Thursday, March 22, 2018

Remembering your Adventure

One of the great things about life in the outdoors is the opportunity to relive those moments through tales and photographs. Hunters and anglers love sitting around the campfire telling stories of past moments when everything seemed right or when everything went wrong. We often follow this up with sharing photographs of our successes.

Some people call these photographs "hero-shots". I personally frown on this title because it feels like it diminishes the animal and the event. Others refer to these photographs as "Grip-and-grin" pictures. Which is closer to the event, but still not what it should be. I guess, I just prefer to call them pictures. Seeing no need to title them. But if I have to due to necessity, I opt for the latter over the former.

Having said that, I would offer some tips on taking great pictures of your moment, your trophy and your adventure that will be a pic you are proud to show. At the end of the post, I share ten pictures that demonstrate some of the tips I share.

First let me qualify that there are many photographers that are far better than I am at taking these shots. But I do publish over 400 pictures annually for different outlets, so I have learned a thing of two about taking pictures. Most of these tips can be done by anyone with a simple telephone camera.

1.  pay attention to where the sun is in relation to your subject the fish or animal. You want the best light on the animal. Never shoot a picture directly into the sun. A cross light or directly over your head is best.

2. The focus of the picture and the focus of your camera needs to be on the animal not the person. This can be done a lot of ways depending on the camera being used. Keeping the focus on the animal helps to make the animal shine.

3. Pay close attention to the background. Try and keep it as "real" as possible. Take the pictures in the field, woods or on the water. If it is a hunting picture, take the pictures where you recover your animal. The location is just as special as the animal. Avoid taking pictures in the back of trucks, on ATV's, or hanging up with blood dripping.

4. Change angles. This can be the most critical of all. Fish pictures should be taken with the fish facing both directions. Support the fish under his middle with the head to the left, and again with the head to the right. A good picture is also, from below looking up at the angler.
Take half of your pictures in landscape and half portrait.

Hunting pictures are the same. Avoid shooting pictures looking down at the animal and hunter. Get eye level with them. Squat on the ground, or lay down and take the picture looking directly at the hunter and animal. Get angles from the front, back and side. A good picture is one of the hunter approaching the deer or turkey.

Eye level angle is good for this pic. Shadow on hunters face is
not, try and keep shadows out of these pics. 
6. Turkey Picture tips: Get down on the level of the hunter and bird. Downward shots are not as appealing. Have hunter open tail fan and spread wings. Get shots of open fan with closed wings and then open wings. Make sure beard is visible. Get shots of hunter holding bird over their shoulder. From beside and below. Another good shot is one of the hunter walking away from camera down a logging road. Avoid any pics of hunter and bird with trucks, air conditioner units, houses etc in the background. Close up shots of the bird alone are good shots. Pics of the bird with the calls used to bring him in are good shots. Keep your focus on the turkey not the hunter. Make sure the hunter smiles!

7. Deer (and other big game) shots: Get pics of the animal alone where he lay. As you walk up to it, get pics so you can remember your recovery. Position the animal so it highlights the key characteristics of the animal. A clear background is best. Antlers get lost in the trees and foliage. Position so the antlers are against a clear sky. Sit behind the deer for size comparison. To make the deer look bigger sit two - three feet behind the deer. Exaggerate this too much and it diminishes the effect. Big antlers do not need a lot of enhancements, but they do need to be focused. Keep the focus of your camera on the deer not the hunter. Wipe excessive blood and keep his tongue in his mouth.

8. Fish Pictures: Fish can be the most challenging because most of the time we want to release them in a timely manner. Getting the pics fast and without harming the fish is essential. Some good pics of fish include, laying along the side of the boat and get the angler pulling the fish out of the water, and again when releasing the fish. Holding the fish by its bottom lip (If possible) with arm extended towards the photographer. Focus the camera on the fish, let the angler be blurry in the background. Keep a clear sky behind the angler. Do not take winter pics against an evergreen tree background.
Hold fish horizontal with head facing both directions. Take some with his head facing left, and some facing right.
Keep the sun at your back or at the worst to one side. Be cautious of too much shade on the anglers face. The focus is on the fish, but the angler needs to be recognizable and without shading.
Have angler remove head buff if he/she is wearing one. Keep the fish wet for any pictures. Their scales and coloration are always better when wet. Try and get at least one pic showing the background, location etc. And one with the rod and reel used to catch the fish. Make sure the angler is smiling!

9. Do not forget to take pictures of the adventure itself.  One of my most favorable trips was a fly-in fishing trip in northern Canada. The pics I look at most and share the most are not of the dozens of trophy fish we caught, but of the cabin, the landscape and the terrain where we stayed. Also, pics of loons, beavers and other animals we saw while there.
The same is true of my adventure hunts. I always take hundreds of pictures of the tents, cabins, ATV's, landscape and locations where I hunt. This is as much a part of the trip as the hunt or catch.

10. Take pictures of your companions. Remember the trip for who was with you. Your son, daughter or hunting/fishing buddy. Thirty years later when you relive that moment, you want to remember all of the details and these pictures will help.

I would add this one tip. If using a DSLR, or Point and shoot camera. Get a tripod. The options a tripod gives you is so superior to what you can do without it. Being able to set the camera rock still helps to make good high quality pictures. Secondly, if in doubt, use your flash. It is never wasted. I sue it 90% of the time, even on bluebird days. Flash enables you to erase shadows, it helps highlight details of fish and mammals. And is especially great with the plumage of birds.

