Fish Photography

While most deserve that fate, I can’t stand throwing out anything that has to do with my fishing exploits or those of my fishing ancestors. So now we are in the process of putting years of fishing photos into some sort of easy order so that we can grab one book and view generations of Ellsberg fisher folk. While we did inherit the love of fishing, we seem to lack the gene necessary to take photos that are worth saving. In fact, most of my best pictures were taken by someone on the streamside who volunteered to take a shot while I held a fish!

If your kids or grandkids might someday like to look at those shots you took during their youth, you might want to take a few pointers from someone who just looked through hundreds of incredibly lousy shots!

Holding the Fish
To properly display a fish, you first need to keep it from moving. Those cute shots of junior holding a fish out in front of him dangling from a hook are almost always awful. Most fish manage to get turned sideways to the camera so that you can see almost nothing except a little blur of a moving tail! Fast film can help, but catching a good angle of a fish while it’s jumping is usually futile.

The best way to display a fish is to make sure that it is sideways to the camera—stomachs and backs make really lousy shots. You can’t tell how big the fish is or even what species! If you have several fish to show, make sure that all of them are turned to the camera. This is hard to do if they are on a stringer or a stick.

My Grandfather’s favorite way to display fish he caught seemed to be to run a broom or rake handle threw their gills and to wedge the far side into a picket fence. You’d see his bicep on one side and the fence on another and a bunch of fish backs or stomachs. We have dozen of these and they are all awful!

Picking the Setting
Photos are also much better if taken on the stream or lakeside. Pictures with the back yard or garage as a backdrop don’t really give much of a feeling of the moment. I’ve got dozens of shots next to a pickup; these are equally lacking in atmosphere!

We all wear hats when we fish. It keeps the sun out of our eyes and helps avoid sunburn; it also makes you totally invisible when a picture is taken with the sun at the wrong angle. Fortunately, with digital cameras you have a chance to see your mistakes right away and can take another picture, but as a general rule, make sure the brim is up a bit or that your face is fully exposed. We have dozens of pictures that could be anyone holding a fish, just a black hole under a hat!

Be sure and identify the people in the picture. A date and location can also help bring the photo to life. It’s amazing how little time it takes to forget that odd relative or that kid that you met that summer at the fishing hole. Relatives can go nuts trying to figure out if the photo shows someone significant or just the bait boy on the charter. It also is nice to include weights or sizes of the fish caught.

Most important, however, is to take a camera with you. I make it a point to have a camera in my truck all the time and try to transfer it to a tackle box or a fishing vest before a day on the water. You never know when something special is going to happen and it’s not always to you. Since I’ve owned digital cameras I’ve probably e-mailed two dozen photos to strangers I’ve met at streamside who caught a great fish and didn’t think to bring a camera. It’s a good way to make new friends and help someone else out with their family scrapbook.

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Bob Ellsberg’s column, Fishin’, appears monthly in RV Life and rvlife.com.

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