Self-Filming Tips for Success

Self-Filming Tips for Success

I walked gingerly down the two-track towards the old faithful “Wood Stand’ to sit a spot that was absolute money during the rut year after year.  In the past, I have shot several bucks from this stand and the cool November morning beckoned me to the woods.  I reached my perch, hoisted my bow up, knocked an arrow and waited for the heavenly anticipated sunrise.  The sunlight hit the leaves of the cornstalks in the field I looked over.  The woods started to brighten and I could see all the deer sign around me.  I noticed a new scrape on the field line and a few freshened rubs were illuminated in the adjacent thicket. The shine of frost covered leaves forced me to squint, but I couldn’t help admiring the spectacle I was witnessing.  I could see my breath and feel the thermals rising, but there wasn’t even a slight breeze that morning.  No wind at all.  You could hear a pin drop.  It was turning out to be a morning to remember; a type of morning I like to call a “hunter’s morning”.  I remember thinking to myself, “God…you’re really showing off.” 

I soaked in the next few hours as this was my weekend cleansing ritual.  Nine o’clock hit and I could hear the bells of the local church I attended.  I was in my own pew this morning, but worshiping God and his creation through hunting.  The bells echoed through the woods and a mystic feeling overcame me. I envisioned the moment of truth over and over as I do each hunt.  At 9:15 I could hear corn stalks break in the middle of the field.  Every snap of a stalk worsened the soreness in my throat and my heart began to race.  “Here we go”, I said.  The deer made his way right towards my stand and displayed its eight-point rack as it immerged out of the corn.  The buck made a hard turn away from me with his nose to the ground as he searched for an entrance into the woodlot.  I waited anxiously for him to pick a trail and inevitably close the distance for a shot opportunity.  I vividly remember the buck turning hard and jumping a vine and as soon as he landed I made a loud bleat -“Mahh!”  Nothing can compare to the feeling of watching an arrow fly true to its destination.

You should have been there.  I wish you could have seen that hunt unfold.  For this reason, I have obligated myself to carry a camera with intentions of capturing these precious moments on film.  I can recollect that story pretty well, but if I could go back in time, I would have brought a camera with me.  I have the proof of my hunt.  The eight point rack sits on a shelf in my pole barn, but I wish I could relive that hunt in another way.  Filming my own hunts helps me do that.  Not only is it great to go back and rekindle the memories, but harvesting an animal on film all on your own is more than gratifying.  Stories around the campfire are great, but having a story that can outlast your time here on earth is priceless.  

With all of that said, I want to share a few tips with you that will help when filming your hunts.  Successfully self-filming a deer hunt is much easier said than done.  As hunters, we know the difficulties of harvesting a whitetail let alone throwing a camera in the mix.  Which is why in this article I aim to provide a few ideas or thoughts that you should take into consideration when filming your next deer hunt.

Getting the Deer in Frame

Framing up the deer seems simple, however if you have ever been behind the lens, there are certain situations that have proven this task to be difficult.  Especially if you are hunting in a thick bedding area in November where the entire woods is brown.  Any seasoned deer hunter knows how easily deer can disappear out of sight or blend in perfectly with their surroundings.  One minute that buck can be running right at you down the trail, and when you look down to find the buck in your viewfinder, he has disappeared like a ghost; and you begin to questio
n your sanity.  I know the feeling. Keeping your eye on the deer is very important in this situation, but if we want to get him in frame, it will take even more concentration.  The key is to try and pick the deer up when he is moving slow or completely stopped.  When the deer are at a walking pace or not moving at all, looDeerFrameupk down in your viewfinder and find their antlers, tail or throat patch.  If you are struggling to find the deer in your viewfinder, zoom out completely and concentrate on making actual visual contact with the deer.  Once you pinpoint its location, pick out a plainly noticeable object that is near or within your line of sight.  This may be a dark dangling branch or a moss covered stump.  Register in your mind the location of the deer in relation to where the object is that you chose and start zooming in.  Once you have the object in framDeer Frameup2e, you can move the camera to get the deer in frame based on its position near your chosen object. To simplify, find something near the deer that is easy to see in your viewfinder and zoom in on it to help you get the deer in frame. This tactic can be especially helpful when you are hunting in dense cover.

