Who am I?

My photo
An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to see the natural world as a place for competition. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!


Thursday, 7 November 2013

Self take photos

Many years ago I wrote an advertising feature for Kodak (UK) Ltd which was published in the "Specialist Angler" magazine of the National Association of Specialist Anglers. It was aimed at helping non-photographers to understand the fact that wet fish are similar to mirrors when a camera is involved, therefore, it being very important to getting decent images if the angler thinks about how the fish is presented to the lens.

A 5lbs Chub from the R. Stour - the unique scale pattern making this individual easily

The original image - two rod rests marking the outer limits of the frame. With 10.1 million pixels to play with,
it is an easy job to produce a completely different portrait using photoshop software.
It was a lengthy piece and well received by those guys I came into contact with. I was working for the mighty Kodak at that time and, as such, had contact with some very clued-up individuals. The demise of 35mm photography and, with it, my former employer, has coincided with the mercurial rise in digital image capture. Such is the speed with which this revolution has occurred, it is now a fact that more images are taken with phones than cameras! Some of the images that Benno has recorded, using his i-phone, are stunning. Why is photography so important? Well, angling has moved on from the days of "trophy rooms" and taxidermists - modern angling is a catch and release hobby, unless you fish for the table (something which is still particularly associated with game fishing - trout and salmon, but not solely) so the photo is the obvious means by which any successes are recorded.
Where does this leave me? I am still, very much, living in the past - reluctant to let go of the technology with which I am comfortable. Yes I own a mobile phone (a basic Samsung with neither camera or internet access) with which I am able to converse with Bev and others when required. I also use a digital SLR Canon camera - film being replaced by a memory card. The basics between film and digital remain constant, however, the modern photographer has one great advantage - it's called photoshop (in any guise it can be purchased). It is the photography version of the Monopoly "get out of jail free" card. Images that would have been useless, in the days of film, are now given a new lease of life by the ability to manipulate light levels, colour saturation and any number of other details using a computer program.

Yet still, in 2013, I get asked how to get a self-take image - it would appear that I'm not alone in being left behind in the void of this technological whirlwind of digital progression. Jim Gibbinson devoted a whole chapter, in his 1983 "Modern Specimen Hunting" (ISBN 0-9507598-7-2) to the importance of photography, and how to do it, in big fish angling. On Saturday afternoon I picked up a copy of Angler's Mail, in Westwood Tesco's, while I was waiting for Bev to sort herself out and am amazed at the lack of progress that image quality has made since the 1990's - there were some absolutely shocking photos of wonderful fish. With so much technology readily available, it is a question for the individual as to how much effort they want to focus into the recording of any fish that they are fortunate enough to catch; this must also be in the context of how much effort they made to be fishing, in the first place?
The other flank of my 18lbs 9oz pike - nothing close to the original image; the glare of the reflected light
from the flanks of the fish has been manipulated by the wonders of Adobe 7.0

As an individual, I have detailed records of every "double" carp, pike and catfish that I've ever taken - all very anal, but purely for my own reference, not a bunch of statistics by which I can compare/compete with others. I also, since my return to angling, have made the effort to capture an image of every "double" - just because I think it's important. When I hear of 30's returned without a photo, I wonder what has happened to angling? Such an event is, in my experience, so special that the very least it should require is a record image. If I catch a "30" I want a full size poster!!
So how do I manage when I'm on my own? Firstly, not all fish captured require the effort involved with getting me in the frame - simple portraits of fish laid on a mat/sling with a rod and reel for scale. However, if the fish is of "specimen" size, I do like to get a record with me posing, holding the catch. I do this with the most basic of techniques, using the time delay shutter release facility on my EOS and a simple modification to my Camlink mono pod (complete with Jessop's ball swivel camera mount) I attach it to a bank stick, by the use of insulating tape, thus making it free standing. The camera is focused on the position, where I am going to present the fish, then the edges of the frame are marked with two bank sticks. Only when all of this has been done will I get the fish from the water, where it will have been recovering in the landing net or an ET Pike Tube (why can't we get these superb items any more?) With a 10 second shutter delay, I only have time to get six or seven images before the fish must be returned to the water - the welfare of the fish being of greater importance than a photo. Pike, in particular, are not as robust as their appearance suggests - 90 seconds is the maximum time that they should be kept out of the water - no exceptions for photography; it doesn't matter how big they are! So while I'm on the subject, if there is a problem with un-hooking, get the pike back into the water immediately - retain it in a tube/sack or net if you must, but ensure that it has a chance to recover fully. "Big pike don't get clever, they get dead" a quote from Jim Gibbinson. Bad handling is as much a cause of pike fatality as deep hooking and inept anglers. I know this is true because of my own experiences; back in 1982 - the pike that adorns my study wall is a direct result of my own short comings, particularly the removal of treble hooks - the fish died as a direct result of my actions and I am ashamed to admit it. I suppose I'm a bit like a reformed smoker, in this respect, I am now highly critical of pike anglers and their treatment of these wonderful fish. I won't stand around and watch a guy struggle - I'm straight in there;"let me do it!" Very rarely do I get a negative reaction. It is one of the main reasons I am proud to wear the Pike Anglers Club of Great Britain logo on my body warmers - I look like I should know what I'm doing.
So back to the photos, and what I do. Once the frame has been decided, the bank sticks in position and an unhooking mat laid on the ground, I will get the fish and go through the ritual of pressing the shutter release and rushing back into position to pose with my catch. If I get one, out of six or seven, then I'm happy. They are never as good as images that have been taken by Benno, or others, but under the circumstances, they suffice. The added benefit of being able to manipulate the results, is a real bonus - cropping and sharpening - playing around with the contrast; all things which can enhance the image. I still place great emphasis on the choice of background. My desire to keep the exact location a secret is as much a consideration as any other factor. (If I was to learn how to fully utilise photoshop then none of this would be of relevance - I could pose anywhere and use Deal Pier as my backdrop!)

The opening page of Jim Gibbinson's masterclass. Everything that needs to be said is encapsulated in this quote!

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