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Friday, September 26, 2008

Tungsten WB and CTO Gels

I finally managed to try the tungsten WB setting matched with a CTO gel during a fishing trip. I red about it some time ago in one of Scott Kelby's book and found more information in but never really put it into practice for good. The opportunity came during a very early morning fishing session in the Strait of Gibraltar, south of Spain. I was there with my friend Francisco Martínez in his game boat, chasing the Bonitos (Sarda sarda) with top water plugs. Unfortunately, due to the wind I couldn't use any of the soft umbrellas I had with me, and the light is a bit harsh, but I like the final result, even though, being the first one, it can sure be improved.
Nikon D80, Sigma 10-20. Manual exposure, f 6,3 x 1/30 sec. Iso 200. Center weighted.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Put a Leica lens on your camera!

If you are a Pentax owner, there's a small internet shop based in Barcelona that gives you the possibility to use a Leica-R lens on it. Check out their kits, they seem pretty easy to use to me and they are now working on adapters for other major camera manufacturers.
The web page is in english

Monday, September 22, 2008

Puerto Banus Trolling Fishing Tournament

Fishing Tournaments are really not my piece of cake but the one in Puerto Banús is quite unique, believe me. This port near Marbella holds the biggest fleet of super yachts of the Spanish coast. It used to be the base for many of the richest Arab kings and oil businessman and is a place where you breathe and smell wealth. Due to the large quantity of Yachts and extremely fashionable cars, Banus has become a main tourist point of Andalusia, where people come just to see those beauties and dream for one day. Is probably futile and materialistic but if Las Vegas has a reason to exist so Banus does. It is also a nice town, that must be said, and the nightlife, that develops mostly around the port, is quite exciting. For the sake of the truth I also have to mention the abundance of stunning females who help "decorating" the great scenario, even though this will probably cost me a punch on my neck....

Well, I was there, invited by the "alma mater" of the Tournament, Mr Jorge Haenelt (in the picture, at the weighting station), a truly nice gentleman who runs this big event every year since quite a long time, 12 years I'd say. Jorge knows a thing or two about running a competition of this size and saying that everything went flawless is an understatement. My mission was to give a speech after the first day of the tournament and then follow the event for a fishing magazine. I did my duties and covered the event, even here, in this humble blog, you'll find some bits and pieces about the competition.

On day one Red Herring, a beautiful 40 Cabo Express, in my humble opinion the nicest boat around, weighted the heaviest load of catch, 36,850kg with the biggest fish of the Tournament, a 14,550kg Dorado. Alila was good second, with just a couple of kilos difference and El Barracuda came third a bit further behind. The weather during the days was near to perfect, with calm seas and very hot temperature.
Day two was Nanis landing the biggest load with 26,200kg coming from 5 fish, all Skipjacks. Cap Cana, the team from the Dominican Republic grabbed the second place and El Barracuda came third again, for sure the most regular team of the tournament (not counting those who DID NOT catch any fish for two days in a row... ! ). A bit of wind showed up in the morning to drop again in the afternoon, again a wonderful day to be out at sea.

The final result, as far as total amount of catch is concerned, was in favour of Ian John Dixon's "Red Herring" , the team that won most of the available awards (there were many of them available). This is the men to beat next year, and I hope I will be there again to see it. There's many nice people I met and at the most glamorous fishing tournament of Spain, and I long to see them again.

Dolphins feeding frenzy, what a show!

This week-end I was in Puerto Banús, near Marbella, Andalusia. There was a big event taking place, the XII international trolling tournament "Copa Principe de Asturias". I was there mainly to give a speech about jigging, a technique that is pretty much in fashion lately, and to cover the event for the publishing group I work for. I'm not a big fan of Fishing Tournaments but I must admit that the one in Puerto Banús is pretty much unique but I'll talk about it in another post. On Saturday I was on board the Bormar VI, one of the boats competing for the tournament. Fishing was pretty slow for us but on the way back we found this amazing sight.
There were various schools of Dolphins working the bait and feeding furiously together with the birds. The strategy was pretty wild; the mammals would slam the balls of bait with their tails to stun them, and afterwards eat at an easy pace. We thought that Tunas might be feeding with the Dolphins but there was no presence of fish whatsoever, thus we spent quite some time just enjoining the show.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The new Tropical fishing season is about to start

It truly is, in less than one month I will be hopping on the first airplane with the first group of costumers. Destination Bermuda, for an exploratory jigging trip, the first both for me and the costumers. I have always been curious about this spot. In the IGFA book of records there is a good deal of massive Amberjack caught in these waters and I wonder how our irons will behave. My friend Miguel, an excellent Portuguese fisherman, last year landed this massive Amberjack in Cape Verde, I'm showing here the photo for you to see what we are after in Bermuda... pretty ambitious guys uh ???

