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.
When it comes to working with wildlife every species deserves respect. Each one lives a life that we try to understand but we truly can’t since critters can’t talk to us with words, only body language and sounds. As photographers it is our jobs to interpret theses signals and acknowledge them. Well aquatic species are no different, in fact they are even more fragile and deserve that much more respect.
The best way to work with these species is with an underwater housing but most of us don’t have that so we do the next best thing which is to take the subject out of the water. This is hard on any fish species because they don’t have lungs. They breath through their gills. This means that there is very little time when they are removed from the water. Right now in Montana Hoot Owl restrictions have started on some of the rivers which means it’s even more imperative to get the pictures done fast so that every subject is safe.
How do you go from a good photograph to a great photograph? Sometimes there is no option. You get the subject you get with the light you get with the background you get and you have to make do. Sadly this happens more times then anyone would like but that is the natural of the beast. But then there are those times when you have the option where you can a little bit more picky provided you put in the little extra work.
If you’re going for that great landscape and the light sucks where you’re at and the only solution is to drive a little further, then that’s what you do. If a plane is flying by and the angle isn’t right or the background is better off to your right, then you keep walking. Being picky can be a good thing if it means that the good photograph you see can be a little better. I’ll pick on this fish shot as an example. There’s millions of fish out there. Most don’t consider them all that special until they are the dinner plate. But since we are visual storytellers seeing that visual difference between a regular fish and that little bit of better color, then taking the extra time to do a bit more shooting is worth it. That hurtle of going that little bit further is crucial if you’re going to go from a good shot to a great shot no matter what the subject matter is.
When you start out in photography the only thing you think about is capturing images and making money. For most the thought of teaching others what you’ve learned can be daunting. That’s when those thoughts of doubt in your work can kick in. I know these thoughts and feelings all to well and honestly, it’s just part of being human. But the rewards that come from teaching can be great and there’s truly no better reward then when you see someone take what you’ve taught them and apply it.
Now I’ve been very fortunate to have so many good fishing buddies but the best is definitely my friend Alex, you I have posted about here before. Unlike my other friends though, Alex has taken an interest in photography for one basic reason He wants better photographs of himself fishing. While I do joke about it he has taken to it quite seriously, without any desire of being an actual photographer. The results are obvious.
Both of these photographs he took last Saturday while we were out fishing. Now I have to give him credit considering the model he was working with but he took the lessons from the past shoots that I’ve taught him and has learned to compose, create gesture and use good lighting to get good results. It comes from practice and experience that you learn while constantly questioning what is right and what is wrong. As photographers we have the responsibility to instruct and teach others whether it’s hands on or passive through a website, we have to not only inspire but help others. Often times you don’t get to see the results but on those rare occasions when you do, it truly is a great feeling.