** This post is from contributing author, Pat Burke. **
I really enjoy fishing with other guys when the opportunity presents itself. The problem is my schedule often doesn’t line up. So I end up spending the majority of my time fishing by myself. While it’s great not having to compete with fishy guys like Grobe and Dom, you are also stuck trying to take pictures by yourself. Getting a good quality picture of a fish by yourself is HARD.
There is nothing worse than not being able to get a decent picture of a trophy fish when you are solo. Sure you can try to one arm it and hold the fish in front of the camera. Or maybe do a picture of the fish lying on the ground against the rod. Most of the time those pictures don’t turn out all that well and fail to really show off your trophy. Attempting to take a photo of a fish lying on the ground is also dangerous for the fish, removing protective slime and risking serious injury if they begin to flop around. The safer approach is a controlled photo where you hold the fish up for a picture, just as you would if someone was taking a picture for you. Fortunately, this is easier then most people think. With a little practice and the right tools, you can get a quality picture of your trophy, by yourself, without stressing the fish.
What You Need
Before making an attempt there are a few pieces of equipment that make the process much easier. First buy a wooden net with a deep basket depth. This purpose of a net of this style is to keep the fish safe and secure while setting up for the photo. The wooden frame will float allowing the fish to rest deep in the bag until you are ready for it. The one we most commonly use is the Frabill teardrop landing net from Dick’s. There are many other similar nets out there that cost more than four times as much. While this net is no where near as big as the Frabill hoop style nets, I’ve had 25 inch fish in it with plenty room to spare.
The next piece of equipment is a tripod. Carrying a full blown tripod on the river is not feasible for the fisherman trying to fish light. The gorillapod tripods made by Joby are perfect size for a fly fisherman– http://joby.com/gorillapod. They come in models for holding point and shoot cameras, cell phones, and DSLRs. The flexible arms can either work as a conventional tripod, resting on a rock or the bank, or can be wrapped around a tree limb or root.
Dom uses the cell phone model but made adjustments to his since the clamp didn’t open wide enough for his phone. He attached velcro to the back of his phone case and the gorillapod to use in place of the clamp.
The gorillapod can be stashed away in your chest pack or vest, but I choose to keep mine attached externally so it is easily accessible when needed. I use a zip tie to attach a carabiner directly to the gorillapod. Then I simply clip it to the back of my pack.
Caputuring The Solo Shot
The whole process begins as you are landing the fish. Begin looking for a spot where the gorillapod can be set up. This could be an instream rock, a high bank, tree branch, etc… Along with a good set up location, you need enough water depth within reach that the fish can rest in the net while you are setting up the camera and tripod. Steer the fish towards that location and net it. While you set up, leave the fish in the net and ensure the fish is fully submerged.
Attach your camera to the gorillapod and set it up along the bank. It’s best to face the camera so the sun is shining down over the back side and is illuminating the subject of the photo. Also, attempt to place the camera at waist height, directly across from you. Pictures taken with the gorillapod set up at ground level, aiming upwards, often do not turn out very well. You end up getting a picture of the sky in the background.
Next, prepare the camera to take the picture. Start by taking a practice shot to make sure the lighting is correct and there is no fog or smudges on the lens. Then set up the timer or voice activation feature. The timer usually gives you about 10 seconds to get in position and lift the fish out of the net. The voice activation feature on modern smart phone cameras, allows you to get in position and simply say, “shoot” when you are ready.
When lifting the fish, be CAREFUL. Nothing is worse for the fish than dropping it on the bank. I often keep my net laying right in front of me. If the fish starts to flop, I immediately lower it right back down in the net. Then I set up and try again.
After the picture, immediately put the fish back in the net, in the water. This results in the fish being out of the water for no more than a few seconds at a time. You can then check the camera to make sure the picture turned out well. If not, make an adjustment and set the camera up again and repeat.
As with anything else, this will take some practice to get good at it. I’d recommend doing a practice run the first time you get out with the gorillapod. Get used to your camera and the controls and learn the proper distance you should be away from the camera so you get the entire fish in the frame.
In future posts we’ll cover some additional tips and common pitfalls to avoid when trying to get the perfect photo of a fish. Until then, don’t miss out on a good photo opportunity because you are by yourself. Try out the solo shot and show off your trophy!