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  • One of the many ways I attempt to make a living as a writer involves my editing and producing much of the editorial content of a monthly outdoor sports digital magazine. Since I grew up in a rural part of Texas (on a farm no less), I had ample opportunity to hunt, fish and spend hours watching critters and other mysteries of nature throughout my childhood. Therefore, this gig is something that I enjoy immensely. In fact, when the publishers asked me if I would write and edit the magazine, I almost asked them how much they wanted me to pay THEM for the opportunity.

    As a result of this interest in anything that lives or plays outdoors, I have also compiled a collection of photographs that chronicle my passion for nature - both her cruelty and sublimity. Recently, when our photo editor needed some art for a bird hunting issue and couldn’t find any that met his exacting standards, he called and asked me if I had any shots. Well yes, I believe I did!

    They had looked everywhere - from their personal computer photo files, photo sharing files, paid photo files and any place else that a high-tech bunch like this crew would think to look. I took the old fashion approach and started going through boxes of old hunting photos. Bingo!

    Anyone younger than 30 won’t remember this but we old fogies used to take photos – actually I think we called them “pictures” – that involved putting a roll of film in a camera, taking a couple of dozen shots and hoping that 1 or 2 actually turned out OK. We then took the rolls of film to the drug store that sent them off to some mysterious development place.

    A few years later we took the film to a store such as WalMart that had a little photo development kiosk over by the cosmetics counter. They used some kind of magic formula and Wizard of Oz gadgets to develop the film and would have the pictures ready in a few hours.

    Unfortunately, most of the time these shots were out of focus, featured someone with red eyes, making them appear demonic, or the shot cut off someone’s head or other body part. Traditional photography that used film was a volume game which involved shooting many rolls of film and Kodak and Fuji loved to have us play it.

    Then came the digital camera and everything changed. Now, when you take a shot you can see it immediately and take another one and another one. This assumes that the foraging deer or industrious raccoon that you are observing through your lens will stay put throughout this process.

    Ironically, many of the good hunting photos in the last issue of our magazine, including the cover shot, were taken a few years ago by my son Chris who was using an ancient Pentax standard 35mm camera. I think he owned a digital camera but loved shooting that vintage Pentax.

    While I’m sure it’s possible to capture the feeling of the early-morning light juxtaposed with the late-fall foliage with a high-tech digital camera in the hands of a talented photographer, I like to think that this old Pentax with its manual focus settings and light adjustment is the only camera that could have captured that image in the way it was rendered. The light on the shot was amazing and after we scanned this original photo, it was perfect for the cover of the issue.

    Finding this shot that Chris had taken was beyond cool for me for several reasons. First, he also grew up walking through the same woods and pastures as I, his grandfather, his great grandfather and his great great grandfather had traipsed. Plus, having a shot that was taken at sunrise on our family farm on one of the dove hunts that he and I used to have and then having it used in publication that I edit reminded me just how important this land and wildlife that inhabit it have been in my life.

    The process of going through all of the boxes of actual photographs was also amazing. I went through about 30 years of hunting pictures and smiled the entire time. I found pictures of me with dozens of old friends (who, for some reason, I don’t see much anymore), just as many good old dogs, my boy as a little kid trying to stay awake after having to get up too early to go hunt, my hair when it was brown not gray, my dad who knew we loved this land he grew up on as much as he did, the goofy camo that my buddies and I have worn, the many post-hunt celebrations with the beer cans held high, the sunrises and the sunsets.

    If you are given the opportunity to spend time outside to hunt, fish, watch birds, hike, bike or camp, treasure this experience and by all means take some pictures, especially of your kids and your friends. You’ll thank me later.

    (A shorter version of this piece first appeared in the September 2012 edition of The Outpost Copyright 2012. All rights reserved)

    Photo collage shots taken by A.Young, C. Young and S. Earle
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