Self Take Photography Ė By Steve Noctor

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            Ever caught a decent fish and thereís been no one around to take the photos? Or given your camera to a complete stranger and been more than disappointed with the results? If the answer is yes then Iím not too surprised and you can rest assured youíre not on your own. Most of us have been there and worn the tee shirt but if you want reasonable results most of the time read on.

            First of all you need some reasonable equipment. I know this sounds expensive and it is to a certain degree but if you want some good photographs of a fish that you have worked hard for, spent time and money chasing, then the expense isnít too bad. Itís also worth remembering that once youíve bought your equipment, so long as you look after it, it will last you for a long time. Donít forget that you donít have to buy new, there is plenty of good second hand equipment on the market but if you buy from a shop try and get a guarantee, even if it costs a little extra.

            The equipment you will need is roughly as followsÖ

 A camera, what I would suggest you look at, to start with, is a SLR with auto wind, auto focus, built in flash, built in light meter and has the ability to take an air release or has a remote control for your self take photos. A lightweight tripod with adjustable legs and a swivel head to allow you to decide which way up you like your photographs. An air release around 10feet in length. A decent camera bag with some silica gel sachets in the bottom to help stop the damp affecting your camera. A separate light meter is not essential but I would personally advise you to buy one. I prefer and use an air release but I know others who use a remote but Iíd rather have a good hold on the fish with both hands than try to hold both the remote and the fish with one of my hands. I would suggest that if you want to use a remote that you make some sort of a device that you kneel on to activate the remote, as this will leave you one less potential problem.  

            Something else to think about is your choice of film. Personally I take slides or transparencies and prefer to use Fuji chrome 100. The 100 is the speed of the film and the smaller the number the better the quality of you pictures but the more light you will need to get them. So, I would recommend 100 or 200 but would not go above 200 as I find the pictures start to go grainy especially if you enlarge them. Even if Iím taking ordinary photographs I still use Fuji film 100 as I think that their colours are better than the other makes that Iíve tried. Whichever make of film you use just make sure that the film is in date and that there is a tag end on any new film you take with you before you go fishing. Itís very rare for the film to have no tag but it does happen. One other thing to bear in mind is that you donít want to leave your film in your camera too long and for this reason I only put my film into my camera once I have something I wish to photograph. Once the film is in the camera I try to use it within 6 months as apparently it deteriorates over time.

            Now youíve got the equipment, youíve just caught the fish of your dreams, now YOU are going to photograph it. First of all, if allowed sack the fish safely in the margins, if not leave the fish in your landing net, propped up with bank sticks if necessary but make sure it is safe and secure. The reason for this is simply that you donít want to rush setting the camera up, taking a little time will help get the best results and calm you down from the high of the capture.

            So with the fish safe and sound, take a look around for the best place to take the pictures. Take into consideration the bank, you want a nice flat bit preferably grass covered but not too soft that the air release pushes into the ground when you kneel on it. Also take into consideration the background, you want a nice green background, much more carpy than a main road. Last but most importantly you need to look at the light source. You want the best light source shining on the subject of your picture. This is pretty straight forward if the sun is out, just face the sun but if it isnít you need to work out where the brightest light source is coming from and face it. One way of doing this is to buy a light meter and use it. Often on a dull, overcast day you will often find that the best light source is the lake, which is a real shame as the lake can make a very good background. On the dull days if you do use the lake for the background, you will tend to get a picture with a nice bright background with a dull angler and fish, so beware.

Something that obviously has a bearing on the light source is the weather but it can also determine where your camera goes. If it is raining and your camera has a lot of electrical circuit boards inside it, you will need to keep it as dry as possible as a little water can turn out expensive. So, in the rain the camera stays under your umbrella and you pose out in the wet. Also, in strong winds your camera needs to be sheltered, first to stop it blowing over and second to avoid camera shake.

            Once you have decided where to take your picture you need to attach your camera to the tripod and adjust the legs to the required height. I find that the best height is around eye level for a photographer in the kneeling position, as the camera will be pointing straight at you. Now you need to frame your picture as in working out what will be in the shot and what wonít. I prefer to take my pictures so that the short part of the picture is at the top, I think itís called portrait and prefer this to landscape because you can get closer to the fish and reduce the amount of background to a minimum. To frame my pictures I use an adjustable bank stick that will extend to the height of me in a kneeling position. Keep placing the bank stick in the ground until you can see the top and bottom of it through the viewfinder but with a small gap above and below it and make sure it is in the centre of the viewfinder. Once you have this bank stick in place put your unhooking mat in front of the bank stick and take another look through the viewfinder. I prefer to be able to see all of the mat as well as the bank stick. Now run your air release from the mat to the camera and screw it in. At this stage I then use two small bank sticks to judge where the sides of the picture are going to be. I try to get them just out of the picture so that I can leave them in the ground but they wonít show in the photograph. I now remove the tall bank stick but mark the ground where it was so that I know where the centre of the photograph is going to be. The reason for removing the bank stick is so that it can not show in the end photograph, you donít want to look like a unicorn. Now that everything is in position I set my camera to auto and then position myself over the spot where the bank stick has been removed from and place the air release bulb where my knee will be positioned during the actual shot. Finally I try a test to make sure that everything is working right, itís better to find out now and not when the fish is on the bank.

            Before you take the fish out of the water get a container full of water and wet the mat. Refill the container and place it out of camera view but only just so that you can wet the fish during the photo shoot. Have a final check to make sure everything is ready and then get your fish and place it on the unhooking mat. Take up your position over the centre mark from the removed bank stick and then pick your fish up, taking care to hold it upright and not tilt it towards you. You can now use the two small bank sticks to quickly judge if your fish is in the centre of the shot and not going to have itís tail or head cut off. Now simply smile and kneel on the air release bulb and you should get a decent photo. After the first shot, remove your knee from the air release and the camera will wind itself on ready for the next shot. The procedure is exactly the same at night although you donít need to worry about the light source as that will be coming from the cameraís flash. Always keep in mind though that the fish is ultimately more important than any photographs so if you do encounter any difficulties during the photo shoot either retain your fish again while you sort out your problem or better still forget the photos and return it. 

Itís really quite simple although it might sound a bit complicated to start with but the more you practice the better you will get. It might be worth your while to get a roll of film and practice without a fish. Once you start to get the hang of setting everything up you will find that it will only take a few minutes and the photos can be taken quickly and the fish returned non the worse for itís experience. Also once you get the hang of the basics you can start to experiment a bit with the other settings on your camera where the variations are limitless but knowing that you can still fall back on the basics to get a reasonable picture.

The end result - a quality self take of a 20 plus English carp!

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