Stock Photo Gallery

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Nikon relase, the D90

I am a happy owner of a D80 which served me well for almost two years now. After I bought it I regretted a bit. I thought I would have missed the faster continuous shooting mode of the D200 (which I eventually did) and the tropical sealing. Thus, the D80 survived the most severe environment you can think of, a boat in the middle of an ocean, many times per year, for many days in a row. No, I cannot complain about my low budget purchase, with the money I saved at the moment I bought myself the 18-200VR (the lazy man lens), a nice 35mm f2 and other gimmicks. Well, truth to be said, overall they costed me more than the difference between the D200 and the D80 but we know how these things work.
Now the D90 hits the market. Looks like it will be some 600€ cheaper than the D300 (at least in Europe) and still offers some very good technical specifications. If you like to read a preview see what the guys at Digital Photography Review (a very serious web) have to say about it . My only worry at the moment is that once again I will have to think whether to fly low and save money or finally go for the better machine hoping that the expense will pay itself in the long run. You are right, is not a big deal of money and eventually I kind of "work" with the camera, she brings some money home too, but since is not the camera that takes the picture and that you don't need a great camera to take good photos, wouldn't be a cheaper and more humble D90 be enough for a humble photographer like myself?

Man Uses Barbie Fishing Rod to Make Record Catch

The news is here and I don't have a doubt is true. Sometimes I think we use over priced, over powered and over bulky equipment for our fishing but the truth is, that when you fish in saltwater for large predators there's no much room for Barbie rods.

One of our main goals is to hook, fight, land and release successfully the fish and this can be only done with the right equipment. If you use tackles that are too light you might end up with a line breakage, that leads to a fish running away with the lure in its fangs. If you eventually manage to land it it is very much likely to be worn out by the fight, overstressed and will probably not survive.

One day my daughter will probably ask me for a Barbie rod, I'll be happy to buy it for her, I need somebody in the future to keep this blog and my web going :-)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

GT from shore...kid me not!

I have been fishing the tropics for about 20 years now and one of the finest memory I have is the day I landed my first GT from shore. This happened some 3 years ago, faaaaar away from home, in Australia. Thanks to the courtesy of Damon Olsen, the owner of Nomad Sport Fishing (, I had the chance to join my friend Bertrand "Frencho" Picarda and a group of "crazy" Japanese to a trip to Kenn reef, in the Coral Sea 300 miles away from the nearest Ozzie beach.

After British Airways had lost both my luggage and rod case, here I am, with my plastic bag full of stuff I had to buy to survive my week offshore, a borrowed popping rod from Bertrand and a borrowed jigging rod from Neil, at Neil's tackle in Brisbane. I had my reels, that was pretty cool, they where in my backpack, and I had my Nikon, in my hand luggage as well.
Late in the afternoon we boarded the Odyssey, the 75ft aluminum mother vessel together with the Japanese friend and off we went for a 36 hours cruise to the lost reef.

During the week of fishing I have seen two of the biggest GT I ever saw, landed by Bertrand and Hippo, one of the Japs. The reef where alive and teeming with life, the GTs huge and the surrounding waters full of Tunas, Wahoo and Sharks. Whenever you saw a feeding frenzy with birds diving all over the place, you would run with the skiff there and have plenty of sashimi in a blink of an eye. Imagine a large reef, so far away from shore where commercial fishing is not only prohibited, but also enforced. During our stay we had few times the airplanes of the Ozzie Navy patrolling the area to see who we where and what where we doing. Magic!

Well, to make a long story short, in the 4 days we spent at Kenn reef I had the time to make friends with Mogi-san, one of the gurus of Japanese jigging, Kenji Konishi, the creator of the Carpenter brand of rods and lures, and learn a trick or two about GT fishing. But it has been the very last day, just before departure, that I saw the light. The skiff dropped us on a strip of sand surrounded by reefs, once shallow but now at high tide plenty of water for the predators to swim in it. We started casting hoping to see a sign of life and I had a Green Jobfish following the stick bait on the second or third cast. A beautifully painted Coral trout followed and after a short struggle I managed to land it. It was then time for a GT to attack my Big Foot stick bait, not a big guy but who damn cares, it was my first GT ever landed from shore and was worth its weight in gold. One of the Japs soon followed and then Kenji landed his as well, you can see in the vertical image. Is hard to try to explain how exciting is to catch one of the strongest and largest predator (thus none of ours were spectacular, fish up to 30kg have been landed from shore) with your feet solidly attached to mother earth. No vessel pulling, no skipper motoring, no drift dragging. Just you, yourself and the critter. Each and everyone doing his best to survive.

