I had been looking forward to this trip for months, so I was supremely disappointed when I started to have flu-like symptoms the day before our early morning departure. But there was no turning back! I had non-refundable tickets, and no desire to sit out of this adventure. I had never been to Idaho, but I’d heard my friend Brad talk about it on numerous occasions. An “undiscovered bird hunting paradise,” he described it. I anticipated mountains full of wild birds never before hunted, and I wasn’t about to let a sore throat stop me. As promised, it was much more than walking through a field of liberated birds!
After landing in Boise, we began the scenic drive north on Highway 55. I had never before seen terrain quite like that – I felt like I was on some other planet! The mountains looked like they had a light brown coat of fur!
As we continued north, we made a much-appreciated pit stop at Gold Fork Hot Springs near McCall. It was incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating to just float in the naturally hot water flowing from the mountainside. It probably helped soothe my illness too.
We arrived in Riggins just in time to catch the Boise State game at the Seven Devils Saloon – quite an experience in itself. After witnessing their boisterous victory, we turned in for the night at the very comfortable Salmon Rapids Lodge overlooking the Salmon River, and enjoyed the extra 2 hours we gained by being on mountain time.
For the day of the hunt, Brad invited his friend Tom from Boise to come up with his dogs – two beautiful Gordon Setters. I have never seen calmer, more obedient dogs than these. The best thing about these dogs was that they were more than tools to Tom. They still had that sense of companionship that is abandoned with most hunting dogs, but their performance in the field was still superior to most dogs we’ve hunted with. Their beautiful dark coats stood out wonderfully against the brown grass. Between the dogs and the setting, I have never had an easier photo shoot of a hunt! Everywhere I turned there was a gorgeous landscape for me to capture – full of texture and depth.
We were hunting for Chukar partridge, Pheasant, or California Quail. Mainly we focused on Chukar, which was a tricky hunt, and very physically demanding! Thankfully, they drove us near the top of the mountain so we could walk mostly downhill – but it was still no stroll in the park! Imagine walking for miles along a 45 degree pitch – that’s hard on the joints. Besides that, there were places that didn’t have much solid footing, but just bare rocks faces lightly dusted with pebbles. The tricky part about hunting these birds is that the cover is pretty light. Once the dog points, the bird won’t stay put for long since it’s not very well hidden. Often the birds would flush while I was trying not to slide hundreds of feet to my death, which makes it tough to aim. Up on the mountain the Chukars would fly down, which is an unnatural motion for a bird hunter who is used to tracking a bird flying up.
They weren’t kidding about it being loaded with birds. We saw coveys of 30-50 birds flushing. If only we could hit them! Oddly enough, I bagged the only Chukar of the day. Brad found and collected an unexpected Ruffed Grouse along with several California Quail at the foot of the mountain.
Though we only hunted one day, my legs have never been sorer in my life! With the sun starting to set behind the mountains, we staged some photos with Pete the Gordon Setter beside his prize. Tom commanded, “Sit Pete!” but also made the comment “I’ve never taught them to sit.” But Pete was smart enough and obedient enough to catch on to what his master was requesting. He was even able to fulfill my requests to “scoot him a little closer to the birds.”
Such a memorable experience! I am so thankful that I get the opportunity to explore God’s amazing creation. Idaho was unlike any place I have ever been. I would love to go back (and I probably will), but I’m even more excited to discover other corners of this incredible world.
My wife and I have been married for 5 years this summer, and it occurred to us that we still don’t have any of our wedding photos displayed in our house! As we looked back through our album we realized why. The photographer we had chosen was good, but very old fashioned. Each photo was flawless, but so boring! The color representation was perfectly true, everything looked exact. Perhaps that’s what inspired our philosophy as wedding photographers: people don’t want to see photos just to remember exactly how the event took place, but also to relive how it felt.
So we donned our wedding garb (my wife still fits in her wedding dress, and I rented a tux), and recruited our long-time friends Brad & Bethany Fitzpatrick to compose the shots for us.
Talon Winery has a beautiful little vineyard just outside of Lexington. We drove out there on a Monday evening with our friends. It was hot and sticky, but worth the effort!
We each imported the photos onto our computers, and will edit them individually. When we show them to each other, it will reveal one another’s own personal editing style. We’re still working on them, but I thought I’d give you a glimpse of what I’m working on.
