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Brad Harris:  

Brad Harris


Better Fishing Photography

At Schoo's photographic studio and store, we get to see heaps of fish photos taken in the Monaro/Snowy Mountains area, and the south-east coast. There are some great shots... but there are some pretty bad ones too!
The three most common mistakes are-

  • Not getting close enough, the subject is too small in the photo.
  • Getting too close, the subject is out of focus.
  • Shadows, usually hiding someone's face All of these are easily fixed.

Not Getting Close Enough

Each time you take a photo, scan your eyes around the whole scene in the viewfinder. It is easy to concentrate so hard on your subject that you don't notice the tree growing out of some one's head, or the miles of space around them. If you're on the bank, get in closer until they fill the viewfinder, but remember to leave a little space above their head. If possible, get the catcher to crouch down, holding the fish in front. This way the photo isn't mostly person holding a small fish. If the person is smaller, the fish will look bigger. Cool! Important- with this shot, get the camera down to the fisherman's eye-level. Don't look down on him. In a boat, shoot from about the knees up if sitting. This of course applies to smaller fish like trout. If it's a 60kg tuna, it will obviously need to be held standing up. That's okay, it gives an idea of size. To show the size of smaller fish, you can try lying them next to your rod or something to give scale. Really small fish (like the ones I always seem to get) can be held up close to the fisherman's face, and the shot cropped from the shoulders up, keeping the fish and subject's face in. You can get away with cropping the top of the head off in this sort of photo. It's possible to take this shot of yourself, with the camera at arm's length, if your camera focuses close enough. If you can juggle a rod and fish, it tells more of a story if you include the tackle used as well.

A wide angle lens can look great for these shots, with a big subject in the foreground and lots of view behind, combining subject and location in one. Most of the good shots in magazines of people holding fish are taken with a lens of about 28mm focal length or less (wide angle). Careful- don't leave too much room around the edges if using a wide angle. For a different effect, moving back and using a telephoto lens with a wide aperture (low f number) will isolate the subject from the background.

Getting Too Close

This happens when you're trying to get a close up of just the fish. Remember there is a limit to how close your camera can focus, which is different for each camera. See table below

Fixed focus compact camera
- About 100cm/3ft (arm's length or more)
Auto focus compact camera
- About 60cm/1 ½ft (within arm's reach)
Single lens reflex, zoom lens
- About 50cm, some much closer with "macro" function.

This is a very rough guide, so check the instruction manual for actual distance. If the fish looks small in the viewfinder at the closest distance, you can't move in closer, so fill the shot with things like rods, tackle boxes, your hat, and other "fishin' stuff".

Shadows

There are three rules in good daylight photography:
1. Don't have the sun coming in from the side.
2. Don't have the sun coming in from the other side either.
3. Use flash.

Try to position the subject and camera so the sun is either behind your subject, or coming over your shoulder. This means the face is either in total sunlight or total shade, not half and half. In either case you still need to use flash. Wherever the sun is coming from, it will cause shadows, especially if the subject is wearing a hat. These shadows can be lit by flash so you can actually see the fisherman's face, and the fish! Automatic cameras won't want to use flash in daylight, so you have to force it to by selecting "fill flash", or "flash on". Check the instructions, or ask your camera store person to show you how. With an SLR, you can vary the ratio between natural light, and flash. Most fill flash situations need one stop less flash than the available light exposure. For example, a fisherman holding a fish, being lit from above and in front, has direct sun on all of him except his face, which is shaded by a hat. The camera,s lightmeter says 1/60th second and f16. The flash will have to be set to fi 1(1 stop less) to give balanced light to the shadows. (Don't forget to keep the shutter speed below the flash sync speed). Sometimes 2, or even 3 stops less can be used, especially if it is overcast, and the shadows are weak or even absent. There are of course times when no flash is needed, when the natural light is perfect, or you want a silhouette. If you are night fishing, don't forget to use red-eye reduction, The main thing is not to forget to do these things in the heat of the moment. With catch and release gaining popularity, tbe photo you take for your mate might be the only record he'll have of his fish, so you really don't want to stuff it up! Always ask your subject to take their sunnies off too: you want to see that twinkle of pride in their eyes

Accidents

No, I don't mean getting over-excited about catching a monster. I mean the potentially expensive kind involving cameras. If "someone" knocked your camera into the water, it can be rescued. First, take out the batteries, so they won't short out. If your camera needs batteries to rewind the film, dry out the battery chamber as best you can, and put them back in until the film is out. Getting the film out of a manual wind camera isn't a problem, as long as it's done straight away, but if the electronics are shorted on your automatic camera, you'll have to try the following. Get a few jumpers and coats or heavy bags. Stick your arms down the sleeves of a coat, from the outside, and wrap up all the openings with jumpers etc to make a light-proof "bag". With the camera inside, in total darkness, open the film door and pull the film out by hand. If it feels sticky, it's wet, and will need to be processed within a few hours. If it's not sticky, it should be okay. Once free of the camera, wind it all back into the cassette and keep it cool. Get it to a lab as soon as possible Please tell them it's been wet, as you may ruin their machinery (costing more than a nice car) if you don't. Check the camera out. If it doesn't appear to be wet inside, open it up and let it dry for a few hours - not in direct sun. If it's wet you have to dunk it in fresh water (gasp!) until thoroughly soaked, and leave it submerged until you can get it to a camera repairer. It can stay this way for several weeks, but the sooner the better. A repairer I can recommend in Sydney is The Camera Hospital, ph 02 9602 8369. They're very professional. Expect the repair to exceed $150, so if it's a cheap camera, just let it dry and hope for the best.

If you are in the Cooma area, and need a camera, film, batteries, or just good advice, drop in to our shop in Bombala street (just ask a local). We have heaps of trained staff to help you, and can show you how to do all this stuff with your camera.

If you are in the market for a new camera, some of my recommendations are: Canon A 7 Compact camera, completely waterproof to Sm. 32mm lens. Approx $390. Olympus Mju-1 1 Extremely small compact camera, incredibly sharp lens (3Smm F2.8). Focuses to 30cm weather proof. Approx $300 (my own fishing camera I). Pentax Zoom 9OWR - Very rugged weatherproof zoom compact. 38 9Omm lens. Approx $550.

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