Once a year the Salmon Flies reproduce along the rivers in the west. Every year the avid fly fishermen goes out day after day to hit the hatch at just the right time to watch the feeding and participate in the fun. The fish go crazy and pig out. Even the little guys become little chubbies as the giant bugs hit the water. The Brown Trout especially enjoy this time of the year. For a photographer it’s a lot of fun with a couple of buddies hitting the water and taking some snaps.
This is true for every field of photography, the little details are important. No matter what they are, each one impacts everything else that you do. Capturing those details can be hard but that’s why you have to practice. One of those details I keep looking at and thinking about are these flies. I use them every week and they critical in the process of catching a fish and then photographing that fish. No different then a part of an airplane which allows it to fly or the land in which an animal lives in. How do you tell those stories?
This has been one really wet year in Montana and the rain doesn’t seem to want to stop. As a result of all that moisture, a lot of the rivers are still high and dirty. What this means is it is harder to find good fishing spots, which means it’s harder to get good images. That’s when you have to be creative and look elsewhere. The ponds are a good spot for this as the Perch and Largemouth Bass can be fun to work with. The challenge is they are usually small but on the plus side there tends to be lots of them. Since a lot of the best feeding is at night using a flash for that pop of light is important.
With any good photograph, the photographer watches the background and finds the one that makes the image unique. Backgrounds tell as much of the story as does the rest of the elements. Even with a portrait that background sets the story of where everything is happening. Now I think of these more as landscape portraiture since I’m always trying to show more then just water in the background. Each one is a story on it’s own in its own unique place. In this case it goes back to the biology and ecology of the fish and the waterways they inhabit. Right now these Rainbows are towards the end of their spawn so catching them with spawning colors in a high altitude lake is different then anywhere else. You know it’s high altitude because of that background. So the next time you are doing portrait work think about more then just a color behind your subject.
Photography has a lot of different meanings that come with the camera. It’s never just as simple as taking a pretty picture. There are times when that might be the result but that probably wasn’t where that photo started nor where you wanted it to end. For me it started with wanting to explore Montana and over the course of a decade it has expanded. The one thing I wasn’t expecting was the friends that I would make along the journey.
That’s the part of photography that most don’t tell you about. It’s not just about getting clients and getting the job done. Because of the advancements in technology today, it’s easy to keep all those photos that we take and we share with us at all times. So those clients that you work with can look at your photos as often as you do and that’s how they remember you. Then over time they become friends. Photography is like no other business in this regard. The ability to look at those photographs everyday and be reminded of all those good times.
The more I fish the more I use flash. This has become a mainstay with my work now because it adds so much more drama and character to my images. Over the past couple of years I have had the great fortune to be able to go fishing with my friends on the Olympic Peninsula for Steelhead. Not only is it a ton of fun but a totally different experience being in that region. Each time has been different but each time one element remained the same, the need for light. I get a lot of weird looks when I pull the flash out especially when it’s raining but man does it work well. It doesn’t just add light but it also brings out color and as you can see that’s important. Here’s the thing though, like everything else you have to practice.
Lessons can only be learned through practice. With dark skies like these you’re naturally going to have a slower shutter speed. The natural response is to dial in exposure compensation or raise the ISO. However, thanks to E4 in Nikon camera bodies which makes the exposure compensation in the camera body separate from the flash compensation, you don’t have to worry about the affects of the two combined. Whereas if you dial in a higher ISO while using flash you can have shutter speed issues at certain f stops. You see this by looking through the viewfinder and seeing the shutter speed blinking at you. That’s not good.
Experimenting with different lighting scenarios and solving these problems that come up is how you become better. Most importantly it helps you not miss important moments with friends and family. With Easter coming up it might be worthwhile to go out and practice.
I’ve come across this a lot over the years especially when it comes to aviation. Which image is more important? There are many ways to make an image happen. Different angles, lights, backgrounds, foregrounds, etc. There is no one solution but many questions. This question refers to people and capturing the moment that means the most to them while also making the images that can be used for multiple purposes.
I’m going to use by buddy Dan as an example because this was a happy day for him. I don’t really need to say why. In the editorial world the above image is considered the trophy shot or the “fin and grin” shot. It’s very common and while it means a lot to the person in the image, it doesn’t communicate that much outside of Dan being happy.
A close up puts more emphasis on the fish which is important to capture. The fish is just as important to the story as the fisherman is. With aviation the pilot often gets overlooked and it’s just the plane that gets photographed. The plane has the history, it’s really sleek and cool looking, it goes fast, it gets all the glory. The pilot doesn’t. The reverse of this is with biologists. Often times it’s the subject being studied and not the people that are doing all the work that are getting photographed. The point is to really look at all sides of the equation and see what is being photographed and what’s being forgotten.
While one of the most recognized fish species in the world, Rainbow Trout are actually non native species to the state of Montana. There is one sub species that is native and that’s the Redband Rainbow. Today’s species was introduced somewhere in the 1800’s from one of the west coast states. Despite that it has become a staple of today’s angler and for good reason.
Rainbow’s are not only pretty, touting their unique color configurations about, but they are also amazing fighters. They jump, spin, run and fight like crazy which make them fun to catch. But like all species they are fragile and right now we are going into the spring spawn which makes certain areas very fragile to human impact. Some spots are point blank closed to fishing but that doesn’t always stop people. Trout lay their eggs in reds which look like nothing more then dimples in the river bed, but underneath the layer of protective dirt are the eggs. They aren’t visible which make them easy to be damaged. The ethics for photographers that want to photograph these areas are just as important as the anglers. If we want these species to persist then we have to be careful how and where we capture these images. Read the rules and regulations first. If you’re going to photograph a spot be sure you don’t enter the water. Stay on the bank. Be careful and respectful.
As a photographer we have a responsibility to the subjects we work with to make sure that the subjects are not harmed while making the photos. There are many rules in photography that we think are important and while some are always held true some can be fudged as we become better masters of our craft. This is the one that we can’t break. No photograph is worth the well fare of the subject.
Over the last few years I have branched out into the realm of fishing photography and in this field, speed is key. Aquatic species are very fragile when they are taken out of their home because they don’t have lungs. They can’t breath the same air as we do. Fighting a fish, handling a fish and holding the fish out of the water all can reduce the life span of the subject. This is why if you’re planning on taking that all important keep sake photo that you get the subject in fast, you don’t handle it much and you keep it in the water as much as possible. This is how you do a safe release, which is key.
Nope I was talking about Flash not the fish, although it’s doing a pretty good job of that too. Flash doesn’t just make things brighter, it makes color pop and sometimes that’s more important then how bright the subject is.
When it comes to working with a reflective subject you really have to be careful how close the flash is to the subject and how much power you’re using. It’s really easy to cause a hotspot. Also watch the angle of the flash to the subject because again having it straight on will cause problems. Reflective surfaces are one of the hardest to work with and require practice. Even after all the subjects I worked with this summer, I still need more practice.