Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has a music degree from Ohio State University.

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No, it wasn’t like it sounds, but just in case you wondered…it’s what happens when you leave home without your Nikon(s).

I was in a hurry when I ran out the door last Wednesday for the Dayton airport. Too big a hurry.

On my way to an annual meeting for pheasants with three friends from the Twin Cities, I had made sure to pack a duffel bag with clothes, a gun case with a pair of shotguns…and of course, a small camera case with a Nikon body and the newest 17-35mm zoom, the perfect optic for those western prairie sunsets.

Fighting a headache, I set my camera case down to take two Advil and a swig of water. “Have a good time,” said Mindy, and out the door I went.

Twenty minutes later, in Vandalia and running late to get through the TSA firearm procedures, I realized as I walked in the airport doors…I’d left my cameras on the kitchen counter.

Typically, I swore and berated myself for my absence of concentration, but quickly realized…cell phones have cameras in them, as well. It wasn’t worth going back to Covington, even though photos are more important to me than pheasants at this stage of life.

Friends Pat Jewett, Ronnie Straiting, and Jerry Moenning picked me up at the curb in Minneapolis, helping me stow my gear into the back of the Suburban.

“Hey, where’s all that camera sh— you usually travel with?” said Pat. “You’re gonna’ be naked without it.”

I shrugged, laughed, and assured him that it wasn’t the end of the world. Except…as it turned out it kinda’ was.

Rarely in the 20 years that I’ve traveled to North Dakota and Montana in the fall have I witnessed the weather that we had last Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 60 degree days without clouds, and the most glorious sunsets you’ve ever seen. It was the kind of skies that calendar companies fight over. And, no Nikons….!

Of course, despite heat and drought conditions through spring and summer the bird hunting was fine, too. To give you an idea…it’s been a tough year on farmers out West. Lack of rain means lack of crops, lack of grass, and lack of bird cover.

Hay ground for ranchers had far less yield than normal, meaning they had to cut and bale anything that grew green.

Black sunflowers, one of the staple industries of western prairie farmers, were about half their normal size. And many were left unharvested for the sake of economics.

The wind blew incessantly, up to 25 mph, which at one point made me glad I didn’t have my normal gear because dust is public enemy #1 of cameras with interchangeable lenses.

And yet, at the end of a particularly good day Friday I stopped to consider how to share a fabulous day of shooting in pictures with friends back home. But all I had…was a flip phone.

Now people have been after me for years to get rid of my current relic and upgrade to an iPhone, or something similar…something that has picture-taking capability that’s close to the quality of a regular camera. I thought of that as I stood there in the wind and dust, a trio of roosters in my jacket. How to take a decent picture…with a flip phone?

Well, I tried, but the Winchester shotgun I was carrying would have done almost as good. Pat Jewett laughed as he sensed my frustration.

“You are naked without that camera, aren’t you?” he said. “Text me one so I can see what it looks like.”

And after the fact, later in the evening, he said, “Hey, this is pretty good. Why would you want to carry all that stuff around if you have something this good?”

sonny_inset1114But to be honest, you can judge for yourself, above and below. A lesson to any who read this and wonder, like Jewett, if it’s worth the trouble to bring good camera gear on trips when you want good photos.

Resolution suffers. Contrast suffers. Color suffers. And truthfully, after seeing the sun dip behind the western buttes at sunset that evening…I suffered. Never in my life had I seen anything like it, or, the sunrise the following morning.

I sent a few home, but the shot at the top of the page is about as good as you can expect to get from a flip phone.

On the other hand, I save $30 every month I keep that old Samsung. My real problem was, I reminded myself…was just a simple lack of memory.

Montana sunset in winter. Looks nice, but -8 degrees below zero last December. And much better quality than a flip phone.

Montana sunset in winter. Looks nice, but -8 degrees below zero last December. And much better quality than a flip phone.

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