Wonders of wildlife
Wildlife photographer Mac Stone reveals the story behind his stunning corn snake image
Photography Mac Stone talks Florida, photos and corn snakes
My work typically focuses on wetlands of the southeastern United States and around the world. I grew up in Florida falling in love with these places. This was my backyard, so I came to know it very well – I didn’t have the means to travel the world at the time, so I would get lost in the swamps and backwoods of Florida’s low country. For me, the alligators and snakes were just my normal wildlife and there was nothing strange about them. I started learning their behaviours, learning where to find them, teaching myself how to photograph them and trying to show them in a new light.
You have to approach things in different ways to appeal to different people, and that’s the goal with this corn snake image. These are such beautiful snakes, but so many people have a visceral reaction when they see a snake, especially ones that are brightly coloured; they think that they’re venomous or that they’ll do them harm. Corn snakes are one of the most docile snakes that you could ever come across, yet people sometimes mistake them for coral snakes and kill them, when they’re really wonderful snakes.
I found this snake around my parents’ house when I was visiting, right outside Kanapaha Prairie. My first instinct is to always use a wide-angle lens and try and show habitat with any kind of wildlife, and so I actually have a whole series of images leading up to this one, shooting wide and actually getting it totally wrong because you lose what it is that makes the snake unique, which is that texture and colour.
Eventually, I put on a macro lens, which is something I rarely do because I’m used to shooting much bigger wildlife, but I just isolated everything out of the frame to concentrate on that fallen oak with the whorls and swirls that complemented the corn snake. I was very lucky, and the snake didn’t seem to care at all. It just kind of hung out there, never raised up at me, never did anything; it was a very easy photo shoot and a very cooperative subject. What’s really cool is that when I give talks and when I present work to people, this snake has kind of been an ambassador for snakes all over the place. It’s hard to look at that and be scared, and it transcends this feeling that snakes are bad and it turns them into art.