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Enhancing your hunting photography game in the field

Composing a photo in the field

All photo credits: Josh Kirchner

Before hunting, I wasn't the biggest fan of photography. I acknowledged the art behind it, but never really wanted to take part in it. As fate would have it, that all changed when I met my wife and she started heading outside with me. You see, she is actually a professional wedding photographer, which means that I almost didn't have a choice to take more of an interest in the subject. The more time I spent with her outdoors and the more I saw the images she would bring home, I soon began snapping photos of my own. We see some amazing things out on these hunts and, now, it almost doesn't make sense to me to not photograph it and photograph it well. I remember looking back on old hunting photos and thinking, "Man, these look like crud!" We get one chance to capture these memories, which means that it's important to make sure they look halfway decent.

Learn about your camera

Learning to use your camera

The first thing we have to do should be a no brainer; however, there are many people who don't take the time to actually learn how to use their camera. They turn it on, put it on the automatic setting and start snapping pics. This is fine for quick photos on the go; however, if you want to really up your game, take the time to understand your camera. My wife highly encouraged me to learn how to operate my camera in manual mode. In the beginning, it was much more frustrating trying to remember what everything did. Afterwards, though, I felt so much more confident in creating a quality image. The three settings that you should focus on is the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. You should know how to manipulate an image using those settings because they will let you have full control over how your picture turns out in any given situation. Do you want everything to be sharp and in focus? Is it low light? Maybe you want that "bokeh" look we are all so naturally drawn to? I'm not telling you that you have to have a degree in photography, but, by learning these basics, your images will be much better as well as your personal satisfaction.

Actually have your camera out and at the ready

Peak Design clip for camera on backpack

I will admit that when I first started carrying a camera around, it was where it shouldn't be: it was inside of my backpack. Kind of hard to take photos there. During those early days of photography, I missed out on so many cool opportunities to take photos; it kind of makes me cringe a little. When I was out and about, I'd see something and think to myself, "Man, that would make a cool photo." Did I stop to take off my pack and get my camera out though? No. I had things to do and places to be out there. So I started carrying a small mirrorless camera in the waist pouch of my backpack. This gave me easy access to it without having to take off my pack. My SD cards soon started filling up once I decided to carry it this way. After that, I purchased a super cool little clip from Peak Design. The clip attaches to the shoulder strap of my pack and my camera clips right onto it and locks in place. Now I have my camera out at all times and I can also shoot my bow with the camera attached. If it is going to rain, then I will just put the camera in my pack within a Ziploc bag.

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Composing a photo in the field

Paying attention to composition in the field is really what is going to let you create a great photo. It's not about having the best camera or lens—it's about you and your creativity. Of course, a great camera setup helps, but it is not the end all be all. Please don't think that you have to go and spend $5,000 on gear in order to capture good images because that's just not the case. There are a few basic things to keep in mind when composing a shot. These all lend to what is visually pleasing to us as viewers. The more you exercise these techniques, the stronger your photography game is going to become. They are as follows:

Line of sight

Line of sight hunting photo

Line of sight is a big one for me personally. This focuses on our sight lines. Say that I am taking a photo of someone glassing from left to right. I would position that person on the left side of my photo because their line of sight is going from left to right. By doing this, the viewer almost feels like they are right there with the hunter as they look off into the distance with them. In general, it wouldn't make sense to put the hunter on the right side of the photo because then the photo would stop abruptly and interrupt the line of sight.

Rule of thirds

Rule of thirds gridline for glassing high mountain desert

Example of a rule of thirds grid.

You may or may not have heard this term before. This is a sort of guideline, or guidelines really, to composing and balancing an image. If you've ever seen the little grid that pops up on your LCD screen for your camera, that is what it is for. By aligning your subject with these lines and intersection points, you will create a much more visually pleasing image rather than just centering everything you photograph. Rules are also made to be broken so once you do your research and learn more about this don't be afraid to bend the rules in the name of creativity.

A different perspective

Gaining a different perspective on hunting photos

This can make a huge difference in how a photo turns out. By simply laying down on the ground for a shot—or even climbing a tree—you are spicing up a photo with a different perspective. Don't be afraid to get dirty.

