Coy and I were ideally positioned to become totally immersed in the outdoors as we lived in one of the remotest areas of Fulton County, Pennsylvania. The nearest neighbors were a farmer and a hunting club, both of which were at least one-half mile away. Other than that it was fields and undeveloped mountain land from our farm to the east side of Meadow Grounds Mountain near McConnellsburg, which is a distance of many miles.
|Typical Fulton County Backwoods Farmland In Early 1950s: Photo by Alma Hill|
My initial interest in whitetails came from hearing the deer hunting stories and seeing the deer that the hunters brought in, but things really took off in 1964 when I somehow came into possession of an old, ragged copy of "The Deer Hunter's Bible" by George Laycock. I read it from cover to cover and then re-read certain sections, and then read them again and again! This book really fired my interested in deer hunting and sparked an interest in deer watching. When weather and chores permitted, it was common to come home from school, and head out for a walk through deer country in the last hour of so of the day when deer activity was at its' peak. When I got back to the house, I usually settled down with a snack and scanned the pages of "The Deer Hunter's Bible", dreaming about the coming deer season. In time one wanted more reading material (we also read the outdoor magazines of the day), and we came across an advertisement that was to eventually change the focus of my life, but like many life altering things, it didn't seem significant at the time and was initially very inexpensive.
It seemed so innocuous! For the sum of 25 cents one could receive "The World Of The Whitetail Deer" by Leonard Lee Rue III, if they would only agree to join the Outdoor Life Book Club, and buy a few more selections during the year at the regular club price. In time the book arrived, and I was fascinated by Mr. Rue's photographs and writing. The photographs were all in black and white and some were taken in deer pens, but I was in awe! How did one do this? There was little or no information easily available about photographing wildlife at that time and he did not describe what equipment he used. I may be wrong, but I feel certain that the photographs for this book were taken before 35mm SLR cameras and telephoto lenses were easily available. From this point on it seemed a given to me that anyone would want to photograph deer "like Leonard did", but I was amazed to find that this was not the case when several years later I excitedly stuck one of my first b&w prints of a deer in my grandfather's face and excitedly informed him that here was an actual deer photograph, but he just said something like "yeah" in a distracted way and went on with what he was doing. Obviously, deer and deer photography did not rank very high on his list of priorities.
|Whitetail Doe Portrait-Grandfather Could Not Have Cared Less!: Photo by W. Hill|
As for me, I was on fire to photograph deer, but I didn't know what equipment one needed, didn't know how to find out, and didn't have the financial resources to purchase equipment anyway. Out of desperation I tried to work with the equipment at hand, which was an Ansco 120mm roll film camera and a small point and shoot camera of unknown name, which took 127 roll film. Both had a fixed shutter speed and aperture, and wide angle lens. I knew up front that one had to get close and the results were disappointing to say the least as the wide angle actually made the subject appear to be further away. In the next two photos we see just how impossible, with the first being a deer some distance away. The photo is severely cropped, but the deer is just a small speck at the tip of the white arrow. (It had its' tail up as it prepared to run).
|Deer At Distance With 127 Roll Film Camera|
|Doe And Fawn In 1969: 127 Camera with flash|
Today in the information age, if is hard to comprehend how difficult it was to attain certain types of information at that point in time. None of the outdoor magazines had any information about photography that I could find until about 1973 when I read an article in Outdoor Life where someone explained the concept of film speed, which was then known as ASA instead of ISO, as it is called today. I began working at Central Fulton School District in late winter of 1973 and at one point noticed one of the teachers reading a magazine which turned out to be "Modern Photography". I soon learned there was another called, "Popular Photography" and in no time at all I was devouring everything I could find in these magazines. The magazines provided the long sought after information and it became clear that one needed a 35mm single lens reflex camera known as an SLR and an assortment of telephoto lenses to get those long sought after portraits of whitetails. Now I did have funds to purchase equipment, but at the munificent salary of $4,200 per year one had to buy the most economical lenses and cameras possible, and one didn't buy an entire outfit, but rather bought it one piece at a time. The story of how I built my initial outfit is mostly for another day as it is quite interesting in and of itself, but for now suffice it to say that I acquired a Minolta SRT101 35mm camera in the spring of 1974. The camera with normal lens sold for about $250 and I also bought a Spiratone 400mm f6.3 telephoto lens (a store brand lens sold by Spiratone of Flushing, NY., which I believe was actually made by Sigma), which cost $50 for the standard version and somewhat more for a multi-coated version.
|Minolta SRT 101 & 400mm Spiratone F6.3 Telephoto(37 years Old): Photo by W.Hill 2011|
Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.