The heft of the thick-necked, thick-racked Illinois buck caught my attention first, then I thought, ``There's a Buck of the Week.''
And what a wonderfully photographed buck to kick off BOTW for 2010.
Looking more closely at the photos Harold Barry III e-mailed, I thought, ``There's somebody who knows how to take deer photos.''
And even more than the celebration of his wonderful buck is his wonderful photo.
Out of the photos Barry sent, I picked as the best one the same one he did.
It's the one above.
The rack fills the frame. Barry and his bow are behind but represented. It was one of the best deer photos I have ever received.
I am a big fan of the fairly traditional buck photo.
Say this one from Barry. That gets the job done. It tells the story of a big buck.
But the photo at the very top takes the buck worthy of memory into an art form.
With BOTW photos starting to arrive last week--the rut is on in Illinois, big bucks are stupid with lust and bowhunters are killing big ones--it's time to go over photos.
One of my few regrets in the outdoors is the photo of my first buck. As much as it brings back vivid memories, it is a terrible image: beginning with my bad '70s beard to my hood coat smeared with gutting gore to the dragging rope hanging from the neck of my buck, which is sprawled on the car trunk.
If you are wondering, I have no plans to scan the photo of my first buck and post it, though my beard is priceless.
I wish my dad and I had taken the time to set the buck in the oak leaves, where I could have cradled its head and rack.
Barry took the time to photograph his buck right.
The Westmont businessman arrowed his trophy on Oct. 28 in Hancock County on a farm, owned by him and his Dad, where they practice quality deer management.
I knew the photo was not an accident.
Here's the explanation from Barry:
Tad Peters of [South Fork Outfitting] took the pictures for me. There were several keys to it. We had a 5-in-1 light deflector to put light on the antlers. We propped him on his knees and laid his back flat. Also we propped up his side (with a trailer hitch insert).
I am working on a U-bracket that will hold up the chin we want to make it so we can take those shots of the deer only but that is a work in progress. Hopefully I have another need for it!
A buck like that deserves that kind of care in photographing. Peters green-scored it at 149 6/8, so Barry is ``calling him 150.''
As somebody who has handled thousands of outdoors photos, I have a couple more general tips.
Foremost, take the time. The exception is when releasing a fish, then seconds matter.
But a dead deer isn't going anywhere. Set it up. Deer photos are often taken in bad light (rain, snow, night, barns, garages, sheds). Even so, you can try multiple photos under natural light and flash to see which works.
Arrange the deer to the front. It's the star. Fill the frame with that rack. And tuck the tongue away.
Next, be aware what is in the photo frame. Nothing kills an outdoors photo like a cigarette dangling from somebody's lip. Put smokes out of the frame. (Pipes might be the exception.) Put the celebratory Pepsi, beer bottle or cocktail glass out of frame, too.
That stuff's not important, though I relish it as a documenter of modern outdoor life. The rack is the key.
The bow or gun should be in the photo, but on the side; otherwise, it looks like product placement. Kids can add comedic relief or perspective, but they can also kill a photo if the scene looks forced. I go both ways on sunglasses and hats on or off.
Bottom line is most of us spend weeks, even years, bagging that special buck. He deserves another half hour to arrange a photo worthy of the test of time.
This would be a perfectly fine photo, but the picture-perfect one is the top one.
BOTW appears on the outdoors page of the Sun-Times each Wednesday from about November through about January. An extended online version appears here, usually by midnight Tuesday.
E-mail BOTW nominations to email@example.com.