When we were finished posing, the sunset was so beautiful that I couldn’t resist taking a few shots of my own.
Brad and I took a trip down to Providence, KY to test out the CZ Upland Ultralight that he’s writing an article about. Testing the shotgun however was only 1 of many purposes of our trip, not excluding simply having fun with some guns, although I didn’t shoot much since I needed to focus on the photography (I sometimes tend to get carried away with the shooting and forget to take photos). Brad is also hoping to write another article about Winghaven Lodge, and we discovered some more opportunities
along the way. Brad invited Andrew and Katie from Must Have Outdoors to come and test some Browning and Winchester shotguns for their show (which will also give Winghaven some more much-deserved exposure). We both got to try out the new Browning Maxus 12ga semi-auto, and Brad was thinking about the possibility of writing a review about it, so I took plenty of photos of it too.
But the most intriguing part of the weekend was meeting a gentleman by the name of George Gans. George is a regular at Woodhaven, and is a friend of Russell, the owner. We met George when we arrived on Friday night, and it didn’t long before it was revealed that he brought not only a Purdey shotgun, but also a Holland & Holland – both of which are high-dollar, hand-crafted firearms made to order in London, England. George actually carried the Purdey when we went afield the next day. In some ways George actually reminded me of “the most interesting man in the world” from the Dos Equis (XX) commercials. Not that he walked around with a harem of women, but he had a seemingly endless repository of stories to keep us entertained all day.
George was fun to talk with while walking through the fields, and he was also very generous in sharing his toys. To my amazement (and Brad’s) he actually let brad shoot a bird with his Purdey! Brad was tickled to death, and I was glad to take pictures. Brad definitely looks better with a Purdey. Brad shot his bird like the pro that he is, and George was glad to share the joy.
After lunch, George was gracious enough to lend me his Holland & Holland for a photo shoot. Brad is also doing an article on Kentucky bird hunting, which will talk about other Kentucky traditions such as bourbon. Winghaven was the perfect place to stage this shot because of their vast selection of fine bourbons. Having the Holland & Holland really made this photo. Nothing says shooting tradition like a hand-crafted double barrel shotgun.
George is a neat guy. I hope our paths cross again some day.
A few weeks ago we visited our friends in Ohio. We happened to have some of our photo equipment with us, so Brad recommended that we take a few photos of this CZ shotgun for an article he is writing about it. I’m always interested in shotguns, so I was excited. When I picked up this particular gun, I was shocked at how incredibly light it was. The “Upland Ultralight” weighs only 6 lbs! It was a pretty good fit for me too. I wanted to take some photos of it, but I also wanted to shoot the thing!
Being winter and rainy, there wasn’t a great place outdoors to take photos of it, and the backdrops we brought were only good for a little girl (who we were planing to photograph the next day). So we found a white sheet to put it in front of. I wanted to hurry the photo shoot because I wanted to have enough time to shoot some clays with it.
When I download the photos to the computer, I was very unhappy about the result. The Upland Ultralight is somewhat of a no-frills shotgun, so to have it in front of a plain background was a huge mistake. I could not in good conscience submit those photos for Brad’s article. So this past weekend, I drove back up and brought some good backdrops etc., and we did it right.
I think I learned my lesson about doing things half-way. I never want to let myself down like that again!
Last week my good buddy Brad Fitzpatrick contacted me about taking some photos for another article he’s working on. Brad is a freelance journalist who has written articles for magazines such as: Gun World, Gun Digest, African Sporting Gazette, Sports Afield, and the list goes on…
My wife and I have taken photos for his articles before, but this particular shoot presented a unique challenge: photographing coonhounds on a hunt in complete darkness. Since racoons are nocturnal, the hunt takes place in the middle of the night. The dogs were English Coonhounds from Woodstock Kennels in London, KY.
My goal was to capture these coonhounds in action, but with a unique look. As Brad showed me, most photos of coonhounds at night are taken with a harsh, bright direct flash, leaving the background completely black. This is understandable because you can’t take studio lighting out on a coon hunt. I decided that in order to get any kind of unique shot, I would have to bring better lighting than simply a direct flash.
