I got aholt of a cheap little camera when I was in college at School of the Ozarks, and took photos of our hunting and fishing exploits with it. ‘Aholt of’, is a term the old timers in the pool hall used to describe coming across something valuable or useful, strictly by luck.
The other day I got aholt of one of those old photos I hadn’t seen in years and it was like finding treasure. Every now and then that happens, and it brings back great memories. The reason I don’t know where all of them are is simple… there are thousands of outdoor photos in my office, and I don’t have the time to go through them and organize them!
I love taking photos, and sometimes I forget the rod or gun when I am fishing or hunting and just use the camera. That goes back to the time I graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in wildlife management, and went to work the following week as the outdoor editor of the Arkansas Democrat in Little Rock, the largest newspaper in Arkansas.
They gave me one of those big, box cameras that took black and white photos, and I brought film back to their processing department on a regular basis. I hadn’t been there more than a month or so when I went out to do a story about Arkansas Power and Light Company planting food plots for wildlife under power lines. Maybe it was because I was new, but they made a big deal about the photo I took of seed heads waving underneath a big iron electrical structure, and I won an award for the best photo of the month.
I think Gloria Jean bought me a nice 35 mm camera that year for a birthday present, and I began to take color slides with it. Today I have oodles of those color slides, and due to my organizational skills I can’t find anything I want to find without a considerable amount of time spent going through dozens and dozens of sleeves of slides in a huge photo-holding cabinet. I find slides in there I don’t even remember taking!
As a free-lance writer back in the seventies and eighties trying to support a family, those photos played a huge part in my success. Writing articles for Outdoor Life, Field and Stream, Sports Afield and many other outdoor magazines, I was paid extra when they used my photographs. In time, I began to sell photos for magazine covers, and the pay was good.
But I didn’t just take those pictures for the money it made me; I just got hooked on it. I never did learn anything about what I was doing, I just took lots and lots of photos, and because the camera did everything automatically, like adjusting for light conditions, etc., I got some great photos by accident. You just look through the hole in the back of the camera until you think you see a good picture, and then push the button.
It must have been about 12 or 15 years ago that I stopped taking those color slides and went to color prints, since they could be scanned and sent via computer. That changed things, because by sending out 20 or 30 color slides via mail to a dozen or so different magazines I worked with, a good number of them were lost.
I think it was only about six or seven years ago that Sondra Gray, who is the editor here at The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal, took me to Sam’s, where she had a membership, and helped me select a really good digital camera that has a little card in it.
Now I can take photos all day, and come back to my office at night and slip that card in a little slot in this computer and put them all in a file in this gosh-awful machine that I hate so much, but am forced to use.
Looking back, it is just unbelievable what has happened, going from that big old box camera at the Arkansas Democrat in 1971, to the way things are today. It makes me feel a little like my grandfather must have felt when he watched a jet take off, and remembered how he once drove a horse-drawn wagon to town. I still don’t know a thing about photography, but I have sold hundreds and hundreds of photos, and if I can do it, anyone can. Just get a good camera and learn the fundamentals of using it, and take it with you everywhere you go. You don’t have to take classes, I never did. But I’ll bet if you do you’ll be glad you did. No telling how many more great photos I would have today if I had learned something about what I was doing.
I have noticed that if you forget the camera, that is the day that you will catch the biggest fish, or some giant buck or wild gobbler will walk up and look at you and say, “Where’s your camera.” I got a dandy photo the other day just by accident, of a deer running across a field with heavy dew and the sun behind her. If you want to see it, just go to my website, www.larrydablemontoutdoors. blogspot.com and you’ll see it there.
And someone reminded me that I told everyone in a past column I would put a photo of a deadfall trigger my uncle Norten made years ago, on that website. I forgot… but I will do it this week, so you can see what a deadfall to kill skunks and armadillos looks like. But I repeat, it is illegal to use one, and no one should use one where there are cats or small dogs that mean a lot to a neighbor.
Our outdoor magazine, The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal, and our Ozark magazine, The Journal of the Ozarks, always needs artwork, good photos and feature articles. If you think you have a good story for us, send it, but have it typed first. Or you can email it to us at lightninridge@ windstream.net. My mailing address is Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613. In a week or so I will tell you what about some of the stories coming out in our winter magazines, and how you can get a gift subscription for someone who likes to read. But if you have any questions about either, you can always call my executive secretary, Ms. Wiggins, here at our executive offices, located way out in the woods only 50 miles northeast of Springfield and about 500 miles southwest of Chicago. Ms. Wiggins has been to Chicago and Springfield too! I figure that anyone who has been to both places has the ability to answer any questions anyone might have. Ladies who have any questions about keeping their fingernails fixed up should ask Ms. Wiggins. She does more of that than anything else when she is here!
Huntin’ and fishin’ questions ought to be directed to me.