By Bobby Parks
We spend countless hours and days preparing, driving, scouting, and hunting turkeys. But it’s interesting how once we’ve accomplished our mission, few of us take a few extra minutes to take care of our bird and put forth the effort to capture the moment with quality photos.
After hunting all morning or all day and then killing a bird, I’ll admit that often I’m tired and at that moment, getting a good photo or finding a good place with a backdrop seems like too much trouble. Looking back, I can tell you I’m always glad I did take the time especially when it involved family members and friends. One glance at the photo and the entire memory of the hunt comes back. I’d suggest to everyone reading this that it’s worth taking a few extra minutes and going through a little extra trouble each time you, a friend, or family member harvest a turkey to take quality photos.
To get good shots is simple but it starts from the moment you take the bird. For the bird to look good in any shots, he has to be fluffed out. If I’m coming straight out of the woods I carry him over the shoulder so that his wings don’t stiffen tight to his body. On a long walk, I may tuck him in my vest but I load him carefully and hang him upside down as soon as I get him back. This will allow his wings to be spread out for photos later. If I’m continuing to hunt, I use a small piece of rope that I carry to hang the bird upside down from a tree and pick him up on the way out. Don’t just lay him down and don’t just pile him into the back of the truck where his fan will get damaged.
At a minimum, you should always take the shot free of clutter. Little things like a camera bag or any odd items will stand out in a negative way in photos. Pay attention to what’s in the background and at least make sure it’s natural whether it is grass or brush. Avoid the pick up truck and carport or any location where man-made objects clash with the photo. Don’t shoot into the sun and ideally use a flash to eliminate shadows. Don’t include a portion of someone else’s bird lying beside yours unless he or she is in it posing with the bird.
I’m not going to say that there are scenic backdrops everywhere we hunt, but there’s always a good spot that stands out. Taking a few minutes to drive over and pose with the bird can pay off. Some of the best shots I’ve taken have been out West but there are plenty of places wherever I go. But again, at a minimum, take a moment to find a natural background and surface to photograph your bird.
One option is to just spread the wings and fan and pose behind the bird. Other options include looking for interesting set ups such as laying the bird over a log, rock formation, fence post, or old farm equipment. Elevating the bird on a piece of firewood may provide a better view. Frame the shot and take several photos both close and with some distance. Take some center and some with the person and bird off to the side.
I’ve seen some great shots from folks where they are posing at the mouth of a cave or walking with the bird over their shoulders and across a creek. Some capture the amazing scenic views that come with hunting out West. Some capture the tough brushy Texas terrain and cactus. The bottom line is it takes little effort to get nice shots and it comes down to being creative and working with what you have.
I carry a tripod and often have to use the timer if I’m by myself. Ideally I shoot on the RAW setting with the camera on auto and then go back and use Photoshop to do the automatic edits. You can get really good shots this way. But even if you don’t do any of the special settings or edits, you can get great shots with today’s cameras. You just have to take a few minutes to do it after the hunt.
Think about it this way, if you’re getting up at 5 in the morning, spending the dollars and time to chase this bird, isn’t it worth a little effort to take the time to capture the end result of the few successful hunts we have each season in a quality way? I believe if you do, the memory shared with family members and friends will be better preserved for all involved for the rest of your lives.