This is absolutely one of the most fun times of the year as these giant bugs come back through the state of Montana and are feasted upon by the fish that inhabit the rivers. Big or small, everyone comes up to the surface for a taste. While the Salmonfly look like giant dangerous bugs they are actually quite harmless. Due to their size and color, they make for great photo subjects and the fish seem to enjoy them too.
Photography and fishing have a lot in common but for me, the biggest is being able to share those good memories I’ve made over the years with the people that mean the most to me. Both areas make it tough to find people that you enjoy either shooting or fishing with because everyone has distinct styles of craft. That’s when you find those people, you hang on to them. March is a great time to go Steelhead fishing out in Washington because the Steelhead are moving from the ocean into the rivers and upstream for the spring spawn. I’ve been fortunate multiple times now to be out their casting for these giants with my friends. On a photographic note, if you’re planning to shoot in rainy Washington in March bring two things: a flash, and a towel. You are going to get wet and it’s going to be dark.
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.
Image captured with Nikon D5, 24-70 AF-S, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
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.
Images Captured with Nikon D5, 24-70 AF-S, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
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.
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.
Image Captured with Nikon D5, 24-70 AF-S, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
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?
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.
Captured with Nikon D4, 85 f1.4, SB-5000 on Lexar UDMA Digital Film