Stock Photo Gallery

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Good Intentions

We are very close to the end of this dreadful year, and full of hopes for the forthcoming 2010. For some funny reasons when a year ends we expect the new one to be much more favourable, like there was a net separation between December 31st and January 1st. A borderline. An abyss with no links whatsoever.

Amazing how the human being is. This is like believing in superstitions (I’m Italian, I do). Is like thinking that a politician is different from another. A democrat is better than a republican or vice versa. We’re like little kids, that’s what we are.

Anyway, after such philosophical introduction, and among us, absolutely out of context in a fishing, travel and photography blog, I’d like to spit my good intentions for the so much awaited 2010, and these are fishing, travelling and photography related.

Good intention for fishing: run away from the tackle fashion. Become a better fisherman, not a tackle expert. Use what I have and concentrate on the technique, not the latest lure. Develop my instinct and make good use of my experience.

Good intention for travelling: Travel less, travel better. Discover new places, take time for fishing, photography and actually know the place better. The people. The culture. Become a better traveller.

Good intention for photography: Know my camera better. Is what I got and I have to get the best out of it. Study the lights and improve my lighting, again with the tools I have. Think out of the box and vice versa, you never know. Work out “new” compositions. Move a step forward.

It IS going to be an amazing year.



Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Drew Gardner - An "Epic" photographer

I admire photographers who are good with lights. I also admire photographers who are creative. Hence, I guess, I have at least a couple of very good reasons to admire this guy, who not only knows how to light a scene, but is also able to create such an amazing image with this incredible atmosphere. His name is Drew Gardner. He's got a DVD available, check is web site to find where is available. This video is a trailer of the above mentioned DVD, Epic Location Photography

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Dark Session

The use of artificial light is, as the followers of this blog know, very high on my list. I got absolutely hooked by the use of strobes, speed lights and studio light, especially after becoming a follower of the Strobist community myself.

The problem is to find models, I mean, patient people who don’t mind being around with an obsessed guy who take strange pictures of them. Randomly, a member of the family gets involved in the task. Poor soul, he knows when we start but never knows when it all finish. This time it was my nephew’s time. 18 years old, rock music lover and with a light beard showing in his chin, perfectly matched with a dark hooded sweater.

We did the session inside a house in construction. We started close to sunset and finished when it was dark and I had to work my way through things with a portable lamp. Three lights: two Metz and one Nikon SB800. Elinchrom Skyport triggers. Manfrotto Nano Stands, translucent umbrella and a Honlphoto grid. These are my tools, together with the Nikon D90 and the 18-200VR lens.

We worked around different kind of situations, mostly based around the idea of the dark warrior or something alike. One light was taking care of the background, both from a bare Metz 48 or through a translucent umbrella. The kicker light, that for me somehow is the main light, or at least the one that takes care of giving the image “that feeling”, is on camera left coming from a SB800 gelled blue or red with a Honlphoto grid. On camera right we have a Metz 58 through a translucent umbrella.

The result is mixed. There’s so much to learn about lights and their fine tuning that I can’t expect major improvement overnight, yet a couple of these images make me happy and proud. The most disappointing is probably the third one, where the light coming from the umbrella is too strong and kills a bit of the atmosphere.

If you need any info about the setup don’t hesitate to contact me.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fly fishing at the Azores

Fly fishing anyone? This shot has been taken in a small island at the Azores, Flores. The small rivers are full of Rainbow Trouts, as aggressive as they get. In some rivers they are bigger, in others they are small, I mean, very small. yet they are great fun and boy, ain't the landscape amazing?

Here you got a couple of shots I took from a bridge overlooking one of those rivers, Rio Grande, well, big river... All right, is a small island so this is a big river, correct? The guy who's fishing is my friend Boris, shorts, sneakers and a too powerful of a fly rod, but we didn't exactly know what to expect

This photo is from a smaller creek with fewer trouts, yet a tad bigger. I enjoyed very much shooting Boris while he was fishing and also had a chance to take some landscape images for myself. I was carrying the tripod all over the place, playing with the flash and finally I left some room for the cameraman filming the whole thing.