Camera Arm Position

To cover the basics, be sure to position the base of the camera on the side of your release aid so you can easily reach the camera arm while holding your bow.  Lefties keep the camera arm on the left and righties keep it on the right.  Camera position awareness is important, so when you get settled in you need to ensure your bow and camera arm are in close reach.  You need to limit your movements while on stand and by keeping you camera and camera arm near your “reach” hand will help you accomplish this.  This may seem rudimentary to some, however knowing your camera arm position is so important, and if it is not taken seriously, it can cost you shot opportunities.  I can tell you from experience that there is much more concentration involved when self-filming.  To prevent from having issues with your camera arm positioning I recommend practicing and becoming while acquainted with your camera set up.  Just like a hockey player gets to explore the capabilities of his stick, you must acclimate yourself with your camera arm.  Many camera arms are adjustable so the user can level the camera.  Know what your camera arm can do and practice getting set up.  Start your practice session from the very beginning of climbing your tree to the very end when you mount your camera.  The more practice reps you get in before the season, the more efficient you are going to be getting setup and you will know your equipment well.  Like I said, this may sound very simplistic but if you blunder while filming a monster buck you’ll be wishing you had given this bit of advice more acknowledgment.

Cam ARM PICSpeaking of blunders, if you self-film enough you will eventually make mistakes.  It is inevitable and the name of the game is to limit the frequency and severity of the errors.  One of the most costly mistakes of self-filming is jamming yourself with the camera arm while attempting a shot at an animal.  How does this happen?  Often we are so focused on getting the deer on film and the process of executing a shot takes a back seat.  So subconsciously we center the camera and camera arm between our body and the deer to more easily get the deer into frame.  It is natural and sensible, however, this causes the camera arm to obstruct our ability to make a shot.  Can you tell that I have had this happen to me before?  The key to prevent yourself from jamming is to keep your camera one foot off your reach hand hip.  I am left handed, so I will position my camera one foot off my left hip and I find it easier to reach if it is higher on my hip.  This makes it easy for me to reach, and by maintaining the same distance from my hip on each hunt, I am fully aware of my camera’s position.  Muscle memory will kick in if I have to make any sort of adjustment.  In addition, this keeps the camera arm out of the shooting lane and preventing the bow from hitting the camera or camera arm.  Once again, this is definitely something you will need to practice along with getting your camera arm setup.  One cannot simply walk into the woods with a camera, camera arm and bow and expect to operate perfectly. When the moment of truth comes you need to be prepared.  Repetition is going to create muscle memory, so when that buck does make an appearance, you are going to act fluently and proficiently.

Release Aid

When it comes to self-filming, one of the best tips that I can provide is to make sure you have some sort of wrist strap for your release.  If you shoot a thumb release you need to invest in getting a wrist strap for it.  This is so important simply because it allows you to adjust your camera during crucial times.  Imagine being at full draw and you look down in your viewfinder to watch your target deer walk just out of frame.   What do you do?  I can tell you that many situations like this won’t allow you to let your bow down, adjust your camera and then draw back again.  That is just too much movement and it takes up too much precious time during an event where seconds can decision an outcome. With a wrist strap you will be able to sustain your draw, reach down, adjust the camera to frame up the deer and execute a shot even under the copious amounts of stress that the harvest moment brings.  Keep in mind less movement is more when it comes to deer hunting.  The aforementioned method of adjusting your camera while at full draw beats the “re-draw” method 9.9 times out of 10.  Lastly, have you ever had to make adjustments while at full draw?  If you haven’t then I strongly suggest practicing and practicing a lot.  Like I said before, get to know your gear and familiarize yourself with difficult, yet often much-needed maneuvers to help you get the deer in frame.  If you haven’t noticed a theme here I’ll just tell you flat out- practice, practice, practice.  Great athletes practice meticulously even the smaller components of their game to be successful.  Why would practice to self-film a buck of a lifetime be treated any differently? 

