Rattlesnake lying in front of boots

Taking pictures of rattlesnakes fills photographer with adrenaline

Imagine lying on the ground, one eye closed, the other looking though a camera lens, camera propped with your elbows while two rattlesnake handlers poke at a Western Diamondback to make it crawl toward you. It’s a shot I’d really wanted for the October 2015 article on Robert Ackerman—a loose rattlesnake coming toward me at eye level. I met Robert at the American Legion Hall in Taylor, where he’d promised to bring a box full of rattlesnakes. The unassuming, flat ply board box sat on the floor, held shut by wood screws. After we visited for a few minutes, Robert removed the screws with the drill and opened the box. Fifteen to twenty snakes came alive, their rattles echoing in the empty building. He grabbed one snake with tongs and we started outside. With so many things on my mind, like lighting, focus, camera settings, and the general danger of it all, I wasn’t prepared for how close the snake would appear through my 200mm lens. The first time the snake crawled toward me, I thought the handlers had let it get too close. It seemed inches away from my face, although it was actually four feet away. My reflexes took over, and I scrambled to my feet faster than I ever thought I could. “You can’t do that! Snakes bite when they see movement!” the handlers scolded. After the photo shoot, I asked Robert and the other handler, “Why do you do this?” Their answer was simple: adrenaline. Once I was safely in my truck, I understood their mindset. The adrenaline rush stayed with me all the way home.

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