I packed three speedlite flashes: 580EX, 580EX II, and a 430EX. I set the 580EX II to “master” and the other two flashes to “slave”. The master was mounted to my camera, and the other two were held on either side of the subject(s). I set the light output ratio of the master:slave to 1:4 so my direct flash would just be fill light. High speed mode allowed me to shoot at 1/400 seconds, so the quick dogs would be sharp. When the master flash fires, it triggers the slave flashes via infared signal, similar to a TV remote control.
Even with a fairly simple plan in my head, the actual shoot was still quite a challenge. Once the dogs were loose, there was no stopping them! Once they had “tree’d a coon”, they would put their front legs up on the tree, and howl and bark at the animal they had trapped. My plan was to stand on a bucket (for the added height) and shoot down wide-angle on the barking dog. The problem was, the dogs would revolve around all sides of the tree, mostly on the opposite side of the tree as my bucket. Also, every time they revolve to a different position, my lovely assistants would have to change their positions to achieve the 3-point lighting scheme I described earlier.
The article will appear in Outdoor Life later this year, or at the beginning of 2011.
I’ve done a lot of driving this week. I went up to eastern Ohio for my wife’s family reunion, down to the Kentucky/Tennessee border for work, and up to central Indiana to see my sister and her newborn baby. Each trip took several hours of drive time, and I found myself very anxious to get home. But driving over long distances can reveal fun new places to explore and take photographs. It can be so tempting to let the desire to arrive at my destination take over, but I think it’s valuable to take the time to get a little sidetracked.
I posted this photo in the “Photo of the Day” section of a forum that I occasionally contribute to. Someone asked me a question there that got me thinking…
“Your photos are gorgeous. Just curious how do you travel so much? Seems like you have photos from every corner of the globe. I was just curious, not trying to be nosy. :)”
Thanks! You’re not being nosy at all. I think I take (and make) opportunities to travel because I want that to be something about who I am. I want to be someone who travels and takes photographs. I do get to travel some for work. The Wetlands photo above was taken when I went down to Mississippi to take photos of the railroad reconstruction after Hurricanes Gustav & Ike in 2008 (I work for a railroad service company in Kentucky). I went to Africa last summer because I have a friend who’s a freelance author for hunting magazines. He said he was going on a safari and invited my wife and I to go. We had to save up for a whole year and it was expensive, but it was worth it. I wish that I was a good photographer back when I visited Nicaragua, Austria, Hungary, Ukraine, and Paraguay. I have very few photos from those places, and they’re not that good either!
But I firmly believe that traveling to places far away from home can help you understand your own local world so much better. You learn that things aren’t the same everywhere. Some things are better in other places, and that helps you find ways to improve and contribute to your environment. Some things are much worse in other places, and that helps you really appreciate how good you’ve got it. I’ve found that it’s mostly the latter.
I wish everyone would explore a little more. Often when I hear people getting up in arms about various topics, I find myself thinking, “If you only knew what it’s like in _______, you wouldn’t be talking like this.” But why should they care if they’ve never been there? I’m not trying to “toot my own horn” saying that I’m so much more worldly and wise than everyone else, but exploration really does change your perspective.
Today my boss pointed out to me that a robin had made its little bird’s nest on the door to our train (a non-working train that’s just for show). And I’m not talking up high on the door, but in the window sill, right by the knob! What this bird was thinking, I dunno. To me, this seemed like a rare opportunity to take photos of the inside of a bird’s nest without having to climb a tree.
I am so amazed by birds’ ability to put together these sturdy little nests. Especially since they have no hands! I do have hands, but I still don’t think I could make a nest as perfectly as these tiny fellas! It looks so cozy in there… I want to curl up with them.
This morning I received a surprise call to travel via our company helicopter to Tennessee. We have a big construction project going on down there that involves a lot of earth-moving, so a few good photos will really help for marketing. From the helicopter’s high perspective I couldn’t help but notice how the Kentucky landscape looks so much like a big, fluffy quilt. Out the window I could see the beautiful rolling hills of the southern part of the state shrouded in misty clouds. I know my purpose is to document these industrial sites, but I just can’t help myself when I see something beautiful.
This photo was taken on our honeymoon almost 4 years ago (has it been that long?).
The Native American boy was performing a “hoop dance.” If I remember correctly he was eight years old, so he was dancing with eight hoops. He was weaving them all around his body, making shapes like a a butterfly. For the finale, he made them into a big sphere around himself, and then danced his way out, holding it triumphantly above his head. Fascinating!