Every year, I reflect on what I have learned from the previous 12 months, looking at what was successful and what was not, determining where I can improve, and setting up a plan for doing more of what worked. Finally, 2013 is over, and we brave forward to 2014. Another year passed—another year of absolutely terrible outdoor pictures.
It never ceases to amaze me that someone would spend time, money, energy and ammunition but not take time to set up and take proper photos. Admittedly, I have been guilty of this on more than one occasion. On various hunts, time, weather, darkness and any number of other conditions dictate that you must hurry along your photography.
So, what is the successful outdoorsman to do to properly memorialize his or her trophy?
Follow these tips, and the quality of your pictures will be vastly improved:
- Position the animal to its best advantage. If your trophy has horns or antlers, put its head up, silhouetted with similar colors behind it. For a fish, hold it upright so the full length and width of the fish are displayed. Remember to put trophy fish back in the water as quickly as possible so others may catch them.
- Use light to your advantage. If you have to take pictures in the dark, use vehicle or ATV headlights to assist in lighting the area. If no such methods are available, use whatever light source you may have, such as a lantern or flashlight. However, you will have a better photo about 30 minutes after the sun comes up the next morning. If at all possible, you should to wait for natural light.
During daylight, always do your best to get the sun in your face and behind the camera when taking a photo, just like a camera’s flash. That may make it a bit difficult on the person being photographed, but a few seconds of squinting will yield a better picture and better memory.
- When possible, get low. I often lie down on the ground to take the best photographs. This position changes the perspective and silhouettes the entire animal more effectively than if you take the picture from above. Taking the picture from the same level is a bare minimum.
- Take a minimum of 10 to 15 photographs from each angle and position when possible, and aim for 20 to 30 if you can. Thanks to digital photography, pictures are so cheap now that it makes sense to take as many as possible. Cheaper Than Dirt!’s Dave Dolbee and I discussed his photo process. Back in the days of slide film, he would easily take 100 pictures (three rolls of 36). With digital film, he gets instant feedback about the photo quality but often shoots a minimum of 200 to 300 to get 2 or 3 perfect shots. I find that when I take a lot of pictures, one or two almost always truly stand out from the others.
- If necessary, and you are able, wait. You have worked hard for your trophy and deserve to have it shown in the best possible way. If the situation is not correct, wait until you can move the animal to a better location, or even for better light, the following day. Snap a quick picture if you want to show it where came to rest. Then, seek a better backdrop, perfect lighting and any other feature or condition that will perfect your attempt to immortalize your trophy moment.
It goes without saying that if the weather is not right, or in the case of some game animals, the degradation will be too great overnight, you should do the best you can. If conditions improve the next day, you can always shoot more photos. Properly posing and positioning your trophy in the best circumstances will ensure that you have not just a memory, but another true trophy that you can display, share and use to relive the event as often as you wish. That is the true “trophy” of any hunt—the experience.