I wandered a bit, looking for a spot I liked and finally found a bunch of hydrangeas overlooking the water. I took three different exposures and mixed them in PhotomatixPro3 for an HDR image, which I actually like a lot. Flores Island is an amazing place, think about visiting


You can't miss this one!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cape Cod, where the fish are bigger than the men

One day I can tell my nephews, I was there, at Steelwagon Bank, when the Bluefins were plentiful and the poppers were roaring!
I got there with my back still hurting, didn’t bring any rod with me, just my photo equipment (that already is quite a load), and a lot of layers of clothing in my suitcase. In Madrid at the beginning of November was still mild, above 15 Celsius every day, with 20º at midday, but Cape Cod seemed to have a different climate.

With me my friend Mario, the guy you nearly want to have travelling with you all the time. Great fun, good companion, good chatter, excellent fisherman and keen photographer as well. We were supposed to be there in October but a whole week of stormy weather drastically changed our plans and forced us to move our flight to November the 2nd. Lucky us. We ended up with some very nice weather, lots of sunshine and very decent sea conditions.
Domenico Petrarca, with obvious Italian ancestors, picked us up at the Logan airport and drove us to the hotel, very kind of him, he saved us a bit of hassle with the bus, something manageable but a tad tiring after 7 hours flights. On our route we stopped at the Longhorn Steak House and ate the whole thing. The red California wine helped the gastric juices and put us between the sheets at an even faster pace than planned.

Day one of fishing welcomed us with quite a nice swell. Leaving the safe and calm waters of Green harbour made me think of Dramamine kind of day and after half an hour cruise to the bank my stomach stepped into Defcon 3. We had 4 casting candidates on board, plus me and the Captain. So I decided to stay in a safe place, worrying about my stomach more than necessary. Thus, after a while of many casts to some very reluctant Bluefins I grabbed a rod and hopped to the bow. My stomach was already at Defcon 4

One warm up cast and on the second one a fish boiled some 70ft from the boat, at 12hrs. One cast between his eyes, a couple of twitches and bang! I set the hook some three or four times, tried to start a fight and when the “bad-back-bell” rang I had nothing to do but pass the rod to Tom, a very nice guy sharing the boat with us. My stomach by then was at Defcon 5, and roaring its ugly head! I was happy though, I had hooked my tuna and the guys were happy too because they could fight it. Big deal for an old man like me!
Now, the great thing about having somebody fighting a nearly 200lb Bluefin when Capt. Dom ( is at the helm is that the show that he puts together is already worth the trip. His yells and screams are unique and can be heard probably around the whole of New England, such is his passion for fishing and his great expertise in popping and jigging for Bluefins. Domenico is a great deal of fun, very motivating and always cheering up the crew. No doubt that he is among the best skippers I ever had the pleasure to fish with.
We had no more fish that day, few swirls, followers but no mo takes.

The following day we headed to Boston for a photo tour. The weather was nearly perfect, amazing blue skies, no wind, and reasonably warm. I don’t know how many photos we took but I had an absolute blast. I took my tripod with me and set it on every corner, park, building, tree that I found attractive. If cameras could melt for abuse my D90 would now be like a Dali sculpture.

Second fishing round. Nice weather, nice seas, happy me. On the boat with us a very good friend, Kil Song, who I have never met in person but talked to several times, during the last few years. It was truly like meeting a buddy from college time, and I was truly happy to finally meet him in person. With him Willie, a very nice and polite guy, very much looking forward to his first tête a tête with a Giant. Kil is a very experienced Tuna fisherman, way more than myself, and have already fished Steelwagon ban some 20+ times this season. Even though he was the eldest on board he kicked our ass big time with a magnificent 3 strikes X 2 fish caught, one on jigs and the other on a stickbait. Willie fought a fish that Dom has hooked and Mario, hooked his freight train at the very end of the day and lost it at the leader because the wire of the lure broke, but Dom has the mono in his hands so the fish was ethically caught. We did the Longhorn Steak House thing again, and boy, did we have a good time or what!

