Learn The Secret To Great Field Photos By One Of Today’s Best Outdoor Photographers

December 4th, 2008 / Posted by edersbow.com
Learn The Secret To Great Field Photos By One Of Today’s Best Outdoor Photographers

By Brad Herndon

Before I start to write this column each month, I give careful consideration to what my subject matter will be. I prefer my focus to be on something which is different or unique, while at the same time it is a truly functional piece of gear to be used in your deer hunting endeavors. This month I changed my mind on what I would write about, switching over to discussing glass eyes, nails, firewood, and trash bags. These seem like rather weird subjects to be discussing here, I admit, but as far as preserving your deer hunting memories, they are extremely important. Let me explain.

Each year I talk to numerous whitetail enthusiasts who have been successful. Most of them have a picture to show me, whether the kill was a doe, small buck, or an outstanding trophy. As you might guess, the quality of these pictures run the gamut from gruesome to decent. Few of the shots are well-done. Oftentimes both the deer and hunter are smeared with blood. Trash cans, cars, telephone poles and other debris may litter the background. In spite of this, I sincerely like to look at everyone’s picture and hear their story. Still, many times I can sense the hunter’s disappointment in his picture as he apologizes for the blood, or explains how the deer doesn’t really look as big as it really is, and so forth.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead, follow this Deer Gear article closely, gather up a few cheap supplies, and you will be able to take high quality pictures that will be printable both on the Internet or in magazines–and they will be ones you will be proud to show to all your friends.

The Eyes Have It
As soon as a deer dies it starts to loose pressure in its eyes. In a picture this shows up as a dull, sunken-in look. In addition, if a flash is used while taking a picture of a deer, a wild yellow glow may show up in the deer’s eyes. Both are displeasing to a person looking at a picture of your deer. Each of these problems easily can be avoided. Simply go to your taxidermist and buy a set of the glass eyes he uses in mounting whitetail deer. Depending on the grade, a set of eyes will run ten to fifteen dollars. These eyes will slip right over the deer’s eyes, much like a contact lens. Taking a little water or saliva and rubbing on the glass eyes gives the deer a tremendously life-like appearance. Spend a little time looking at hero shot pictures on the Internet and in magazines and you soon will pick up on the ones that have used glass eyes in the photography.

What Are The Nails For?
Except on rare occasions, a live whitetail doesn’t have its tongue hanging out. Obviously then, the tongue hanging out the side of your trophy’s mouth doesn’t look very eye-appealing. Some hunters realize this and try to poke the tongue back in, push the lower jaw up, or even tie the jaw closed with strong tread or monofilament. There’s a better way. Simply carry a hammer and a couple of 10D and 12D nails in your vehicle. By feeling under the lower jaw bone of the deer, you will find a soft place where you can drive a nail through the lower jaw up into the palate of the deer. This holds the mouth closed, the tongue in, and doesn’t hunt mounting the whitetail in any way (be sure to remove the nail; it will dull the taxidermist’s knife).

Once this is done, clean all blood from the deer, including from its antlers. If the whitetail has been field-dressed and the stomach will show, get your trash bag and fill it with leaves. Place this bag inside the body cavity. This gives the stomach a full look, just like it had when it was alive. Be sure when photographing the deer to place a few leaves in front of the body cavity so the field-dressing cut doesn’t show. At this point you should have the whitetail looking great. Now do the same to yourself.

Change any clothes with blood on them. Wear a hat, too. Most pictures look best with the hunter wearing one. Be sure your shirt sleeves are down and that you are wearing gloves. Wearing gloves, preferably camo ones, is very important. Hands have tremendous character, and the human eye will naturally start looking at the hands instead of the deer’s antlers. Try looking at deer pictures with hands shown on the antlers and see if I’m not right.

The Photography Setup
“Take the front legs and fold them under the whitetail. What we are doing here is getting the deer to sit as high as possible. This makes it look bigger, yet still natural.”

At this point, consider the lighting of the day. Early morning light, late evening light and bright overcast light is best for great pictures. Harsh sunny days are the worst for photographing deer. Be sure the light is coming from behind the photographer, falling directly on the hunter and deer. Check your background as well. A natural woods background is best because it places the whitetail in its natural setting.

