Old Trusty and some Shotgun “Porn”

I saw some lovely photos of drool-worthy side-by-side shotguns in a 2014 post at the Birdhunter blog.  The rich colors and grain of the walnut and the finely scrolled receivers set against an empty jet black background started my saliva glands working double shifts.  I was inspired and decided to see if I could get some similar results.

So obviously the studio-style photos above and below are not unique.  This style of shotgun “porn” has been around for a long time.  But I had never done anything like it so it was fun trying to achieve the crisp details while subduing glare and flare against a backdrop that almost disappears completely.

Of course the subject shotguns are intensely personal and the feelings that hunters have for them or about them tend to be personal too.  My precious side-by-side might not move an over-and-under man at all.  We each have unique experiences with our shotguns that shape the intensely personal feelings that we have for and about them.

The shotguns illustrated here are a few of my favorites.  Unfortunately, I can’t lay my hands on every shotgun that I’ve carried in the field.  I remember particularly fondly an old Iver Johnston single shot 12 gauge with an incredible 36″ barrel that my dad let me use.  Before that, I briefly shot a bolt-action 16 gauge borrowed from an uncle.

SP1_DadVanDucks
Dad holding the 16GA bolt action.  The Iver Johnston with the 36″ barrel is leaning against his work van.  Photo circa 1973.

These days I am shooting a Grulla 216 20 gauge side by side.  It is the only shotgun that I’ve ever owned with left hand cast.  Although I’m still no great shot, I hit more birds and clays with it than I used too.  Go figure!  This is also the gun that I’ve used while hunting over Patty and that comes with its own special trove of memories.

Patty Grulla and HIHP Harvest
Patty watches over the Grulla and a pair of roosters.
SP10_Grulla216
Grulla 216 – Rose and Scroll engraving.

My gun safe holds another pair of Spanish doubles.  The story of their acquisition involves a ski trip to Aspen, some cocktails and, of course, a good friend helping to shape the memories.  They are Ugartechea side-by-sides, one a Model 75 side lock, the other a field grade Model 40 box lock.

The Model 40 was my go-to pheasant gun for a few years and I had the stock modified to fit me (a left handed shooter) just a little better. My son Brett has shot the Model 75 off and on for several years too.

SP3_Model40RonRussDale
Russ and Ron holding their bows while I’m holding the Ugartechea Model 40.
SP12B_GrullaTwoUgees
Left to right: Grulla 216, Ugartechea Model 75, Ugartechea Model 40

There is no studio at my house so I just set up in the dining room.  I hung up an old navy blue dog blanket in the darkest corner.  It wasn’t black but by keeping the light away from it, I could achieve a very dark background.  I rigged a stand to hold the guns upright and brought in a couple of LED work lights from the garage.  Not the kind of equipment you’d find in a professional’s studio but just about right for this DIY project.

SP4_SetUp
The front light in one of my home studio set ups was a garage LED work light.

I wanted to gather some video, not just stills, so I set up my Sony FDR-AX100 on a tripod and started to experiment.  I often film Patty using fully automatic camera settings.  In those dynamic situations, the camera typically does a better job than I do of capturing the shot.  Of course, any professional will tell you the limitations of that approach and this studio setup was tailor made for manual controls and experimentation.

SP5_BackLightBackDrop
DIY home studio backdrop and back light.

I started with a wide open lens (F4.0).  The room was fairly dark but I also wanted to minimize the depth of field.  I wanted no stray details showing up in the background.  Then I set the shutter speed to 1/60th.  I wasn’t trying to stop any fast motion and, again, the room was fairly dark to begin with.  Then I experimented with various ISO settings to achieve different looks.

The most important lesson for me was placement of the lights.  I wanted to light the guns, not the background.  That ruled out front lighting so I was left with side and back options.  I played around with intensity, bouncing and diffusing the light as best I could with my workbench spots.

Eventually I’d achieved what I could with the video camera and I started cleaning up.  When I opened up the safe to put away the double guns, I noticed my old Winchester 2200 pump gun leaning against the side wall, mostly hidden even with the safe door open.  This is not a pretty gun.  It was never a pretty gun.  But boy does it bring back the memories.

SP6_DalePheasantsOldTrusty
My dad’s old Winchester worked in Saskatchewan even at extreme temperatures.  Notice the chaps.  We didn’t have dogs so guess who flushed them out of the thorn bushes?

My dad bought it in 1973 because I was bugging him to take me hunting.  I would use his old single shot while learning the ropes and he’d have the modern three shot pump gun.  He hunted with me that whole fall and then, when he figured that I might not get lost on my own or shoot myself, he retired from hunting and passed the Winchester on to me.

SP7_DaleDavidHuns
End of the day and a fence rail full of Hungarian Partridge.  My old friend David likely shot most of them but I probably got a couple with the old Model 2200.

I used it for a lot of years and a lot of pheasants, sharp tails and partridge fell in front of me.  (A lot more got away but that’s another story.)  Eventually I moved on to other guns but when my son Sean decided that he’d like to give it a go, the old Winchester got dusted off again.  He’d heard me tell a story or two that included the pump gun and after a few hunts he started calling it “Old Trusty.”

P&B&S
Sean with “Old Trusty,” Brett with the Ugee Model 75.

So I decided to gather one more shot in my dining room studio.  I don’t expect anyone but me to love this picture or to get misty eyed looking at it.  There’s a lot of scratches in that cheap varnish finish but I wouldn’t fix one of them.  Old Trusty indeed!

SP13B_OldTrusty
“Old Trusty” – Winchester Model 2200

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