Monday, March 31, 2008

Feeding Time (Sylvia, Don't Look!)

After four days in his new vivarium I felt that Candy was settled-in enough to try feeding.
Unlike dogs (and more like sick cats) snakes can be finicky eaters especially when stressed by new surroundings or improper care.
Or the trauma of suddenly finding yourself in the wild with zero hunting skills after an entire life being pampered indoors.
Luckily, they can go two months or more without a meal and not suffer ill effects.
But close examination and experience told me that possibly three or 4 weeks had gone by since his last mouse-meal, and because I'm sure this has been someone's pet since hatching I felt that a nice dinner might be a comfort to the poor lost critter.

I went to PetCo and bought a frozen adult mouse for $1.79.
The package says it's a gourmet rodent--I'll post photos of this soon.
They are also 3/$5 or $2.29 for similar-sized living cheese-eaters.

The advantages of frozen mice versus live are numerous.
1) Freezing kills any parasites and bacteria or other cooties that might be on your rodent entree. This is huge.
2) The convenience factor is also huge. No need to make a trip to the pet store every week only to have to go right home and feed the snake with all of the associated periods of waiting and tranferring between home tank and feeding tank, etc. It's a complicated process unless you want your pet to make the mental connection between reaching your hand into the vivarium and instant food--this equals bites.
3) Zero chance of escaped mice doing their dirty mouse business deals in your home.
4) No need to incapacitate the food item somehow so it doesn't pose a danger to your prized pet. Generally this means picking up a live mouse by the tail and swinging it's head into a table or brick really hard.
Not my idea of fun.
But make no mistake--any mouse worth eating still has teeth and claws and can seriously mess-up a snake who isn't in the killing mood at the moment you decide to feed it, so you do what you have to do if your snake isn't interested in frozen (but thawed) mice.

My good fortune: Candy was obviously raised eating frozen mice.
This is a relief for so many reasons--not least of which is that live mice in the house would be a 'deal-breaker' meaning getting rid of the snake.

So last night's dinner party was very important, and it was a great success.

On with the show

Candy just edged up on the thawed mouse, all the while 'smelling' the air with his flickering tongue, and hesitated for only about two seconds before deciding that this was the kind of food he likes. Time to eat.

A lot of separated-jaw-action has gone on by now and it's kind of gross and scary looking. I get uncomfortable seeing the way my new pet has to punish it's body just to fit a decent meal inside such a small-looking mouth. That's why I skipped a lot of pictures that were kind of yucky (once you get past the other gross stuff here).
I picked all three of these photos specifically because it looks like Candy is smiling in them.

Toes and tails!
The whole process took only 12 minutes up to this point.
Then it slowed down a bit and after maybe 20 minutes the mouse was suddenly getting moved forcefully down Candy's length to his stomach with powerful contractions.

We had a snake with a happy lump in the middle.
Everything about this feeding went perfectly and I was so pleased that my little buddy took me off the hook--I won't have to teach him any new tricks in order to keep my new pet.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Snake Update

Here's a view of the habitat.
I'm using a 20 gallon tall aquarium with one of my homemade oak and screen tops.
A new flourescent fixture with bulb only costs $1 more than the bulb itself so I went that route to add cool light for most of the day, on a timer. A color-balanced standard bulb on a dimmer adds heat when needed.
The substrate is shredded Aspen reptile bedding, and the log is a weather-beaten chunk of stump I found years ago that makes a nice hiding place and really looks good. You'll see more of it I'm sure.
The foliage is plastic and I got it in WalMart's decor section because you'll pay three times as much to get less from the pet stores. (Can you tell I've done this many times before?)
Per recommendations for corn snakes found online I'll be switching to a 20 gallon long aquarium to give the snake more room to explore and thermoregulate (adjust body temp by getting nearer or farther from the heat lamp).
This setup is fine for now and I can work on perfecting the new one at my leisure.
I can't decide if I want a commercial tank background to add interest and pretty-up-the-joint or shoot and print my own.

