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Captain’s Log: Photographic Evidence of a Great Day of Fishing

Capture the action of the battle, and lure your subjects to act naturally for more candid shots

The best memories of fishing trips and boating adventures are ones that are backed up by good photographs. Occasionally, charter passengers e-mail me photojournalistic masterpieces that wonderfully chronicle their adventure on the WaveWalker. These folks create something that gives their family and friends a meaningful history of fun times.

Capt. David Bacon
Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)

Break out that camera early. Too many cameras stay in their cases until fish are coming over the rail. From a photographic perspective, the best part of the day is already gone by then.

To take pictures with a magical quality, you must take advantage of every possible source of natural magic. In my opinion, the greatest natural magic is the soft color of light during the golden time from a half-hour after first light to an hour after sun-up. The first 20 minutes after sunrise are the best. The colors captured during this golden time are soft, warm and vibrant.

Begin taking pics well before the fishing begins. Catch a sunrise and try to frame it with interesting images and shapes. Take shots of your group rigging up, tying on lures and hooks, and talking naturally to one another. Try to get photos of people looking at a task, object or person rather than at the camera.

Many fishing trips include a stop at the bait receiver. These may not be glamorous places, but the baiting-up process is interesting and worth a few photos. Try to get a shot of the bait receiver attendant and the crew passing a scoop of bait. Take a shot into the bait tank to get a visual on the swimming baits. After leaving the bait receiver, take a few shots around the harbor on the way out, including sea lions, harbor seals, gulls, pelicans, cormorants, loons, egrets, herons, interesting boats, buoys, lighthouses and piers.

Open water shots with the mainland or islands in the distance give viewers a perspective for how far out you went to do battle with denizens of the deep. You may go down in family lore as an intrepid adventurer. Without the photos, you may be known as a tepid adventurer. Protect your hardy reputation with good photos.

Soft morning colors add quality to fishing photos. Fortunately, many fishing days begin early with opportunities for photos in the soft morning glow. Once the fishing begins, photos are of the utmost importance. I am greatly amused at the difference between bird watchers and fisher folk. When a bird watcher tells friends that he or she saw a particular bird, his or her word is as good as gold. When an angler says he or she caught a certain fish, there had better be photographic evidence or there will be some flagrant guffaws and questioning looks! Back up your stories with crisp, clear photographic evidence.

Great fishing photos are a captured image of action. Avoid what professional editors call “grin-and-grab” photos, wherein someone poses, with a fish, looking right at the camera. Sometimes it is the only option, but try to get more interesting shots. Some of the best shots are fish right on the surface, a crew member gaffing or netting a big fish, the successful angler getting excited, two people holding a fish between them and looking at each other while laughing or talking and a fish being weighed.

A photo that captures action and scenery tells a compelling story, especially when followed by a photo of the angler with the fish after the battle. Hint: If possible, take the fish photo with the same scenery in the background.
A photo that captures action and scenery tells a compelling story, especially when followed by a photo of the angler with the fish after the battle. Hint: If possible, take the fish photo with the same scenery in the background. (Capt. Tiffany Vague photo)

It is difficult to stop fishing, when the bite is on, to tend to photograph duties, but the rewards are worthwhile. Never put an impressive fish in the box, figuring on taking photos later when the fishing slows. That dead or dying fish will have nowhere near the visual impact it has while it is fresh, wet and colorful. Fishing pictures must be taken as the fish are being caught.

Take careful note about what is in the foreground and the background. Move rods and people out of the way. Make sure there are no major shadows across the fish or angler. Use a flash to fill in light where needed. Try shots from kneeling, standing and from high — such as on the bridge. Have the angler hold the fish out in front. When the angler’s clothes make the fish blend in, hold the fish away from the body where the background allows good color enhancement.

At the end of the day, take photos of the boat and crew, if aboard a charter boat or open party boat. The boat and crew were very much a part of your day, and those photos will help tell the full story of adventure.

When a really dazzling photo comes along, consider sending it in for possible publication with credit to you.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.

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