I like this photo, do you?

Last week-end we went for a day to Medinaceli, a small village north of Madrid, quite a nice one. I like to walk around town grabbing images of the historical part (well, almost the whole place is historical). I have done it two or three times already and have collected a nice deal of images. I said a nice deal of... I didn't say nice images...! Well, the other day we walked to the other side of the village, where the fields and I saw this image in front of me. No tripod available so I had to rely on the lens' VR to get a decently sharp image. I kinda like this photo, is a bit "empty" on the left side but the landscapes with the windmills generates a decent contrast with the "old fashioned" foreground. Do you like it at all?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Studio work

I don't know if is necessary for me to keep saying that this is NOT the Blog of a professional photographer. My images speak for themselves and I am trying to be as honest as I can when it comes to describing my photographic attempts. I’m not trying to teach anything, just sharing my experiences for those who, playing in my same league, want to read.

After the purchase of a second soft umbrella yesterday I played a bit with an improvised studio in the living room. This gave me the chance to use for the first time two soft lights and the Elinchrome Skyport as well. The set-up of the studio was quite simple, a white cardboard for the background, one light left of the camera at 45º and one on the right at product level. I had to do a photo for an article in a Spanish and a French magazine and wanted to try something different.

It has been an educating experience, never worked with two lights and the remote so I thought it would have taken me more time to grab the concept but it wasn’t so. Not that I figured out the perfect match and consider the result as a masterpiece, but I’m happy with what I got at least for a first timer. Funny enough, the table surface is white and is quite reflecting as well (yes, is a horrible table and we need to buy a new one), which gave me the opportunity for a nicer composition. To achieve the right exposure I had to play a bit with the camera meter. This came out at f18 x 1/100sec, ISO 200 centre weighted. I was using the D80 and the Nikkor micro 60mm. Left flash was at 1/8 of the power and right flash at 1/2.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Well, it was two toys I got myself today....

The first and most expensive one is the Elinchrom Skyport but I also wanted a portable device to soften the flashes' light and found this cheap and quite small umbrella that might fit the bill. Is the Lumi-pro soft Umbrella, 80cm diameter and easy to carry, also in my luggage with the reels, the lures, the tripod etc. I tried as soon as I got home, put together a small dodgy set on my table and started shooting. I could not believe the difference between the light coming from the direct flash, even with an omni bounce and the light coming from the Soft Umbrella. You can judge it yourself here below

Flash with omni bounce shot directely

Flash through Soft Umbrella

Look at how different the shadows are in the first image from the second, much harder, harsh and sharper. This is just a simple and cheap white umbrella that softens the light shooting through it. Imagine what kind of results you can get with the pro products in the right hands....

The lighting experts will laugh at my observation and they have the right to do so, but for a total novice, like myself, to the whole world of strobes, lights, light direction and alike, is an amazing discovery and such a raw and self explanatory example might even help the other non-expert in this field, or at least I hope so.

Got myself a new toy

That's right; I made the mistake to walk the door of Madrid's largest photo retailer (Fotocasión) and came out with a complete set of Elinchrom Skyport. One transmitter and two receivers for the SB600 twins. I could sure fire them with Nikon's CLS but sometimes this wouldn't work and for a flash freak (even though new to the game) like me, this is not bearable. Tried them briefly in the house and I could almost trigger both of them from a different room, with quite a substantial wall in between. I got to find the chance to test them properly this week-end, can't wait for that.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

This is not my job...

Yesterday it was my niece's first communion, a big family party. Her mother asked me if I could take care of the photos, something that I happily accepted. Poor crazy man, you don't know what you're doing...! and in fact I didn't, don't and won't probably ever know how to shoot such event. The good part is that everything happened at the family house, the bad part is that I had nowhere to put the strobes (one ended up on a tripod bouncing the light on the ceiling and the other on a Manfrotto clamp), and truly no clue of HOW to put them. I ended up with a mixed solution, trying to balance the light coming from the big window and the rest of the room, but it was only partially successful. Using a wide angle to take unusual shots I ended up with the majority of the photos with the flash well visible in the image, and a mixed bag of different exposures, from pretty clear images to very contrasty and saturated ones.

