Spring in Montana is never the same from one year to another and this spring is shaping up to be another one for the books. After the record cold temps in February and March, the ice packs and snowstorms haven’t melted away yet. As a result of this many rivers still, have shelf ice on them. Fishing them can be dangerous as a wrong step can lead to you plummeting down into the unknown but photographically they can be quite rewarding. It comes down to the contrast of having that cold element with a sport that is typically thought of as being warm. Not mention that having a three-foot-tall ice chunk by you is just impressive.
Yep, that’s a frozen Dam. I was always under the belief that dams don’t freeze in the winter time because they are always turning out enough water to keep it warm enough from freezing. This is true in the case of Ennis Dam. Well, Holter Dam apparently wasn’t turning out that much water and it froze. That’s okay because it made for one really cool backdrop. Dam’s are a unique feature in photographs I find because it’s having to mesh the human-made world with the natural world and that doesn’t always work. Dan acted as my model for this shoot and even though he was backlit the bright backdrop made it so that he popped. No one thinks about fly fishing in the winter time but it is one of the best times to be fishing and the photography seems so unusual that it makes it interesting.
That’s right it is almost time for those great spring fishing days with the amazing colors and vibrant patterns of the various fish species that come from those days. The cold temps are finally starting to rescind which means the ice flows will begin to break up and the rivers will once again be more suitable for fishing. In the meantime it’s still prep time with studying the fisheries, looking at snow packs and getting those flies ready.
Ever since I got this new reel and rod setup, I have been taking photos of it. The Sage Pulse, 9′ 6wt and Ross Evolution LTX Reel are just an amazing combo! Beyond the feel and application purposes combined they are just gorgeous in any photo. Naturally this past weekend while there was a little break in the cloud cover, I had to grab a couple of quick clicks.
Winter is one of my favorite times to be using the flyrod because the fishing can be amazing. Rainbow Trout spawn in the spring and as they move up the river they become more aggressive. Males can grow large Kype’s on their lower jaw but this one takes the cake. I haven’t seen such a kype in such a small fish before but those little details certainly make for interesting individuals to work with.
As I have stated many times before, I love this time of the year! The cold dark dreary days of winter can start to eat away at your spirit if you don’t find ways to overcome it. For me that’s taking pictures, fishing and skiing; generally in that order. Each of these areas yield different rewards some due overlap.
One thing I have been pushing more and more in my fishing photography is the use of props and not just doing the smiling portrait with a fish. Sure it’s nice to have that moment but it’s also kind of cool to show the gear you used to catch that beast. This is one of my latest ones that a good friend was happy to hold as I made a few clicks. Really simple with the D5, 24-70 AF-S and SB-5000. You gotta use flash in order to bring out that color. Positioning can be tough and requires a little playing around until you find something that works for you.
I Love this time of the Year! Winter in the Rockies is a very interesting time and the best part is, every winter is different. This year has been quite dramatic compared to last years massive snow dump. Currently we don’t have the same snow levels but we have some cold temps. Everything is being affected by this. The fishing is still pretty good though.
Personally this is my favorite time for working with freshwater trout species because the Rainbows are in spawning color and the Browns are coming out of the Fall spawn so they are turning a really dark brown. How do you bring out these colors? A little pop of flash and some under exposure. Keep in mind that the subject doesn’t have to be a huge specimen. The little guys can have great color to. The trick is really watching the highlights and light spillage because those white spots from the flash are eye sores.
Fall color is great but finding those days where the color pops without a grey sky sure are hard to find here in the Rockies. So what do you do? I struggle with this question a lot of times because the color of the trees is always so seductive but I know that having any sky will just suck. Even so I have to try and get something out of it. When I came upon this scene I actually wanted to pass it over but Alex stepped in and made it a little more interesting. The big thing that I found really helps in these scenarios is your exposure compensation. It was a dark day so pumping up the exposure comp made a huge difference. Beyond that trying to minimize the amount of sky in the composition also helps.
This is one obstacle that I’ve had mixed feelings over for some time when it comes to fishing photography. What do you do with the dang net? For the longest time I hated having a net in my photos. I always felt it was a prison for the subject. A way to take the focus off of a wild species and make it more human impacted. Over time I’ve slowly begun to find ways to incorporate it that look okay to me. The two big pluses for leaving it in the image are one it gives you more time to work with the subject, especially in case you drop the fish and two it’s safer for the subject. Working with aquatic species can be tough because you have to be careful of how long you keep them out of the water. The one little trick I have found in post production when it comes to net usage is really darken the edges so it’s not to distracting.
Cutthroat Trout were once found all across the west before other species were introduced to compete for habitat and food supply. Now, while the Cutthroat species and various subspecies still persist, their numbers and sizes are dramatically different then what was once prevalent. What you see above, in most places throughout Montana, is a standard size Cutthroat, in this case a Yellowstone Cutthroat. Why did I take this shot? I was asked this by the guy holding the fish because he thought it was a little boring until he saw the photo, but simply put it was a new species and a great looking subject. Now most of the time I use flash in my fish images but seeing the light, looking at the dark background and bright subject, a simple click with the D5 and 24-70 AF-S did the trick.