Capturing the moment is easier today than it has ever been. Digital photography makes every picture free. And with the quality of cameras on our phones, there is not a huge investment in equipment. Take the time, to take good quality pictures.

Focus on the turkey fan not the hunter.
Low angle really enhances the picture. 

Don't forget the small game. This pic is more about the
old hammergun than the squirrel, but it captures both.

Get pictures of the animal without the hunter.
A good shot of a buck on an old logging road. 

Pose your buck for a quality pic. This is a self portrait
taken with a camera on a tripod using a delay shutter.

Waterfowl have some awesome coloration.
Capturing it afield is essential. This pic shows
a decoy in the background to enhance the
authenticity of the picture. 

Landscape pictures help to remember where you were
and what you endured while on your hunt. This
pic of the plains of Montana remind me just how
big the country is in this part of the world.

Action shots are great photos as well. Here is another self-portrait
fly-fishing in an autumn stream. Using a remote controlled
shutter. I could set the delay from the stream. 

A fish coming out of the water dripping shows
the beauty of the fish, and action at once. 
Typical bass picture. Holding the fish by its
lower lip arm extended and smiling
angler. Focus on the fish, not the angler.
Clear blue sky help to enhance the picture.

Angler with a big fish is captured from
the low angle. A large fish is difficult
to hold, this helps to see the size of the
fish as compared to the angler. 

Pictures of your tent/camp also help to remember
the trip and enjoyment. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Greatest Threat to the Sporting Lifestyle

For weeks I have struggled with this topic in my head. I have pondered it, and really fought with emotion of the whole idea of the story. The the school shooting in Florida compounded the issue. Let me pause here and say clearly, my prayers go out to all of those families involved in this senseless act of violence. I do not know how you handle this grief without the full love and grace of God being with you.

As I have struggled with the idea of "what is the greatest threat to the sporting lifestyle'? One word keeps coming to mind. That word is, Apathy. I sense there is a lot of apathy in the outdoor world. Apathy defined, is an "absence of passion, emotion or excitement." Another definition I found says Apathy is a  "lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern".

Mention this to certain sportsmen and women and they will argue aggressively they are passionate about their particular sport or activity. Bow hunters are passionate about bow hunting. Bass fishermen are passionate about bass fishing. There is little argument here, but when it comes to a bow hunter standing with and defending a bass fishermen, apathy emerges. When the opportunity arises for an upland hunter to defend the right of a big game hunter to pursue his passion, there is a real lack of enthusiasm or concern. If a fly angler is conversing with a traditional tackle angler, it becomes elusive. We are apathetic to the activities of others, preferring instead to protect our little nest, our activities at, often times the peril of other outdoor activities. We see it all the time that one segment of the outdoors rally's and lobbies to have their activity protected at the expense of others. Hikers want hunters banned from wilderness areas, and vice versa. Environmentalist want streams barred from angling. Forest service personnel close gates arbitrarily to prevent access to our public land.

Whether we are discussing stream preservation in the Catskills, or CRP land along the great prairie's, sportsmen and women should stick together and stand in one unified voice. Divided we will never be able to protect what we love. Just because it may not be your "thing" does not mean it is not a valuable activity and one that enhances the opportunities afield.

Sure there are differences between styles of outdoor pursuits. There are differences in methods, approaches and there are differences in levels of passion. A traditional bow hunter does not understand why someone would want to use a crossbow to hunt with, and they tend to ridicule their choice in using the crossbow. A fly angler scoffs at someone using spinning tackle for trout instead of a #22 caddis. None of us are immune to this trap. It is happening right now in the world we live in. As one seasoned outdoorsman once said, "I am glad I don't have to understand it to still support it." Certainly I agree. Personally, I find bass fishing one of the least exciting types of fishing. But I support others rights and excitement in doing it. I may choose to chase salt water species, and they chase bass. We all win, if we support one another's activities.

After the terrible shooting in the school in Florida, Dick's Sporting Goods announced wholesale changes to their policy of selling guns legally to anyone under the age of 21. The removed certain styles of guns from their shelves because of how they "look". And next week the Bassmaster Classic "Presented by Dick's Sporting Goods" will take place near my home town. A classic example of Apathy by the leaders of BASS are allowing this to occur.

If there were unity by sportsmen and women, BASS would have immediately severed ties with Dick's Sporting Goods and refused to allow them to advertise, promote or otherwise support their biggest event of the year.

As an outdoor writer, I am saddened by the lack of support one side of the industry offers to the other. Fishing and hunting are intertwined as much as jasmine in the trees and yet there is no communication between the groups. There is no support from one group to another, there is nothing.

I realize I am hoping and wishing for something that will probably never happen. However, if we can start with groups within a segment of the sports. If the NWTF and QDMA, or Trout Unlimited and BASS could coordinate then there could possibly be an opportunity for all of us to unite and be heard and make effective change. Perhaps hunters could help with stream restoration, and anglers could assist with habitat improvements. Or better yet, we throw apathy aside and develop a real passion for all things outdoors. We control most of the threats to our lifestyle. If we begin ourselves setting aside feelings for the greater good, everyone wins.