As a hunting and outdoor photographer, getting the shot isn’t just about when the trigger is pulled or an arrow is loosed. It’s about telling the whole story – focusing on moments that highlight the challenges and emotions of the process.
I’ve photographed adventures across the country and as remote as the southernmost tip of South America. Each trip presents its own set of challenges, both in the moment with my camera and in the preparation process. It is essential that I am equipped with all the right tools for any situation that may present itself. My most recent trip to photograph a Wyoming pronghorn antelope hunt demanded perfect preparation.
Pronghorns are the fastest land animal in North America. Couple their speed with their incredible eyesight, and you have a mammal that is seemingly impossible to get close to – let alone photograph well. It takes stealth and a lot of patience to close the gap.
Knowing close encounters can be fleeting and far between, I brought a small arsenal of camera lenses ranging from wide angles to large telephoto lenses. I try to have two camera bodies handy at all times, one with a zoom lens and another with a wide lens. This combination helps me capture moments as they play out at any distance. On this trip, the weather was so limiting that there were times when it was impossible to have a camera out due to all of the precipitation. I knew that when the opportunity came to get the shot, I had to be laser-focused.
Fall in Wyoming, or anywhere in the West, is unpredictable. Average days are mild, but there are often days of extreme fluctuation. The weather changed right before our arrival in Wyoming, where we were welcomed with windy, cold, and wet conditions. The first hours after arriving were devoted to organizing gear and checking zeros at the range. The hunters set up their rifles as I dialed in how I was going to pack my camera gear around for the next few days. My goal was to be able to move fast and have as many options at my fingertips as possible.
Over the course of the five-day hunt, we had one day of dry weather; the other four tried to beat us down with freezing rain, high winds, and snow. We split our days between trekking the country and long periods of sitting, watching, and waiting in search of pronghorn.
Documenting adventures outdoors, especially hunting, is a trial in patience and your ability to adapt and react. Wild animals don’t care if you get the best angle, and the environment throws you constant variables that push your limits as a photographer.
You must constantly be aware of your surroundings, your subjects, both human or otherwise, and how the scenario is unfolding. Shooting in manual mode is a must. Changes in the landscape and lighting create scenarios where you’ll need to change shutter speed, ISO, and aperture on-the-fly. The playing field is ever-changing, which makes it necessary to know your gear and know it well.
After several long, cold days with many failed attempts, all but one of the hunters filled their tags. On the last day of the hunt, we decided to try a new area that was not easily accessible and had low hunting pressure. There was a piece of public land on the backside of a large lake that was only accessible by boat.
Getting thrown around a small aluminum boat at 30mph with water splashing in from all sides, while being pelted by freezing rain isn’t ideal for camera equipment. Determined, I wrapped a big plastic bag around the housing and shot photos with only the lens filter exposed. Enduring the conditions through the final day of the hunt, the last hunter was finally able to harvest an antelope. Over the course of the trip, I was also able to capture different parts of their individual hunts, making this trip a success for both the hunters and for me as a photographer.
Documenting passionate hunters is a genuine pleasure for me. I am also a hunter, so I apply what I learn in the field as a hunter to my job as a photographer and vice versa. There are many similarities between shooting a camera on a hunt and targeting game with a bow or gun. They both test patience and require putting the puzzle pieces together to be successful. Each pursuit provides a unique experience.
I feel that my outdoor photography endeavors come with a responsibility to showcase the heritage, ethics, and respect for nature that true sportsmen have. These are the pillars of our hunting heritage and are imperative to maintaining it for generations to come.
Cotton Carrier G3 Snapshot Camera Holster
CANON 5D Mark IV
CANON 5D Mark III
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens
Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 Lens
Dark Energy Poseidon 10,000mah Portable Charger
Author: Jess DeLorenzo
Jess is a passionate outdoorsman based in Eastern Pennsylvania, where she can be found with a bow, rod, or camera in hand. She runs DeLorenzo Photography and partners with Latendresse Media Collective, two award-winning businesses, in addition to running StickersThatStick.com with her husband, Mark. She is a photographer, field tester and ambassador for Sitka Gear, GORE Hunting and Fishing Technician of six years, and contributes to Team Mathew’s. Jess is a member of several conservation groups and serves as a committee member for the Pennsylvania chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. When she isn’t developing creative solutions for clients, she is busy living life with her daughter and husband outdoors as much as possible.