What if there were a way you could hunt year-round with no seasons, license requirements, bag limits or species restrictions?
I propose there is: camera hunting.
As I have written before, years ago I began noticing a trend of outdoors folks in the latter portion of life moving away, partially or totally, from the gathering phase of hunting and fishing to outdoor photography. Perhaps this transition is due to a mellowing effect of aging, with a diminution of a conquering mindset and an increase of wonder and appreciation of outdoor creatures.
Technology has been a major factor. Digital photography has removed many of the limitations of using film. When I began outdoor writing for newspapers and magazines in the 1960s, I had three camera bodies — one with black and white film, one with fine color film and one with “fast” color film. Zoom lenses were scarce and not very good, so I had seven lenses. Today when I go out camera hunting, my usual equipment is one digital single lens reflex (DSLR) body with a 28 – 300 (.5x to 6x) lens, and I may graduate to even less in the future.
Digital equipment also meets the outdoor photography demands for fast shutter speeds, good low-light exposures and opportunities for multiple shots.
Likewise, digital photography eliminates tedious, expensive and time-consuming film processing. Digital processing programs like Photoshop and Lightroom and AI post-processing software like Topaz create images and effects beyond the dreams of even darkroom masters like The Sun’s A. Aubrey Bodine.
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And now we have the incredible performance in shooting and photo editing with high-end phones like iPhone and Android systems. Notice the ads for these things which tout almost exclusively the photo performance. It’s almost like they should say, “Oh and you can also make and receive phones call with these things.”
For now, I’m using a budget phone and the DSLR camera and lens from a decade ago and basic processing software. But I’ve also gotten good pics from simple point-and-shoot cameras. I don’t claim to be an expert photographer, but more and more I do enjoy seeing and learning about wildlife.
Here are two quick tips from years ago. From a professional photographer: “If the amateurs ever discover dawn and dusk, we’re out of business.” The low light capabilities of today’s equipment and software magnify the magic qualities of these times. From a national park brochure: “One doesn’t take a picture of an object but of the light on the object.” Even the most common species like crows, starlings, female cardinals and mallards have their beauty.
Also shoot in “RAW” format if your equipment allows,
Opportunities for camera hunting are everywhere — parks, farms, National Wildlife Refuges and beaches. The ethics of camera hunting require that one does not interfere with the natural activities of wildlife. Likewise, avoid interfering with others pursuing hunting, fishing, hiking, photography and other outdoor activities. (Wearing hunter orange in some situations might be considered.)
This is a brief introduction. I’ve included a few of my favorite shots as illustrations and incentives.
Exercise, fresh air, beauty, education and memories to share — Give camera hunting a try.