I fish too much from boats nowadays but is well sculptured in my mind the memory of each and every fish I have caught from shore. This is where you can see the difference between a man and a kid, I kid you not!

Thanks again Damon and every one in the trip. I had to borrow stuff from many of you and will always be grateful. Hope to see you again soon.

The Bijagos Islands, fisherman's and Photographer's paradise

One of the more pleasant trip I have done lately has been the one at the Bijagos archipelago, in Guinea Bissau. This small African country is blessed with this amazing patch of small islands and mangrove environments that is virtually untouched. The abundance of wildlife and fishing brings here a good deal of tourists, photographers and fishermen from around the world. There is several lodges dedicated to fishing and echo tourism, and we happened to book at the one based in Keré island, run by Laurent Durris, a nice french guy who knows a good deal of African fishing and has brought forward a beautiful job in Bijagos, both for the fishing and the protection of the area.

Yes, this is Keré, a tiny gem in the hearth of the Bijagos

I'm not a bird photographer and I don't even have the right equipment to shoot them. My 18-200 is way too short to dare to take a decent exposure of one of these creatures but here, for one who knows how to use his camera and lenses properly, there are chances of achieving decent results even with a 300mm lens, something that in other places is just out of question. I don't know birds either, ask me about any predator fish and I might also tell you his Latin scientific name but birds are quite unknown to me. Thus, there was some very photogenic animals there, many herons, cranes and the gracious flamingos, that I only had the chance to shoot from quite far when, disturbed by the boat's engine noise they slowly took off for another planet.

This trip has been quite a turning point in my "fishing photographic career", in fact for the first time I think I have dedicated more time, or at least equal time, to fishing and shooting photos, something that in the past was something like 80/20 in favour of fishing. I clearly remember a couple of afternoons and mornings when I left the rod in the boat or in the bungalow, and only carried the D80. Those days we fished from shore, something that gave me way better opportunities to grab some decent images. I didn't have the tripod with me because of the serious weight excess I was already carrying but there was enough light to play with. I'm especially keen in these two images that far from being technically perfect, resume a bit how much life there was around both in the air and the water

One of those afternoon, while my friends were having a good time on a sandbar, working with light surface lures, I wandered around this massive beach in search of something to record in my SD card. All of the sudden a boat arrived, started dropping a net in a half circle until in enough shallow water to allow the fisherman to wade and pull the net closer and closer to the beach. There was not much fish round that area and the harvest was quite poor. I approached the crew and asked them if I could take pictures while they where working and as sometimes happens in such countries, they asked me for money. Well, is pretty unusual that a guy in a swimsuit, in the middle of nowhere carries a wallet with him, and mine was no exception. I told the guys my situation and that the money was at the camp. Somehow they accepted to be photographed and even though the light was between bad and horrible, I shoot some images .

Oh, yes, fishing... I haven't forgot about that but to be honest with you we didn't have a spectacular week, I would say between average and bad maybe. Thus, I enjoyed very much fishing light tackle with my black bass equipment. yes right, I brought my 6'6" 1 1/2oz pole and a small Team Daiwa to match. It was a blast to toss those little plugs or the soft plastics to the aggressive Cuberas, Jacks, or African Pompanos, in fact this is what I have done most of the time and never looked back. Basically this has been everybody strategy, and those who kept throwing big plugs with heavy rods didn't have much luck. Is here that I caught one of my most sought after fish on a soft plastic. The African Pompano is a shy member of the Carangidae family and its distribution is not so wide or abundant. Thus, here at the Bijagos is present in large numbers and not so difficult to catch. He grabbed the plastic right under the boat allowing me to see its take, and started a nice tug-of-war. the rod was so soft that would make severe u turns when the fish was sounding under the boat in order to get himself free, but somehow nothing wrong happened and it posed for a few fish eye shots.