This will give you an idea of the snake's size, and this photo is the most accurate representation of his colors.
While 3 feet long sounds big, as you can see it is a slender snake that doesn't look very intimidating. Maximum length for this species is 42" so it's obviously an adult that still has some growth potential--a guess would be three to four years old.

Tomorrow is the first feeding. I have never dealt with live mice and snakes before so there will be a learning curve on how to best accomplish this. You don't just chuck a rodent into the tank where it could possibly injure the snake--you have to knock the mouse out somehow...
And it's important to put the snake in a bucket or empty aquarium before feeding otherwise it will quickly learn to strike at your hand every time you reach in thinking it's food, making friendly contact impossible. Also, if the wood shavings stick to the food it will be ingested and cause impaction, which is the fancy term for fatal constipation.

This is an Albino Corn Snake, hence the red/pink eyes. Reptile breeders charge a lot more for interesting color variations and many create their own through selective pairings. While "just" an albino, it's one of the prettiest snakes I have ever seen, let alone owned.
My research and scale counts indicate a male but I'm only 80% sure, not that it matters--we were mostly worried about a fitting name.
Sylvia did a good job I think.

His name is Candy Corn.
Get it?
It's CC to his posse but Dad calls him Candy because we're formal like that.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

New Member of the Family

Almost stepped on it last night, slithering across our sidewalk.
An Albino Corn Snake that was obviously someone's pet before they either let it go (bad idea!) or it escaped.

It's been four years since my last reptile pet died, and corn snakes are just about the best snake there is.
Breeders charge 3x as much for albinos, and it's so pretty Sylvia is already calling it our snake so I guess I get to keep it.
Once the gender is determined she has naming rights.
I have three vetoes, and am hoping for 'Phoebo'.

It's a slender 3 foot long snake that's very healthy and docile.
Tolerates handling without any sign of alarm or biting.
Eats mainly mice plus lizards and small birds plus the occasional wild egg, and is a constrictor for exciting meal-time action.
Will provide many excellent photo-ops over the coming years.

I'm very excited about this lucky find--when caught it was heading straight towards the exact spot where it's tank sits now--I think that proves it was destined to be a member of the family.
Poor lost thing just knew in it's heart that we were the best chance it had not just for survival but also for quality care and love.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tree And Clouds And Moon At Night

Not much to see here.
I haven't busted out the camera for serious work in several weeks.
The gallery show, a new job, Spring requires yard work, burned out a little...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Steve Gonzales of Bliss

We've worked together since 1991 in The Hollering, The Simmons Allison Group, The BeWires and The Hitmen.
Steve is an incredible drummer, hilarious party guest, a true San Antonio legend and my dear friend.

Check the Weekender and the Current for Bliss club dates.
Chrissy, Rikk and Florin are pretty amazing, too.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Highway Project Continues

An out-take from a shoot in January featuring a billboard and Orion.

To round-out the collection for May's All-Highway gallery show, I'm going after details and textures now.

I think I have enough sweeping curves and diagonal lines now.
I'm after one shot that actually shows cars, (headlight steaks, actually) plus maybe an overview of the entire IH10/Loop410 interchange.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Library: Final Four

Being a "Lone Wolf" type of photographer, it's often difficult for me to concentrate and do my best when in a big group. With a dozen of us FlickrClubSA shooters in a confined area there was a lot of chatter and almost always someone in your shot. I would patiently wait for them to finish and move on, but then someone else would have to actually ask me to move out of their shot. I guess my situational awareness was a little too focused.
It was a bit wild at times, but I still managed to get people-free photos of the subjects that interested me.

These poor blue benches hardly ever get assed since the terraces are never open to the public. I liked the geometry of this shot, the colors, the simplicity.
It's easy to get a nice exposure when everything is under the same light and there's no sky to worry about.
Other people shot this same scene a bunch of times, but I don't see too many results posted. Probably because I remembered to use 'Cloudy' white-balance and didn't try to punch-up the colors, then posted first. Who knows?

