Yesterday an old German classmate from my Chinese-cramming days at Fu Ren University in Taipei visited me. Till lives in the southern city of Tainan and came up north for a job interview in town and an overnight stay at my house. I neither drink booze (quit eleven years ago) nor do I have TV reception (quit seven years ago), and to provide some after-dinner entertainment, I took my friend herping. Among other things, Till is a film academy graduate and a diving instructor, so he had some prior knowledge about two very important elements of our noble sport: cameras and elapids, the latter mostly in the form of sea snakes.
Arriving on my favorite cruising road, we immediately spotted a forty-inch Many-banded krait (Bungarus m. multicinctus
) crossing the pavement. I left the car to secure the beast and show it off to my guest, only to find out that I had left the hook in the car, and was also sans headlamp. After a bit of frantic communication, Till managed to find the two required life-saving utensils somewhere in the colossal mess that is the inside of my van, and, holding the krait on the hook (which is like trying to keep snot on a needle - it just never stays up there),I commenced to give an ad hoc show-and-tell about the animal's main traits. In my opinion, these are the toxicity that is in stark contrast to the snake's über-timid personality, as well as the species' relationship to the sea kraits (Laticauda
sp.). Till complained that I had left him in the dark about our snake hunting trip - had he known, he would have brought a proper video camera. But he valiantly made do with the gear at hand, namely an iPhone (didn't know you could film with those things!).
I didn't take any pictures of the krait (seen one, seen them all, unless they're over four feet), and soon we were heading further down the road, searching for more serpents to show to the visitor, and little frogs to feed Donald
. After a couple of common snakes - a Dinodon rufozonatum
yearling and a Bamboo viper
- we were treated to the beautiful sight of a very muscular, 50-inch Taiwan habu (Protobothrops mucrosquamatus
). During my morning walk in the same area I had seen two DOR habus of the same size, and had hoped to find a similarly large one during our night outing. For once, my wish was granted.
The habu was sitting in a very narrow section of the road. To facilitate traffic flow, I needed to pull over further up the road, which meant Till had to control the snake until I got back from parking the van. I gave Till a crash-course in hooking snakes in general and large pitvipers in particular, pointing out the importance of keeping the hook as far away from the ground as possible to keep the snake from getting any ideas about jumping off. Till followed my instructions well - too well, actually. The space on the road between the dense vegetation and the car was too narrow to leave much room for a human plus a snake-loaded hook, and when I drove past my hook-holding friend, for a second the snake's large, intimidating mug was looking me in the eye through the open car window from just a few inches distance. Gullllp...
When I got back to the scene, Till had already mastered the tricky art of snake hooking, and we took turns photographing and rasslin' the beast. I was a bit miffed at myself for not bringing my ring flash, since that would have afforded me f/ stops above eight and ISO numbers below eight hundred. The first picture, by the way, is not the result of Twoton, World-Class Danger Freak, stuffing a short lens up the long maw of Taiwan's largest pitviper. Rather, it's what I call a "Coward's Close-up" - cropped from the last picture in the series. I would hereby like to formally thank the inventors of the RAW format for allowing me to create hot-dawgin' stunt photos without actually risking my sweet patootie....