The other guys had good and bad days, nothing spectacular again but if you use the right tackle you can have a ball even with a 2lb fish. the early morning session on the very beach of Keré where nothing short of spectacular. Action everywhere. Minnows jumping (you have seen the photo above) and birds diving. Mackerel, Barracudas and Jacks were partying at the Sardines expenses and this is where the old say came from:"You're more stressed than a Sardine at the Bijagos!"

I don't think I will be able to go back to guinea Bissau this year and this makes a bit sad. I would sure leave at home a couple of rods and a bunch of lures and carry a tripod, my flashes and work a bit harder on the birds stuff. is a beautiful place, quiet, clean, wild and the people is very nice and shy. Laurent does a great job at Keré, even in such a difficult place the logistic marche bien, everything runs as smooth as it gets and if they manage to keep the netting and illegal fishing under control, they will have a lot of work in the future with many tourists and fisherman coming to discover the beauty of such country. I plan to go back, don't know when but I want to put my feet on that clear sand again.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Guethary, the beauty of the French Basque country

Well, the idea was to travel to the Delta of the Ebro river for the long weekend but it suddenly changed to a more family oriented plan when our friends Silvia and Pepe invited us to their house in Guethary, in the Basque area of France, very close to the border with Spain on the Atlantic side. We knew this place from before and accepting the invitation was an easy task, such is a beautiful area and such good hosts we had.

Travelling to the Basque country is quite a long journey from Madrid but is a pleasant trip altogether. You go from the up and down roller coaster of the "Sierra", the mountains nearby Madrid, to the flat lands of Castilla and finally among the green hills of the Spanish Basque country.

Once you cross the border with France and head to San Juan de Luz, the first major town along the coast, you start appreciating the mixed feeling you get from being so close to the sea and yet fully immersed into a green and agricultural landscape. Cows everywhere, surfers with bikes and their boards heading to the beaches, happy campers and all different kind of tourists, mostly relaxed and laid back.

Guethary itself is a nice and tidy little village. Not many houses, not terrible traffic, and a smooth atmosphere, peaceful and enjoyable. What really gathers your attention is the buildings. Is very unlikely to see a house that is "out of tune" with the other ones, the vast majority of them maintained the typical Basque style and are very much well taken care of. Freshly painted, shiny wooden windows, beautiful gardens and nothing around that mess up with the overall beauty.

This is a part of the world where people enjoy being outside, dining outside, drinking outside. Bars are pretty much everywhere, as well as restaurants, with many along the seaside, something, I assume, we all love.
During our stay we "tested" few of them and apart from one, they all rated from good to excellent.
Since the weather was not so great we decided to burn some calories walking with my friend's 4 dogs. I think I have a pretty decent idea of the geographical map of the town itself, as well as the close beaches. Of course both my friend Pepe and myself carried around the Nikons in search of decent images, and the beach was quite a hot spot for some shooting.

Last but not least we had the opportunity to grab an idea of what the "Cesta Punta" is. The typical Basque game also known as the "Pelota Vasca" really caught my attention for being so fast and entertaining. To add thrill to the game we watched, a local "howler" entertained us and blew our ears, yelling like a mad man (as he probably was) for a good 20 minutes. Then, disappointed with the referee he abandoned the court with major relief for those sitting at least in a 50 meters circle around him!

No fishing this time, just hundreds of shots with my aged D80. Some you can find here. Many thanks to our good friends for allowing us to repeat such a nice trip, we truly enjoyed it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rome. Home?

Even though I was born in Florence, Rome is the place where I have spent most of my life. My house is still there, as my family. Now I'm based in Madrid, a city I like, and a country, Spain, that gave me a family, my adorable wife and daughter and a great job, which I love. Thus, Rome will always be Rome, home..I understand me.

