Friday, June 10, 2011

Ophidiophobia Overcome

NancyJ Hovey

Nancy is a Florida gal who is not only an intrepid photographer, but an amazing woman who has overcome more life-threatening medical conditions than most of us even think of in our lifetimes.  She still lives with almost constant pain and what others might call "disability," but she leans forward and meets each challenge with extreme courage and not a trace of bitterness.  Her photographer buddies will tell you that she is a fast friend who is always there to offer encouragement and empathy.  She is much loved.

Her brief story, below, is the tale of her relentless pursuit of her passionate hobby, and her struggle with a menacing phobia.

To see more of Nancy's stunning photography, click here.  And also take a look at the bonus photographs at the end of the story.


Thanks for stopping here to see the latest post. I'd love to know what you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series. Please leave a comment below for the author or email me with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog.

If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me. And be sure to take a look at my Photography site. I'd love to hear from you! Also, consider forwarding the link to "Relentless" to your friends and family. Thanks again!
Michelle Alton


Ophidiophobia Overcome (Click on photos to enlarge them.)

Have you ever had a fierce fear? One that keeps you from high altitude lookout points? Or from bridges? Or from walking among bushes, or through gardens? Well, I do, and here is my story about the chilling experiences I had on the path to healing.

Ophidiophobi or ophiophobis is the abnormal fear of snakes. Fear of snakes is sometimes called by a more general term, "herpetophobia," fear of reptiles and/or amphibians.

There is a distinct difference between people who simply do not like snakes or fear them for their venom or the perceived danger and someone who is phobic like me.  An ophidiophobic would not only fear snakes when in live contact with them, but also dreads thinking about them or even seeing them on TV or in pictures.

Cameras have always found their way into my hands.  But due to my phobia, I often missed out on great photo opportunities.  Then several years ago I began to get serious about photography.  A neighbor of mine, an avid amateur photographer, was planning a trip to a  nearby city to take photographs at its small Botanical Gardens. I was all primed to go, but suddenly I became filled with apprehension... bushes, flowers, paths among the trees, uh oh...they could all  mean 'SNAKES'!

Botanical Gardens


The thought of actually walking around with the possibility of SNAKES appearing in my path stopped me in my tracks?  Oh no!  But with persistence from my friend, I tagged along with her even though I was well-and-truly terrified.

When we arrived at the open gateway of the Botanical Gardens I took a deep breath; but kept telling myself that I had to do this.  Through the years, I had made some progress toward combatting the fear within myself.  In earlier years I could not even look at a photo of a snake in books, magazines, television, or movies.  So, I began my own healing process by going to books first. (The snakes aren't alive there, right?)  After finally feeling comfortable with the 'looking', I began to read articles. Do I retain the information?...NOT!  After all, the fear is still inside me.  And if I allow it, the fear will rule over any possibility of beating it.  And not only will it stay around but it will grow and keep on growing!

My persistence began to pay off when my children came along...Boys!  Oh dear, boys love snakes...well most do, anyway!   So off to the zoos we went.  When it came to the reptile house I had to drag myself in--holding on to the boys’ hands as if they were protecting ME, instead of the other way around!  Oh dear, LIVE REAL SNAKES, but behind glass! SAFE?  I had to show NO FEAR in front of those two sweet boys looking up to me.  I trembled with fear during those moments in there, gawking at those slithery snakes.

Eventually I have found with viewing the snakes behind glass more frequently, that I even allowed myself to let some of the fear go, and began to feel safe inside a reptile house. (Though I know deep down that those slithery things could easily sneak in through an open door as no one looks down at their feet to make sure they haven’t let one in inadvertently!)  We all walk in unknowingly--trusting!

I am proud to say, after my friend convinced me to go out and about with my camera, I started very tentatively taking photos of those snakes behind glass. And even “shooting” those peculiar people who walk around with snakes wrapped around their necks.  A camera lens puts distance between the photographer and that slithery snake, thus changing the terms of my snake encounters to safe propositions. Ha!

Florida Pine Snake

Once inside the Botanical gardens, I so enjoy the walk, listening to the birds chirping, feeling the soft breeze, hearing the rustling leaves and branches of trees and flowers.  I find those sounds to be soothing, comforting sounds.   But WAIT!  What was THAT?  OH NO,-- a snake slithering near...NEAR?  YIKES!  The thing is right in my path!
Now, any good sensible Ophidiophobic would run for their dear life!  HA!  Instead I FROZE, with my one leg still up in the air in mid stride.  Yes, I actually froze in motion to the spot.  Miraculously, I then turned sideways, raised my camera, and “CLICK! CLICK! CLICK!”  I was actually taking SNAKE PHOTOS!

The snake “sat there” momentarily, sticking its tongue out flicking at me, then turned its head and off it slithered, back into the garden flowers whence it had come.   And I was in a cold sweat, shaking, and retreating fast in the opposite direction.

After the fact [I’m chuckling here] the joke was on me.  But I was beginning to heal and feeling more comfortable around snakes.  Oddly, I have no fear of standing in the bushes with a hundred busy bees, as long as there is no snake!  Funny!

Then just the other day, coming home after a long day at the flea market, suddenly there was a visitor just a foot or so from my front door handle, right in my path.  It looked like a twig protruding out of the top of the bush; it didn't move at all.  It was a stick... Oh--but it was not.
There before me was a snake.

