My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Attack of the Zombie deer!

“Let me tell you something, do you like monster movies? I love monster movies, I simply adore monster movies, and the cheaper they are, the better they are. And cheapnis in the case of a monster movie has nothing to do with the budget of the film, although it helps.”

Fans of Frank Zappa while recognize those words as the opening of his introduction to the song “Cheapnis” It’s a parody of the really bad monster movies made back in the 50’s and early 60’s that are so bad that they’re great fun to watch.

So, what does any of that have to do with a nature blog? I have some really bad photos to share with you that you may get a kick out of seeing. Sometimes you can learn more from bad photos than you can from good ones. I am not the least bit ashamed to tell you I mess up from time to time, and when I do, it is usually in a big way.

The set up is this, I decided to do one of my deer hunts with a camera last Saturday. Nothing unusual about that, the difference is that this time, I took the high-powered flash unit for my Nikon along with me. I have had it for some time now, but I have never used it in my nature photography. I use fill-in flash quite often, but I have always relied on the flash units built-in my cameras. It seemed like using the higher powered flash would be a good idea, wrong!

The evening started out well enough.

Autumn splendor

That was my view as I was getting ready to start my hunt, here’s another.

Yellow brilliance

I started my hunt, and soon came upon my first victim, a fox squirrel gathering nuts.

Fox squirrel

In the small review window of my camera, it looked like the flash had performed well. A little red-eye, but not bad, and using the flash let me freeze the squirrel even though its tail was twitching like crazy.

Then for the first deer, I didn’t need the flash, it was in enough light to get this shot.

Whitetail deer

They were a little farther away than I like, but not too bad.

Whitetail deer

These aren’t the best shots I have ever taken of deer, but I was just warming up.

Whitetail deer

Stupid deer decided to shake its head just as I shot. At least the next one didn’t move.

Whitetail deer

She was just lying there chewing her cud. I thought about trying to get closer, but it was already getting late, and I was after bucks, not does.

Whitetail buck

But it was beginning to get dark, and you can barely make out the antlers on this spike.

Whitetail spike

Even using the attached flash. Time to get out the big (light) gun!

Whitetail deer

That didn’t work very well, let me try one from the back.

Whitetail deer

That’s better, let’s try the front again.

Whitetail deer

Oh no! I’ve created a zombie deer!

I think that is the most unnatural nature photo that I have ever taken. Nothing looks real, it looks like the bad special effects of one of those bad 50’s movies. The background looks like a fake painted backdrop. The deer looks like it was superimposed into the scene as when they were trying to make normal sized people or animals look like miniatures or giants, even the branch in the foreground looks fake.

I still had hopes that the high output flash unit would work better under different circumstances, so I tried it on these two does.

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

They don’t look as bad. I don’t mind it when people can tell I used a fill-in flash for some of my photos, in a way, it proves that I do get as close to critters as I say I do. But, the amount of “green” eye in these photos is too much even for me. That, and the fact that it made it look as though I took these at night. It wasn’t dark yet, it was still early evening. I really don’t want my photos to be mistaken for ones taken from the automatic trail cameras they sell to hunters these days.

It was getting late though, so I picked up my pace. I didn’t want to get locked in the park if they closed the gates. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, and I didn’t want to hike another four miles home if was an evening when they did.

I was walking a trail that runs right on the bank of Buck Creek, and as I was walking along, I noticed a duck swimming in the creek right beside me, going the same direction I was. I didn’t pay much attention to it, I assumed it was a mallard, and I was hunting deer.

I walked as the duck swam about twenty feet from me, we probably covered about 50 feet side by side, it was kind of cool. Then, I noticed it wasn’t a mallard, it was a wood duck! I stopped dead in my tracks, at the exact same instant, the duck stopped swimming. I looked at the duck not believing I had been walking that close to a male wood duck, the duck looked at me, not believing it had been swimming that close to a human. I grabbed for my camera, the duck took to wing, the duck was faster.

It’s funny now, but at the time I was kicking myself in the butt for not paying more attention to the duck in the first place. I would love to get a good close up of an adult male wood duck. I think they are America’s most beautiful duck, and one of our most beautiful birds.