After one day of photos in Plymouth, where we had a nice lunch with my friend Peter Johnson of Roberts Lures, the last morning we left…well at night. Crazy Dom picked us up at 04:30, there was ice on the boat and I can promise you that it was freezing. Right at the mouth of the harbour we lost the sensitivity of our faces and after less than 5 miles we had no more sensitivity in our fingers or hands whatsoever. The Tunas seemed to be less active, I’m sure the cold night had something to do with their behaviour and we didn’t manage to raise a single fish to a surface lure. Thus, after a radio call from a friend’s boat, Mario first and myself 4 minutes later both hooked and lots two nice fish. Mario’s broke the braid and mine simply spit the hook. Dom had a further bite too but even though we put the lures on the head of many animals, we ended up with skunked.

The last dinner in our favourite (and only) Japanese restaurant was delicious, and packing things to return home quite sad. We had finally experienced the most amazing popping and jigging that can be done in this planet. The wildest beats, the most challenging hunt you can ever hope for. I’ve been a GT fisherman for years, loved the Cuberas, Amberjack and large Dogtooth Tunas, but none of these fish get ever close to the sheer strength and power of a Bluefin. These things are the Ferrari, IVECO and Boeing of the whole biz. Things will never be the same again.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wind On Leaders, the way to go!

Wind On Leaders for popping, something exciting to talk about. Dom, our skipper in Cape Cod showed us how they work and boy, ain't that cool! Damn the midknots, pr knots and all that tedious crap, a triple surgeon's knot to make a short loop and then a loop to loop connection with the wind on.

Gosh! I'm getting old and all the technical stuff really becomes boring for me, I like to rig my assist hooks though and a wind on is not much different from that and when you're out there fishing it really gives you an advantage

Yesterday I tied my first one, took me a while but it looks smooth and slick. I'm going to try with different lb test now, and then back to fishing to use them.

Knots? What the hack is that?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cape Cod Blue Devils!

Didn't have much time to post a proper report, I wrote it in spanish but a busy day didn't allow for a second one. I'll just say that we had a hell of a good time and that Steelwagon bank is a true Bluefin Tunas sanctuary, even in November. Taste this picture for the moment and as soon as possible you'll have a full report

Sunday, November 1, 2009

ALWAYS, bring the camera

Today I went with the wife and daughter for a picnic in the countryside, it was late and I just wanted to spend some time with them so I decided not to bring the camera.

When we got to the lake we saw quite a dramatic and at the same time amazing play of nature. A small snake, jumped out of a hole chasing two small mices and with a quick move managed to grab one of them. The scene that followed was developing in front of our nose. We kneeled down watching the small snake suffocating the little rodent; I could stretch my arm and touch them, so close I was.

After a brief struggle the snake probably decided that we were indeed too close and left the almost dead mice alone, returning to the hole. The poor soul came back to life, thinking that probably his day hasn’t come yet, and with a quite deformed body managed to get back on its feet.

We left them there: both little rats were frightened to death and quite confused about what to do with their uncertain life but I’m afraid that the snake, once we disappeared returned to the crime scene to complete the job.

My daughter was very disappointed with what the snake was trying to do to the rodent, and my wife was very happy that she’d disappeared, in fact she would have been happier if it was the mice trying to eat the snake….

I didn’t even pull out the phone to try to grab a shot, I was too excited watching it and truly I’m not a big cell phones camera lover. Today I have learnt another important lesson, never leave home without the camera…

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The damage done

Here it is, the broken foot of the Saltiga GT that costed me a very large Tuna, as you might have red in my previous story. Is not a very frequent problem in these reels but it has happened, and it shouldn't being this a top of the class machine.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bluefin on Popping tackle? Let me tell you my story!

Life sometimes offers lessons that can change the whole perspective of things. Las Wednesday I learnt a new one, one of those that hurt. It has been my Big Wednesday, without waves or happy ending.

With a 450km trip I reached San Sebastian, in the north of Spain, Tuesday evening. My friend Mikel was waiting for me at home: the week before he and another friend, Jose Angel, landed an 80kg Bluefin Tuna on top water lure (A Roberts Lures Big Shot), probably the biggest ever landed in the north with such tackle and I’m not sure but probably is also a record for the whole of Spain

The following morning we gathered at the Orio Harbour with Iker, Jose Angel and Juanma, ready for another great day of Tuna Popping. After some 20 miles cruise Iker spotted the first school of fish. Mammal, Dolphins was my first thought when I saw them, but eventually it was just huge Tunas. Calm waters and not very aggressive fish don’t make a great mix for a striking bite and the fish slipped away quietly, ignoring out lures.

