An insight into how photography and fishing compliment each other perfectly
I acquired my first proper camera on the 25th of December 2019. My Dad pulled a prism-shaped case out of a carrier bag and planted it in my grateful hands. ‘It’s nothing special’, he said, ‘but it should be good for fishing pics. You might enjoy it and decide to upgrade in the future, or you might not’. ‘Thanks, that’s ideal’, I replied. I was keen to see what difference the camera made when taking fish pics. Ok, it wasn’t anything incredible- it was an entry-level Panasonic Lumix bridge camera from 2006, but I was sure it would be a vast improvement over my battered Samsung phone. Obviously I was keen to have a play with my new toy, so I took it with me on my next couple of sessions.
Admittedly, it did take me a while to work out all the settings, but it soon became second nature, as is often the case with technology. Thankfully, Callum and I caught a few fish for the camera and I had a go at putting my new skills to the test. These fish were all at night, therefore it was simply a case of pointing and shooting with the flash on, however I was still amazed at the massive gap in image quality between the camera and my phone. The detail was insane compared to the soft snaps from the phone, the difference was absolutely night and day!
These few sessions were a turning point for me, and I’ve barely taken any pictures on my phone since. The satisfaction of taking a high-quality image is such a great feeling, and just like my Dad suggested, it’s turned into a hobby of it’s own for me, and I’m now well into landscape photography; this ties in perfectly with fishing as many of my favourite marks are in beautiful locations! I’ve recently upgraded to a Canon 600D, an entry-level DSLR which has helped me to develop my photography further.
Just like the old Lumix, I almost always take this fishing. Yes, it’s an extra thing to carry, but it’s absolutely worth the effort to capture those memories in HD. So with my newfound love for photography , I’m going to give you a few tips, ideas, and how they link in with fishing.
Let’s begin with the classic ‘glory shot’. You know, the ones where you’re holding up a fish with a big grin across your face. My memory card is full of them! Credit where it’s due, phones are great for quick snapshots of fish- give your phone to a mate, a couple of clicks later and that new PB is etched into cyberspace forever. Of course, some phones are better than others, but I almost never use my phone for this purpose any more. If someone catches a decent fish, the camera comes out instead; the amount of detail and the colouration from the DSLR is just infinitely better! I shoot in manual mode for everything, and this includes glory shots. Yes, it does take a few attempts to work out all the functions properly, but it’s worth it because you can change the settings to suit your preferences.
I would highly recommend shooting in live view, which previews your shot, whilst the autofocus function suffices most of the time as well. You can have some creative fun by experimenting with the aperture – a large aperture (such as f/3.5) will deliver a shallow depth of field, enabling you to draw all the focus to the fish and blur the background, an effect called ‘Bokeh’. Raising the aperture increases the depth of field, so if you want background detail as well, then use a smaller aperture (i.e. f/8 or higher). The aperture on a camera is like your eyes pupil, it is the opening or closing of the lens to change the point at which light is able to enter, hence a ‘smaller/narrower’ aperture is such named because the opening narrows.
I’ve also found my DSLR great for macro (close-up) shots of fish. I would say this is where phones are at their best capability, however the camera still edges it for me due to the extra fine details and sharpness. Close-up shots are, in my opinion, the best way to capture the natural beauty of your catch. Note the insane array of colours picked up on this Couches Bream, which are not noticeable in the ‘angler-holding-fish’ photos.
The same can be said for the Black Bream below; macros really are a fabulous way of showing off the fishes’ beauty. Just look at that colour palette! I must add that it’s super important to focus exactly where you want to draw the viewer’s eye, to avoid mild blurring on the wrong parts of the fish!
With the fishing-specific stuff covered, we’re going to have a look at my personal favourite style- landscape photography. It can be frustrating and certainly isn’t for everyone, but it’s an awesome feeling when you see that perfect shot pop up on the little LCD screen! Landscape photography usually requires an extendable tripod and a few ND filters. These are sheets of plastic or glass which affect how much light is let into the lens, without changing the colours too much, hence the ‘ND’ (neutral density) tag. I mainly use graduated ND filters, which are dark on top and clear on the bottom- this helps you to balance the exposure to avoid part of the image from being too light or too dark.