My favorite from the series.
Situational awareness informed me that this little girl had repeatedly escaped from her mom inside the library to come outside and play, followed by yelled "Get in here!!!"s.
Well hell, why own a wireless remote flash system if you aren't going to try and use it for something besides already-setup shots?
I set my flash to 1/2 power and put it on the ground between the benches laying on it's side, so the output wouldn't point up and be too strong. I was after a feathered light for anyone sitting with an added bounce off the ground for the scene, while also adding the possibility of hitting anyone walking past with a more direct flash.
The result was lucky, in that she climbed up on the benches like I hoped and played around for a moment before finding my flash and smiling at her discovery.
What wasn't luck is the fact that I had already shot a test exposure and made some adjustments, then had the patience to wait for the smile while already pre-focused.

The Ugly Bug
By now we're on the 4th floor terrace, accessible only by using the stairs down from the fifth.
This huge stink-bug was also shot by more than a few people at the meeting.
Only reason I include this photo is that it's part of the story.
I had zero luck getting a good photo of it because all of the people and camera lenses nearby had convinced the insect to haul ass for safer ground.
By the time I tried for a picture it was on the run for the wall, and there's no way to get good focus on something this close when it is moving.
I pressed the shutter button when it had paused for a moment, but by the time autofocus was finished the bug was moving again--then the barefoot girl came around the corner--then the shutter tripped--then the barefoot girl screamed and jumped 4 feet up and over--then everyone laughed.
It was fun.

Once the stinkbug reached the wall it set up camp and relaxed for a few minutes.
Knowing a few things about the weakness of insect (and reptile) circulatory systems after they have undergone strenuous activity, it wasn't hard to nail a sharp shot of it. Without my usual automatic macro flash, I didn't have the tools for a better photo with more depth of focus, but there was enough ambient light for a decent shot.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

SA Central Library

San Antonio's downtown main library is a 12 year old building that caused some controversy when new due to it's "Enchilada Red" paint.
We're all used to it now, and I have always loved the bold architecture and colors.
It comes from a long pedigree of outstanding buildings.
Link: SA Central Library

My Flickr photography club held a "Meetup & Shootup" there on Sunday March 3 to take advantage of a rare opportunity: For only the third time since it opened all of the outside terraces were open to the public. These are on the third through fifth floors and hold some surprises as well as views of downtown you can't get elsewhere, but dreary overcast skies meant that I didn't feel inspired to make much use of the latter.

Our club had already held a meeting on this particular terrace, and it is more enclosed than the others with less that is of interest to me.
We all shot this chair pushed against the wall like it was in 'time-out', but I was the only one to do so in infrared.

On the other side of the building was the best, most feature-rich rooftop area.
A square window caught my eye knowing that Matthew enjoys a nice straight and simple architectural feature.

The fountains out here don't get much lift, but the pools and waist-high channels are unique and interesting.

A hand-held flash freezes the action on this dismal afternoon with little available light.

I left my tripod and monopod in the car on purpose, trying to make myself work a little harder to get interesting photos. I also didn't want to be the only one in the club to be carrying a heavy load, but was surprised to find several members with three-legged help and one with a nice monopod permanently attached.
Some quick meter readings by the car told me that I could get away with IR and by extension anything else shutter-speed-wise if I was careful, and wanted to use flash more anyway.
I don't regret this decision.

Library Part 2 coming soon...

Sunday, March 09, 2008

First Friday Show Report

This was a pleasant surprise when we arrived at Blue Star.

It was a typical First Friday. A large crowd of "interesting" people, much alcohol, pretentious art types.
It got downright strange when Cirque du Soliel showed up.

They were working the crowd to get some free publicity for their Saltimbanco show now playing here.

Our little gallery at the height of the night's action.
The show went really well, and at this point it looks like I'll be showing my Highways At Night series here on the first Friday of May.

I also want to thanks all of my guests for coming out and supporting local art and photography.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Gallery Show "1st Friday" March 7, 2008

My prints are up, and I got to check out the space tonight.

Juan did a great job turning his loft into an art gallery.
Some very clever ideas that worked really well.

Come on out! 7 to 9:30 or 10pm.
There'll be free wine.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Friday's Gallery Show Info

My thanks to Juan Garcia for hosting the show, and Jim Rider for the graphics and for helping set this up.