By Rob Harvey
No doubt a lot of our readers will be out and about during the year busy capturing and recording successful and memorable hunts. It may be a photograph of a hunter with trophy, a wild deer, video of deer ‘doing their thing’, a great trail camera shot or an Australian or overseas hunting interest photograph – the opportunities are there to record events for the future. From my own personal experiences in the mountains over the years I have had huge disappointments, then great successes while filming wild game or the results of the hunt. Here then are a few guiding tips I am sure will help.
Filming at Close Quarters
When stalking in at close quarters you need to be covered head to toe and no soap, after-shave or deodorant on you at all. Move very slowly watching the deer with the camera at the ready, continuously taking shots through the bush. A camera on a tripod really gives you the edge. As an example, having once glassed a sambar hind feeding undisturbed in thick blackberries at 200 metres and with the wind at my face, I put in a two hour stalk to get within 30 metres of the animal, ending up with 40 photos as a result of my efforts.
When photographing wild deer at close range camouflage and minimising scent and movement are critically important. A tripod or monopod helps to steady the camera.
Expect the Unexpected
This applies to a lot of us while we drive or walk about our hunting areas with our rifles and hunting gear packed safely away. From my own experiences I now always have my camera within reach as sometimes you only have a few seconds to get a great photograph of a deer or group of deer.
A fallow buck illustrated this perfectly for me recently - he trotted out of the bush on one side of the main sealed road and crossed. My car’s passenger window was down so I let out a whistle and amazingly he pulled up, turned around looking back and allowing me several photos before he went on his way.
A fallow buck photographed from a car window – the result of having a camera set up ‘ready to go’.
Another recent encounter was with rusa hinds and their young crossing the track at very close quarters. The camera was around my neck giving me the opportunity for some great shots. Often deer don’t hang around so captures in such circumstances are often very different which makes for great action.
A group of rusa hinds and calves presented a great opportunity for the photographer set up and ready to take advantage of the opportunity presented.I like the way the deers’ tails are upright you can see that they will not wait long.
Knowing Your Camera
While modern cameras are a marvel and usually give great results even in ‘point and press mode’ or ‘intelligent auto’, knowing a little more about the technical aspects of your camera can pay dividends. A common problem with cameras that automatically focus on the subject is that if there is intervening scrub the focus will be on the scrub and the deer behind will be blurred. Other challenges may also be overcome with just a little study and prior learning.
A young sambar calf that I walked onto presented just this issue. However, I managed to focus on the deer and not the intervening scrub. Looking at the calf you can see that it is in focus and the foreground scrub is blurred. It is as the animal’s eyes that tell the story making a shot in this situation very interesting
A young sambar calf photographed at close range behind timber with the ears and eye in sharp focus despite the intervening scrub. Knowing how to focus your camera on a deer behind cover will help avoid disappointment.
Recording a Successful Hunt
When recording a successful hunt try and use your imagination. Sure take plenty of front-on and side-on photos but again experiment with different angles. When taking a photograph of a hunter with his trophy attention to detail is all important – try not to take photos in dappled light as it plays havoc with exposure, minimise the sight of blood, make sure the animal’s tongue is not lolling, ensure that firearms are empty and pointed in a safe direction and pose the animal to show the environment in which it was taken. A photo of my mate Scott Birchall ticks all the boxes as far as telling the story of a successful morning’s hunt. There is a lot of sunlight is in it but that is a bonus, as we all know with most hunts normally end up in some dark valley. After the hunt is over there may still be great opportunities to capture the essence of hunting - the ‘carry out’, for example, can make a memorable photograph.
Scott Birchall with his Victorian sambar stag that ‘ticks all the boxes’ for photographing a hunter with his deer.