Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Know your camera and be ready when the photo op arrives

A determined bluefish eyes a topwater plug along the east side of Sarasota Bay.

Taking pictures is my passion on the water.
And from time to time, people want to know what camera I use. They see my photos, like them and think it's the camera that is the key.

Of course, a good camera helps, but it won't turn a bad photographer into a good one.

A bad photographer will take bad photos with a great camera.

I use two cameras. Neither are expensive, but they're not cheap, either.

Most of the time, I use a Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX1. This camera runs around $400. It's versatile and has many features.

I also use a Canon EOS Rebel that has two detachable lenses, a small 35 mm lens and a 300 mm zoom.

One of the keys to good photography is getting to know your camera. Know what it can and cannot do.

As one professional photographer once told me, "You need to manage your camera. Don't let it manage you!"

It's important to be able to recognize a good photo opportunity. Too many times, amateur photogs don't have a clue what a good photo op is. And if you're out in the wild, they can happen at most any time. You've got to be ready.

Shortly after I bought the Sony, I was fishing with Ken Taylor of North Port along the west side of Sarasota Bay. We were catching spotted seatrout, Spanish mackerel and a few pompano. Out of the blue, several dolphins swam near us and started jumping out of the water. Their leaps were amazing.

I grabbed the camera and was ready. One of the dolphins made an amazing leap and I pointed the camera in that direction and pressed the shutter release. I wasn't sure what I got, but it turned out to be a pretty good picture.

A few years ago, I was fishing along the east side of Sarasota Bay when a huge school of bluefish began blowing up on baitfish near the boat. A buddy of mine began casting a hookless topwater plug in their direction. I started taking photos by the dozen as he worked the plug through the school. The fish were busting that plug something fierce, erupting on it and grabbing it.

Of course, he didn't hook any because the plug didn't have any hooks.

I had no clue if I had gotten anything decent. But when I got home, uploaded the photos into the computer and started editing them, I was amazed. I got several really neat pictures.

It's nice to get a shot of a client or buddy, posing with a nice fish. I shoot those photos, of course. But I much prefer action shots. I like to get photos of people fighting fish, with the rod bent and the water churning. They usually have no clue they're being photographed.

You can always snap a few "posed" photos of people holding their fish after the fight is over.

There's no excuse for not taking a lot of pictures when you're using a digital camera. I remember some sage advice that pro photographer Frank Ross gave me 30 years ago.

"Take a lot of pictures," he said. "You might screw up and get a good one every once in a while!"

I've never forgotten.

So, I take all sorts of photos. I take them from different angles.  If they don't turn out, I can always delete them.

I love to take pictures in the soft morning light. It's a warm light that makes your photos turn out nice. Photographers don't like the harsh, mid-day sun. That's for mad dogs and Englishmen.

If you have to take a posed shot during the middle of the day, you might want to use your flash. Otherwise, the person's face may be totally dark because of a shadow.

Also, remember you want your subject facing the sun. You don't want the sun behind your subject. If it is, you'll probably get a silhouette.

Focus. Focus. Focus. You can take the greatest shot in the world, but if it's out of focus, it's not going to be very good.

Zoom in on your subject. No one needs to know what kind of shoes they wear. Fill the frame with your subject.

Get a good editing program. I use PhotoShop, but there are quite a few good ones out there.

One thing I do not like is when amateur photographers "PhotoShop" the heck out of their pictures. They manipulate the lighting and color, thinking this makes great photos. Not so.

Some people think carrying a camera is the kiss of death on a fishing trip. I've never found this to be the case. I've had many memorable trips over the years and I've got plenty of photos to prove it.

Of course, water -- especially salt water -- can be damaging to your equipment. I keep my cameras in waterproof Pelican Cases until I'm ready to use them.

There are days when the photo opportunities just don't seem to happen. That's OK. You don't have to take pictures.

But when that special opportunity presents itself, you'll be glad you have your camera.