Take the front legs and fold them under the whitetail. What we are doing here is getting the deer to sit as high as possible. This makes it look bigger, yet still natural.

We’re getting close to taking pictures now, but there are a few other things to do. First of all, be sure your bow is placed on or by the deer. Seemingly insignificant, this proves the whitetail was a bow kill. Next take the front legs and fold them under the whitetail. What we are doing here is getting the deer to sit as high as possible. This makes it look bigger, yet still natural. Regarding the firewood, you should have three pieces at hand of 8 inch, 10 inch and 12 inch diameter, all about 16 inches long. Have a friend hold the front of the whitetail up, and place the best fitting piece of firewood under the deer’s shoulder which is away from the camera.

What this does is help hold the deer high, while at the same time it puts the whitetail’s weight on the block of firewood, making it easier for the hunter to hold up the deer’s head. Now you’re ready to put the successful hunter in place.

Be sure the archer stays low. A low archer and a high positioned deer gives you maximum impact. The hunter standing over a whitetail can make even a big buck look rather small. Now let’s go on to the photographer’s responsibilities.

The Cameraman’s Job
Whether photographing a snake, turtle, deer or human, pictures should be taken at eye level or below. In other words, the person taking the pictures should be as low, or lower, than the hunter. Standing high makes the deer look small. The best camera to use is a 35mm. Print film is fine to use, with 100 speed film being the best to use since it is fine-grained and sharp. 200 speed does a nice job as well. As the film speeds go up, the prints will look grainier. If in doubt, shoot a roll of each.

If you have an exceptional trophy, also shoot a few rolls of 100 speed slide film. While slide film has little latitude for error like print film does, it does reproduce best in magazines and most pictures you see published there come from slides.

Regarding camera lenses to use, a 70mm to 210mm zoom lens, or something in that range, is best. They show the most accurate perspective. Wide angle lenses, like 24mm, 28mm or 35mm, distort the image, making close up items look huge and something just a little farther back look small. Again, you can look at hero shots and pick up on this. If the deer’s head looks bigger than the hunter’s body, a wide angle lens has been used.

The Finished Product
Everything I have just discussed was carried out in producing the picture accompanying this article. Note I’m down fairly low, have clean clothes on, the bow is in the picture and my hands are covered. Although hardly noticeable, the deer has his glass eyes in. In addition, the deer’s front legs have been folded under and a block of wood is under his far shoulder to help hold his weight when I pose with the deer. See how little effort is required for me to hold the deer up with this method (resting my arm on my knee is a neat little trick, too).

All in all, it’s a relaxed, pleasant picture giving the deer, myself and the great sport of archery hunting the respect we all deserve. Your pictures, too, can be done just as well by following the advice in this column.

 Following are the items you should keep on hand for photographing the deer you harvest:

  • One set of glass deer eyes used for whitetail taxidermy mounts.
  • A few 10D and 12D nails.
  • A hammer.
  • Three pieces of firewood in 8 inch, 10 inch and 12 inch diameters.
  • A length of 16 inches is about right.
  • A couple of trash bags.

    Also, keep the following photography tip list with you for reference.

  • Keep the sun behind the photographer’s back. This means the light will be falling directly on the deer and successful hunter.
  • A bright overcast day, or early morning or late evening light is best.
  • Harsh sunlight in the middle of the day is the least complimentary light and should be avoided.
  • Be sure to photograph the hunter at his eye level, or lower.
  • Keep the hunter as low as possible, and the deer as high as possible for maximum impact.
  • Don’t forget to use your flash if required.
  • Use a tripod to steady your camera. It helps assure you get sharp, clear pictures.
  • Even a small, inexpensive tripod will work if you’re careful.
  • Use a lens in the 70mm to 210mm range for the best perspective.
  • A lens down to 50mm still has an acceptable look, but keep in mind a 24mm, 28mm, or 35mm wide angle lens will distort perspective.
  • If it’s all you have, by all means use them. Still, 50mm and up is the ultimate.
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