Monday, September 1, 2008

Dove Season... getting help from the newsroom and getting help from an old friend

This is a photo I shot for a Sunday front-page story about the opening of dove hunting season. It was another last minute story that was planned for Sunday, at least it was given to me at the last minute (gotta love newspapers). It really wasn't too big of a deal. I didn't really have to do a whole lot of work. One of our circulation guys knew a dove hunter willing to be in the photo. The only problem was his hunting lease was 150 miles away. And since I wanted him in his hunting gear and dogs, I didn't think it would be too good of an idea to just find some random field to find be shooting photos of a guy with a shotgun in his hand! So after a couple hours of sweating and sending out aimless emails to the newsroom looking for someone who has or would know someone who has a place we can shoot (the photo), one of our page designers suggested calling our outdoors writer (he's a stringer and I don't think he's been in the office in probably 5 years, so he totally slipped my mind). When I called him up, he gave me a lady's name right away who he said would be perfect. After calling her up and getting permission to shoot on her land I figured we were in good shape. Now comes the fun part.

The idea was shoot the photo to have the look of hunting magazine cover. I don't really read hunting magazines, so I just sort of shot it the way I would envision shooting the cover for a magazine.

With it being an illustration/portrait type shot, I knew I was going to have to light it, I also knew I was going to be bring lights like I normally would since I figured there wouldn't be any power out in the middle of the field. I grabbed the set of pocket wizards and a couple of light stands. I usually keep a makeshift "lighting kit" of 3 SB-800's and a couple of SB-28's in my car just in case I need to shoot a portrait in a pinch, or if I need extra lights beyond Dyna-lites I usually use to shoot portraits.

When I got there, the lady was really nice and told me how to turn off the electric fence out in the field and suggested closing the gate so her cows wouldn't bother us. No problem. Jeff, the hunter arrived right on time with his dogs and all his hunting gear. After driving through a maze of cows to get to the back pasture and pulling my strobes, light stands and pocket wizards out of the trunk of my car. I go to grab my D3 and... it's not there!! Nice job genius! I set me D3 down in the studio when I was packing the pocket wizards and cords into a bag and walked off with the camera still in the studio.

Well, going back to the office was out of the question, it was 15 miles away, and I wasn't going to make this guy wait because I'm stupid and the light was right about to the point of being perfect! Good thing I'm such a gear nerd and have my other two cameras in my car! So I grab my D2x, who I'm sure has felt like the red-haired stepchild child since May when it was relegated to backup duty. Problem #1 averted.

Here comes problem #2... while I'm putting up the light stands I feel somthing crawling on my arm, I look down and there's about 10 mosquitoes swarming around me! Motherf@!&er!! I'm shooting this damn photo in a swamp!! Of course, I've got just about everything else I need in my car, sunscreen, windbreaker/raincoat, jacket, gloves, hat (way to be prepared for cold weather in August!), etc. Well everything except bug spray!! Which during mosquito season, which is commonly known as summer, in not a good idea!!

see the black dots all over his shirt? Those are mosquitoes, I had at least that many crawling all over me too!

Luckily Jeff, the hunter, did have an old bottle with his hunting gear, and he was nice enough to share. Turns out these mosquitoes didn't care, they had alread realized my sweet deliciousness, and kept biting me relentlessly!

But, hey, the light was perfect, the sun was setting, there were pretty coulds in the sky. I put one strobe on a light stand to my right with a warming gel pointed at Jeff, and another strobe on the ground pointed up to put some light on him and his dog. Now the only problem was getting the dogs to cooperate. I told Jeff I wanted him looking off to his left, as is he were looking for birds. And I wanted the dogs to be looking in the same direction.

Here is Jeff trying to bribe his dogs with treats to cooperate, you can also see the strobe setup, with one to the right on a light stand and one on the ground to the left shooting up

Well, after a few minutes of using every trick I had to get the dogs to cooperate with me at the same time, one of the dogs noticed the herd of cows about 100 yards away. So it did what dogs do... bark! This turned out to be a blessing because the dog standing next to Jeff started staring in that direction. I told Jeff to look off to his right, in the same direction as the dog. I ended up getting about 8 frames off before the dog became uninterested. But, I had my shot (it was actually the first one, from that burst).

After that I spent about two minutes getting a couple of refernce shots of Jeff pointing his gun, to be used for reference shots, so a graphic designer would have them to make a full page graphic. Luckily they didn't have to be prefect, I make a few frames from all angles around him and we were done.

All in all I was really happy with the way it turned out. Jeff was really cool, the dogs, considering they were still puppies did really good, and while I was hoping to have them both in it, I don't think there's anything else I could have done to make the shot better. And with 20 minutes of mosquito bites, it wasn't going to get better. The top photo is the one we ran on Sunday's front page, it ran huge almost 5 columns wide and about 16 or 18 inches deep. Normally I'm pretty dead set about putting text on a photo, but for this one there was discussion about it before hand and we wanted the "magazine cover" look, so I was able to shoot it with enough negative space to make it look right. It turned out really well.

One last note, I'm not a hunter, but if you've never tried dove, I'd highly reccomend trying it (I ate it at a wedding), it's some of the tastiest moist meat you'll ever eat, very yummy!

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