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Saturday, August 9, 2008

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

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