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2016-11-24

Wildlife photographer’s photo used for new submarine

By Steven James BCC Editor

Wildlife photographer Butch Ramirez walks around a grassy field in Zapata, Texas. Ramirez pulls his Canon 7D Mark II DSLR up to his face to photograph a 13-point whitetail deer. He looks carefully through the viewfinder, and hits the shutter.
The bottom portion of the deer photo is a field of tall green, yellow, brown and gold weeds. The whitetail is in the center of the photo, standing in the field and looking at the camera. The whitetail is about the size of an average adult deer, with thick, long and sturdy-looking antlers.
Behind the whitetail is blurred-out trees and weeds, showcasing Ramirez’s knowledge of the aesthetics of photography, including decent use of natural light and depth-of-field.
The photograph he took of the whitetail deer would eventually get published in hunting and wildlifemagazine “Cola Blanca.” The photograph would get commissioned by the U.S. Navy, as well as by First Lady Michelle Obama, to be used on the seal of the vessel, USS Illinois, a nuclear submarine that had its christening in Groton, Connecticut last month.
Ramirez said the whitetail deer is the Illinois state mascot, and the Navy looked for a whitetail deer to put on the crest of the submarine. U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus called Ramirez to ask permission to use his photo. Navy officials found Ramirez’s image after looking up stills of a whitetail deer, and chose his over the others they found.
Ramirez noticed a couple of missed calls on his phone the day the Navy tried contacting him. He finally called back after the Navy left a voicemail.
“By chance, I just named it “13-point Buck,” and that’s what they searched for,” Ramirez said. “I actually thought it was a prank. I said ‘If you don’t mind me asking, what would a whitetail deer be doing with a submarine?’”
Ramirez is from Laredo, Texas. His father, Fidel, a retired navy officer, lives in Bandera.
Ramirez said he has been a professional wildlife photographer for the past 15 years. He got started when he and his friend, a game warden, bought a ranch in Laredo. He then began photographing the wildlife near the ranch.
Ramirez has photographed 25 magazine covers for hunting and wildlife publications. He also does his own custom printing. After doing so, he sets up booths in certain areas and sells his images.
When printing images on a canvas, they can look like paintings, he said.
Ramirez said his photo will be on the submarine for its whole lifespan, which should be about 33 years.
Ramirez and his family did not go to the vessel’s christening, but they did attend its commencement, at which he gave a speech about his photography, the story of the deer photo and his honor for the navy using his photograph for one of its nuclear submarines.
Ramirez also received a letter from Mabus, and will get recognized by U.S. District 28 Representative Henry Cuellar.
“It’s a huge honor to receive this type of recognition,” Ramirez said.