I am a mother … and one of the things we do as moms is to try to teach our children not to lie. It is just a known fact that lying is not acceptable. But what about exaggerating?
Don’t get me wrong, I was raised an outdoors woman and I understand the romance of the old fishing tales of the “one that got away.” However, for those stories, there is no solid proof, no one will ever be the wiser, and hey … that fish that slipped from the end of your line, just MAY have been the biggest fish you ever hooked in your life. Having fun when you’re out enjoying nature is all part of the game, and a sense of humor essential.
Where my problem with exaggeration comes in, is with a growing trend that I have seen in what we in the business call “Hero Shots.” If you took the animal’s life, be proud of your harvest, don’t exaggerate and cheapen the experience in your hero shots. Keep it real. What is wrong with a hunter taking pictures of and being proud of a doe harvest? Many states have areas that are extremely over populated and offer doe tags. Harvesting a smart old lead doe takes more skill and cunning from a hunter than any rut-crazed buck. Sneaking up on a majestic old bull elk in September is pretty easy, “if” you can make it past the lead cow.
Now having said that … I am a woman, and I understand hiding flaws and sharing your best pictures. But the Internet is already chock full of photos of sportsmen and women who have learned to sit way behind the animal and hold the rack out close to the camera giving the illusion that the antlers are 3 times as large than they actually are. I believe that exaggerating something to try to impress others cheapens any experience. It’s a sacrifice I am not willing to make.
Because of these exaggerated hero shots, just like with over-edited cover shots on glamour magazines, our youth are often getting the wrong impression. There is nothing wrong with showing off your beautiful 6-point whitetail with a perfect basket, or portraying that nice 6X5 bull elk as he will be seen hanging on your living room wall. I think it is time to honor all the animals that we harvest, for what they are, and be proud of our accomplishments as outdoorsmen and women.
Because for me, every hunting experience in a wild place is perfect.
How to take a great Hero Shot
Taking a nice hero shot is really pretty simple; honor the animal. It only takes a few moments to set up a nice photo – one that you can be proud of. Remember, you only get one opportunity to do it right. Once that animal is butchered and in the freezer, you can’t go back and redo. Don’t take the photo in the back of the truck, or hanging in a tree or garage. If you can’t take the photos in the field, then take the animal someplace that looks natural, even your own back yard next to a tree or in front of a cedar fence can work. (I discourage you from doing this at your local park.) Check the background and clean up as much of the blood as possible, sometimes this means turning the animal around. Try photographing from different angles, you will find the angle and position that the animal looks very natural and real in. Have the photographer look closely through the lens before taking the picture. Is the tongue in the mouth? Are the animal’s eyes, ears, legs all in a natural position? How about the hunter? Is she cleaned up and placed near the animal? Look closely at the picture, if it is done with taste, then it will leave the right impression on the viewer … and there shouldn’t be any reason to exaggerate.
Stacey Huston is an outdoors woman to the core, and would much rather spend time in the high country than in the local shopping mall, and feels more at home in heavy timber than in a salon. She is an accomplished photographer and is the staff photographer for Journey With Red Hawk T.V. series. Stacey is also a licensed falconer and raptor rehabilitation volunteer, helping injured raptors to once again soar on open skies. She resides with her husband of 18 years and their two boys in the mountains of western Wyoming. To see her photography, go to http://afocusinthewild.blogspot.com/
Great article! I absolutely admire your work!
Excellent advice, Stacey, both on the technical aspects of these shots, as well as the ethical ones.
Totally agree. I asked a friend the other day if he took a picture of his elk. He said, “Why? It was only a cow”
Kind of turned me off.