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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bermuda: new jigging paradise?

Is probably too early to say but the first clues have been quite impressive. We have just spent 5 days of fishing in the waters of this beautiful island and every single one of us has returned home excited and happy with the result. It was an exploratory trip, but the bases on which it was put together were strong. Bermuda holds 3 or 4 IGFA world records for both kind of Amberjack (Dumerili and Rivoliana). The biggest Greater Amberjack ever caught around the world comes from here, and if you put in the mix the abundance of Yellowfin Tunas, Groupers, Wahoo and many other different species, the landscape looks pretty bright.

Let me spend a word about the island itself first. It simply is a beautiful place. Neat, tidy, coloured, warm, peaceful, not polluted, green, blue... Again, a small and remarkably amazing paradise. People are nice too. Our captain, Peter Rahn, his wife Leslie and the boat's mate Steve are wonderful people, as well as many other inhabitants that we met and spent some time with. Lodging and dining is not the cheapest around, yet with the current value of the Euro compared to the Dollar is still doable.

Talking about the Captain and his fleet I have nothing but good words. Peter worked hard on something that is quite new for him. Jigging is a technique that requires a specific knowledge and thanks to his vast experience on the local reefs, he managed to constantly put the boat in the best spots. Theres many banks and reefs around the island, and not all of them are prooductive, yet he seemed to always know where to put the boat, and even if sometimes the tides were playing big time against us, when the fish turned on again, we were on top of them.

The first day we fished with the boat that we booked, a 41' Custom Express. But once returned from our fishing we noticed a super jigging boats moored near the Overproof. It was a 36' lobster boat, just arrived from Maine, and o boy, that was perfect. From day 2 we fished every day on the Son Rae, 5 guys in a row jigging elbow to elbow, or not even that because there was room to spare, without a tangle or a problem. The Son Rae is just the perfect jigging machine and we took full advantage of it.

One of the highlights, unexpected to be true, has been the variety of species we caught on jigs. I don't know if ti was 20 or more but every day we would catch 4 or 5 new critters. The mix of the subtropical water with the warm current of the Gulf creates a perfect environment, where fish from more moderate latitudes meet with other more typical of the tropics.

The amount of fish we caught has been quite impressive, I still wonder if Peter was expecting this result or if he was a bit skeptical. Millions of small Almaco Jack where ambushing the reefs. Even during the deadly tides you would manage one of them to bite the irons and I'm pretty sure that, because of the abundance of those smaller critters, we found it more difficult to hook serious contenders.
The big fish didn't participate too actively to the party. We hooked few of them but for a series of reason we only landed one, a 40lb Almaco jack. Thus, they are there, I don't have a single doubt about it, and for this reason I want to come back in May, when the summer starts and the migratory species are more likely to show up. Peter told me that the Yellowfin Tuna stay deep on the drop-offs, and that he can see them in the sounder. Quite a good change for a target fishing like ours: can't wait to get rid of the winter.

Bermuda was also a great lab for my photographic experiments and I have learnt few more things. The most important is that I don't have to clean the sensor myself, and the second that I need to buy a GOOD tripod.

You can see more images here

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Painting with flash

Last week I was in Bermuda, what a beautiful island and incredible fishing ! It is also plentiful of photo opportunities, and I spent a lot of time behind the viewfinder of my D80. By the way, before my departure, I made the mistake of cleaning the sensor myself... I wish I have never done it ! Since I started working on the images I spent more time cleaning the photos rather than editing them.

Back to the photos, very close to shore there was a subject that caught my attention and I wanted to portrait in various manners, a wooden boat. Among the exposures I took, my favourite came out at night, slightly after dark. I put the camera on the tripod and choose an aperture of f8. I could have opened even more but I'm not too happy with the CCD results with the too long exposures (a lot of noise) and also, since it was just an experiment, I didn't want to keep waiting 15 minutes before closing the shutter. So 185sec was the right time, it came out after a couple of tests and I was happy with the way it looked. The Sigma 10-20 allowed me to place the camera very close to the boat and yet have a lot of background in the image. I also put the WB setting to Tungsten to achieve that deep blue sky, and since I was going to use the SB600 to paint my subject, I put a CTO gel to warm up the light and counterbalance that specific WB. During the time the shutter was opened I hopped around the boat flashing the light 1/64. I wish I could have excluded completely the grass to make the boat stand even further, but I couldn't. Next time.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

If fishing can go wrong it will go wrong

Figure that! Three days of shooting in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands. Big Fish is the name of the show for the Italian Satellite TV Sky program Caccia & Pesca. Last year, same dates together with some Japanese anglers we caught 3 Amberjack over 70lb and Pink Snappers in the 30lb range. Perfect deal for the show. We have new moon, great tides, wind and the best skipper. Sound awesome! Unfortunately things are not as bright as they seem.
Fish don't want to cooperate. No bites. Plain dead. Day one welcomes us with heavy winds, too heavy maybe even though I favour them to flat calm at least for fishing. The crew is affected by the waves. One guy spends the rest of his time lying on the floor. The others do a bit better but due to the lack of action, happiness is not exactly what you feel in the boat. Tomorrow is another day!
I spend some time in the evening trying to grab some decent images around the beach. Not a great result though. Tomorrow is another day!
Day two. Fishing wise it gets a little bit better but nothing to rave about. We had probably more bites but anything is better than 2 in my accounting. The skipper, a very good fisherman, beats my ass. I save my day with a decent Bonito. The wind is lower, sea more bearable. A frigate mackerel decides to commit suicide to serve as a great sashimi, readily fixed and served in the cockpit. Tomorrow is another day.
Day three, last chance. The crew has lost their hope. I still believe we can sort out something good. I know the big cows are there, is just a matter of finding one in a bad mood. We're jigging. Solely jigging with heavy irons and short rods. I have a good bite. Spit the hook, one more jerk and hits again. Solid hook-up, heavy headshakes and then a heavy dead weight coming up. Uuuuhm, I know what this feels like. Grouperish I'd say and in fact the animal comes to the surface and shows its hefty body. Maybe a 20/25 pounder, not enough for the show yet a precious catch for these waters. I can smile. Same exact moment, Jose, my fishing buddy from the Island, has a furious strike. Short fight. Too short. The fish pulls the hook and I'm sure it was a good one, maybe the one we were looking for. The drag cried loud.
Day 4, I fly back home. Lots of work to do and another trip in 7 days time. The day after they return to the water with Jose and enjoy the best day of fishing. 6 or 7 fish and yet no giant.
Kudos for Victor, the smiling skipper that never gets out of ideas. We'll come back, I know they are there....