Thursday, April 21, 2016

Persistence, Luck, and Underwater Photography

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I've been lucky.



Wanting to work on a few brown trout paintings, I've been in search of opportunities to shoot good reference photos... a deceptively difficult task given the nature of brown trout. Even when conditions are ideal, the task of underwater photography has a multitude of challenges to overcome.

About as good as it gets most days.
Where I live, browns tend to live in some less than pristine places. The water is often murky and dark. The streams can be choked with silt, so every movement stirs a cloud of debris into the water. Brown trout, especially big ones, most often feed during low light periods... sometimes the really big fish can be nocturnal (perhaps a brown trout nocturne painting in the near future? Hmmmmm...). Dark overcast skies, rain, snow, and general crappy weather can make fish aggressive and result in some outstanding fly fishing. None of these things are good for aquatic photos. 

Related to the item above, the best photos I get always seem to come during bright sunny conditions. Water quickly defuses light, so color and contrast quickly fade as the point of view moves deeper into the water column. The midday sun on cloudless days makes for remarkable patterns of light and hues really pop. Unfortunately, trout can be spooky and all but impossible to catch on these bluebird days. 
 
Nice shot, Sparky.
Aside from dawning snorkel gear and submersing myself in 45° water (which there's no chance in hell I'm going to do), aiming the camera to get the fish in the frame is a crap shoot. It's always a little easier if I've got someone along to wrangle the fish while I concentrate on the camera. Understandably, my fishing buds aren't nearly as interested in getting these shots as I am and tend to be off doing their own thing. So most times I'm left to handle this on my own. My photography technique consists of holding the line with one hand (after I'm lucky enough to catch a photo-worthy fish), jamming the camera into the water with the other, and trying to guide the fish and the camera in coordinated movements. It's akin to the old barroom 8-ball "poke and hope" method. When the fish are particularly frisky, this can lead to some comical mid-river dance moves and lots of fishing line wrapped around my legs. I've looked up on occasion to find I have a puzzled yet amused audience watching from the stream bank. I'm actually amazed every time I manage to get a great shot. There are literally hundreds of clunkers for every good one.



All that being said, I've managed to get some absolutely outstanding material in the past week. The water has been unusually clear and the fish surprisingly cooperative. LUCKY! LUCKY! LUCKY! Oh... and I get to go fishing and call it work. HA!

Oh, and if you were hoping to see my VERY BEST shots here... FAT CHANCE! There are enough lazy "artists" out there using to web to rip off the work of others. I think I'll keep those pix for myself ;)
Okay, I'll probably paint a version of this shot soon.

1 comment:

Mary Gielow said...

Jim, those are amazing images. Perhaps lucky but more likely you are just a tad wilier than those wily trout. How you find those beautiful, clear trout streams is a mystery.