In the hot spot, few miles further north, we saw few more, sorry, many more and some boats trolling around. Same results, none would care about our top water lures or casting jigs. Major frustration and disappointment, we all had great expectations. Thus, I was sure that a bit of breeze would have changed things, and after a large meal we resumed our fishing.

Eventually, the wind picked up a bit and the Tuna started crashing the bait in large numbers. Every 50 meters there was a pod of giant fish hammering the poor anchovies and yet, in the middle of that humongous feeding frenzy we couldn’t get a bite. Well, we got one, and that’s the beginning of a long and until now painful experience.

After one hour and thirty minutes I knew that the fish was larger than the one Mikel and Jose Angel caught the week before. I could bring the fish to the boat three times and each and every one he would pull enough line back to make me swear and sweat like an animal. My back was aching at the beginning but, it calmed down after a while, not a single time I doubted I could win the fish, I knew it was just a matter of time.

After almost three hours of fight something unexpected happened. The foot of the Saltiga 6000GT broke; the reel flew against the stripping guide, opened up the bail and sunk in the drink. Murphy has a new law for his forthcoming book. With the rod in my hand and the line running freely I gathered all my friends and tried the ultimate rescue. Wearing gloves we made a sort of a human chain and started gaining line. Nothing to be proud of but we all wanted to see the animal. Eventually, when the fish was no further than 15 meters from the boat the braid snapped and a heavy silence swallowed the boat.

The fish won, he owed his freedom to Daiwa Seiko Corporation, I had been beaten but not humiliated and both my body and soul was aching. Eventually at night I had to visit Emergency to get a shot of Voltaren to calm the pain on by back. It was damn strong and hurting me bad. I believe the Tuna was in the 130kg league, a fish close to 300lb, fought in 3000ft of water, on a popping rod, the Lamiglas Tropic Pro TP8650Sp, absolutely a great machine that I’m proud of.

I feel bad for loosing such amazing fish, the trophy of my life, but I will remember this day for the rest of my life: being on that boat with 4 friends suffering every second with you and supporting you all the way is a great thing. Damn! That is cool!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mike Laptew strikes again

Now, if you like fishing and fish in general and you don’t know who Mike Laptew is you are missing something. Mike, apart from being a very good friend of mine, is a breed among a seal (don’t take it personally Mike, nothing to do with the size of your waist), a Striped Bass, Richard Attenborough and some sort of Yankee.

He’s a photographer and a film maker. He is one of my teachers, the only one who could give me serious advise about fishing photography (Focus on the eye of the fish Nicola, if the eye is focused the picture is good!). He’s also a fisherman and he dives. Or is a diver and he fishes … Dunno, but the fact is that he knows one thing or two about finned critters. He’s based is Narragansett Bay, RI but he travels the world quite extensively so one day you might find him in some tropical waters, swimming with Whale Sharks or filming a school of Sailfish.

Having spent some …her…., don’t know how many years in the water, and when I mean IN I really mean inside it, he has become an expert on the behaviour of many different species of fish. Striped Bass, Flukes, Bluefish, you name it. Thus, the other day, when we were on the phone he told me this amazing story that I will report to you in the best possible way, through his killer photos.

These are Mike’s word describing these images:

“These images show two of the varied approaches they make as they make a strafing run on the small bay anchovies they were feeding on. Otherwise, they are in the tight ball formation you see in the third shot “Blue Angels”… oftentimes they are in a more fish-like, football shape (American football) which is probably as effective a defensive posture as it is an offensive formation.”

Mike told me he stayed with those False Albacores for 90 minutes. Had time to go back to shore, cancel some bad shots, go back again and take some more 50 photos. Imagine how difficult this is with such fast running pelagic fish that also have keen eyesight and don’t like too much being messing with people around, but this time Mike has been blessed with a true National Geographic feature and took full advantage of it.

Thanks my friend, is a great honour for me to be able to post your stuff here.

See more stuff from Mike in his website:

He’s also in Facebook

Mike is working on a new video, chek the trailer here:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A good man in an evil world

Life is strange, and this is one of the main reason why is worth living it as deep as you can. One day you’re trashed, work sucks, had an argue with your wife, and the following day somebody rings at your door and a big box is handed to you.

