Taking a fish photo, it seems easy, doesn’t it? You’ve done the hard part already by travelling to a prime destination, finding the fish, tempting it to eat and getting the beast in your net . . . the photo is the easy part. Right? At Scott Lake Lodge, there are tens of thousands of fish brought to the boat every summer. Several thousand of those specimens pose for a quick photo. Over the years we’ve seen it all: a fish with half a thumb over it; a beautiful fish with the angler cut off; so much hat and sunglasses that the angler’s face looks like a mugshot, and on and on. We’ve also been lucky to see many spectacular photographs. We’ve had some of the top professional outdoor photographers in the business work at the lodge. They have done justice to the amazing beauty of northern Canada and the excitement of fishing for monster pike and lake trout. They taught our guides the drill. Now our guides know how to capture the full experience, honor the catch and create something worth sharing with fishing friends. With a little study and effort, you can do the same.
First and foremost, the concern of the Catch Photo Release (CPR) process should be the fish. All fish should be handled gently and with great care to make sure it swims away to grow into a photo fish for another angler. Unless it is destined for a hot oil bath at a shore lunch, keep that fish healthy; make sure it’s not bleeding and keep in resting in a net or cradle until you are ready for the shot. Your fish should not be out of the water for more than 30 seconds. Secondly, don’t limit the photo process with just a “grip and grin” shot. Get some action of the fight, the release, your buddy napping after shore lunch, the “bird’s nest” line tangle, and all the small details that are part of a day on the water. Build a narrative of the trip; it is often what happens between fish catches that makes the memories. The key to do this is keep a camera handy . . . wildlife usually won’t stand around and wait until you’ve dug the camera out of your bag.
We asked some of our photographer friends to share their experience with us. We asked two questions of them: 1) What makes a good fish photograph and 2) Any suggestions for capturing the entire experience, not just the grip and grin fish picture. Below is the result of millions of photos taken capturing angling adventures around the world. For their time and expertise, we thank them. Here’s a short course from the best:
Manitoba’s Jay Siemens (https://www.jaysiemensmedia.com) a fisherman and guide, who’s talent for capturing moments on photo and video has led to worldwide travels documenting the outdoors shared this:
What makes a good fish photo? This may seem obvious, but the #1 attribute of a good fish picture is a healthy fish. It doesn’t matter if the fish is 50 inches long, if it’s bleeding from the tail or looking bone dry, it’s not attractive. I love to see a fish still dripping with water, and a perky dorsal fin (especially if it’s a walleye or a grayling). I know we all want a picture of our trophy fish, but the fish’s health is always number #1. Always have the camera ready before you even hook the fish.
How do you capture the entire experience? Take a lot of photos! Yes, we all want the photo of the big fish, but what about taking a photo of your buddy’s expression after he loses a fish right beside the boat, or what about a photo of your guide tossing some pan-fried fish at shore lunch. We all want to see the fish photos, but looking back you’ll never regret taking too many photos! Want to try doing some video? GoPro cameras are very simple to use and can capture some incredible footage, if that’s too intimidating, you can’t go wrong with a cellphone. They take amazing quality videos as well! Keep your whatever camera you’re using accessible… you don’t know the next time you might see a moose…or a moose nest!
Denver Bryan, bases from Bozeman, MT and travels the world to get the shot of fur, feather and fin in their natural environs. His images can be seen in his books and numerous magazines. Learn more at http://www.denverbryan.comc/index.php
Three primary elements usually come to bear when creating or capturing a good fish (or other) photograph…i.e. subject, light and composition. A beautifully-colored northern pike or lake trout photographed in great light (usually early or late in the day) with an interesting composition or great fisherman model come to mind. REALLY look at and study some of your favorite images, take note of these elements and then incorporate them in your own images. The fish and fisherman may be central to your fishing trip but there are so many nuances of fishing that add layers of depth to your photography…. i.e. the expression on a fisherman’s face, the trials and tribulations associated with fishing, the ‘tools of the trade,’ the camaraderie, the destination, etc. Taken all together and they give you a much fuller accounting and memory of your fishing experience.
RawFish Creative’s Jeff Andersen (http://rawfish-media.com) has spent days and weeks capturing fish photos for numerous company’s and magazines. Between guiding assignments, Jeff & his brother Joe came up and documented Scott Lake Lodge in a series of videos. Here is what he had to say.
The best photographers capture an image before even taking the photo. They can recognize the moment then use the tool, the camera, to capture it. While you travel look for those opportunities. They are everywhere. Take photos of things you find interesting, you are documenting your trip after all. Cell phones now days take amazing images and are most often closest to hand. They can be blurry in low light because of the Auto Shutter Speed. To help sharpen your picture use pressure with your fingers on both sides of the phone to keep it steady. Even better invest in a small bendable tripod to hold your phone steady in most any situation.
Another Montana based photographer, Brian Grossenbacher has been responsible for countless covers, photos essays and catalogues in the fishing and hunting world. See more of his work (http://www.grossenbacherphoto.com/About) Brain gave some technical advice on working with a DSLR camera.
My favorite fishing photos illustrate authentic, unscripted action that capture the grace and athleticism of the sport. Whether this is the angler loading the rod on a big cast or setting the hook on a monster pike, or even a tight shot of a jumping fish throwing water droplets throughout the frame. Depth of field plays a huge role in the creativity of each of these 3 scenarios and you control Depth of Field by adjusting the Aperture or F-stop in your camera. The easiest way to remember the relationship between Aperture (F-stop) and Depth of Field DOF is the lower your f-stop, the smaller your depth of field, and the larger the F-stop, the greater the depth of field.
To easily manage your depth of field try shooting in Aperture Priority Mode (A) so that you only have to worry about the depth of field you want and let the camera control the shutter speed according to ambient light. For a casting shot, the shallower depth of field (larger aperture 2.8-5.6) the angler will be the focal point and the background will be soft and out of focus. Also, the wider opening of the aperture allows for more light and subsequently faster shutter speeds to capture the fast action of the cast.
For a shot with the angler in the foreground and the fish jumping in the background, you will need a larger depth of field (larger f-stop f8-f11) to keep both the angler and the fish in focus. Because the aperture will be smaller, less light will enter the sensor, so keep an eye on shutter speed. If the camera drops it below 1/1000 second, then bump up the ISO a bit (400-640) to give the shutter speed a boost. You will need the faster shutter speed to keep the movement of the jumping fish in focus. To capture a tight shot of a jumping fish I like to keep the aperture at 5.6 and keep the shutter speed as fast as possible to freeze the dynamic action of the water spray, shaking head and pumping gills. Try to keep the shutter speed in the neighborhood of 1/1600 sec or faster by bumping ISO or you may want to shoot this in full Manual Mode (M) and purposely underexpose the image as the jumping fish will be the brightest spot in the frame. Take a few practice shots to make sure you are not too bright or too dark in the frame and then keep your head in the game so that you are ready when your buddy finally hooks one.
If you absorb some of these tips, you will take better photographs on your next fishing trip. Or if you just don’t want to bother just come to Scott Lake Lodge every summer. Our guides will provide professional assistance. We even send our guests home with a flash drive of photographs that distill the essence of your fishing adventure. At this point we are at 98% of full capacity. But we’ll bet you only need two or maybe four spots. Our Guide/Sales Manager, Jon Wimpney, can still sneak you in. Give him a call at 306-209-7150. Do it right now!