With its pastels and soft light, spring lends itself to photography as well as fishing and turkey hunting.
They go hand in hand because nothing immortalizes a hunting, fishing, camping or hiking trip as indelibly as a memorable photograph. A well-composed, well-lit photo will grace the trophy, but a well-composed, softly-lit image will capture the smells, sounds, and all the other elements that come back every time you see it.
Even though professional photographers hate it, you no longer need an expensive single-lens reflex camera and high-quality lenses to take high-quality photos. Even mid-range smartphones have excellent cameras that take fantastic photos that are suitable for publication in glossy color magazines. They’re so good that frankly, my Nikon D7200 doesn’t see as much action as it used to. A DSLR still beats a smartphone by a wide margin for zoom photography, bracketing, and fine detail, but for the type of photos we’re talking about here, a smartphone is fine.
Follow the rule of thirds when composing a photograph.
When looking through your viewfinder or on your phone screen, divide the rectangle into a grid with three squares on the top third of the frame, three squares on the middle of the frame, and three squares on the bottom third of the frame.
The eye naturally gravitates towards the edges, and especially towards the corners. Therefore, your subject should never be in the center of the frame. If an angler is holding a fish or posing with a turkey, they should be up or down and off center.
The same goes for scenes. If you’re shooting a sunset, the sun should be in one of the top corners.
As mentioned, the eye naturally trains to corners and edges, and your sight lines naturally flow up or down through the frame. The subject is your focal point. From there, the eye follows the “river” through the frame to other elements of the image.
For example, let’s say you take a photo of a buddy holding a big bass or crappie at Maumelle Lake. The angler and the fish are the center of attention. Now place them so that Pinnacle Mountain is in the background, above or below the shoulder. The fireplace is another distinctive element that gives a certain feeling of belonging.
Let’s refine this image a bit. The eyes are always the focal point of any photograph. The eye must always be perfectly sharp. If the happy fisherman is looking at the camera, he will be the focal point, distracting the fish, turkey or deer.
Instead, ask the happy angler to watch the fish. This directs all attention to the fish. My favorite pose is of a fisherman holding a fish in both hands with his back arched and his tail drooping, looking back and smiling. Again, and even with a fish, focus on the eye.
Also, all action or movement must face inside the frame. If a fish’s snout or a fisherman’s face is about to collide with the curb, it creates a jarring and irreconcilable tension.
The best light for photography is morning and evening when it is saturated and soft. The midday light is raw and glaring. Nevertheless, you draw the light you have, and not always the light you want.
When taking fishing and hunting photos, the subject should face the sun. Position them so they don’t have to squint. Direct light really brings out a fish’s colors and makes their eyes shine. It also makes a turkey’s plumage vibrant. Morning and evening light can make an outstretched turkey fan look like stained glass, and it can make antlers shine like polished brass.
Make sure there are no shadows on the subject or anywhere in the image that can distract the eye. Keep in mind, however, that manipulating shadows can create drama and help frame the subject.
If you’re shooting in low light, you can remedy the effects to a great extent in your photo enhancement app or program. Increase or decrease exposure and experiment with contrast. Play around with saturation, hue, and hue settings. Phone camera apps have a variety of settings to create different moods.
A skewed perspective ruins an otherwise good photo. Pay attention to details like the horizon and also the water lines. They should always be level, never tilted. Trees, mountains, and architectural structures should not pierce a subject’s head. If two anglers are posing together, one should not hold a fishing rod in a way that appears to impale the other angler.
Don’t limit yourself to hero photos – hunters or fishermen holding trophies. There are photo-worthy subjects everywhere you look; the reflection of a boat pilot in a chrome throttle knob, the reflection of a sunset, or the reflection of another fisherman in a fisherman’s sunglasses; a bent hook or worn finish of a well-used lure.
During a press trip to St. Petersburg, Florida a few years ago, a famous photographer shot endlessly. The photo from that trip that he sold time and time again, he said, was of a half-eaten Cuban sandwich sitting on the console of a boat.
One of my favorite photos was taken by Covey Bean, the former outdoor editor of the Daily Oklahoman. He snapped a photo of his distressed wife as she knocked over an entire tackle box on the deck of a boat. No caption was needed.
SHARPEN YOUR EYE
Great photographs are not taken, they are created. Much like becoming proficient with a cane or a gun, creating great images takes some effort, but it mostly requires a trained eye. Imagine the photos you want to take and refresh the process in your mind before the first pose is taken.
As your skills develop, you will find yourself imagining your photography before the first cast or shot is made.