Conclusion

Bringing a camera to the woods is cumbersome and self-filming is a lot of hard work.  It’s easy to say that lugging all the extra gear around is too much and not worth the effort.  Many people decide not to self-film for that reason alone.  But there is something very different about going down the road less traveled and reaching your destination.  Keep some of these tips in mind while on your self-filming journey and expand on them.  There is always something to learn and discover when you are challenging yourself.             

Characteristics of a Great Cameraman

Characteristics of a Great Cameraman

There is a lot of pressure that comes with being a cameraman.  Not only do you have to focus on all the details of filming a hunt, but you also have to be a good hunting partner.  It can be hard for some to stay as focused as the hunter even when you aren’t the one who is going to pull the trigger.  With this in mind, I think it is important to talk about the intricacies of being a cameraman.  After all, it is a challenge to film a hunt and doing it consistently adds to the difficulty.  If you are going to step up to the role of being a cameraman you will need to adopt certain traits.

The Will to Hunt

A true cameraman’s will to hunt is the same as if he were the one doing the hunting.  Regardless of how long the hunt takes or how difficult it becomes, a great cameraman maintains good spirits.  It can be demanding to follow around your hunter sometimes seemingly aimlessly in the woods, especially when it starts to look like things aren’t going to go according to plan.  The fact of the matter is that your hunter feeds off of your attitude and behaviors.  The Law of Transference is very relevant when hunting and filming.  If you are slow, slouchy and disengaged then you will transfer those behaviors to your hunter.  You may get frustrated with each other or with the hunt more easily and nothing will get accomplished.  Lastly, have the drive to always want to go hunting.  If you don’t then you need to reevaluate why you want to film hunts.  Overall, it’s very important to maintain a positive attitude and show your hunter that you going to work hard until the job is done.          

 The Eyes of a Hawk

Think of yourself as a co-pilot.  After you check the audio and manual controls, you’re looking for the target to engage.  Look where your hunter is not looking. Typically, the cameraman is positioned offset either to the left of the right facing nearly the complete opposite direction as the hunter.  It is important to visually cover the hunter’s back so he can focus on what is in front of him.  During times when the hunter is calling, you want to keep a sharp eye for incoming animals.  If the hunter is trying to retrieve his bow from its resting place the cameraman must be the eyes even during that brief period of time.  Things can change in less than a minute, so the cameraman’s visual assistance is of vital importance.      

Cool as a Cucumber

Think of the moment of truth and about all of the emotions that are experienced during that short amount of time.  The last thing a hunter needs is for his cameraman to hype up the situation even more than he needs it to be.  Erik Barber from Midwest Whitetail, who films and produces the show, suggested that the cameraman should help slow things down for the hunter instead of chirping in his ear.  So maybe instead of saying, “Wow look at that giant! What a beast! No pressure!”  A good cameraman might help the hunter through his pre-shot routine, align his focus on the animal in a non-distracting way or help him calm his nerves in some way.  Creating hype or letting emotions prior to shot get the best of you can cause problems.  Save the excitement for after the shot and focus on what is right in front of you.  Keep it straight business and do your job; including helping your hunter execute.

If you write it all down on paper, the list of tasks and roles that a cameraman has to fulfill is actual quite extensive.  Even though they are behind the lens and they are often not recognized for their work the cameraman is the fulcrum of a successful filmed hunt.  If you plan on being a producer or filming your buddies hunts, take the time to do a self-evaluation prior to hitting the woods with your camera in hand.  If you don’t already possess these traits, then I suggest you adapt quickly if you want to be a great cameraman.         

5 Things You Need to Know for Filming and Hunting

5 Things You Need to Know for Filming and Hunting

When I started out filming and hunting, I did not have a lot of knowledge surrounding photography and videography.  Nor did I take any classes or had a professor to answer my questions. Truthfully, I learned most of what I know through personal research.  With this in mind, I am by no means an expert in the field of photography or videography.  I do not claim to have extensive knowledge in either fields.  Which is why I have referenced a few articles written by experts to compliment the subject matter. Below is a list of things you need to know and understand before you dive into the art of filming hunts.  Having a solid understanding of these definitions, ideas and concepts will establish or reinforce a solid foundation of knowledge for yourself.

