’ve only ever seen one in the field once but I suspect (hope) I’m passing by them more often than that without realizing it.


    December 12, 2020 at 10:12 AM

    • There’s no missed picture to grieve
      Thanks to sharp-eyed Lady Eve.

      Given that you’ve seen one of your slender green snakes only once, it might be hard, but have you considered doing (or perhaps already done) a painting that includes one ?

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 12, 2020 at 10:23 AM

      • I have considered it but my hastily taken photos as the snake disappeared into the boggy vegetation did not yield anything I could work with. Maybe one day. I do have a wonderful photo of an eastern water snake lounging in the shallow water of Volo Bog that I think I’ll make a painting of one of these days.


        December 13, 2020 at 9:01 AM

  12. That is a wonderful photo of that handsome snake, Steve!

    Lavinia Ross

    December 12, 2020 at 10:42 AM

  13. Nice capture, Steve, it’s a pretty one!

    Eliza Waters

    December 12, 2020 at 2:28 PM

    • It’s such a pleasant green. I guess the snake loses some of its camouflage in the winter.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 12, 2020 at 9:32 PM

  14. No green snakes around here that I know of and that’s a shame as this one is a beauty and nicely spotted by Eve and captured by you.

    Steve Gingold

    December 12, 2020 at 6:32 PM

    • Teamwork, says I. Your comment about not having green snakes in your area makes me wonder how common they are in general.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 12, 2020 at 9:34 PM

  15. Beautiful snake – hope it’s not poisonous!!


    December 12, 2020 at 7:49 PM

  16. Hi, Steve, such a great shot! I have come across a few snakes during hikes in the Southwest, but they are so quick and hard to photograph. I did get a shot of a huge rattler in northern NM a few years ago. One of my all-time favorite pics! 🌞

    Lisa at Micro of the Macro

    December 12, 2020 at 9:53 PM

  17. What a beautiful capture!
    I kept one of these in my preschool classroom for almost two years. When I left the preschool job I sent “Lessster” home with one of my students whose brother and father were really into snakes and snake keeping. About two, maybe three months later I got a call from the very excited ex student who was so amazed (as was I) to find out that, in his words: Lessster is actually LesssLIE! It seems that the quieter living in the boy’s home was conducive to her beginning to lay little yellow eggs!


    December 12, 2020 at 11:36 PM

  18. This is a real beauty. I usuallly see a few garter snakes during a normal summer in Minnesota, but that’s about all. There are no snakes in New Zealand, though there are some real nasties in “neighboring” Australia and one has to be very cautions when tempted to take a walk into attractive bush there.


    December 13, 2020 at 4:18 AM

    • Do you think your part of Minnesota has fewer snakes than other American places, or is it just the luck of the draw that you haven’t seen many? The venomous snakes (and spiders) in Australia give me pause, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 13, 2020 at 6:03 AM

      • I think it’s probably a factor of the particular ecology, topography, and vegetation of the area around our cabin. A quick Google probe brings up 14 Minnesota snakes, and I see that a smooth green is among them–would surely like to meet one. I think I’ve seen a gopher snake too, but many years ago.


        December 13, 2020 at 2:24 PM

        • Sounds like you’ll be on high snake alert once you finally make it back to your cabin next next.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 13, 2020 at 2:27 PM

  19. This reminded me of a little earlier this year. I was walking down my front steps when I happened to see a bit of green on the last one and realized it was a green snake. Not wanting to step on it I tried to lift my foot even as it was going down which caused me to stumble down onto the pavement just beyond, very ungraceful looking. And caused the snake to lift its head up to defend itself as it likely saw me as an aggressor. But then I turned around and got close to get a better look. It was the first rough green snake I’d seen at my house and what a beauty, much like this one.

    Todd Henson

    December 15, 2020 at 6:45 AM

    • How nice that you had a similar encounter this year (minus the stumble, even if it was for a good cause). In your case and mine, the snake must have seen us as potential predators, though of course we weren’t. Did you manage to get any pictures of yours? (You may not have been carrying a dedicated camera, but might well have had a smartphone with you.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 15, 2020 at 8:44 AM

      • I did capture a couple pictures with the phone. None as close up as this one. 🙂

        Todd Henson

        December 15, 2020 at 3:39 PM

        • Ah, so I was onto something. To get as close a view as I did you need a macro lens or a telephoto.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 15, 2020 at 8:40 PM

  20. Attractive for a snake … which I am not very fond of. I almost stepped on a rattlesnake in Missouri once. It was coiled and rattling!


    December 15, 2020 at 12:48 PM

    • Your experience could well leave you not fond of snakes in general (assuming you didn’t already feel that way).

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 15, 2020 at 8:38 PM

  21. An amazing green … super image Steve


    December 18, 2020 at 12:25 PM

  22. I was chatting to a lady yesterday who once travelled the countryside with her cat and green snake. The snake liked to curl around her wrist as she drove. People would admire her bracelet until they realized it was a live snake! She has a host of stories like this😁


    December 19, 2020 at 10:44 PM

    • Has someone written up/photographed the woman with her snake as jewelry?

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 20, 2020 at 9:42 AM

      • I think it happened a long time ago, but I’ll be seeing her again this week. While she’s had books published, not an autobiography and I know it would be fascinating. I keep prodding…… but then, I’m resisting the prods from others to write mine so it’s the pot calling the kettle black😊


        December 20, 2020 at 7:31 PM

  23. Aww, this guy hardly looks treacherous – he’s a cutie.


    December 21, 2020 at 2:25 PM

    • Not at all treacherous: no venom, and what I’ve read said that even a bite isn’t painful.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 21, 2020 at 5:37 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: