Stepping up your hunting photo game
Something I've really come to enjoy in the last couple of years of hunting happens to be a hobby that adds about 5 to 6 pounds of extra gear to my pack, which in regards to a professional's setup is considered lightweight. This newfound hobby happens to be photography. Now, I'm not a professional by any means, just simply a person who has come to enjoy showing other aspects of my adventures whether they are big or small. Lugging my camera around with two to three lenses, batteries, tripod, etc., has now become normal when going into the hills for a night or days at a time. Let's dive into some photo related topics that can help you capture those unforgettable moments!
The best camera you can own is more than likely one you already bought and use every single day.
That's right, your cell phone. Okay, okay now compared to a dedicated DSLR or mirrorless camera maybe it won't win in a head-to-head competition, but since there's a camera on your cell phone, why not use it? The technology in today's higher end phones can sometimes make it hard to see the difference to the untrained eye. Try thinking creatively when around the campfire, while packing out an animal or, even, when bored glassing. This will be a good start to help you decide if making the jump into a full-blown camera setup is something you want to invest in.
Alright, so you've had enough of your phone pictures and are ready to step it up!
First off, I will say that photography can be a very dark, rabbit hole when it comes to what setup you want. Just like most glass-related equipment, it can also be pricey, but, luckily, there are some beginner setups that can get you started without breaking the bank. In the event you really want to ramp it up you can upgrade down the road. Now, you can buy a point and shoot style camera, which is great for quick shots and pretty lightweight or you can get an interchangeable lens camera. The interchangeable lens cameras give you the options to add multiple lenses to the same camera body, giving you the option to swap between lenses depending on your idea behind capturing an image. Do a little research to see which setup will work best for your needs. I started my little endeavor with a Canon T6i. This was a great beginner camera that came with a "kit" lens (entry level lens) to get you started. Look for cameras that enable you to connect your phone via wi-fi. That way, you can send them to your phone to be sent to a friend or edited in a mobile-app such as Adobe Lightroom Mobile. I would recommend buying a camera body either in great used shape or new in the couple to a few hundred-dollar range. Team that camera up with a simple lens like a 50mm F1.8 (nicknamed the "nifty-fifty" due to it being an amazing fixed-focal-length for all around uses) and you have a killer combo ready for any style of shot from long exposure night images to mid-day success images. The 50mm lens is found in most camera enthusiasts’ kits from beginner to professional.
Here's the setup I run for a normal three-day backpack hunt:
- Sony A7Rii mirrorless camera
- 24-105mm lens
- 17-40mm lens
- 70-200mm lens
- 5 batteries
- 2x 64GB SD cards
- Carbon fiber tripod
- Small bag of adapter plates/Allen wrenches/lens caps, cleaning cloth etc.
I will be upgrading this spring/summer!
You have the camera, a fresh SD card and charged batteries, now what?
Well, this is where the fun begins. All you need to do is practice learning your new toy. Learn what buttons you need to access for on the fly adjustments. Do some reading on what ISO, aperture, shutter speed and white balance do and how to manipulate them. Granted, you can turn it on and just put the camera in the "A" or auto mode and get to smashing the shutter button to start capturing images, but I would recommend learning what everything means or how each variable effects each other so you can really nail the images you have in your head to make them a reality. Start looking at new angles/perspectives while hunting — things that you really enjoy while at camp such as the comradery or even the sometimes painful moments like exhaustion or emotions after a miss. These are moments from hunts that I always remember and, by seeing them again on my computer, just helps me relive that moment in time.
You've collected some awesome images, but it doesn't have to end there.
Once you have a pile of images that you really, really like you can now go a step further and edit/print them to give one to your hunting partner or decorate your own house with images you collected over the seasons rather than some random picture from the store. Editing doesn't have to be hard; you can either use a preset they provide or learn how to do simple edits by adjusting shadows, contrast, saturation, clarity, etc. I use Lightroom from Adobe, which also has a mobile version. It makes it easy to edit on the fly or while at home. Once you have edited your images, then upload them to one of the online print shops (I use Costco) or use a local store.
Then, once you've received your fresh print, frame it and display it! This is something I've recently started doing to decorate my own house. It's a rewarding feeling when people visit and ask where I bought an image and I get to reply "I took it!" I am also starting to print simple 4x6 images of my adventures to compile them into photo albums like my parents once did. I feel that most memories are stored on our phones or social media, which is great and easily accessible, but having the tangible photos in albums that I can show family and friends or to someday show my kids is something that is slowly getting lost in today’s advanced lifestyle.
I have only skimmed the surface of outdoor photography myself, but have found that I really enjoy documenting my adventures to share with others. Being able to look at an image that I took to either describe the hunt or have images of my hunts displayed in my house to tell stories about brings back all the fun, success, failure and misery that followed with the hunts, which is what I tend to remember the most.
If you have any questions, leave a comment on this article or ask me directly on my Instagram here. I'm more than willing to help where I can!