Never Underestimate The Importance Of A Picture

I’ve done a lot of thinking over the past several days about photography.   Not so much the technical aspects of how to take a better outdoors picture, just simply the importance of taking more, everyday pictures while spending time outdoors with family and friends.

One of the truly great photographers and teachers I admire posted a blog several days ago that I encourage you to read.   His name is Scott Bourne and the subject he wrote about was Indycar driver, Dan Wheldon, who as you might know lost his life in a tragic accident last Sunday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.   Just minutes before Wheldon stepped into his race car Bourne snapped one of the last images ever to be taken of the young 33 y/o driver.   It’s a moving blog piece…read it HERE.

Now, you might say, Jim…that’s tragic and sad, but race car drivers have danger and death as an inherent part of what they do.   How is all this important to those of us who are sportsmen?

Well, I’m here to tell you that those pictures you take in deer camp or at the fishing lodge have very much the same importance and power as any other picture.   The fact is nobody cheats death forever and the older you become the more you begin to realize how pictures have a very powerful and profound meaning that enhances your past memories.

I’ll give you a few examples.


Both of the guys holding their respective bucks in this picture have passed on to higher hunting grounds.   Howard (L) passed away from Leukemia about 15 years ago and Gary (R) lost his battle to Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) back in 2005.   This picture shows a happy memory of deer they shot just minutes apart a hundred yards or so away from each other.


Here’s a picture of Dave holding a nice walleye.   This picture was snapped almost 7 years to the day before he passed away from cancer earlier this spring.


Here’s a picture of Greg taking a nap after an early morning deer hunt…several years after this photo Greg would die tragically in an ATV accident.


In this light-hearted moment back in 1992, both Rich (L) and Bill (R) struggle over an antelope they both claim is theirs due to the fact they both shot simultaneously.   About a decade later, Bill suffered a massive heart attack and passed away.

As I peruse my albums of photos I see pictures of Jack who shared my passion for the outdoors, images of Cousin Jim who taught me how to shoot, as well as Uncle Herman who taught me to appreciate our natural world and give back through conservation—each of whom are no longer living.

I could go on an on, in fact, it’s not even just about the people.   I look back and see many pictures of canine hunting partners that are sorely missed.   Even these pictures are priceless.

The point is pictures play a vital role in our memory making process.   Some of the pictures I’ve posted here are up to 30 years old and were taken as slides then eventually scanned for digital purposes.   Sure, I wish the quality was up to today’s standards, but even today when I look at the picture of Rich and Bill above I can still smell the pungent, distinct odor of sagebrush and fondly remember that day.   It’s funny how the mind works.

As you’re out and about this fall I hope you remember to take your camera with and to take plenty of photos—even if they seem insignificant at the moment.   Truth is, you never know when that otherwise uninspiring photo of Pete sitting in the duck blind takes on a whole different meaning after his passing.

©2011 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

VIDEO: Turkey & Fawn Interaction

Hey everybody…just a quick video to show something cool.

We often talk and think of the deer/turkey woods being largely one in the same…but I must say this video captured about a month ago on one of my trail cameras sort of raised even my eyebrows.

In nature we see both deer and turkeys as rather skittish creatures—well, that is from the human perspective.   But as this video (albeit not the best quality) shows, this fawn and tom turkey are very tolerant of one another.   I guess you might expect such behavior from a young fawn that perhaps hasn’t developed a keen sense of wariness quite yet.   But the non-reaction of that turkey is rather surprising, at least to me.

What you don’t see in the video that I see on several other still pictures taken moments before and after this video is that this fawn is walking among a flock of turkeys.   There’s at least a half dozen turkeys just to the periphery of the camera angle.   Indeed, based on the response of that single turkey, in view on the video, I have to presume that to most of the other turkeys this deer traipsing in close proximity is simply perceived as no threat. 



Observing this interaction certainly reminds me how prey animals of different species sometimes have a relationship with one another that enables their mutual survival.   This is why spooking a flock of turkeys from an early morning roost is probably not a good thing for the hunter heading to the deer stand.   Consider such reaction an alert system that puts the entire woods on notice.

What surprising interactions have you observed in nature?   Please share the details.

©2011 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

It Was One Of The Strangest Sights I Had Ever Seen…

..In the outdoors.   Even though the incident occurred about two decades ago…there has not been a fall hunting season that has gone by since without me thinking about this strange happening one late October morning.

At the time I was in northern Minnesota duck hunting with my good friends Mitch and Mark.   Indeed, it was the perfect morning for being a waterfowler.   We had loaded Mark’s canoe up with our gear and the three of us paddled back to a killer location on a point of a small lake.   A light breeze to our back, heavily overcast clouds, near freezing temps…the sort of conditions duck hunters from the north country dream of experiencing.

SLD_222Just like every other morning we tossed out our decoys to form a small spread that surely would entice any waterfowl within eyesight to make a critical mistake in their judgment.   We stowed the canoe in the reeds and the three of us hunters used our waders to find some solid ground in which to take cover preparing for the inevitable action.

It was the sort of morning where the chorus of gunfire quickly erupted right at legal shooting time.   Yes, we never expected to be on the lake alone…but on this particular morning we could easily determine that perhaps a dozen or more hunting blinds were being occupied within a short earshot of our location.

As we patiently waited observing the distant sky and listening for whistling wings, the event that continues to leave an indelible impression in my mind soon occurred.

Seemingly out of nowhere and with the sun still just peeking over the horizon, a bright yellow canoe appeared to our right and went blasting directly through the middle of our decoy spread.   “Hip…hip…hip…hip…hip”   With each paddle stroke the two men, who were not dressed as hunters, disrupted the serene mood of the morning.   Problem was…it was such an odd sight all three of us could not believe our eyes.

Honestly, I know at least a minute went by and nobody uttered a word.   Each of us was fighting the disbelief and silently trying to come to a simple explanation of what our mind was not allowing any of us to process.SLD_219

I finally asked the question…”did either of you guys just see a bright yellow canoe with two guys in it go through our decoys at about 50 yards?”   You can imagine my relief when they both answered…YES!!   I responded…why didn’t you guys say something immediately after it happened?   Their reply…because neither could believe their eyes and they both thought it was just their mind playing tricks on them.

To this very day I don’t know what those guys in the bright yellow canoe were doing.   I suspect they were on the water being disruptive to the hunters because perhaps they opposed what we were doing.   I mean, their actions were deliberate and purposeful by going through our decoy spread.   I really don’t have a better explanation.

Now, certainly in the years since this incident, Minnesota, like many other states, has initiated various hunter harassment laws that would make it illegal to perform disruptive acts such as this one.   I’ve had other hunters tell me that had this incident occurred to them there most definitely would have been some sort of confrontation that ensued.

But on this particular morning we quickly just chalked it up as being one of the strangest sights each of us had ever witnessed during our time spent outdoors.   Oh, sure, we could have been upset about the incident…but if the goal of the yellow canoeists was to ruin our day they failed miserably in that attempt.

SLD_218You see, we later learned how these punks tried to be disruptive to all the hunters on the lake.   Instead, what happened was their antics stirred the ducks up to such a degree we ended up with one of the best mornings waterfowl hunting ever.   For at least an hour after paddling past us the ducks were agitated, off the water and flying from every direction.

So, let me hear about it.   What strange occurrences have you personally witnessed while out hunting or even fishing, for that matter.   Care to share it with me?   Don’t worry…I’ll believe you!

Oh Yeah, I wish I had a picture of that yellow canoe to share for this story…but I simply don’t.   Remember, I was still suffering from a momentary lapse of being completely dumbfounded when the incident took place.

©2011 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.