Rome is a tough place to live. Traffic, pollution, very bad logistics, chaos, a lot of bureaucracy, you name it. Is supposed to be a big capital, probably some believe is THE capital and still has not a decent Subway service. Every time they start digging a hole there's a million ruins awaiting for them. For every short section of underground tunnel in Rome, they built a complete new line in Madrid. The pace is different, Rome seem to run fast in the streets, where everybody drives like Valentino Rossi (bikes are a big deal in Rome BTW) or Fernando Alonso, and yet, when it comes to build something, everything goes in slow motion. Is true, I now live in a city that moves fast, has an active and hard working major, and is able to complete very important works in a blink of an eye. I'm spoiled. But Rome is slow. Can't deny it. Is slow by all means, by any comparison.

Yet, I firmly believe that is THE most beautiful city in the world. Having had the chance to see a bit of this old planet, I cannot stop wondering at the Capital's beauties. The mix of very old, old and dramatic modern mess is stunning.

The narrow streets in Trastevere and the gigantic Coliseum, St Peter, and the Tevere river, a huge and unfortunately very polluted vein that flows through the city dressed in a green from another planet. It was called "Il Biondo Tevere" by the Romans. The blond river. I'm still wondering where that golden color has gone, but I know it has gone for good.

Being a Roman I rarely had the chance to properly visit the city. I've been here and there but there's always that sense of.. : "I'm here all the time, I can go and see it another day!" Wrong! Mistake! You end up seeing nothing, neither today nor tomorrow, and you miss some spectacular stuff.

Funny enough, it has been thanks to the assignment for a Spanish photo magazine that I HAD to go and see my city. Move my ass. Explore it, grab the light and the sight and put them together in form of digital files. This happened in different occasions. I had the winter and the rain and the summer and the sun. I wandered around the ruins and among the people, walked the high street and hid in the shade of the little "vicoli" near Piazza Navona. The main target was a decent shot but the truth is that I found myself mouth agape looking at what I have been missing for some good 40 years of my dumb life.

For several reasons I didn't go to Rome too often but chances are I will be there again soon. The grandmother wants to see her granddaughter and I need to get back to refresh my Italian, that is now melting in a dangerous mix with the Spanish and it scares the hell out of my progenitor

If I feel lazy and don't want to walk around for a sightseeing my camera drags me out. She is teaching me how to appreciate the details and the big scheme of things and she's giving me a reason to walk for miles, unaware of the complains of my aching feet.
She's turning what was a boring activity into a pleasure and an interesting and instructive thing to do. Can't wait to be back to walk trastevere in a wet afternoon, with the puddles reflecting the old buildings and the weird people you see around. No matter if my photos come out good or not, I have a good excuse to dive into such a beautiful city. I mean CITY!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Is two flashes better than one?

I admit it, I have become a fanatic follower of, their Blog and Flickr community. What these guys can do with the strobes is quite fantastic and the information you can get through their archives is nothing short of amazing. I have no special desire in becoming a studio photographer, neither load my room with Soft boxes, Umbrellas and alike. I'm a darn outdoor photographer, most of the time floating on a small boat with a bunch of dangerous guys fully rigged with the strongest rods and reels chasing monster fish. This is where I belong and this is where I want to improve my photo skills. Narrow, small, uncomfortable, wet and rocky environment. Not a place for a stand with a honeycomb grid, no way. To work here I will have to take advantage of small portable flash units, in my case two Nikon SB600. Actually, until yesterday I owned one and I was trying to make an old Metz 28 work as a slave unit but the thing is crap with the digital camera and won't work properly. So I decided to go for a second proper strobe, more reliable, that allows me for an accurate control and that can be managed directly from the camera Menu.

Without the off camera flash the best I could get is photos like this one above: light is quite harsh, obviously too direct and yet it worked more or less OK for the mags, is still a decent backlit image. I wonder what 2 speed lights attached left and right of the camera, or in any other different manner could work on portrait like these, an to be honest with you, I can't wait to try it. In less than one week I'll reach my friends for few days of fishing in the Mediterranean sea. I might skip some tackle here and there but you can be sure that all my new toys will be with me. I hope I will be able to post some new pictures all taken with my floating lightning set up, it will take some trial and error, sure, but this will make it even more fun. Just hope my friends (and the fish) are patient enough.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Pikes, my freshwater love affair

Before getting hooked to saltwater fishing I was an avid freshwater addict. while still in Italy, either when I was in Rome or Milan my target was any kind of predator I could find in lakes and rivers. By that time it was mostly Black Bass, Trouts, Chubs and Pikes, the latter being the highest in the ranking. When I finally moved to Spain, where I still reside, I switched my attention mostly to the salty drink yet haven't abandoned my first lover. I soon discovered that the potential for freshwater predators in the Iberian peninsula was much better than the one I had in my home country, and Pikes were numerous in several environment, among whom I favoured the small rivers.

