Anyone who has been around a while has seen his share of advancements. From the guy who was using stone tools when metal made its appearance, or the horse and buggy driver who lived long enough to own trucks and cars, or the bow and arrow native Americans who found firearms as an option, the changes were dramatic.
It is not on that level, but I am amazed by the evolution in camera technology in my lifetime. The earliest pictures of me and my sisters are black and white. Not because Mom and Dad liked the shading or contrast, but it was what had been readily available and affordable.
Instamatic color pictures came quickly into my childhood. You used single shot flash bulbs and had to ship the film off for processing or drop it off a at kiosk in the shopping center parking lot. A few days later you could return for you prints or wait by the mail box.
I remember being amazed by a contraption that one of my uncles or aunts brought to Christmas. They took a picture and it immediately spit out a square piece of paper that right before your eyes developed into a color photograph.
In high school and college I had classes that required mixing chemicals and exposing images in a dark room to produce pictures for a grade and for the newspaper and yearbook. One-hour commercial photo processing began replacing the mail-in option.
At our wedding we had little cardboard, disposable cameras that guests could use to snap candid shots throughout the night, getting different perspectives of the evening from other people and angles.
As our kids grew, photography went digital, and film slowly became obsolete. You could see the images you took immediately and edit or retake them before getting prints. Now nearly everyone carries a camera and video recorder in the form of a cellular phone.
Back in my black and white days, I remember adventures of Dick Tracy and other comic strips or cartoons who relied on amazing spy technology that allowed them to see pictures and talk into their watches. It was too hard to believe that something like that could be possible.
Now spy-type technology allows people to see folks who ring their doorbell and talk to them from remote locations. It also has become a big part of hunters’ scouting strategy. Those upgrades are beginning debates about fair chase, but we’ll leave that for a future discussion.
My first trail camera had an electronic white light flash. I still use it, and it captures high-quality images. The night time photos are far better than the new infrared flash pictures, but it gives away its location with every after-dark snap. It also uses up its batteries in a relative flash.
I have had batteries in one of my new cameras last 18 months, through two winters. It has the capability of recording still images or video and storing them on a removable memory card that can hold thousands of pictures. I can transfer them to my computer for editing and organization. The camera records the time of day, moon phase, and temperature.
Those are the cheap, off the rack models. The top technology forest spies will instantly send what it captures to your mobile phone or computer via sattelite. That’s where the fair chase questions start. Could you sit at home waiting for a deer to show up on your camera and then go out to “hunt” it down?
I’ll stick to my “simple” single shots. Throughout the year, I can track individual deer and compare them as their antlers grow and develop. It is exciting to know that they are in the vicinity where I will be hunting. The misfortune comes when a deer shows up when I should have been in the stand. Such was the case at the end of archery season.
I was working on the farm where I hunt on the last day of the season. The day started with snow, and we were busy early enough that I decided to forgo a morning hunt. If there was enough daylight when we finished, I would try my luck one more time in the afternoon.
The project was going good, and we kept busy. With more than an hour before sunset, I could have taken a walk into the woods for a quick ladder climb. Instead, I opted to head for the showers and rest.
The next day I went to retrieve the camera card and check the snow for tracks and trails. (It’s an old fashioned but less reliable form of scouting.) Sure enough a few minutes before sunset the camera caught a nice buck standing less than 20 yards from my stand. He stayed around long enough to get his picture taken three times.
Hopefully he’ll show up on the camera again this spring and through next summer growing even bigger antlers. And then, with a different bit of luck, I can be in my stand at the right time.
Originally published by Leader Publications January, 27, 2022.