Picture Perfect! Taking Great Hunt Photos.
By Brandon Ray
Jun 21, 2006 – 12:25:00 AM
|Proper position, clean animal, great photo
it?s a sign of maturity. Once filling my tag with a trophy totally
consumed me. So much so that I often overlooked other indicators of a
great hunt. Things like the company of a good friend, beautiful
landscapes around me or the enthusiasm exhibited by a small buck
grunting and chasing a doe right past me. Things that are just as much
a measure of a trophy experience as scoreable inches of
bone. Today, hopefully a little more mature after 20-plus years
of bowhunting, I savor the whole hunting experience.
Ending a hunt with a big set of horns is just not as important to me as
it once was. The familiar expression ?The journey is more important
than the destination? seems a fitting description to the stages
of a good hunt in my eyes these days.
I think in that respect I?ve matured like a lot of bowhunters. I love
to wrap my tag around a jumbo-sized set of antlers as much as the next
big buck fanatic and I work hard to achieve success, but there?s far
more to a great bowhunt than just the horns. Memories would probably
rank as my favorite thing I take away from any hunt, whether it?s
memories of people I meet, animals I watch or an awesome sunset. The
more great memories I can log in my brain, the richer man I become.
A close second place to great memories would be memorable photos I take
away from each trip. On any bowhunt, whether I?m hunting familiar
ground close to home or flying somewhere exotic for a new adventure, I
take lots of pictures. Pictures of the hunting camp, guides, landscape,
blinds, animal tracks, shed antlers and more.
When I?m lucky enough to shoot something special I savor it like a
juicy steak. My brain loads up on every detail of the experience. I
even jot down specific details like weather conditions, shot distance,
dates of the hunt, names of people I meet and more into my tattered
journal so my memories will last for many years. I also take the time
to setup some tasteful photos of my hard-earned animal. Hunting with a
bow has an inheritantly low success rate. Because of that you better do
everything you can to chronicle your success when it all comes together.
Here?s a list of ten tips to help you take better photos of your next
buck or bull. Whether your next trophy is a B&C typical or a simple
spike, take the time to make some memories on film. Whether you shoot a
film camera or a digital, the basic rules are the same.
|This is a dramatic photo at hunts end.
10 Tips For Better Trophy Photos
1. Clean the animal – Wipe blood from the mouth, nose, and body with a
damp rag or paper towel. I carry a jug of water in my pickup during the
fall just for this purpose. If the arrow stayed in the body then remove
it. Cover the entry and exit wounds for the picture with either your
bow, backpack, quiver or some vegetation. Be sure to include your bow
equipment in the photo. Years later it?s interesting to reflect on
exactly what tackle you used for that hunt.
2. Figure out the buck’s most impressive features – If the buck has
wide antlers, but short tines shoot the photo straight on. If the buck
has long tines, but a narrow spread take the photos so the buck’s rack
is tilted to the side. In other words, determine the animal’s most
impressive feature and set up the camera angle to show off the buck’s
3. Pick a location – There is no rule that says you have to photograph
your buck where he dropped. Most of the time the best spot to
photograph the animal is not where he expired. Thick woods with dappled
sunlight and shade do not make the best photos. You want the subject
matter, the hunter and the animal, to stand out from the background,
not blend into it. Pick a spot with either even shade or out in
the open in good sunlight.
4. Skyline the buck’s rack – This allows the viewer to see every bump
and unique detail of the rack. No two racks are exactly the same. Prop
the animal with it’s front legs tucked under it like it’s bedded. The
dam of a lake or a small hill works great for getting a silhouette of
the rack. The sun should be at the photographer?s back so the
subject, the hunter posing with his buck, is looking toward the sun or
off to the side.
5. Use a fill flash – Whether there are clouds in the sky or not use a
flash. This will blow out shadows on your face from baseball caps on
sunny days and erase shadows on cloudy days. Most people seem to think
that flashes are only needed at night, but not so! Regardless of what
the weather conditions are shoot at least some of your pictures with a
6. Take the pictures early or late – The first two hours in the morning
and the last two hours in the evening the sun is at a lower angle that
gives more color saturation. Photographs taken in the dark rarely turn
out very impressive. If you have to prop the buck in a walk in cooler
over night until the light is more acceptable – then do it. During cold
weather hunts it’s also possible to gut the animal, prop it in a
suitable position for portraits and leave it over night to take
pictures during prime light conditions the following morning.
7. Take lots of photos – I shoot about 30 photos from several different
angles of every animal that I shoot. For your career best buck you
should do the same. Take some photos with a horizontal format and some
with a vertical format. Even though that’s a lot of photos usually one
or two will stand out as being better than the rest. Kodak and Fuji
both make excellent films. Slower film speeds such as 100 are perfect
for portraits. Slower film speeds provide a tighter grain which
translates into clearer enlargements. With digital cameras, most can be
adjusted for how many mega pixels you use for each photo. Take some at
a lower setting, so you can e-mail those jpegs to your buddies, and
some at the higher mega pixels range. The photos with more mega pixels
make better enlargements, but take longer to download and take up more
space on memory cards.
8. Use taxidermist’s glass eyes – The glass eyes that taxidermists use
when they make a shoulder mount fit over a dead buck’s eyes like
contacts. When you shoot a flash the deer’s real eyes will reflect the
light giving the animal the “caught in the headlights” look. Glass eyes
eliminate this glare. They are also excellent if it has taken longer
than expected to recover an animal and the eyes have sunken into the
9. Have the photographer lie on his stomach – I carry a towel or a foam
pad in my truck for this purpose. By shooting the camera angle up at
the buck it is easier to skyline the rack and it gives the animal a
look of importance. Position the hunter slightly behind the animal so
the buck is a little closer to the camera lens. If you are hunting by
yourself pack a small tripod so you can take pictures of your trophy
using the self timer. My Canon film cameras have an optional remote
control unit that I often use to take pictures when I hunt alone.
10. Get close – One temptation is to take photos that try to do too
much. For example, you might try to get a lot of terrain in the
background to show where you were hunting. Take separate photos to
accomplish this. Frame only the animal’s front half in the photos so
the rack is the center of interest and fill the entire frame with the
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