The real heaven for me was the area of Castilla Leon, near Zamora and Benavente. This is where I found the Pikes in wading waters, eager to snack a top water lure or a skirted spinnerbait. To my greatest delight I could walk on the river for a long time without having to exit the water, from knee deep to the maximum allowed by my wading boots: casting under the trees, near the edges, on top of the weeds with weedless soft lures.

To be very honest this is till my favourite fishing of them all. I travel all over the tropics during the season but is when I go back and target my marbled friends, face to face, on my own or with one fishing buddy, that I make peace again with fishing. To add more interest to the adventure I have now found a way to carry my DSRL with me, and it really takes little risk (well, just a bit) to drawn, and finally I can take more decent photos with the help of my occasional fishing buddy. Among them all my friend Pepe is the one that better fits my idea of "ideal" fishing companion. Not only is an excellent fisherman, but he is also a very good photographer, and he has fun both fishing and snapping images altogether, not to mention posing for my attempts to catch a decent exposure.
The last day we spent together was delighted by an extremely good activity of our toothy friends which allowed us to take a good deal of photos, and of course have a blast fishing.

There's no monster fish among our catches but the strike of a Pike on a top water lure is something that really gives you a thrill. Finally, when a 10lb fish shows up is a big party, we're not picky guys...

He played a lot with his D300 furious shooting sequence and I carried forward my experiments with the external strobe, trying to learn something that the guys at Strobist show with so much skill at
Pepe also taught me a trick or two, and I'm very grateful to him to share his expertise. He has just put out his own blog this very week, actually through him I discovered that it was easy and suitable even for an Internet dork like me, and pushed the release of mine as well. We're counting the days to be back there, knee deep in the water casting on top of the weeds, waiting for the amazing blast of a Pike. No matter how small or big it is, we're there for the enjoyment.

My humble guide to better fishing portraits. Chapter 1

I'm far from being a professional photographer, whatever it means, and by no means I'm a good one but at least, I have dedicated 80% of my shooting time to grab images of recreational fisherman with their catches, or situations very much alike. Being in contact with several good photographers and very helpful magazine editors, I have slowly improved my skills and discovered new ways to make better photos. Of course there's much room for improvement, every day I learn a new trick and through the global web and it's many forums dedicated to photography and imaging, there's always so much to learn. Anyway, here's what I can pass along at the moment. This is what I have learnt so far and I hope it can be of some help for the readers of this humble blog.

Composition is sure enough one of the main issues. Most of the time you need your subject to fill the frame, what you don't want is to have a lot of sky, land or boat appearing in the shot, and the angler with the fish as a dot in the middle. Even worst is somebody's back or an arm included in the image, rods sticking out of the back of the angler and alike. The following image is an example of what to do not, in fact it includes in one single shot everything you can do wrong (and it was one of my biggest dog tooth tunas....)

Here is another image, less crowded, with a better cropping and yet with many undesirable elements in it. The back of another fisherman and the rod sticking behind the guy holding the fish

This is an idea of how a proper image should look like, tightly cropped, no much room around the angler and his catch and still some background to understand that he is in a beautiful place, the Andaman Islands in this case

Here is another example of what I consider a decent take, with the help of a beautiful stormy sky

A problem that often shows up is the leaning horizon. This is not an extremely big issue because you can easily correct it later in Photoshop , but if you get it right by the time of the exposure you have few advantages. First of all you don't have to crop the image, hence you don't risk to damage the take because you find yourself with the fish jaws in line with the cropping. You don't loose precious pixels either, they could come handy if your image need to go on a double spread. You save editing time too, and this is valuable when you have to work on hundreds of photos after a trip. The photo below is a decent example of wrong horizon, fortunately here there's enough room to correct it as you will see in the second image.