You know who’ve sent you the box, is a friend down in Andalusia, he called you the day before to let you know that something would come, but you don’t have a clue of what is inside the box. The BIG box, I should say, and is heavy.

The phone rings, you leave the package in the hall and answer. Blah, blah, blah, hang up. Damn! Lots of e-mails coming, you start opening them and replying. The box sits there waiting for you. Finally things get back to normal and you can resume your unpacking.

What the hell is this? A big bag shows inside the box and is quite heavy. You start pulling it from the cardboard parcel and you can read on one side “Starblitz”. A bell rings. Your dormant brain cannot realize straight away but you have a hint. light! Beat me; Starblitz is a lighting equipment maker so this must be a studio lighting kit or something like this.

The bag’s zip slides too slow compared to my heartbeat, but when I finally manage to open it every doubt disappear. It truly is a Studio Lighting Kit (Starblitz DI 160) with 3 lights, 2 soft boxes, one translucent umbrella, 3 stands, 1 radio trigger/receiver and the comfortable and handy bag.

Cannot believe it. During the last few weeks I have been browsing the various options to put together a studio light set and all of a sudden, without knowing my thoughts somebody has the idea to buy it for me.

Paquito, thank you very much, this is THE GIFT, one of the few things that in this very moment I could have asked for and really wanted to have.

If you’re a good human being, and I think I belong to this league, those you pick as your friends are good too and things like this can happen. Yes, I’m a lucky bastard!

I’ll be posting some pictures shot with the kit soon.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Black Pharaoh

Have you ever met a Black Pharaoh? Neither do I but I’m sure I met a descendant of the inhabitants of the Kingdome of “Kush” as the Egyptian called.

The Nubians where established in the northern part of Sudan and southern part of Egypt and their history reverts as far as 2000 B.C. First conquered by the Egyptians for their mines of Gold, the Ivory, cattle and Slaves, they got their freedom back around 700 B.C, not only chasing the Egyptians away but also gradually conquering the south of the country, founding the dynasty of the Black Pharaohs that will later unify and rule the whole of Egypt.

Well, I met my new my friend Negrashy, a true Nubian, on my latest trip. We were floating on some sort of fishing boat, scouting a new area in the south, and he was the man in control of the local burocracy and logistic. Is a great guy and we had a jolly good time together, but the real reason why is here in my blog, friendship apart, is because an early morning I took a nice picture of him.

Nikon Flash SB800 shot through a Honlphoto Grid. Nikon D90 with the Tokina 11-16, not the most flattering lens for a portrait, yet quite successful here, with this “tight” close up, as tight as a such wide angle allows.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Be ready!

Returning from or 4 days trip to the Red Sea we arrived at the mooring around 9 am. Once disembarked the luggage we had a brief time to stretch our legs before breakfast and another 5 hours car trip through the desert.
The massive amount of bait concentrated around the dock was utterly impressive. Millions of tiny sardines gathered and compressed against the walls, and all of the sudden schools of Gold Spotted Trevally and Bluefin Trevally started showing up with a bad attitude.

Everything happened in a blink of an eye. I put my camera to my eye, and sometimes didn’t even have the time to do so, and started firing. No time to change settings, no time to make any slight adjustment, just squeezing the shutter and thanking the D90 for having enough speed. This image isn’t sharp, when you will enlarge it you will see it, but as a friend photographer says, there’s so much going on this photo that who cares about the sharpness…!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Are Sea Bass aggressive or what?

Check this out guys, a good fishing week-end, lots of strikes and many missed fish. Good fun, the best you can get in a Mediterranean summer day. Light tackle all the way, like the good ol’ times.

We used walking the dogs and soft plastics rigged weedless and without any kind of weight: Super Flukes, Houdini Shads, Slug-go, and alike. First shooting with my new combo and the photos are mostly crap. I have to get used to it and work my way with the new flash too, is just a simple matter of time.

Look at this little European Sea Bass what kind of lure tried to inhale. And haven’t I been so lazy I would have had some other images of mini predators taking WTD as big as them, but the fish were biting and I was more into the fisherman rather than the photographer mood.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Life goes on....

