What It Takes

In Montana there are a few crazy people that go out in the middle of winter to try and catch “the big boy.” On a day where the high is 16 degrees most people tend to be inside or at most on the ski hill, not freezing their hands off trying to catch a fish. Well, on the Missouri River certain areas are setup as spawning grounds for Rainbow trout in the fall and in the winter time after the spawn is finished, the fish start to move out but a lot of the healthy population is still there. The water is warmer and the left over roe provides good habitat. This is true for numerous species that hang around in that area including the Browns.

My friend Alex has been chasing the Big Browns for years an he finally managed to get one that truly is worthy of being called a Missouri River Brown Trout. I was fortunate to be there to see it. Of course having a camera didn’t hurt.

Photographically when it comes to this kind of subject there are two main shots to get, the portrait shot and the species shot. Every fish story is just that, a story, unless there is documented proof. And every fisherman likes to tell their stories. Getting the portrait shot with the fish is essential! I keep them simple and quick and for that I use the D5, 24-70 f/2.8, and SB-5000 flash. This is a good general setup that can be very versatile. The flash is key for two reasons, bringing out color and removing shadows. Shadows weren’t a big deal this day but the ugly light meant that the only good light was coming from the flash. The second shot is what I call the species shot. A simple click of just the fish to show the detail in the species and specimen as well as it’s environment. Each shot serves different goals and have different uses but are necessary. Lastly you have to move fast. On days where it’s below freezing you can’t take long with the subject.

When the Lessons Pay Off

The one thing that’s hard to see when you’re teaching is the results. Often we don’t know how far and when the lessons we teach to others come into practice. It’s certainly something I think about time to time when writing this blog but the one place I didn’t think it was having an affect was with my fishing.

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Over the last few years I have been going out fishing with my good friend Alex, who has been fishing the Montana waters for over twenty years. Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot from him about how to fish the rivers around Montana. Well at the same time he was learning photography from me as often I would take his picture while holding is catch. For the first time this past weekend, the shoe was on the other foot when I landed this beautiful Missouri River Brown Trout. After putting in a few basic settings in the flash and the D4, the lens being the 24-70 AF-S, I handed the camera over with one simple instruction. “Don’t drop it!” Well he did a great job and all of those little things like composition, placement of me in the frame, angle of the fish and so on were spot on. For the first time handling the D4 I was impressed. It just shows that by having fun and talking through the fundamentals, anyone can be a photographer.

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Now he managed to get a lot of really nice shots but after the trophy shots were in the bag we switched and I had my fun photographing this beaut. The best part was the fish was never in danger which is important. When fishing this time of year you have to be careful of temperature, how long you play it and how long it stays out of the water. Well when he was released he had no problem and he just casually swam off.

As photographers we aren’t just storytellers we are teachers and no matter how silly the question might seem to us, the person asking genuinely wants to know and to them the answer means a lot. It may not be obvious at that moment but teaching can make a difference.

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