Once snake bitten, but not camera shy

60 Minutes cameraman Mark LaGanga explains what happened as he filmed this week's story on wildlife photographer Joel Sartore

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It was a close encounter of the slithering kind.  

60 Minutes cameraman Mark LaGanga was filming this week's story on Joel Sartore, a photographer who is trying to take portraits of every animal species on earth before they go extinct. It's a project Sartore calls the Photo Ark.

It had been a long, hot day in the Philippines, and Sartore was getting ready to photograph a red rat snake. But the reptile was decidedly not ready for its close-up. It refused to go into the photo tent Sartore and his team had set up.

LaGanga, who was standing behind Sartore, was filming it all. That is, until the snake lunged at him, slithered up his leg, and bit him.

"The snake surprised everybody in the room," LaGanga told 60 Minutes Overtime's Ann Silvio in the video above.

Luckily for LaGanga, the red rat snake wasn't venomous — but the Palawan spitting cobra he later encountered was. In fact, the cobra can spit poisonous venom at a target almost 10 feet away. LaGanga didn't have much time to prepare.

"We were told that as the handlers were bringing it out of its cage," he explained.

This time, LaGanga set up his shot on the other side of Sartore, so he could film the photographer at work, with the cobra in the foreground. As Sartore was taking its picture, the cobra turned directly to LaGanga's camera and hissed. LaGanga stayed calm.  

"Well, if you're going to do that, I'm going to take your picture," he told the snake.

LaGanga's fortunes began to change later in the photoshoot, when he met an orangutan named Trixie.

Orangutans can kill humans, Sartore's animal handlers warned LaGanga. But luckily, Trixie had a soft spot for the paparazzi. She reached out to LaGanga and gave him a peck on the forehead.

"She was very special," he said.

The video above was produced by Ann Silvio and Will Croxton. It was edited by Will Croxton.

Photos courtesy of Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark 

Footage of Joel Sartore and the white-crowned hornbill courtesy of WGBH-BOSTON

The video above was originally published on October 14, 2018 and was produced by Ann Silvio and Will Croxton. It was edited by Will Croxton.