I fished the Vaal River on Friday, the weather was perfect with blue sky's and the Baro readings good! The river flow was around 30 m3/sand ideal for the stretch of riffles I was fishing. I used a New Zealand Rig and fished it upstream and across. The hook-ups were frequent - the fish was eager to take any fly that drifted naturally on the bottom. I had a wonderful day on the river and it was good to experience some Déjà vu's of the old days....
Photography and fishing have been intrinsically linked throughout history. Anglers traveling to beautiful, far-away, and nearby places have documented their surroundings and trophy catches for years. And everyone knows that bragging rights must be accompanied by photographic proof.
Digital cameras have gotten faster, cheaper, and a whole lot more powerful. Almost everyone owns a camera and, therefore, everyone can be a photographer.
While most snapshots do a fine job of documenting a trip, why not up the ante and take better photographs? Creatively composed shots are not as complicated as one might think. By following and practicing the next twenty suggestions and tips, you'll be outshooting your buddies in no time. Just be careful you don't get too good or you might be doing more shooting than fishing.
1. Learn what the buttons do: Sit down with your camera manual and read. You don't have to learn everything, but knowing the basics is important. Modern point-and-shoot cameras are powerful machines that combine a ton of features that are easy to use and can vastly improve your photos. Most people never take their camera off "auto," which is a shame.
2. Check to make sure your camera's working before you head out: Are the batteries fresh? Is everything working properly? Are your memory cards erased? Check to make sure the camera is not still switched to the "indoor light" settings from your little sister's birthday party the night before. There have been numerous occasions where my first great shot of a trip is ruined because my settings were wrong for the occasion.
3. Have your camera accessible: I can’t tell you how many times I would have had a great shot if my camera was not buried under pounds of fishing gear, lunch or my rain jacket. Have the camera at the top of your pack, a pocket of your vest or slung around your neck. If you're worried about it getting wet, buy a small dry bag that can easily be slipped into a vest pocket. Dry bags have gotten slimmer, and less expensive. Easily worth the money for protecting your camera.
4. Be aware of condensation: Much like bringing a cold beverage out of the freezer, your camera will "sweat" and fog up if brought from the cool air of A/C out into a humid or hot environment. Some cameras will malfunction and actually shut off if the condensation becomes too much for the internal circuitry. The same goes for shooting in the winter - if it's hot inside and you march right out into the cold the same thing will happen. Let your camera get accustomed to its environment for a full hour before its first use. This image was ruined because I forgot I had left my camera in the cooler for an hour after placing it there quickly and forgetting about it.
5. Use your macro setting: Most point-and-shoots have amazing macro capabilities that are never utilized. On most cameras, the icon for this setting is a little flower. This will allow you to fill the frame of your picture with a fish's eye, unique markings, the fly you tied, or the lure sticking out of the fish's mouth.
6. Centered images are typically boring: While this is not always the case try and use the rule of thirds. Divide your frame into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Place the center of attention on one of those "third lines."
7. Make the fish "pop": Use your longest zoom setting (without using digital zoom). Without going into the technical details, this "stacks" the image compressing space. Typically this will throw your background into a soft focus, drawing the viewer's eyes to the subject.
8. Always, always, always look for distractions in the photo:This is harder to do than one might think. It’s a practiced skill, but will vastly improve your images. For example, don’t let cousin Joe’s backpack into the side of the frame or your buddy’s fishing rod hover into your shot from out of nowhere. Isolating your subject matter without all the distractions will improve the overall composition of the shot. This shot could have been a bit stronger without that reed cutting right through guide Johnny Quiroz's neck.
9. Take more than one shot: Take three times as many photos as you normally would. Many cameras have a setting to take more than one shot at a time. This is especially important when shooting fish as they like to flop around when out of the water - making the hero shot challenging at times. The more shots you can rip off in a couple of seconds the better. Take more than you need and if you're short on card space just erase the ones you don't like after you've released the fish.
10. Learn how to hold a fish for a better grip-and-grin:Remember that heroic fight, the run down the bank, the last ditch effort by your fishing partner to net the fish of a lifetime? After all that, don't waste the shot by holding the fish awkwardly. Here's a foolproof method for getting the best shot of your fish. Drop your arms to your sides, face your palms out. Now think about the fish resting on just the very tips of your fingers and letting your thumbs slide behind the fish, partially obscuring them from view. Be very cognizant of damaging or covering up the gill cover and pectoral, pelvic, and anal fins. Position your hands behind the head and in front of the tail. If the fish is larger and you need a little bit of elbow grease to hold it, simply switch the position of your tail hand to the front of the fish grasping with your entire hand around the front of the tail. This covers a bit more of the fish but still shows the tail and makes it a bit more manageable to control large fish.
11. Try something different: Instead of the same old awkward holding big fish picture try something different. Take a picture of the smallest fish you caught that day. Hold the fish as far away from your body as possible with the fish safely over and low to the water. Focus just on the fish. This tends to make them look quite a bit larger. Try taking a photo of the fish resting in the net, in just a couple inches of water. Take your first shot just as the fish is slowly being raised out of the water. Sometimes this freezes the water dripping off the fish making for a nice effect. Rest your fish in some slack water and take a couple of shots as he makes his dash for the current kicking up a wave in the process. The options are endless so get creative...
12. Get closer to your subject: Look at most of your photos of fish or fishing friends or the boat. I’ll bet most of them are taken from about 10 feet back. Don’t be scared, that fish isn’t going to bite... to hard. Get on up in its grill and take some interesting shots. Fill the frame with angler and fish. Here’s a good rule of thumb. Whenever you take your next image of friend, fish, camp, whatever, get twice as close as you normally would and take a couple of shots. In fact take a bunch. You can always erase them.
13. Stop and look around: Anglers get to see some amazing sights when out in nature. Colorful sunsets, sunrises, gatherings of migratory birds, strange animal behavior, incredible landscapes, friends doing silly things...shoot this stuff. In fact, shoot this more than just your standard trophy or grip-and-grin. It can be far more interesting when looking back at your tip as a whole. Tell a story, not just a piece of one.
14. Track the sun: “Keep the sun at your back” is still true with digital photography. Colors are typically much better if the fish is in sunlight rather than in shadow. Shooting into the sun will render anything other than the background as silhouette. This can work in your favor if the landscape is your main focus. A well placed silhouette can really make a photograph.
Bjorn and I fished the Vaal today, the weather did not look so great on arrival but luckily it clear up nicely as the day progressed. The flow of the river was higher then anticipated due to the inaccurate reading on DWAF, it was close to 50 m3/s and not 36! The first hour on the water were fruitless and after some modifications on my rig I was into my first Yellow- a nice 2kg SM. By lunch time I hooked another two Yellows of 1 & 1.5kg, we called it the day by 2:00pm and went home to watch the Shark/Crusader game - cracker of a game!!
We decided to fish Yellow Fish Paradiseon Sunday, the river flow was at 28 m3/sand the water murky. I was into my first Yellow on my second cast, a nice 2.8kg on a #16 Brassie. The rest of the morning was slow and Bjorn and I decided to try Eendekuil after lunch. The floods clearly left its mark and some of the water channels look and feel allot deferent now, after a long and hard session I only managed to hook one Yellow, again on the #16 Brassie. It was a hard and slow day on the water but the companionship were priceless!