Well, eventually when we left the room to the garden things changed an my luck turned a bit. This is where I had most fun when the kids where playing or riding a mechanical bull, a very interesting photo op. I tried all possible combinations with the strobes and both in daylight (close to sunset with the sun already low), to twilight and night. This is where I probably spent an entire 2GB card, great fun.

Is quite a different thing photographing fish and people holding a fish from a family event like this. The responsibility, even you you're just doing it as a favour, is huge and the experience is very important. Something I truly don't have. Though, I sure learnt a thing or two and next time I would probably do it a tad better...maybe.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Horse Power anyone?

I wonder if any of you guys has ever entered the engine room of a big boat. Not a huge oil tank or alike, just a big sport fishing boat for example. I did that last week-end, nosing around the twin engine room of my friend's Fernando 58ft Hatteras. The original diesels have been stripped out the belly of the vessel and replaced with two flaming new 1000hp Detroits. Now, these, for a profane like me are quite impressive, they probably are 4 feet tall and 6 or 7 foot long and must weight a ton or two, God knows. anyway, is not the technical stuff that interests me, is what I can do with those fine pieces of machinery and my Nikon with or without my strobes.

I have to admit I'm a flash fanatic at least as much I am a flash dork. No clue how to use them, yet I insist and dare to. This is a series of images of the same stuff, none of them really successful but I have a moment in this lazy Friday afternoon so I enjoy working a bit on the Blog. I have spent zero time in editing the raw images, these are the basic jpegs exactly how they came out of the camera, just reduced in size.

This is the dark view, quite futuristic of the whole thing. Like a spaceship... The flash commander don't work so well when there's heavy metal stuff in front of the strobe, hence only the right flash sparked a bit of light. a too high shutter speed and a not too open f-stop did the rest.

I wonder why this one came up so green, I shoot in cloudy WB and should have been warmer, but maybe this IS warmer, for the light I was using... No flash here, just available light at f3.2

Only one flash fired here, the one on the right. f5.6 sunny WB

Here we have both SB600 working, one is low on my right and the other one is on top of the white cabinet. There's a lot of reflecting and shining stuff here, the light is bouncing all over the place but hey, this is a dork at work, don't forget this. f5.6 sunny WB

A couple of bonus images, this one I don't have a clue of what it is. I put the flash on top of it to spread some light from above. Looks pretty average to me. f4.5 Sunny WB.

At least I know what this is. Flash still above but eventually who cares, is not a good take.

These shots have been taken with a Nikon D80 and Nikkor 10.5 Fisheye. It was darn hot down there. I know is a dirty job but somebody has to do it :-)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Can you get back home happy after a dreadful fishing week-end?

Yes, you can. This is my answer to the title of this article. Last week-end, having been released from my duties as a father and husband I picked up the phone and called my friend Fernando in Marbella, to see what the weather was like and if there was a chance to do some jigging in the Straits of Gibraltar. Fernando, probably a saint or at least a man of great patience and a great friend of his friends, told me that the forecast was fantastic and that he would be very happy if I could go and stay with him. I didn't have to think about it for too long, picked up the phone, booked me a hop in the Ave train, and on Friday morning I was at the Atocha station, loaded with luggage, ready to begin my journey to the south.

Atocha, for those who don't know, is one of the most beautiful train station you can find in the world. Inside the huge building you find a gorgeous tropical garden, perfectly taken care of, regularly sprayed with drizzled water or steam to keep the temperature constant. I got to the station almost 45 minutes before the train departure and soon put my hands on the D80 and started taking some pictures. People were looking at me in a funny way, wondering what that guy was doing in those weird position loaded with a quite large suitcase (at least for a week-end) and a long black tube that looked pretty threatening (the rod case). Couldn't care less, I was in my own little world, right behind the viewfinder, trying to awake the photographer in me.

