Photo catch and release, digitally
Harry Christensen's pompano took a gold
spoon meant for a redfish. When a school of pompano appeared
unexpectedly, Christensen teased it to take the spoon.
Photos of a special fish, magic light on the natural world or an outing with a friend hold the promise of years of enjoyment. Digital cameras make capturing a moment in time easy, fun and allow you to develop your vision in the digital darkroom. The best part is that you can enjoy this amazing technology no matter what your level of expertise. Most digital cameras come with software that lets you enhance the image, crop the size and share the final product in a number of ways. You can send the images via e-mail, or print them out to frame and display. There are a few basic rules that will help you capture the best possible digital image: Before you leave the dock, make sure you have fresh batteries, memory cards (digital film) and a clean lens.
There is almost always a certain amount of chaos associated with a catching a memorable fish, so get an idea in advance of where you might take your shot. Check the background through the view finder carefully for distractions like a rod appearing to stick out of someone’s head. If you are prepared, you’ll get photographs that aren’t posed with the vibrant colors of a fish fresh out of the water. First and foremost, fill the frame with the subject, eliminating anything that doesn’t add to the composition. Since you’re filming on the water, check that the horizon is straight. I check the exposure every few minutes and shoot aperture priority unless I’m trying to photograph jumping fish. When stopping the action is more important than the depth of field, shoot shutter priority.
Many photographs taken on the water are exposed in bright light. A camera’s light meter averages light over the scene, so an angler’s face (especially if shaded by a cap) will often be dark and lack detail. Make sure you expose your shots with fill flash. Modern digital cameras, even the less expensive ones, can automatically determine the correct amount of light to fill in the shadows. Take a number of shots from different positions and get the angler excited and talking to you. One of the really great advantages of digital is that you can take lots of pictures and edit them as you go to make sure you have the shot you want.
More advanced digital cameras and flashes allow you more control over the final image. Since the lighting is almost always challenging, shoot and then review important shots. If you have a more advanced camera, always bracket important shots in difficult lighting situations. Expose at least three images: one slightly underexposed, one slightly overexposed, and one at the setting suggested by the light meter. If the light is bright and the subject dark, try spot metering on the fish and then the angler’s face. If spot metering isn’t available, come in close to establish the proper exposure. Photographers shooting with a digital SLR camera and independent flash units must remember (check the camera’s menu) to bracket with the flash.
There are a lot of excellent digital cameras on the market. Most come with a trial version of an image editing software like Adobe Elements. I would suggest buying at least an 8 Megapixel camera that has a zoom lens. Most point and shoot cameras will not accept polarizing filters, but you can buy a polarizing filter and hold it in front of the lens. There are many models on the market from $160 to $600. Taking the time to capture the moments of life pays dividends when you can continue to relive, and share them through your images.
For more information on the right camera for you, check with a professional at your local camera shop or go to www.bhphoto.com. Software demos (Check out Lightroom 2.0) can be downloaded at www.adobe.com.