Photographing Duck Hunters in Pennsylvania

This is something that I wanted to do for a couple years prior to actually getting out and making it happen.  Each time duck hunting season would come around, my schedule wouldn’t let me get out with my friends and photograph them.  Finally, this past October, everything aligned and I got my chance.  

With photography, it’s always important to challenge yourself.  It’s how you grow and improve your skills.  This small personal shoot went a step beyond that.  I wanted to put myself in a not so comfortable (literally; you’ll see below) environment.  Anyone can go outside and photograph a portrait.  I do it all the time.  However, I wanted to put myself in a situation that challenged my ability to work.

So the plan was to head out to what the guys call, “The Swamp,” the night before the opening morning of duck hunting season.  Under the cover of the darkness, they canoe out into the swamp to where they will hunt from the next morning starting at first light.  So this meant that I would be sleeping in a canoe in the middle of a swamp that’s buzzing with mosquitos.  Have you ever slept in a canoe?  It’s not very easy.  I think I slept for maybe three hours all night.

Morning came and the four of us sat in the canoes waiting for first light.  It was such a peaceful scene with a cloudy sky and super soft light.  Then it started.  Shots rang out from every direction on the swamp where other hunters had paddled out to.  Ducks flying frantically in every direction, my friends are aiming to the sky from the canoes, and I’m trying to get some decent photos of it all happening.

We eventually made our way back to where we entered the swamp.  Before calling it quits, I wanted to photograph some portraits of my friend, Nick, wading in the swamp.  With my Phase One XF and IQ140 strapped around my neck, I carefully waded out into the water carefully testing my footing each step of the way while my other friend, Joe, was also wading in the water holding my Paul C. Buff Einstein and Vagabond Mini just above the water.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with what I got from the whole experience.  It also feels good to know I can put myself in an uncomfortable scenario like this and come out with decent work.  I enjoyed the challenge and look forward to possibly putting myself through it again.  It was fun, but next time, I’m taking a pillow.  Lastly, many thanks to the guys for letting me come out and take in the experience!

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