Handle With Care
I'm not a big fan of shots of captive animals or those that are baited in or otherwise set up. However, when the subjects are serving a greater purpose than say selling Mercury Cougars, I'm okay with it as long as the shots aren't passed off as something they aren't (i.e. they should be conspicuously labeled as "captive"). Hence I'd like to share some shots from the Kentucky Reptile Zoo.
The King Cobra - smart, deadly and up to 18 feet long. It packs enough venom to take down an elephant. This captive specimen is one of the venom donors at the Kentucky Reptile Zoo.
Judging by outward appearances, The Kentucky Reptile Zoo could be just another kitschy tourist trap in Eastern Kentucky's Red River Gorge. I remember visiting the area in the late-80s and seeing curio shops with tubs full of Copperheads and Timber Rattlers. They were just there to lure in visitors who would then blow money on souvenirs. The Kentucky Reptile Zoo is different. It's a non-profit outfit with a mission to educate the public about reptiles and extract reptile venom for use in research and medicines.
Well hello there gorgeous. Skin like porcelain, this beautiful Suphan-phase Monocled Cobra (captive) lunged at the camera seconds later. At moments like that one is glad to be shooting in a controlled environment with a terrarium window between the snake and photographer.
Not knowing what to expect I rolled with the D7000 and guilty pleasure lens (GPL, AKA 18-300mm Nikkor). Light levels were low, so these were all shot wide open and at ISOs between 2500 and 6400. Obviously not ideal for high resolution (nor is shooting through the terrarium glass), so instead I had fun playing with the light and working the images in post to obtain a more graphic feel.
Timber Rattlesnake (captive)
Desert Horned Viper (captive)
Saint Lucian Lancehead Viper in post meal bliss (captive).
Rhinoceros Viper (captive)
The aptly-named Beautiful Pit Viper (captive)
If you find yourself in Slade, Kentucky be sure to sink your fangs into the Kentucky Reptile Zoo. If you can't make it there you can still support their mission by "adopting" one of the snakes there through their website kyreptilezoo.org. Who knows, your adopted snake could provide the key to alleviating arthritis or curing breast cancer.