Monday, October 13, 2014

Fish Photography: ABC's of Catch-Photo-Release, Part 2

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This is part two and the final post of CPR (catch-photo-release) techniques.  Before reading this post, I suggest reading part one.  Why? Part one sets the tone and will help the reader understand why I am writing about this subject; a subject, in my opinion, that is wholly ignored by the industry.  Part one is at

The DIY Photo Situation

Part one explained how to CPR a fish that you beached/landed, in shallow water.  For the record, I define beaching a fish as keeping it in shallow water as much as possible. For various reasons, let's say that you don't want to beach the fish; in other words, you want to stay in the water.  Here are my suggestions on how to capture high quality, yet unique photos.  

  1. Stay calm throughout this process.  The calmer you are, the more relaxed your subject (the fish) will be.
  2. While playing the fish, reel in excess line that is floating on the water.  The combination of current and excess line typically causes problems when you attempt to CPR a fish. 
  3. The fish seems cooperative at this point, so the next goal is to bring the fish towards your body, so you can net it, or handle it with your hands (I rarely fish with a net because I find them to be more of a problem).
  4. Two key points to achieving step #3:  1) leave at least a rod's length of leader-tippet-line out.  From my experience, leaving a little more than your rod length is desirable.  2) When you are in full control of your fish, and if you have the correct amount of line out, simply lift your rod/arm directly toward the sky (hint, arm should be straight up in the air and elbow should be locked). 
  5. Once you master step #4, you should find that the fish will easily swing towards your body and come directly into your knee's or crotch area (think of the geometric principles that a crane and wrecking ball employ; i.e. lever and weighted ball).
  6. In one motion, gently grab the line and place your rod underneath your casting arm pit.  You should be hands free now and still in control of this fish.  Hopefully, the fish should be relaxed and resting near your body. 
  7. With your free hand, grab your camera and prepare to take your shot.
  8. Leave the hook in and DO NOT attempt to squeeze/grab/hold fish.  Simply cup the fish underneath his/her belly and then lift and shoot.  At this point, you are shooting blind and creating a fish selfie portrait. 
  9. Step #8 may seem awkward at first, and you may doubt your ability to get the right shot. But, simply keep taking photos. I may take up to 8 photos, within a few seconds. Hint; buying a high quality camera with fast a focal point and shutter speed, provides the best opportunity to capture high quality images.
  10. Stay relaxed but move as fast as you can so you can release the fish as quickly as possible. With practice, it's not that difficult.  See below photos for more details.  

Cup-Lift-Photo.  If you use a squeeze or choke grip technique, the fish will always squirm and wiggle.  Why? You are crushing the vital organs of the fish and you are tickling the lateral line of the fish.  Think about this way; if I were to bear hug a human being, or attempt to tickle your ribs, what would you do?  Hint; the larger the fish, the more they cooperate, especially Brown Trout.
The Head Shot, with scenic landscape in background.  This photo does not capture the length of the fish, but the overall aesthetics are very pleasing. The take away message: the world does not need to always know how big and long the fish was.
Another large Brown Trout, but I settled for a great head shot.  As anglers, we seem addicted to length and girth type photos. What about the details.  Look at the pectoral fin; this tells a telling story and for me, is beautiful. With this particular fish, I was able to take the hook out pre-photo, and he cooperated nicely. 
Rainbow Trout can be more feisty and difficult to handle.  Remember stay calm and allow the fish to settle in your palm.  By pre-wetting your hand, you increase the likelihood of the fish staying calm and increase the likelihood that it will cooperate with you.   
Your instinct will be to employ the squeeze and choke grip.  However, once you become proficient at CPR techniques, you'll learn to use as little control as possible.  Notice the cupping technique and more importantly, how my first two fingers are relaxed and away from the fish. 

Final Word

I hope this mini series about Catch-Photo-Release techniques was helpful.  The more fish you catch and the more you practice these techniques, I believe you'll be more happy with the final results.  In the end, I believe the fish are better off and I believe you and others, will enjoy your photos more.

Thanks for reading.

Gone Fishing,