Yesterday, when I received the sad new from Nikon and Sigma service that my gear was not worth fixing, I decided to go to my favourite shop in Madrid and buy myself a new combo.

The final choice was for the D90, not a pro outfit (and pro I ain't) and not too expensive in case it falls again into the water. I was unsure about the lens but the Tokina 11-16 f2.8 was very high on the list. Here it is now, in front of me, already matched with the camera and ready to go fishing tomorrow, and hopefully taking some decent shot

I'll post soon some images taken with my new outfit

Monday, June 29, 2009

Not much Guinness, lots of Sea Bass

The only Guinness beer we saw was canned Guinness, freshly bought from a local supermarket together with a couple of bottles of wine to irrigate our dinner. There was no time for bars, Irish pubs or parties. Only fishing, fishing and a little bit more of fishing.

Three crazy guys came with me to this exploratory trip to the deep Irish south west. Galway, a paradise for sea bass, protected by strict laws enforced by the government. Fish that grow for the exclusive pleasure of recreational fisherman, without the use and abuse of the trade. In a country like Ireland where the money is not plentiful and the crisis is hammering hard, this is a real impressive result. The recreational fishermen are only entitled to two pieces per day and no nets, gillnets, trawls and long lines are affecting the stock.

So the hopes were high. The reports from friends who had been there previously were amazing and it was already time to park the heavy duty tackle for some lighter outfit. Oriol, Thomas and Mario were the lucky ones who shared with me these 4 intense, fruitful and enjoyable days. John was our guide and Lynn, his wife, tireless cook, terribly frightened by the amount of food the Spanish-Italian team could gobble each day.

After about two and a half hours drive from Shannon Airport and a flat tire, we were able to reach the cottage. A quick bite to calm the restless stomachs and after rigging the tackle we could finally go fishing. The first day was a little poor, with a couple of bass and one or two more bites. A good dinner and a deserved rest were needed to prepare the tired bodies for the next day, with a scary wake up call at 04:30 in the morning.

On our first full day of fishing, even arriving at dawn at the spot and despite of the efforts of the guide, the fish were still not participating. However, Oriol managed to land the largest piece of the week, but the team is far from being happy yet.

It was just the second full day of fishing that things began to cheer up. There were moments of frantic activity followed by sudden stops, all this due to the tides and the food that would concentrate or spread the fish. But we were staring seeing numbers at least. The double digits that my friends anticipated me before my trip were not a lie or a fisherman’s exaggeration, and the Irish Bass proved us that they can be very aggressive and fierce predators.

Fishing was mainly either on the surface with walking the dogs, or an inch below the water with soft plastics, especially Fin-S and the Super Fluke, basically because they were the only ones we had. I found a dog that worked wonderfully in a foggy morning. Could cast it where others failed and obviously had an action that our finned ladies liked very much. Climbed to the highest step of the podium and every minute his stock value was moving faster that the rate of oil.

There are plenty of Pollocks too. Unfortunately the photos I have are so pathetic that I will not dare to show them. Thus I do remember the panic of climbing up and down those high and steep cliffs under which where they live. It was scary. Fearful. Hopefully next time they will not see me wearing long neoprene waders with felt soles, thus I will be scared again, no shame to admit it.

I fished with two 7-foot Lamiglas travel rods which have worked wonderfully. The old series of Lamiglas Travel was quite bad but these have shown great qualities, both in casting and working the lures, exceeding the 8-foot rods that my friends were using. One is spinning, the XTC 704 able to toss lures up to 3/4oz and the other is the casting model XTC7025 with a lure rating up to 1 1/2oz. On the first one I put a reel a tad too big for it, the Certate 3500 Custom and on the second a Team Daiwa Luna 253, bait casting, which is a little gem. Tuf Line 20lb with 20/30lb leaders. Lures of the like of Spit'n Image, GunFish, Sammy, High Roller, and the vinyl discussed above.

I’ll close this post with the negative side of the trip. During a photo session on the shoreline, three flashes mounted on a Lastolite Tri-Flash and a Manfrotto 001 Stand decided to take a swim and got as fried as the eggs we would eat in the morning. After a couple of hours I slipped on a rock and the Nikon D80 with the Sigma 10-20 drunk a good pint of water and stopped working. Finally, the joke had cost me more than most expensive trip to the tropics and I only managed to keep working thanks to the old D70s and 18-200, a lens that I don’t love too much and no speedlights available to lit up a bit the images.

