"Turn Your Fishing Snapshots into Works of Art"

 By Justin Hoffman


    For the most part, anyone who fishes usually does so with a camera in tow. Capturing the beauty of a precise moment will ensure that you never forget the sheer enjoyment that you encountered while in the outdoors. (Plus a breathtaking photo can secure bragging rights when gleefully shown to your peers and family!) Come and explore the magic that the camera holds, and begin filling your photo album full of images that will make you proud.
Variety is the Spice of Life
    For the most part, an average fishing photo consists of a happy angler posing proudly with their prized catch in outstretched hand. Although there is nothing wrong with an image of this type, being creative while out on the water will truly make your photo album come alive.
    One of the main rules I follow while undergoing a photo shoot is to "move around." Instead of standing at the back of the boat and clicking away, try different angles and positions to enhance the shot. Get down low in front of your subject, or shoot from above the angler to achieve a different parameter to the image. One of my favourite tricks is to actually get out of the boat to snap away. Setting up on shore, or on a dock and shooting towards the angler and boat will provide an interesting backdrop for a scene. Take a variety of photos, both from far away and in close, of the fisherman fighting the fish or releasing it over the side of the gunnel. Believe me, the results will amaze you!
    Another interesting thing to do with your camera is to take close-up pictures of the fish themselves. Fill the frame of a print with the wondrous and breathtaking colours of a sunfish. Or how about a close-up of a "hawg" largemouth bass about to be released into a carpet of lily pads? Many of my shots that do not even include a human being are the most memorable and meaningful to me.
    Sprucing up a photograph or "bringing life" to your subject can be readily achieved through numerous small adjustments. Keeping the lure in the fish's mouth will add colour contrast, thereby giving your image that extra punch that is always desired. (It also creates a permanent record of what your trophy fish fell prey to.) What the angler is wearing can also make or break a photo, and is an important consideration I examine before each shot I take. There are certain colours that stand out and "perform" best on film - red, yellow and blue being my top three to work with. Having your subject wear a shirt or pants in one of these shades will add contrast and variety to the end result. In addition, making the effort to wear different garments or fishing hats in your photos will give each shot individuality and impact - two things that suffer when every image in your album looks identical to the next.
    Using your flash or "fill flash" will brighten up both your subject, and will make the fish in the photo come alive. This can also help in reducing the annoying shadows that can often appear in photos, especially around the face area of the angler.


One of the easiest ways to make a more striking photograph is to have a pleasing backdrop behind your scene. Before taking that first shot, look around in all directions to see which area would make a more interesting addition to your masterpiece. Radiant fall colours on the trees are a personal favourite of mine, as are emergent cattails and vegetation. If you have access to a livewell in your boat, it is as easy as keeping your catch inside while finding a suitable background for the shot. Try to find something that will catch the viewer's eye - an old boathouse, a broken down dock or a shoreline of thick underbrush.
    The sun can be a prime enemy while shooting fishing photos, due to the shadows it casts or the "washed-out" appearance it creates. There are a number of ways to get around this, the simplest being its position. When taking a photograph, try to keep the sun behind yourself and in front of your subject. This will brighten the scene and lighten any shadows that might be evident on the image. A mid-day sun can be very harsh, and will often leave your finished photograph overexposed. A cure for this would be to concentrate more on morning and evening periods when the sun casts a more beautiful and stunning hue.
    Try to stay away from shooting photos of your subject on shore or in their kitchen with an obvious dead fish. There is nothing wrong with keeping a fish for the table, but photos of this nature seem too unnatural to give them any merit. The same goes for shots of fish on stringers - a definite no-no in this day-and-age of catch and release. If you do use a stringer to transport your fish, take them off before you do the same with your lens cap.
    One other tip to consider when out taking pictures would be to document the entire day, not just the moment a fish is caught. How about taking a picture of the boat being launched, or the Great Blue Heron you pass by on the way to your secret honey-hole. Recording the events leading up to the big catch, and proceeding it, will tie the whole storyline nicely together.
    Although I lug around big zoom lenses and tripods for many of my assignments, the everyday angler can get by nicely with a simple, good-quality 35mm camera. Some key components to keep an eye out for would be a built-in zoom lens, a fill-flash function and a sturdy and rugged body. Couple this up with high-quality film and you are ready to get shooting. Stay away from cheap film as the colour saturation and picture quality is inferior to the respected brand names. By spending a bit of extra money on your film, you can ensure that the end result will be well worth the slight expenditure. Remember - you are only given one chance to capture a moment in time. By using reputable equipment and film, your chances of succeeding will go up ten-fold.
    One last tip I have for those people that drive all the way to the lake, and then realize that they have forgotten their camera at home. Keep an inexpensive throwaway camera either in your tackle box or in your boat storage. These little cameras can take surprisingly good quality pictures, and can literally save the day when a big fish, and absentmindedness, strike at the same time. Keep this camera in a waterproof bag and forget about it until the time when it might be needed.   
Fish photography is a wonderful hobby that yields astonishing results for those willing to try it. A picture certainly is worth a thousand words, and hopefully you can begin writing your own chapter this season while out immortalizing your catch on paper.


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