My thanks to those of you who had a crack at guessing the weights of the fish from last week, and a little interesting I suppose how so much opinion and feedback doesn't actually translate into that much sticking one's neck out and having a go at it. Will an army of keyboard warriors inherit the earth, or might they find real life too tough to handle? Read on and I think you might find what I had very unscientifically set out to prove - that guessing the weight of a fish from a photograph is pretty tricky, and that as most of us know who simply love fishing for what it is, you need to actually be there to appreciate the true size and dimensions of particular fish.
Photo 1 - To this day I am convinced that this gnarly old golden dorado tracked my popper through the air, because the split second my lure hit the water this 43lb fish smashed it. Yes, 43lbs, and a "true" 43lbs as well, as in the fish is held right under the guide's eyeline and not held out for impact. Interesting how nobody got close to this, but then is this to do with the fact that we don't catch fish of this size on lures here in the UK, hence if you haven't physically witnessed fish like this then how on earth can you estimate the size of it?
Photo 2 - A 7.5lb bass. Some closer guesses with this one, proving perhaps that a lot of us here fish for bass and are obviously more adept at estimating their weights, and also that the fish is held close to the body and therefore gives a truer sense of scale.
Photos 3 and 10 - I kinda cheated a bit here and nobody picked up on it, which to be fair I didn't think you would. These two photos are of the same bass which weighed 5.5lbs, and there were some pretty accurate guesses on the weights in both the photos which are of course shot very differently. Photo 10 is shot big time for impact and I get completely that some people will not like this falsification I suppose you might call it - but the photographer (me) gets to choose how they shoot, and then it's up to the client (mag, book etc.) what they go and publish, with me of course providing the true weight of the fish as a caption. It matters not that they are the same fish, rather that it's a good example of how the the same or indeed similar fish can be so easily made to look so different via different focal lengths, how far away you are shooting from the angler, f-stop etc.
Photo 4 - I had a feeling that the angle I shot this Irish bass at might generate fluctuations in the weight guesses, and I was proved right - you guys guessed from 4lbs up to 9lbs, and in fact this bass weighed 8.5lbs on my Boga (net minus 1lb). From memory I think I nailed this fish literally fifteen minutes after the film crew left us in Dungarvan last year when we did that filming for Tight Lines, and I am pretty sure it hit my Black Minnow on the drop. Tap, tap, wind in fast, whack!! I tend to use an angle like this on the fish/angler either when you need to hide where you are fishing, or more commonly because the exposure differences between angler and sky are so great as regards what the camera sensor can comfortably deal with that I choose to take the sky out and use the more even tones of the backdrop (really exciting weeds and rock!!) to balance out the exposure.
Photo 8 - Very flat light hence the same kind of angle as in photo 4, but this fish is only 5lbs, and to be fair most of you got pretty close. I would hope it's very obvious that Nick is holding this bass right out from his body (via me asking him to do so) to generate some decent impact with the shot - both to make the fish look more impressive, and also because of various photography considerations. Hold a fish of that modest size right against the body against that kind of background and quite simply you're going to "lose" the fish in the photo - and as much as I live for creatively shooting anglers in their environment, I need to shoot grip and grins and I will do my best to make them look as good as possible, whilst accepting of course that we all like seeing different things.
Photo 5 - Steve's bass here was 9lbs. Cracking fish, some good guesses at the weight, and interesting how one of you gave it as a double and one gave it as 7lbs. Not easy is it?
Photo 6 - Awesome fish, and one of the more nervy grip and grins I have shot, as in guys are standing around on the sandbank in the middle of this river in Tanzania and keeping a very close eye out for hippos and crocs!! Flyfishing for tigerfish in Africa tends to revolve around staying in the boat for these very reasons!! This fish actually weighed 14lbs, and with those outrageous teeth and the light we had, yes, I shot big time for in your face impact.
Photo 9 - Interesting how only one of you got close here, because this tigerfish weighed 18lbs. I am shooting boat to boat here. The priority is to do no harm to this fine fish, so I stayed where I was and shot as best I could with the situation I was presented with. Photo 6 is a guide holding the tigerfish, and for the most part professional guides are very well used to being photographed. Photo 9 is the client holding the fish with the guide on the right, and I simply can't be "pushing" clients as much as I can push a guide with photography. Fish held under the eyeline, "truer" size I suppose, but for me I would have loved to really make something a little more impactful with this rather awesome African creature. A photograph is of course two dimensional and you get no sense of girth and depth and sheer presence I suppose.
Photo 7 - Interesting how nobody got very close here at all - this golden dorado weighed 39lbs and was taken on a popper if I remember rightly. Awesome condition on the fish, but again, it's a client on a trip who was not used to a photographer stuffing cameras in their face, and I got what I could get. I don't know how many of you have regularly been around fish of this size, but put that factor together with the angle of the photograph etc. and it proves yet again how hard it is to estimate weights of fish from photos.
Thanks for sticking your necks out here and having a crack at this. Worry not if you didn't get very close to the correct weights, because in my mind this exercise simply shows that you need to be there, and that estimating fish whether you are there or from a photograph is not easy. One thing I do know though and I stand by it - when you see a double figure bass in the flesh, you know it's a double the moment you glimpse it.