2011 Top 10 Photo Moments … Number 7

Let the countdown begin! Over the next few weeks I’ll work my way down a list of my Top 10 Favorite Photo Moments from last year. I’ll post an outtake photo or two, a link to the finished project (a few are coming soon in 2012!), and a few words about what made that particular place—or shooting moment—so memorable. Stay tuned for Number 6, coming soon!

#7 Champion Lands, Northeast Kingdom, Vermont:
In mid-October, between photographing for the Vermont Icons and New Hampshire Icons books, I took a couple days break and went bird hunting with my dad and cousins in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. October is one of the finest months of the year in Vermont, it’s definitely my dad’s favorite month (not only because he married my mom then, but he says it’s the best month for bird hunting!). The woods put on their finest show before winter takes hold. As we hunted, the spectacular autumn foliage shimmered in the breeze and scents of balsam and drying leaves drifted through the trees.

It’s been quite a number of years since I last bird hunted, and I will admit to being a bit rusty and slow at getting off a good shot. But for my family, it’s not about the shooting, it’s about the time spent together walking through the woods, laughing and sharing those deep and difficult conversations that seem only possible in the woods, and admiring the hard work of the bird dogs. I left my big “gun,” my Nikon camera, at my folks’ house, and decided to bring my small Panasonic camera and my iPhone for those couple of days. I carried my brother’s shotgun, a Lefever Nitro Special 20-gauge side by side.

Once in awhile (when nobody was looking!), I paused and captured some of the moments in the field. I made some still images, but had an awful lot of fun working with the video modes on my iPhone and Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5. When I returned to my home in Maine, I cut together a spoof trailer called “Bird Hunt.” It contains some of the neat moments in the field: Annie, my dad’s English Setter, nose to the ground, flying through the thick woods; my cousin Jack laughing while taking a break on an fallen log; Selkie, my cousin Mike’s new black lab puppy exploring and honing her hunting instincts; my brother’s Llewellyn setter Zoe on point and holding fast; my dad smiling and thoroughly enjoying these shared moments with his family. We talked and laughed and tried to hold back tears; this was the first family bird hunt since my brother, a hunting and fishing guide and high school teacher, passed away suddenly the year before.

We hunted some of the very special “hot” spots and put up a few birds. Quite a few of them got away, but a couple made it into the freezer. I’d like to say one of my shots hit its target, but I’m not going to bet on it….

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