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Columns - Monthly : Fletch's Corner - Dave Coldwell
Last Updated: Feb 5, 2010 - 5:39:39 PM
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Taking Better Trophy Photos
By Dave Coldwell
Sep 19, 2006 - 6:03:00 AM

Assuming that all of your efforts have paid off this fall and you have just harvested the best buck of your life, now what?  There is nothing better in the off season than to look at your animal professionally mounted by a great taxidermist and remember the day that you took the animal.  But, let's not get ahead of ourselves.  A little preparation ahead of the season will pay big dividends for years to come.  First of all, let's talk about photos.

All of your photos need to be taken in the field and a little set-up time will make a big difference later.  First of all, select your location.  Most of the time, this requires you to get your buck out of the woods and to the edge of an open field that provides good background lighting.  If you took the deer late in the day, is there some place that you could prop up the field dressed animal for the night and take your photos tomorrow?  You don't want the meat to spoil but if there is any way that you can keep the animal cool until the morning, your photos will look much better.  If the weather is hot, you'll just have to do the best that your can under the circumstances.  

Before rigor mortis sets in, be sure to fold the legs underneath his body, (both front AND back legs) and put your artificial eyes in the eye sockets.  This summer, when you stop by your taxidermist, ask to buy a set of eyes to use later in the field for photos.  If you purchase a decent set of eyes for a whitetail from your taxidermist, (usually around $10-15 per pair) be sure to tuck them away in your fanny pack or backpack with your camera so you'll have them in the field when you need them.  When you put the artificial eyes into the bucks eye sockets, just lift up the upper and lower eye lids and pop them in place.  They should sit on top of the real eyes and will make a remarkable difference in the look of your deer in all of your photos.  Also, it's easier to cut the tongue off instead of tucking it back in while photos are being taken.  Have the buck propped up and looking to the side and sit down on the ground beside the body. And, make sure all the blood is cleaned up as much as possible.  

It's ok to have your bow propped up in front of the body and in fact, you should have at least 6-10 pictures with your bow and 6-10 other pictures without your bow.  In fact, propping your bow in front of the animal is a good way to cover up the huge hole your Grim Reaper Broadhead made on its way through.  Have someone else take all of your pictures and don't be in a hurry.  Remember this; This is the only time in your life to get these photos of this animal and yourself in this setting!  The best angle for you photos is to have your photographer lie on the ground and take the photos from a low angle aiming up.  If your background has been chosen properly, the antlers should be skylighted and will show the best this way.  Do not have any of your body behind the antlers.  One of the most important things to remember is that all of these pictures are about the animal, not the hunter.  I know this may sound strange, of course you were the hunter that took this animal, but if you realize that you are taking the time and effort to achieve professional looking pictures of this animal and keep your attention on paying respect to this creature, I promise you will never regret the little time and attention to detail.

If you are taking 35 mm pictures, 2 rolls of 24 exposures each MAY be enough, but probably not.  Keep imagining while the pictures are being taken that if you take 48 photos and only one is suitable for reproduction in a hunting magazine, you've accomplished your goal.  If you're taking digital pictures, you have the advantage of taking a break after 10-12 photos and reviewing these photos before you proceed.  If you are reviewing the photos on a digital camera, be sure to zoom in on a few of the shots to check and see if the pictures are truly in focus.  The biggest buck I have ever taken with any weapon was in the fall of 2005, a beautiful bow killed 16 pointer.  I didn't zoom in on any of the digital photos in the field and found out after the buck was at the processing house that none of the photos were in focus.  I was sick. It wasn't the cameras fault.  I just failed to notice that the auto focus button had been turned off.  What a lesson.

Now that your friend is taking plenty of photos, be creative.  Get photos with different hats.  I guarantee that the manufacturer of your bow would like to have some copies of your buck especially if you are proudly wearing a hat with their name on the front.  Be sure to take a few photos that show you looking at the deer and not the camera lens.  Later as you review the photos, you'll see that this is a very "respectful" photo and it appears that you are not only paying respect to the animal but also proud of your accomplishment. As it should be.  Never take any photos with an arrow sticking out of the body.  Take plenty of shots, take a break, then take some more.  Especially with digital photos, it's almost impossible to take too many photos.  You can always delete the ones you don't like when you review them on your computer or at the processors.
Now this how to remember your trophy moment.

When you finish, be sure to remove the artificial eyes and put them back in your pack for your buddies deer that you will be taking the photos of.  Get your buck to the processors and keep the meat as cool as possible.  Next month, we'll discuss how to pick a taxidermist for your buck of a lifetime. Until next month, keep your eyes on the horizon and remember there's no substitute for good practice.   


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