Henry Gilbey
Cape Cod - 1010.jpg


Henry Gilbey blog

Behind the Photo - 02.03.2012

You all know fishing. You just can't predict it - and it's no different with a lot of photography. The more you are out and about though, the more you are going to be in with a shout of taking some decent photos of your fishing. There are a few times though when things just get really, really special, and this photo was one of those occasions for me when I very suddenly came over all peculiar at what I could see happening. You can look, but you can't make it happen, and this was only the second time that I had ever come across these lighting conditions combining with the perfect location and the angler standing in the right place. Let me explain..........

165mm, ISO 200, f5.6, 1/1000th, -2.5 stops exposure compensation, polarising filter

I never asked James to stand on that rock and fish away. He just happened to wander away along a particular rocky beach on the Copper Coast in southern Ireland to see if he could induce a few bass to nail his lure. I was chucking lures out myself but of course was keeping an eye on the guys as regards what might happen photographically and of course in terms of fish being hooked. I was watching the sun drop, and I remember James turning around to wander back towards us along the beach. He stopped to have a few chucks off this particular rock and I suddenly "saw" what was happening from a photography point of view. I ran for my camera gear and dropped to a lying down position on the pebbles. Call it a voice in my head or some kind of artistic "luck", but in a split-second I "saw" exactly what was happening with the light, the location, the position of the angler and most importantly, the photographic potential of it all combined. Now not for one second do I mean to sound like some kind of photo guru, because I am quite plainly not, but it is my job and it drives me with a passion equal to my fishing. Yes, I obsess about it. Perhaps if I explain how things came to be to enable this photo you might understand why it so floats my boat.

The sun is close to setting which means that the light is becoming all lovely and soft. The angle of the light is that white arrow. What makes where James is standing such a perfect spot (red arrow) is all that darkness behind him, where that white squiggle is. This is the whole reason why I started shaking with excitement. What the low angle of the sun has done is to put the cliff behind James into shadow, but at the same time has lit him up very subtly. His position is so perfect for me because I can use that cliff as a backdrop and include no sky. Now your camera wants to go and make all this look nice and even and far too bright (that background in shadow fools it completely, doesn't matter how much your camera is worth), but the trick here is to take over and tell it what to do. The most used button on my cameras after the shutter release ? The exposure compensation button. Make it your friend, and especially around water and sky. What got me so excited about the potential here was that I could hugely underexpose the shot (2.5 stops here) and use that soft sidelight against such a dark background to create exactly what you see here. The dark background has become a kind of natural, black frame/backdrop against which the angler, the water and the rod/line are subtly highlighted. The fact that the tide was nearly high and the water was tumbling about like this only made me shake with adrenaline even more. Note as well that the rod and the line are gently lit up by the sun. A few minutes after this and the sun had dropped down behind the headland and everything was now in shadow. It was as if those few moments of magical light and conditions had not really happened, but I knew the shots were on my memory card. It is the kind of situation where you don't want the fishing to end, but you are also dying to download the photos and check that they might actually be as special as you hoped. I need to get some help with my sleeping issues !! All this kind of stuff constantly buzzing around my head ?