Aperture

In short, Aperture is the measurement of the amount of light that is allowed to pass through the lens’s diaphragm or hole.  The diaphragm can be adjusted to large or small diameters.  The smaller the hole of the lens’s diaphragm, the less light that is allowed to pass through.  The larger the hole of the lens’s diaphragm, the more light that is allowed to pass through.  Playing with the aperture can create different effects with the depth of field and the shutter speed (more on shutter speed).  To learn more about aperture, read the article, “Understanding Aperture” by Nikon.

ISO

Simply, ISO is used to adjust a camera’s sensitivity to light.  The normal ISO range is about 200 to 1600.  The lower the number, the more light that is required for the image.  Lower ISO is great for bright light situations.  If the camera is collecting too much light at 600 ISO, then one would want to lower the ISO to create a less overexposed picture. The opposite goes for low-light situations.  The ISO needs to be increase to give a lighter effect during low-light situations.  You can learn more about ISO and how to use this feature by reading,“Understanding ISO- A Beginner’s Guide” written by Photography Life blogger Nasim Mansurov.  He does an excellent job of breaking down the fundamentals of using ISO, and does a much better job of explaining the concept than I ever could.  This would be a great starting spot for anyone looking to learn more about ISO and its capabilities.

 

Shutter Speed

High shutter speed has the ability to freeze a fast moving object, and a low shutter speed can create a blurry image effect often referred to as “motion blur”.  Think of the shutter as to double doors, and the faster the door opens and closes, the less exposure the camera sensor has to light. Having a rapid shutter speed can be used to capture an image instantly, and the object looks to have been frozen completely.  On the other hand, a slower shutter speed allows the camera sensor to collect more light, and with the added time to collect light exposure, this creates the motion blur effect.  Motion blur is used to give moving objects in the picture a sense of speed, which ultimately tells the viewer that the burred object is moving in the picture.  If done properly, the play with shutter speeds can create some pretty cool effects when working with high quality DSLRs.  A great article to read about shutter speed would be the “Introduction to Shutter Speed in Digital Photography”, by Darren Rowse of Digital-Photography-School.com.

Low Light

In your typical hunting scenarios, the majority of action occurs either early in the morning as the sun is rising, or later towards dusk as the sun is falling.  When it comes to filming your hunts, the understanding of how to handle low-light conditions is pivotal.  You really need to know your camera and how it can adapt to these low-light conditions.  It would be nice to have every monster buck encounter in perfect filming conditions, but as we all know that doesn’t always happen.  Moreover, you really need to study the manual and understand what helps brighten the picture on your camera when you’re losing light.  We talked earlier about the aperture and ISO, which both can help improve the quality of the image.  When you’re filming with a certain HD digital camcorders, the feature to adjust aperture is often referred to as the Iris.  Adjust the aperture (Iris) or ISO once it starts to get dark, and check it periodically until you lose camera light. Be sure to practice this prior to the start of the hunting season, especially if you are using a new camera.  You don’t want to be fiddling around with your camera and not know what you’re doing once “Mr. Big” walks by at last light.

Aesthetic_Exposure_Triangle2

Know Your Equipment

To compliment what we have previously talked about in this article, it is so important to know what each button does on your camera.  The experimenting and creativity comes when you’re in the field and you know how each feature performs.  The best way to understand your camera is to break out the manual and start reading.  Locate and study the function of each button on your camera, so you know exactly where everything is. Additionally, you can find a lot of “unboxing” and camera tutorials on Youtube.  One of my favorite Youtube resources for DSLR tutorials is Michael the Mentor, he provides a TON of videos and articles on so many different DSLRs available.  He even does a lot of camera comparison videos that help with making a decision on which camera to purchase.  Another great resource isCampbell Camera’s.  Not only do they have a number of great products available, but they also provide videos or articles on how to use their camcorders.

 

There are so many terms, phrases and concepts to know in the art of filming hunts, and obviously this article has covered all of the essentials. My goal is to provide more articles that explain concepts and explain ideas that will improve your game.  Additionally, you will be seeing plenty of tech talk and equipment reviews following this article.   However, I think that this is a great starting point for anyone that is new to the game.  I encourage you to check out the resources I provided and email me if you have any questions.  I hope this helps you on your journey to mastering the art of filming and hunting.

 

 

 

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