Some years ago, I used to walk a piece of property that had a small pond on it. I walked everyday, much as I do now around the apartment complex where I live now. I had a system of trails that I had created myself, I didn’t always go past the pond, but many days I did. I was a bit surprised when a pair of wood ducks started calling the pond their home.

I would take my camera with me when they first took up residence there in the pond, but I could never get close enough to them for a good photo. After a while, I gave up trying. Over time, they got used to me being around at about the same time of day nearly everyday and they wouldn’t fly off at the first sight of me. By then, the idea of getting a photo of them never crossed my mind again, since I was seeing them everyday. Who needs a photo when you can see the real thing?

I watched them raise three or four broods of young ones over the years, then the bulldozers came. The pond is still there, but now, it is in some one’s backyard, as they built a subdivision on that property I used to walk. I don’t know if the wood ducks stuck around or not. I would love to have a photo from those days though, darn. That’s one of the reasons I never pass up the opportunity for a photograph any longer, and why I always carry a camera with me when ever I am outdoors.

Back to the deer hunt, or should I say zombie hunt.

Bad photo of a whitetail buck

I saw that buck on the other side of the creek, pulled up and shot just as he was figuring out that I was a human being. It’s a horrible photo! My excuse is that it was so dark by then, I couldn’t see what the camera was focusing on through the viewfinder. Heck, I couldn’t even see the weeds that the auto-focus focused on in the viewfinder. The way the eyes seem to bulge out makes this photo so bad that it’s kind of fun.

I continued on, having decided that the high output flash unit wasn’t what I hoped it was going to be as far as taking nature photos. Oh well, back to being the human tripod. Another great B movie title, Zombie Deer vs. The Human Tripod. Actually I had no choice. I saw this small herd of bucks too far away to use the flash, even if I had wanted to.

Whitetail bucks

Nikon D50
2011/10/08 18:59:51.2
JPEG (8-bit) Fine
Image Size: Large (3008 x 2000)
Lens: 70-300mm F/4-5.6 D
Focal Length: 300mm
Exposure Mode: Programmed Auto
Metering Mode: Center-Weighted
1/15 sec – F/5.6
Exposure Comp.: 0 EV
Sensitivity: ISO 1600
Optimize Image: Normal
White Balance: Auto
AF Mode: AF-A
Flash Sync Mode: Not Attached
Auto Flash Comp: 0 EV
Color Mode: Mode IIIa (sRGB)

I posted the shooting information in case any one is interested. Shooting at 300mm with a shutter speed of 1/15th of a second, pretty darn impressive if I do say so myself. It isn’t a great photo by any means, but I did get a usable shot of a small herd of whitetail bucks, not something that happens everyday. The bucks had seemed to be fairly well lit when I pulled up to shoot, then I saw the shutter speed, and was bummed out, thinking the shot would be so bad as to be one that I would end up deleting it. I concentrated as hard as I could, just like in the old days of target shooting with my dad, and squeezed the shutter release as gently as I could.

I took a few more, but the light was fading fast. each shot required a longer exposure, and I wasn’t concentrating as well as I should have, so the rest were junk.

So I have decided to leave the high output flash unit at home, no more turning poor innocent deer into wild-eyed zombies.

Oh, one more shot before I end this.

Evening in the woods

This was my view of the leaves as they caught the very last rays of sun that evening. All in all, a good evening in the woods even if I did miss the wood duck.

Thanks for stopping by!

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3 responses

  1. Pingback: No Internet, week three « Quietsolopursuits's Blog

  2. “That’s one of the reasons I never pass up the opportunity for a photograph any longer, and why I always carry a camera with me when ever I am outdoors.”

    I hear you. I’ve missed some memorable shots because I thought I didn’t need my camera.

    Nice and timely spooky Halloween deer images!

    October 20, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    • Thanks for the comments. I love my little Canon compact digital, because I can take it with me everywhere, even though I think all those pics came from the Nikon. I never go out without a camera any longer, ever. Even eating lunch in a rest area at a picnic table, I have a camera with me.

      October 21, 2011 at 2:58 pm