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Extreme Hunting

Photojournalist combines passion for photography with nature

KERRVILLE, TEXAS

With his JVC-5000U camera Kevin Wegner has shot Red Stag in New Zealand and Caribou in the Northwest Territory of Canada. His work has recently been featured on the "Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World Hunting" on the Outdoor Channel. But one of his more interesting excursions took place recently at Wildlife Ranch in Ethel, Mo.

"I just filmed a blind kid shooting an elk," Wegner said about filming "Trailing the Hunters Moon" for the Outdoor Network. A spotter looked over the boy's shoulder helping him aim and shoot.

"It's probably the most emotional thing I've ever filmed, ever interviewed, done in my life," he said. The teenager, Tony, lost his sight last November in a hunting accident that injured him and his younger brother.

"He came out of it blind and the brother took it in the chest. They're both alive and doing well," he said.

EXTREME TEMPERATURES

Wegner of Wegner Media Productions used to shoot with a Hitachi Betacam, but for the past three years, he has been using the JVC-5000U camera exclusively.

"I've had those cameras since they first came out and I've never had one problem with them, knock on wood," he said.

He's used the camera in extreme conditions such as the Artic Circle and in the oppressive heat of Texas.

When moving between extreme temperatures, Wegner said that he has to let the camera slowly adjust to prevent condensation developing on the lens. But this remains a lesson in patience when waiting to film a moving target.

"When you're filming animals, they don't wait," he said.

Besides functioning well in extreme conditions, the camera is "great in low light" as well, Wegner said. Hunters are often in low light conditions.

Capturing audio conditions can also be challenging for both camera crew and hunters.

"Audio issues are a whole 'nother world. Everything is so quiet. If you're out there hunting by yourself it's a lot easier," he said. Obviously hunters can't hold guns and cameras at the same time, so it takes coordination and hand signals between the cameraman and the hunter to get the shoot done right. In addition to hand signals, Sennheiser and Lectrosonics wireless mics are placed on the hunter.

"Audio becomes an issue when you're filming outdoors," he said. With the mics, "I'm able to hear what he's saying," he said about the hunter, "even if it's a whisper."

HUNTING THE HIMALAYAN TAHR

As a kid, Wegner always dreamed of going to New Zealand. For "Thompson Center Outdoor Adventures"-broadcast on the Outdoor Channel-Wegner filmed the Red Stag, which he described as a majestic animal, calling it the "king of the woods." Wegner also filmed chamois-part of the antelope family-and Himalayan tahr, a member of the wild goat family.

"Because it's so mountainous, these things live at 6,000 feet," he said. Wegner said it was an adventure just traveling to the north and south islands of New Zealand where he filmed hunters for three weeks.

"We flew in helicopters and they drop you off. It's just amazing," he said. "It's pretty treacherous and dangerous territory," he said, describing the shoot on the side of a glacier.

"You try to have fun in life but you have to be careful," he said.

EXTREME BULL RIDING

One of Wegner's recent projects was for a show called "The Bull Rider's Journal" on the Men's Channel broadcast on the Dish Network.

"Nothing but bull riding for two hours," he said. Wegner filmed from within the arena to get a shot of the bull when it came out of the pen. The bulls can be as close as 10 yards from the camera.

"You've got to be careful on those [shoots]," he said. Wegner has been fortunate not to be injured on any shoots thus far.

'SPECIAL DELIVERY'

Another daredevil feat Wegner performs is shooting aerial photographs while strapped and hanging partially out of a B-25 bomber WWI plane, nicknamed "Special Delivery."

"That's our photo deck we use to do air-to-air photography," he said. "You take the tail gunner's flap out of the back...so you're shooting out a great big window," he said. Wearing a thermal suit, harnessed in and tethered to the plane, Wegner shot scenes from the sky.

"We can still lean out but we don't fall out," he said. Sometimes Wegner has the camera attached to him because if he goes from a negative to a positive G-force he wants to make sure the camera stays in place. "The camera will either try to float out of your hands or drive through your shoulder depending on what the G-forces are," he said. Wegner said that the JVC camera he used is very sturdy in the extreme conditions in which he shoots. "It's a rugged machine, to be such a delicate piece of electronics," he said.