Now this snake was huge and ugly.  It took a long fifteen minutes for my friend and I to realize maybe it wouldn't move as we unlocked the door, and ran into the house.  We were lucky.  Now, after a few moments in the house, I had to have another look-see. I grabbed my camera like any photographer would, and slowly cracked the door open just enough to let the lens out the door.  The lens was already pushed to the full length. With a quick focus, click click click.  I got it...Now ”shut that door slam fast and lock it, before that snake could come in,” I thought  BIG SNAKE? Ha! It was a baby snake!

Florida Black Racer

So, during the years, my fear has diminished. I feel better for the growth, but I do not think I am there yet!  Would you be?

To this day, I still will not touch and DEFINITELY not hold a snake.  That is just too much to ask of a phobic!  NO!  NO!  Not going to happen!  Or IS it?
Python (behind glass)

  All photography by NancyJ Hovey

NancyJ's Brief Bio:
Originally I am from Michigan and my playgrounds were the city of Lansing, and Michigan State University.   Even during those young years, I had the opportunity to use my grandmother's camera when I could.  After marriage, we moved to Georgia, and I was pleased to have been given a camera as a wedding gift. Since my husband was in the Navy, we were transferred after the birth of our first son, to London England.  Our second son was born in London, and since I was shooting with film, lots of photos were being developed.
Photography was an expensive habit with film cameras.  What with all the shots one wanted to take back then, we had tons of prints.   Later when I moved to Florida, digital cameras came into the world.  I saved every penny I could for my own digital.  And once I had that digital camera, I began to get serious about photography.
Though I am still working on conquering my phobia, I love hearing the sound of the camera's shutter as it captures a photo.  Photography to me is peaceful and like a meditation all of its own.  I always find Peace and Love while taking photos.

Bonus Photos


Facial and Waxing, Please


Heartfelt Emotions

Hello Again


Light my Heart

North Carolina Blue Jay


Fairytale Water Lily

Whisper Softly


The Dance

Walk with Me


*** I Need Your Story! *** { I'm Serious!}If you have a story to post on this theme, contact me, please! We have only one story on tap and I shall have to resort again to posting my own work! Please consider sharing your tales of Relentless Pursuit! And I'd be appreciative if you also take a look at my Photography site. I'd love to hear from you!
Michelle Alton




Dave Phalen said...

Love your story!! Greatly enjoy your photography!!

LauraEm said...

Oh MY. I can sure relate to this vividly written story!! I have the same type of fear except of spiders and wasps and have been working to overcome these phobia's. It's not easy and I admire you for it!

Every creature has it's place in the world, right?
Did you know there are certain jungles around the globe that a person cannot survice longer than 5 hours if they stand in one spot? Yep. The ants ALONE will come in droves there and GET YOU!

(Now isn't that a peaceful thought???)

Such amazing photography here, too.

Bravo, Nancyj! :) You inspire me.

Karen said...


I'm so proud of you for how far you've come with (or should I say, OVERCOME) this phobia! I enjoyed reading your story & felt like I was right there! Your snake pictures are so clear & detailed...I'd never have known you were probably shaking in your boots to get them! :)

I enjoyed the story & looking at your photos, as always!

Karen K.

Lorna Shutter said...

Wow, Nancyj! I never knew this about you! This story makes your Snake images all the more impressive! You're a wonderful inspiration to all of us ... and MY HERO! I've always admired your courage and loved your work! You picked the right images here to showcase your fabulous talent! Keep shooting, my friend! ... and BEWARE OF THE SNAKES! :)

Monnie Ryan said...

Inspiring story - makes me think I might even overcome my similar fear of eight-legged critters someday (she says, shuddering at the thought...)! Beautiful photos too, Nancy!

Bob Cammarata said...

Great story Nancyj!

I'm one of those "boys who loves snakes".
In fact, I've been putting the finishing touches on an exciting little snake story of my own to hopefully post here at a later date.
Now that your phobias have been licked, you will enjoy reading it.

Kathy Coombs said...

Nancy, you are so amazing and one of the nicest people I know but have never met! Your photos inspire me they are so good! I look to nice that I got to meet you! I HATE grasshoppers..I can't even look at them, let alone photgraph them, so kudos to you!

Kiki said...

Hi NancyJ.
Thank you for this story. I'm sure a lot of people can relate to this. I used to have the same kind of fear of spiders. And I have no idea where that kind of fear comes from. But I loved reading about how you overcame yours. BRAVO!!!

Marilyn Cornwell said...

Congratulations Nancy! This is touching and inspiring story. I am so thankful to know you and to share photos with you each day. You bring light and kindness into the world everyday, and today it's especially true with this post and its images.

All my best,

Joe DiGilio said...

Your story is as inspiring as your wonderful photography Nancyj. I loved reading about the conquest of "your monster". Now go get another one. You sure are a good photographer and editor too. KUDOS!

Anita Jonsdotter said...

Hi Nancy,
Great story and the pictures are wonderful. Glad to hear you are doing well, keep it up.
All the best,
Anita J.

Nancyj said...

To all who have commented,
A huge thank you for your support of my article and photos. A special thank you to Michelle for giving this opportunity to us.

And most of all thank you to all of you, friends for sure!

Have a wonderful day! You are all a blessing!

Steve Harrington said...

A fine tale of overcoming fear, Nancy. You images look terrific! Btw, you are supposed to be nervous about snakes. :)

Ron McEwan said...

Hey Nancy you are a winner in my book. Freedom is a blessing and to be free from fear has to be the best WTG my friend. Sure love your photos as always well done.

Mitch Spence said...

What a journey you've taken, Nancy. I am so impressed at your quest to defeat the phobia. It is so easy to just avoid situations that we fear, but you've met them head on. I have enjoyed your story, and I always enjoy your images, and I have enjoyed this blog as well. Mitch