Yet I came back from Ireland happy. I made peace with the soft plastics, I returned to see a country I love a lot, and I fished light tackle, which ultimately gives me great satisfaction. To be 100% satisfied I need the camera and lens to survive the dive, I’ll know it in few days.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Graduated Filters

Even in this high speed developing digital era, filters are important. I have learnt it the hard way, by making mistakes, and improving by reading magazines, web sites and listening to the others. Thus, there are people who are not aware of this, even “specialist” photo retailers, check this out.

One day I was looking for my first Neutral Graduated Filter to buy and hopped into a Madrid shop. The lady at the desk looked at me with a strange face, as if I was asking for some weird sado-maso rubber accessory. “Now, with Photoshop, nobody uses filters, we don‘t sell them anymore, you don’t need them”. This translates into this: “Sorry buddy, I know nada de nada about photography and you also caught us out of stock because the manager of this shop is a plain idiot and has lost the plot.”

Fair enough, in Madrid there’s also a great photography outlet ( and you can find there everything you need. So I was pretty relieved when I finally found my Cokin ND filters and started playing with them. First I bought a Soft Grey Neutral (P121S), then a Medium Grey Neutral (P121M).
The image on the right has been shot with the Medium Grey Neutral.

After a while, let’s say few months, I grabbed a Hard Tobacco Grad (P125). I have seen photos in the mags and the web done with this filter and I loved the result, is quite addictive. In fact at the moment my number one choice, even though I resist myself to use it all the time for reasons you can easily understand.

The image on the left is the same as the one on the right but it has been shot with the Hard Graduated Tobaco Filter

More information on Cokin filters here:

Another nice thing I have learnt is that the Cokin filters holder comes in different versions. First of all, if you use lenses up to 82mm diameter you will need the P series. Now, from this series you have two holders to choose. The P Filter-Holder is good to stuck up to three filters but is a bad choice if you use ultra wide angle lenses. The edges of the holder sneak into the frame and I had to zoom to 14mm at least to get a clean image. Again, the clerk in Fotocasión, this time a good photog himself, showed me the right one: the P-Wide Angle Holder. Is thinner, and you can only slide in one filter but it allows you to shoot (on DX format) even at 11 or 12mm, or 10mm if you don’t mind cropping a bit the image later (it darkens the corners a bit). If you use FX or 35mm film Cokin suggests using it with 20mm filters (some more information here:

The reason why you want to use these filters is because, most of the time, while shooting landscapes, there will be a major difference in terms of exposure between the sky and the rest. Skies will be 1, 2, 3 or even 4 stop brighter than the land and if you don’t do HDR or don’t care for multiple exposures blending, either you use a filter or you’re doomed to an underexposed land or a washed out sky. The neutral density graduated filters will allow you to reduce this difference: the grey part of the filter will reduce the luminosity of the sky and the clear part will leave the exposure that you choose for the land untouched.

It is important to say that the graduated filters cannot always be used for every landscape shot. They are recommended in those situations where the edge between the land and the sky is flat, but if you have trees or mountains the filter will inevitably darken these too, and they won’t look too good.
See image on the right, the trees on the upper right are completely dark because of the use of a graduated filter

Photoshop can do way many things, and you are probably able to darken a sky up to a certain point, yet, I doubt you can recover burned highlights or a completely white sky. These filters don’t cost a fortune and they save your butt in a lot of good photographic situations. If you go to a shop and the clerk tells you that there’s no need for filters anymore, just do yourself a favour, change retailer….

Monday, June 8, 2009

Want to be a winner?

Is your ego big enough? Do you want to understand if your photos are good or bad? Get free critiques? Maybe improve your technique?

Check this out:

After a fast and painless registration process you can upload your first image and start receiving votes from the other members of the pool. There are several categories to choose and you will sure find your best. It is a give and take game, you will receive votes but you will also have to vote the other images.

