June 30, 2014
Tess Jolly has grown accustomed to hauling huge lenses and camera equipment as tools of her trade.
Whether she is shooting animals with a bow or a camera, Tes Randle Jolly’s hobbies and career focus on wildlife.
“It was a natural fit,” said the Tuskegee resident. “I grew up hunting, and when I married Ron [Jolly], he was with Primos Hunting Calls producing hunting videos, and I thought I’d love to be outdoors, too. That’s when I got started in still photography, and it was an easy transition because you apply all the rules of hunting to wildlife photography.”
Her love for wildlife was sparked early on. At age nine, Tes discovered she couldn’t participate at her father’s hunting club because females weren’t allowed. She didn’t let that stop her; she dressed up like a boy and called herself “Harvey.” She didn’t let anything stand between her and her love of the outdoors.
Since the onset of her photography career 15 years ago, Jolly’s career has skyrocketed. Her photos have appeared in books, calendars, advertisements and in numerous national and regional hunting magazines including American Frontiersmen and Outdoor Alabama. She travels the nation shooting for various companies.
“She’s one of the best wildlife photographers in the Southeast,” former Alabama Farmers Federation Wildlife Director Steve Guy said. “Her photography is highly sought after by many outdoor publications, and I always recommend her to anyone who is seeking wildlife pictures or photography services.”
Paired with Jolly’s popular photography is a successful writing career. She practices and writes about habitat management and self-reliant living for magazines such as The New Pioneer, and she creates photo journals and essays about animal behavior. Her journals have been published in Cabela’s Outdoor Life.
“I think there’s nothing more beautiful and deserving of sharing and educating others with than God’s creation,” Jolly said. “It’s such a great way to share what God crafted so people who can’t get outside can enjoy it through the photos.”
While she photographs all types of wildlife from roaches to whitetails, turkeys are Jolly’s favorite animal subject.
“Turkeys are my passion,” she said. “I pretty much live with turkeys in the spring. I’m out in the blind for six or seven hours at a time just studying their behavior and the flock’s dynamic. Everyone says ‘Well one turkey looks like another turkey,’ but if you really look at them, they each have their own unique anatomy. The best way to see that is through close-up photos.”
Like any hunter, a typical shoot for Jolly begins early. She drives to one of the numerous hunting sites behind her home, sets up the blind and decoys, then lugs her Nikon camera and camouflage tripod to the blind, where she waits for something to happen.
“If there’s not much going on, I’ll take scenic pictures, or I always have a software or camera manual,” she said. “I like to learn and study when I’m in the blind.”
Although a camera is her preferred weapon, she hasn’t entirely hung up her bow. She is still an avid hunter, but she’s missed opportunities to shoot a deer because she wanted to take its picture first.
“I always have a camera on me even if I’m hunting,” Jolly said. “A camera becomes a part of your anatomy when you’re a wildlife photographer because if you don’t have it with you, I can guarantee something good is gonna happen. I’m in the stage of life where hunting is more for the experience than tallying up the numbers. I go to enjoy, but don’t get me wrong, we have a freezer full of wild game.”
Jolly is an advocate for women in the outdoors. She and her husband teach archery and turkey hunting for Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) Alabama.
“There’s not many women that photograph free-ranging wildlife,” Jolly said. “I’ve always supported women in the outdoors, and I’d tell any lady who wondered if she could photograph wildlife that sure she could. If it’s what makes you happy and you enjoy the photos, then that’s all that matters.”
To view Tes Jolly’s work, visit her website JollysOutdoorVisions.com.