The train trip was relaxing and comfortable. I love trains as much as I started hating airplanes. I spend a good deal of time travelling from one end of the world to the other during the tropical fishing season and I'm getting planephobic, if I'm allowed to say. But trains are different and the AVE (Spanish high speed trains) offers a beauty of a ride. Is fast, quiet, spacious and in less than 3 hours it delivers you to the Malaga station, something that by car takes at least around 5 hours and dimes. During the trip I took some horrible pictures that nobody would ever want to see. Thus, since this is a diary of my week-end I will show them, sorry!

After a quick change to a slower commuter train to Fuengirola where Fernando was waiting for me we headed for the first important stop, the restaurant. We picked a good meat place, in fact we though we would have enough fish during the following days. Lunch was average, the meat OK but not impressive and we resumed our short drive to Marbella. Once we were done with the supermarket shopping for food and drinks for the boat, we unloaded the luggage and the purchase into the Bormar VI, Fernando's beautiful 58ft Hatteras.

This was going to be home for the next two days, and I couldn't be happier. What happened was that once Fernando knew that I was coming, he called our group of closer friends and organized a live aboard trip, where the crew would stay on the boat, for fishing, eating and sleeping. This was a major surprise for me, I wasn't expecting it and I thought was just the perfect plan. Even if the fishing sucked we would have had a hell of a great time, in fact the company couldn't have been better. Imagine yourself stuck for 2 days in a limited space with some of the nicest and funniest guys on earth. The only risk you can run is to die of a heart attack because you laughed too much, but apart from that, nothing could go wrong. Of course I spent some time taking pictures of the port, but there's no need to say it right ? After dinner, only myself and Fernando would sleep on the boat, the other guys were expected to arrive at 06:30 in the morning for the departure. None of their wives allowed them to join us on Friday for an early start, good boys...!

Saturday morning, as sharp as Swiss watch all the guys arrived at the mooring. I had a bad sleep and woke up early to catch the sunrise (too early though...), but we were fast on maneuvers and the boat left Marbella at first light. We cruised at good pace heading to Gibraltar where we could refuel, buy some spirit and depart again towards the fishing grounds.

A good chunk of the morning flew at 18 knots, cruising and cruising until we hit the first spot. At this point I have to tell you that I will talk about the fishing at the very end of this piece, there's no point now. For some strange reason while on a boat I eat like a hyena. Everything edible that was coming from the fridge, was being processed at the speed of light. The massive supermarket purchase was shrinking as fast as it gets and my belly slowly changing shape, into a more rounded one. Yep, more than usual.

In the evening we approached Barbate, our port for the night and we saw an helicopter and a rescue boat working right on the area of Cape Trafalgar, a good chance to use my 200mm. Now, you have to understand that in Barbate there's one of my favourite restaurant ever. I have been there with some Japanese friends a couple of years before, again with Fernando and his boat, and just loved it. El Campero is the name, and if you ever happen in this pretty ugly and not too interesting town, please pay it a visit. The entrees are just fabulous, but my target was pretty clear: Toro sashimi.

Barbate is a major point of Bluefin Tuna processing and harvesting. The Almadrabas (giant fish traps) still catch a good deal of giants before they enter the Mediterranean for the spawning, and the tuna meat is either sent to Japan (the largest part), a bit to the Spanish market and a part is treated locally in form of canned Tuna, smoked etc.

Back to the sashimi, this is made with the most priced part of the Tuna, the belly. For a tray like those they serve at El Campero, in Japan you would pay a fortune, but here hey, ain't cheap but neither is untouchable. Tuna belly was also my choice as main course, this time grilled, and a couple of bottles of Luis Caña, a delicious red wine from La Rioja, killed our thirst. The dinner was a truly joyful moment. Six grown up men behaving like silly teenagers and having pure straight fun. It could have been great even without the wine but it sure helped warming up the atmosphere. Somehow we left the restaurant on foot and got the the boat for a sound sleep but unfortunately the only sound was coming from a club all night long, until 06:00, with painfully ugly music.

The following morning was not so easy to leave the bed and we had quite a slow start. The sun was already high on the horizon and our faces didn't look as good as the previous day, we needed a rush of adrenaline to clean the arteries and get back on track. And adrenaline we had, or at least Fernando had, because one of the engines started heating too much. Fortunately was a minor problem and once fixed we could resume the cruise and the fishing. We made our way back slowly, from spot to spot, looking for finned critters willing to give us a thrill. Once my stomach settled down, I resumed the eating process and most of the guys helped me clearing what was left in the fridge. The day was slow and nothing exciting was taking place so what could we do better than eating and chatting? Well, some sleep wouldn't hurt, in fact between one spot and another people were disappearing downstairs and coming back with wrinkles in their faces. The pillows were being hammered.