People, when at sea, usually wear sunglasses and hats. Nothing wrong with that, they add protection to your face and head in case a vagabond lure skyrockets against you or a flying treble hook decided to get a grip on you eye. The problem arises when is time to take a picture, in fact, especially in harsh midday sun, when the light is right on top of your subject, you cannot see his/her face or, at the best, is very dark, as you can see here.

The following photo shows how a flash, even a external flash put on camera, can lit up the whole image, get rid of the undesired shades and make the best of an harsh light. Quite an easy and handy solution. Whatever weather I'm in, whatever is the sun position I always use a fill flash. Put in manual, best of all off-camera, choose the correct amount of light you need not to over or under due and changing the angle of the light to your subject take few shots. Sometimes 1/64Th will be enough while other days, especially if you want to underexpose the sky, you might need to pump up the power and go to 1/4Th, or 1/2. So far, being so close to the subject, especially when using such extreme wide angle lenses, I have rarely needed to get full power but if you start clamping your flash further away from the subject, it might be necessary to take advantage of the full capacities of your strobe. I've yet to try that but as soon as I have some direct experience I will keep you posted.

We stop here for the moment, but this is not finished yet. In a following part I will try to explain new ways to take the best possible fishing photos. In the meanwhile, if you would like to contribute to this blog please go ahead and write your comments

Last Minute Roosterfish

There's a story behind this Roosterfish. It was the last day of the trip, late morning and we had to go back to the mother vessel to pack and leave in the early afternoon. We were in Panama, Pacific side, Gulf of Chiriquí. My friend Oriol has been chasing a Roosterfish the whole week to no avail but he's stubborn, determinate and never gets tired. Ivan, the other fishing buddy was repeating "Hasta el rabo todo es toro" that means more or or that until the end everything can happen. The boat was already in the river, heading up toward the harbour, and Carlos, the skipper, decided to stop near a sandbar to try the last casts. This is when the miracle happened, the fish rose to the surface and inhaled the large popper, a feisty fight took place. This has been one of the most spectacular Roosta I ever seen, jumping out of the water like crazy. Great stuff. Oriol, as you can see, finally landed the fish and after few shots and a safe release, we could head back to the harbour with a grin in the face. Ivan repeated:"Hasta el rabo todo es toro". No Rooster for him, a good excuse to come back to Panama once again. A wonderful place

Sensei Ryan Lobo. Learning from a photojornalist

During my last trip to the Andamans I met this young talented Indian photojournalist named Ryan Lobo. He was there to shoot a week of fishing in a different way, far different from what people like myself, who do this for specialist fishing mags, do. The images he took of myself with the Yellowfin Tuna where so radical that he said to me: " I don't think you will have these photos featured in a specialist magazine." In fact, the director of an Italian monthly confirmed that:"Nicola, I'm a photographer myself and I love these shots but I don't think our audience will understand them." Thus, I have learnt from Ryan many things: how to use the foreground, how to be more creative and escape the rules, how to zoom the flash, how to blur. Blur is cool :-)

I'll always be grateful to Ryan for the time he spent with me those days, and for me it has been an incredibly rewarding experience to be able to actually share some time with somebody experienced.

My young daughter seem to get interested in taking pictures, as many kids do. The good thing is that I own an Olympus 720SW which is not a great camera but is robust, shock resistant and waterproof up to a certain depth. This is a great tool for a kid who wants to play or learn, it depends on the subject. She seem to be wiling to learn a bit, through the playing process. She also lend her camera to her friends and explain them how it works, what to do and what to do not. The funny thing is that she can take way better pictures with my DRSL. Despite of the weight and the bulk she takes great advantage of the immediate response of the shutter button and the images come out much better than with a compact camera, clumsy, slow and easy to move while taking a picture. Of course they all love to see the pictures afterward :-)

Friday, August 8, 2008

One curious man

We were just arrived in Port Blair, during my first trip to the Andaman Islands, and everybody was waiting for the crew to load the boats and depart to Havelock, our destination for the week. I was playing with my Nikon when I saw this fisherman nosing around very much attracted by the active gang. Taking this picture was a matter of a second, then I approached him and showed the LCD and he allowed me for another image. This one is still the best.