The basic registration allows you for just one upload at the time and if your image wins you will have the chance to open another slot. Otherwise, you can buy a subscription, and you will be able to upload more photos and to see the statistics of the votes you are receiving. Subscriptions to this site are among the smartest and flexible around. You can subscribe from one month to lifetime, and the fees are very reasonable. You don’t go bankrupt if you want to give it a try

Now, you will find a vast, endless variety of photographic styles and skills. From snapshots to masterpieces, all in one web site, all in the same voting board. The good photog though are always on the main page with their winning images. There’s no prizes for the winners, just a bit of virtual glory and points you accumulate in your account, both for uploads and to grow your voting weight.
I’m there and I’m having fun, it steals you very little time and gives you a chance to put your photos and your hidden (or not so hidden) ego to a test.

Give it a try and enjoy yourself :-)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

HDR? I'm going to think about it!

This is my first attempt to HDR using Photomatix (, probably the bets program around to edit your HDR photos. What is HDR? The word stands for High Dynamic Range and in very simple words it is the result of 3 or more images taken at different exposures and mixed together to achieve such an incredible dynamic range that most of the times neither the human eye is able to detect. For example one image is exposed for the shadows, one for the mid range and one for the highlights. The program blends them together and gives you a vast array of sliders to play with every aspect of the photo.

Usually the results look like a tad fake to me. People either overwork the images on purpose to achieve a specific effect, or they do it by misusing the program and create monster images, amazing to see but tiring, due to their non realistic look. The good ones, those who master the software, make great works, and I bow to them. Check out the HDR group in Flickr to see what this is all about.

I have tried with a couple of photos on the trial software, this is why it comes with a water mark, and finally decided to keep this one to show you. We are far from the editing of some stunning images, here I used the blending mode that is said to give the more realistic results and played very little with the sliders.

When I browse people’s work in Flickr ( am always a tad suspicious about HDR images. Being a bit on the conservative side, those photos look just stunning compared to the others and still I’m not sure if this is ok or not. Confused by progress, that’s what I think I’m suffering now but…let me learn how to use the machine from hell and I might become a great HDR fan… !

Thursday, May 28, 2009

About time for some fishing

People sometimes complain that there’s not much fishing in this blog. Fact is that for me, living in a city like Madrid, there are more opportunities to take photos rather than go fishing. Said that, a couple weeks ago I drove some 500km to the north east of Spain to meet a couple of friends and fish the waters surrounding the Delta of the Ebro River.

This place is quite emblematic for the Spanish coast. Is probably the best spot for Leerfish, Bluefish and Sea Bass plus a number of smaller pelagics. Sometimes Tuna and False Albacore show up yet it offers a very scarce jigging action. I have fished this area since 10 years probably, and I think I can say that I have been the first in consistently using top water lures, introducing the technique to many people who now use it with great results

During our two half days and one full day session we had seen quite a bunch of fish following our lures. My friend Oriol hooked a pretty large Leerfish and as many times happen he lost it during then fight. These darn fish for many different reasons are very tough both to hook and to keep hooked. I don’t know if is because of the hard mouth, the way the hit the plug or the fight they develop, but the fact is that for every 10 you have following your lure you are quite in good shape if you bring one to the boat

The Bluefish amused us with their spectacular strikes and fun fights. They’re not the main target but hey, they’re a good alternative and deliver tons of action. We also tried the Sea Bass, with scarce luck. Three small fish caught and one monster behind a lure creating a wake of impressive size. The good thing about Sea Bass fishing is that you can use very light tackle, and this is for me, at the moment, a major pleasure.

Oriol and Carlos, my fishing buddies, showed me how far the top water technique has been developed in their area to catch all these predators, and the funny thing is that in other areas of the Spanish coast, things can be dramatically different, and what works in the Delta, doesn’t’ work in Alicante, just to make an example.

I must admit that now what really attracts me is the light tackle action. I’d love to nail a large Sea Bass with an 8lb rod and line. I’m addicted to the walking the dog top water lures, I’d love to be more acquainted with the soft plastic and everything able to give me back my wrist sensibility lost in many tropical battles. Medium or heavy top water fishing can be fun, but for me it makes now sense to do it if the opponent is a member of the Tuna family. I have a pending affair with those fish and they’re at the top on my favourites list, but this is another story yet to be written...