Macro shots of blind snake scale margins

Photography knowledge exchange.

Moderator: Scott Waters

Post Reply
User avatar
jonathan
Posts: 3634
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:39 am
Contact:

Macro shots of blind snake scale margins

Post by jonathan » January 7th, 2015, 12:29 am

I was hoping for some advice on macro photography. The identification of blind snakes is heavily reliant on the midbody scale count and the supralabial sublimination pattern. Since blind snakes are tiny with tiny scales, these are difficult things to discern in the wild. As a result, most blind snake identification is done in labs on preserved specimens.

However, when I'm on the field in Asia, I usually do not have permission to retain and preserve specimens, nor do I want to kill every blind snake I see. So I'm trying to experiment with ways to ID live blind snakes on site.

Of course, this is difficult. One of the main issues is that blind snake scale margins don't show up clearly in photographs. When I say that I'm looking for “supralabial sublimination pattern”, I'm trying to see something like this (chart taken from Von Wallach's paper on sublimination patterns in blind snakes):

Image



However, when I made my first attempts to take pictures of these traits, the scale margins I need to see fail to show up. Instead, what you actually see is the gland rows and pigment zones under the scales, which aren't the same as the scale edges themselves:

Image

Image

Image

Image



Now, in this one photo, somehow by accident you can begin to discern something of the scale margins:

Image



So my question is – how would I take a photo that would cause those scale margins to be more visible? Is it something about the lighting, flash, angle, exposure, etc.? I'm interested both in answers applicable to a DSLR and answers applicable to a point-and-shoot – I only will have a point-and-shoot, but sometimes I will be with partners with a DSLR and they're interested in this question as well.

User avatar
Noah M
Posts: 2292
Joined: November 3rd, 2012, 6:00 pm
Location: Gainesville, FL
Contact:

Re: Macro shots of blind snake scale margins

Post by Noah M » January 8th, 2015, 3:35 pm

No clue here, but could you use a flash diffuser to soften the lighting, and then in post processing mess around with the contrast to accentuate what it is you are looking for?

User avatar
jonathan
Posts: 3634
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:39 am
Contact:

Re: Macro shots of blind snake scale margins

Post by jonathan » January 8th, 2015, 7:10 pm

Ah - the idea of playing with the contrast in post processing is an interesting one.

User avatar
chrish
Posts: 3295
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:14 pm
Location: San Antonio, TX
Contact:

Re: Macro shots of blind snake scale margins

Post by chrish » January 8th, 2015, 9:14 pm

I couple of tips I would try:

1. Get the flash off the camera so the flash reflections aren't bounced right into the lens. A diffuser might also help.
2. Don't get so close. You can control the light better from further away. Zoom in to the photo on the computer screen. With a modern camera with 10+ MP you should be able to get a shot of the anterior third of the body and zoom in to count scales. Also, give yourself the optimal amount of DOF. Try around f/16 rather than f/22.
3. Take the photo at high ISO without a flash. If it is night, use a flashlight off to the side. This will reduce reflections. Remember, you aren't trying to get photos for magazine covers, you want details only.

User avatar
Jason B
Posts: 525
Joined: July 30th, 2010, 10:48 am
Location: KY: Woodford Co.

Re: Macro shots of blind snake scale margins

Post by Jason B » January 15th, 2015, 1:08 pm

Avoiding the flash bounce is excellent advice.

Reducing the noise by stabilizing the subject and camera would also bring out detail. If you must use your hands to restrain the animal and snap the photo make sure both hands are resting on something stable. Placing the animal on a piece of foam, lightly pressing it beneath glass might help and using a tripod might help.

-Jb

User avatar
jonathan
Posts: 3634
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:39 am
Contact:

Re: Macro shots of blind snake scale margins

Post by jonathan » January 16th, 2015, 1:45 am

chrish and Jason - those are some excellent ideas and I will try them out the next time I get a blind snake in hand.

User avatar
cbernz
Posts: 547
Joined: March 16th, 2011, 11:28 am
Location: New Jersey
Contact:

Re: Macro shots of blind snake scale margins

Post by cbernz » January 26th, 2015, 9:18 pm

Maybe rubbing the snake with a dye or some sort of pigmented powder would highlight the scale margins.

Post Reply