Stop and smell the roses

Importance of taking photos while hunting

Something that I've heard my wife say a great deal is "make the ordinary extraordinary." After much frustration about not knowing what to take photos of when I was actually in the field, this little saying clicked in my head. You don't have to have something extraordinary or striking in front of you to give you the OK to get your camera out. The land that we hunt is absolutely filled with opportunities for photography. A simple photo of a cactus or bark on a tree can make an excellent picture, and not just that, but help tells a story. Out on our adventures, there are always stories to be told and capturing the little moments with your camera is huge. These are the photos that I have actually grown to love the most. Grip and grins are cool and all, but snagging a moment when your hunting partner was either down and out or just smiling and enjoying what was in front of him or her, tells a story. Don't forget to stop and smell the roses.

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5 Comments

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Josh K. - posted 2 months ago on 08-02-2018 06:16:06 pm
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@Joseph

That would be a clip made by Peak Designs. Slick little thing. Super secure and you can lock the camera onto it. Camera comes off via a small button, much like how a tripod head comes off.

Joseph A. - posted 2 months ago on 08-02-2018 05:42:28 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

The A7iii is 24.2 mp but way more than enough mega pixels. Right now I have a 24-70 lens as well. I have not used this lens yet so I’m not sure exactly how it will perform. This can be a very expensive hobby for sure. Don’t discount your phone as well. I run OnX maps with my phone so When I am in the field I always have my phone on me as well an my iPhoneX takes great pics and with a little post production the photos almost look like I know what I’m doing. My biggest hurdle was trying to come up with a system that allows me to carry my camera where it doesn’t interfere with hiking or my hunt. I think finding a carry system that works for you that will allow you to keep the camera secure and accessible is key.

I would like to know the connector used in the pic above that allowed you to secure your camera to your back pack strap.

Josh K. - posted 2 months ago on 08-02-2018 03:35:24 pm
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@Justin

Thanks Justin! Glad you liked the article. Joseph is spot on with the budget comment. If you've got a fat wallet, you can make it lose weight pretty quick with camera equipment. For me, I prefer the mirrorless cameras out there. They are just smaller. I started out with that Sony a6000. Takes great pictures, is small, and lightweight. It actually fit in my hip belt pouch of my backpack. After running that for a few years, I wanted to step up to a full frame sensor mirrorless. The a6000 is a crop sensor. Big difference in price between the two. I went with a Sony a7rii. It has around 45 MP, which is huge. I like it though for cropping in on photos. You lose very little quality, if any, because of the big files. That is the rub though with that. They are bigger files that will take up more room on your computer. The A7iii that Joseph mentioned is a KILLER camera on all fronts. Great pics and video capabilities. I believe that camera sits around 27 MP or so. Please, correct me if I am wrong Joseph. That amount of MP is plenty. As for lenses, I carry a Sony Zeiss f4 24-70mm. I use that for everything right now. Next on my list to get is a 16-35mm f2. Sorry, for the long response, but photography is a very personal thing, so there are so many avenues to go down. I hope that helps out. Thanks again and good luck! And please let us know what you went with!!

Joseph A. - posted 2 months ago on 08-02-2018 02:16:09 pm
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Justin, In my opinion it is based on ones budget. I just purchased a Sony A7 iii which is 2k with out lens but prior to this I used a Sony a6000 and traded that one in for a Sony rx100 mkv5 a point and shoot camera. I Love the Rx100 and still use it alot today when Im on travel because it is easy to keep on me and pull out and get a great looking shots. In my opinion both of those camera or similar ones will work just as good in the field and you cant really go wrong. Now that I just got my A7 I am going to have to get use to carrying a full size camera now. As mentioned in the article the key is to always have your camera out and ready to take pics. Let us know what you decided on. I am always interested in peoples camera set ups.

Justinsorensen1983
Justin S. - posted 2 months ago on 07-31-2018 07:42:24 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

I'm sure this will be the question on everyone's mind after reading this, What are your camera recomendations? Certain MP desired? lens?
By the way nice article, I have been thinking about getting a nice camera just for these moments in the field. I am going to have to check out that clip by peak design.