Picture Your Catch

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Taking Great Fish Pictures
By Capt. Fred Everson

If ever the camera was created for a hobby, it would have to be fishing. This is especially true in our current era of avid catch-and-release fishing. Yet we try to avoid the mundane and shoot interesting photos of our catch. In that regard, we present here some very helpful hints and tips from outdoor writer,  photographer and fishing guide, Capt. Fred Everson.

Fishermen love photographs of their catch. This is a good thing because it encourages catch and release. Some tournaments even base their scoring on Polaroid photos of released fish.

Magazine quality photographs are another matter. High quality pictures require 35mm format, and good quality lenses for starters. Then you need to know something about how the camera works, about light, about depth of field and about camera angle.

There are many 35mm cameras, but if you want best quality photographs the single lens reflex camera is the best tool. Most new cameras are computerized, and equipped with auto focus lenses, which I am sure are all they are cracked up to be on dry land. Around salt water, however, I am not so sure.

Boats and cameras do not mix well – especially flats boats, where dry storage is at a premium, and not necessarily all that dry. My solution is to use old manual cameras with high quality lenses Shutters are spring-loaded and only the light meter is battery powered. That means if you know your light well enough, the camera will work without the battery. The 35-mm SLR is not a point and shoot camera. The older cameras, the ones that are least susceptible to the saltwater environment require a working knowledge of photography. You have to focus, set film speed, and “f” stop. This means knowing how to use the camera, but the results are mostly superior to point and shoot cameras. I bought one of those a few years back. It cost around $70 and is “splash proof”, which means you can’t immerse it. It is easy to use, has a built in flash, automatically advances the film, but it takes crummy pictures. I have seen cameras of this type do better, but none the equal of an SLR with a quality lens. Being able to change lenses is another great feature, but for most boat pictures, a 35 or 28 mm wide-angle lens is the ticket. And wide-angle lenses will make your fish look even bigger. A 28 – 70 mm zoom is the perfect choice for fishing photographs, but zoom lenses require more light in general.

I shoot nothing but ASA 200 speed film – be it for prints or slides. This allows me to shoot around sunrise and sunset at 1/125 of a second — as slow a shutter speed as I can hand hold the camera and still take sharp pictures. Higher speed films allow you to shoot in less light, but have more grain and their color rendition is not as good. ASA 400 and 800 films also cost more.

The best light for photography occurs with the sun close to the horizon. The higher the sun rises in the sky, the more harsh the light. Shadows become a problem, for which the only solution is use of a flash. Another bugaboo in on the water photography is keeping the horizon square with the side of the picture. Hard to do when you are trying to catch a leaping fish in mid air, but something to bear in mind when shooting a posed picture.

Don’t expect every picture to turn out. Shoot lots of film, turn the camera on end, and try different angles. Film is pretty cheap. Most pros are happy with one useable photograph for every 36 exposures.

Capt. Fred Everson