Our Red-Faced Lizard friend is actually a Caiman lizard from South America. Sitting quietly in a tree, this lizard watches the world pass by with little interest. These gorgeous reptiles also go by the name tegu or more scientifically, Dracaena guianensis.
The name Caiman stems from the fact that they have a similar appearance to the caiman crocodile and so borrowed their name. The Dracaena is from the Latin word for female dragon. Overall it’s a very prestigious name for a large colorful lizard.
This particular lizard was in a large public enclosure at a place they wouldn’t let me name in this article due to strange legalities and the personal wishes of their public relations department.
The Caiman lizard spends most of the time either in the water or up in low-lying trees sunning itself on the branches. They eat a diet mostly of snails and clams but have been known to eat a tasty rodent or insect now and then. Usually, they capture the snail or clam with their mouth, tilt their head back and crush the shell with their back teeth. The meal is quickly swallowed and any remaining shell is conveniently spit out.
Being in an enclosure with a large glass window caused some major headaches when trying to get his picture. The enclosure was kept dark and only a single heating lamp above the cage provided light. The other issue was the large glass window.
The window was very good at providing an excellent reflection of any flash or light source that was behind me. This is definitely not what we wanted. So, I spent a great deal of time finding a suitable angle that provided for the is particular shot, while minimizing the risk of bothering the lizard, not using a flash or tripod and still getting the shot without any background reflections in the window.
Surprisingly, it only took about 20 shots in these low light conditions to get the picture I wanted. I had to stand with a foot resting on a concrete window sill under the enclosure so I could prop my elbow to give some stability. I then opened my aperture setting to about an f/6 and held my breath as I clicked the shutter. Perseverance and the lack of coffee served me well that day. I hope you enjoy it.
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For more information:
“Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.” Jacksonville Zoo. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.jacksonvillezoo.org/animals/reptiles/caiman_lizard/