We arrived late in the afternoon to Marbella, and while the Atlantic in the Strait was pleasant and flat, the Med welcomed us with a rough face and lots of big waves. No big deal for the large boat, and we moored in the Marbella port safe and sound. It was finally time to say goodbyes and hug the Andalusian friends. I put my camera on a tripod, grabbed two flash and the remote control and shoot some group photos, as a memory of a beautiful week-en. From left to right: Fernando, Victor, Cecilio, Kikin, Juanjo and myself

And the fishing? Well, you can imagine, it sucked. One of the worst week-end ever, this fish you see here below is the only think we landed that was over 100g. Who care, this was one of the best fishing trips of my life. I relaxed, had fun, and enjoyed the company very much.

Muchas gracias chicos.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Jigging feature in Sport Fishing Magazine

More than one year ago, Doug Olander, the editor in chief of Sport Fishing Magazine (, contacted me in order to put together a sort of jigging symposium in Panama. He wanted an American, a European and a Japanese jigging expert to fish together the waters of the Gulf of Chiriquí and compare techniques of three different schools, with three different anglers, all supposedly "experts" in this field.

I thought the idea was brilliant and knowing Doug's skill on the PC keyboard would have come out great. I contacted Hideyuki Kitamura, probably one of the most experienced jigger in Japan and sure enough one of the most respected. My friend Setsuo Hamanaka ( helped with the logistic and communication and Dough brought in Ben Secrets, an excellent fisherman from California who, while working for Shimano, not only helped them putting out the "Butterfly Jigging" campaign, one of the smartest marketing campaign done recently in the fishing history, but also learned a lot from the Japs Shimano-pros. By the way, Ben is now at Accurate (, and the American brand came out with some amazing conventional and spinning reels for jigging, machines that I am lucky enough to use.

Hideyuki gave us all a major class of how to fish in a sea that those days was not too generous. He hammered the critters while I could barely follow his lead. I have learnt a lot from him, and you can learn too by reading his comments.

The article is great, Doug nailed it, picking the best from the best. The most important tips and information are there, available for those who know how to "read" them and put them in practice. The issue is September/October, you shouldn't miss it.

A Jig & a Wahoo, a recipe for disaster

Yes, I have caught this Wahoo on a jig but I wasn't jigging it, I casted it to a fish which boiled after a sardine

I have never caught a Wahoo on a jig. Never. Not a single one and I have hooked quite few many, probably more than I can count with all of my limb's fingers.

I can be fishing elbow to elbow with two or three fishing buddies, none of them using wire, neither myself. We land on top a pack of hungry 'Hoos, jigs dropping, reels reeling, rods wiggling. One strike, the friend on my left starts fighting a fish, I feel a nibble, maybe not even that and my jig is gone. My friend lands a fish, the hook is on the chin, away from the jaws, damn luck!

Situation nº 2. Me and my friend Mario in El Hierro island, Canary Archipelago. Our skipper finds a pack of hungry Wahoos. I am fishing with a 30 and a 50lb jigging rods, first without wire, then with a small piece. I hook 5 Wahoos in a row while Mario is looking at me in disbelief. I manage to loose each one of them because either they cut me off, snap the line or break the wire, due to a bad haywire twist.

The story doesn't end here.

Ascension island. Wahoo are not a pest but they are there and show up every once in a while. I'm fishing with 4 other guys. 3 of them hook and land a Wahoo without using wire, and when I decide that is my time for a try I put a lighter jig near a school of Bonitos where I saw some Wahoo sniffing around and drop it a bit up current. The small iron hit the water, line start coming off the reel at the usual pace and all of a sudden it is dead. Nothing comes out of the spool anymore. The jig is done, a Wahoo took it probably 5 meters below the surface on my very first specific "Wahoo cast" and cut the mono leader like butter.

I have similar stories at the Maldives, Panama, Costa Rica etc etc. In about one month I will be probably fishing Bermuda, a pretty new spot for jigging, quite an exciting experience. Is full of these toothed critters, and I know that my friends will sure land some. I don't know whether to bring a lot of wire, or a rabbit's leg, is a hard call. Doomed? Maybe, I'll let you know when I come back