This especially useful at sunset or sunrise, where the bright sky can overpower the dark foreground. You can get mega-expensive filters, which are undoubtedly good quality, however I prefer to buy 2nd hand from eBay, as I always break things whilst fishing! Companies such as Formatt Hitech make good beginner filters. I carry a circular polariser, ND4, ND8 and ND16 graduated ND filters and a very dark ND1000, which is used for very long exposures to smooth out white-water and create cool streaky clouds!
There are a couple of simple techniques that I use for landscape photography. I’m not claiming to be an expert, but they’re definitely good starting points! The first is the rule of thirds: this is where you divide the scene into thirds using the camera’s built-in 3×3 grid. A basic starting point is to position the horizon on either the top or bottom line, and place the subjects where the lines intersect. This adds depth to the photo, making it more interesting! I also like to look for leading lines, which are natural lines that draw the viewer’s eye towards the subject. I have attached some example below, so you can see how it looks.
An example is below of the rule of thirds – the horizon is on the top line, and the main subject is on the bottom. Note how the objects inside the circles are positioned near the intersections, creating depth, whilst the wave moment acts as a leading line towards the background objects.
My favourite technique for landscape photography is the classic long exposure. This involves using a low shutter speed to intentionally create motion blur. Experimenting with different shutter speeds produces different effects, such as wave trails and misty waters. You must have a tripod for the technique, or you will get camera shake. One issue with long exposures is that ND filters are required unless you’re shooting in low light- this is because opening up the shutter lets more light in, resulting in a blown-out image. Like I said earlier, landscape photography links immaculately with fishing as both hobbies take you to some stunning natural locations!
I used a 30s exposure time for the following image to blur the water and clouds. A powerful ND1000 (10-stop) and an ND8 graduated filter, both mounted in a filter holder, were both required to darken the landscape enough to avoid overexposing the photo.
The last style I want to discuss is astrophotography. Have you ever seen those jaw-dropping images of the night sky and wondered ‘how the hell did they do that’? I know I did, but in fact it’s actually quite simple and ties in perfectly with night fishing. This sort of photography is reliant on good weather conditions- you need a clear sky and a dark night, preferably with no moon for maximum visibility of the stars. You have to be away from areas with heavy light pollution, although most fishing marks are in the middle of nowhere anyway!
To actually take the picture, you need to bump up the ISO to allow more light in. 1600 is a good start, although I often use 3200 in very dark locations to let even more light in. Use a large aperture as well, the largest your lens can take, to let more light into the camera. (Remember a ‘large’ aperture is actually a lower number as its full form is a fraction, e.g. F/3.5, thus F/2.8 is a substantially larger aperture than F/8).
Finally, you need to do a long exposure, so increase the shutter speed to something like 15s. It may be tempting to use something like 30s, but in most cases this isn’t worth it, as you will capture the earths’ rotation, resulting in ugly star trails. If you’re interested in trying astrophotography then I would strongly recommend researching the ‘rule of 500’, which is a mathematical formula used to prevent star trailing. You also need to focus to infinity, to ensure that the stars are sharp rather than blotchy.
The best way to do this is to enter live view and digitally zoom in on a bright star, then manually focus until the star is crisp and sharp. Once this is done, place the camera into your tripod and shoot. It is important to minimise camera shake, so I would advise that you turn on any lens or camera stabilisation, and use a remote or inbuilt timer to take the image. I find that a 2 second timer does the job for me, as it’s long enough to prevent camera shake after depressing the shutter button. With all the settings in place, snap away and enjoy the night sky!
As a final note, I would highly recommend downloading an editing app such as Lightroom or Photoshop. Editing can really bring your image to life, and it’s also useful for fixing any small issues with the photo, such as an underexposed foreground. It massively improves most photos, and it’s addictive stuff- I’ve unintentionally spent many hours playing around with the sliders, trying to form that perfect picture!
Hopefully this has proved helpful to any angler who is interested in branching out into photography. It really does go hand-in-hand with our beloved sport, helping us capture memories in high quality images – and did I mention it provides something to do if the fish are being their usual elusive selves?!