Action Photography: Death By Turkey


Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.  As the most common element in an American thanksgiving celebration is likely a turkey, I felt this old photograph and the action behind it is perfect for the holiday post.

This photograph, taken on an old Sony FD Mavica, is slightly blurred, and the composition is definitely not the greatest.  But it is one photograph full of inspiration and desire.

I was on a teacher-chaperoned 8th grade class field trip to a farm outside Williamsburg, VA as part of their class trip to Washington D.C..   As with most “city” kids a large portion of them had very little idea where our food comes from.   I have to admit; I’d never seen a live turkey before.  Oh sure, on television you sometimes see them, but the closest encounter I’d ever had with one was putting it in the oven.

So, the prospect of being able to take this big guy’s picture excited me.  Unfortunately, he did not feel the same about me.  What the casual viewer can’t see is the large hen hiding behind me.  It seems that when I arrived this particular hen was in the process of denying the gobbler his amorous advances.  Naturally, this big boy wasn’t taking no very easily, so he was pursuing his lovely lady.

That is when I showed up.  The hen spotted me, ignored the kids, and ran straight behind my legs to hide.   The gobbler on the other hand was in hot pursuit of his prize and that is when we suddenly met.  It was at that moment I realized how big these birds are with their feathers, talons, and beak.  He was a least 20 lbs. and tall enough to reach my knee.

As he started coming towards me, I snapped this shot while trying to back up out-of-the-way and almost tripped on the hen behind me.  If you are wondering what it is like facing a live turkey,  a useful piece of trivial information for you is that they move FAST!   He seemed most displeased by my interruption and my presence.

I remember saying, “Please stop.  Don’t make me kick a turkey in front of the kids.”  I was afraid I was going to have to remind this bird who belonged at the top of the food chain.  Otherwise, how do you explain the death of a teacher being mauled in front of a group of school children by a large horny turkey?

Luckily, he suddenly stopped and started to walk away.  Maybe it was my voice, I’m not sure,  but that photograph has a ton of inspiration and desire.  The hen had inspiration to hide, the gobbler desired I get out-of-the-way and I was quickly inspired to do so.

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