Banded Pennant at Double Trouble State Park

Banded Pennant
Double Trouble State Park
Ocean County NJ
July 2021

Learn more about the Banded Pennant –

Eastern Garter Snake at Johnsonburg Swamp Preserve NJ

Eastern Garter Snake

Johnsonburg Swamp Preserve in Warren County New Jersey

To me seeing a snake in a nature area is one possible indicator of a healthy ecosystem. I am always happy to know that wildlife has a place to do its thing and that our human health also correlates to functioning ecosystems. Clean air and clean water does not grow in (most) cities.


We do get a decent variety of butterflies in the warmer months here in New Jersey, but I always get jealous of the vivid tropical butterflies that I see from the warmer states and tropical countries.  I was fairly successful in shooting some of my target species in Florida, and so here is a Julia, one of them:


Florida butterfly photograph



Photo taken handheld with the Tamron 90mm VC macro lens mounted on a Canon T2i Rebel camera.  An aperture of F/8 yielded very high sharpness, and acceptable depth of field for a fairly flat subject.




Uncommon wildlife encounters

I have no problem photographing the ordinary and trying my hardest to make it look flattering, but every once in a while you stumble upon an animal or scenic opportunity that you feel very lucky to have encountered.  That’s how I felt when I discovered a group of young American Alligators calling for their not too distant mother.  I assumed I would have plenty of opportunities to photograph adult Gators on my Florida trip, but didn’t dream of a golden chance like this.

Baby Gator in Wetlands

Young American Alligator

On Snake photography…

I find it’s hard to take a great snake photo. One of the main issues is that there elongated body shape is not naturally conducive to the aspect ratio of a photograph, unless you are shooting panoramas. My personal opinion is that going in close for just a headshot of wildlife often yields great detail, but may also remove artistic longevity from the final image. Alternatively, it is very difficult to compose a compelling wideangle photograph of most wildlife for a variety of reasons. One being that their habitat is often simply too cluttered to create a compelling frame. Another reason is obviously that most wildlife is generally on the move, so you aren’t typically going to have the chance to to compose something grandiose.


Black Ratsnake; juvenile

I am fairly satisfied with this photo, because the snake coiled in a way (striking position) that allowed me to get close enough to eliminate a largely distracting background. At the same time, I was not only lucky enough to get a bit of its body in the frame, but I was also able to shoot a frame where the snake’s head was in profile. This was also difficult as this wary and aggravated snake really did not trust me to take its eyes off of me for very long.

One of my favorite photos from 2013

You wouldn’t believe the terrible condition this group of flowers was in.  In fact, this particular petal was one of the few that wasn’t completely wilted.  The vast majority of petals had already fallen to the ground as this photo was taken in early October and most blooming plants were WAY past their prime.  I was quite surprised to stumble upon this small cluster of vivid flowers in a local park, but the overall scene was not pretty.

Positioning the tripod for a close photo was difficult.  On a few early attempts, one of the tripod’s feet shook the plant during my setup process, causing most of the water droplets to fall off of the original petal I was trying to photograph.  On a different attempt, I touched a petal to prevent two from intersecting…. this smudged the droplets and completely ruined the picture.  I was also working against time, as bright morning sun is prone to burning dew and droplets off quickly.

It’s funny the small, yet important lessons you learn while photographing subjects like these.  In this case: Handle with care, Be very mindful during tripod setup, and remember that many photographic opportunities are fleeting.

Water droplets on Flower Petal

Water droplets on Flower Petal