Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

How to shoot a photograph like this - 21.11.2014

I would kinda hope that if you read this blog of mine that it can't have escaped your attention that photography is as much of a passion of mine as fishing. Sure, photographing fishing is an important part of how I make my living, but way beyond the annoying need to make a living is the simple fact that I rejoice in how visually exciting fishing can look, and my thing if you like is trying to get across what I see as wonderfully exciting and beautiful via the medium of photography.

I know that plenty of you here take various photographs of this thing we do, so I thought I would sort of get in behind a recent photograph I shot that floats my creative boat and try to show you what I did, what I was thinking, and via that, perhaps help some of you out with better committing what you are seeing to whatever digital sensor it is that you are using. What I can't do though is help you out with "seeing" a photograph, as in the whole thing about an artistic medium is surely that we all "see" things differently, and thus it's the individuals's personal take that is the photograph at the end of the day. I "saw" what you see here, but you might well have visualised this photograph entirely differently.

Nikon D3, Nikon 70-200 f4 lens at 180mm, f5.6, 1/500th, ISO 200, matrix metering, -0.5 exposure compensation

As a simple photograph it is of course no more than a bloke (my mate Mark) standing on a rock holding a fishing rod last Sunday morning, with cliffs in the background and a surging bit of saltwater rushing up the beach. But to me this photo is very much about mood - mist, cliffs, water, angler, glistening wet sand, dark rocks etc. Sometimes you're fishing in the right place at the right time to shoot a photograph like this, even if the actual fishing was dire!! You need a lot of things to come together to give you the opportunity to shoot a photo like this, but then you still need to "see" this opportunity, and obviously I am always carrying a certain amount of professional camera gear with me whenever I am out fishing.

Check out my annotations on the photograph and I'll try explaining them. I love how on this beach you can get this lazy swirling mist early in the morning, framed and highlighted by the fairly high cliffs behind the angler - which are in shade due to the angle of the sun. The way to keep all these shades and textures is to use a longer lens and frame in fairly tight, as in as much as it's a lovely place and a really wide shot might seem like the way to go, the early sunlight is so bright when compared to the dark of the rocks and cliffs that it's essentially impossible to record the massive range of light without something having to give - and what I am trying to retain here is that feeling of mood that the mist and shadows give. Shooting like this on a long lens with all the contrasts between light and dark is what gives me control over what you are seeing here if that makes sense.

I'm fairly low down and deliberately placed to shoot the angler slightly left of centre and with enough separation from the background to make sure he stands out with that dark top on. The top of the cliffs and the brightening sky are just above the top of the photo as you see it, but I meant to shoot it like this - I did not crop afterwards because I have deliberately framed out that sky to help me control the exposure in camera.

And then I make sure to focus on the angler's head with a relatively large aperture (f5.6) to help defocus the background and accentuate that mood via a pin sharp angler against a kind of hazy, swirling backdrop of early morning warmth. Now I fire away. I want that surge of water from a big swell running up the beach because it gives the impression of movement, and I love how that early light is lending the water this lovely creamy, turbulent kind of feel, with the strip of sand behind the angler rendered almost golden because it's still got that sheen of water from the previous wave. I shot a lot of frames that morning, and this is but one of them.

Now there's a part of me that can't help but be thinking about how a photo like this might end up looking on the pages of a book or magazine while I am in the middle of shooting it. I am also kind of captioning a photo in my head at the same time, albeit I rarely have any say in how my photos are captioned. Here I am thinking double page spread (DPS), with room for titles and text, with the angler placed so his body doesn't cross the spine of that page. I have shot the photo I wanted to shoot to satisfy me creatively, but I also know what other considerations are going through my head at the same time.

As regards a photo like this being used together with one of articles? Well from a purely "this is fishing" point of view it doesn't say that much. It isn't doing a huge amount of useful stuff in helping an article out, as in it's a bloke with a fishing rod and not much else, and a more obvious, middle of the day blue sky photo might actually help illustrate a certain point in the article that bit better.

But as I said though, it's what I "saw" with my photography head on, with commercial considerations not considered!! What I can never control is what photos of mine are picked to be published from a selection I might submit, and if there is one thing that digital photography gives us, it's a license to shoot photographs and really go to town on experimenting. Fishing is so much about being in the right place at the right time, and this just happens to be photography all over. I go back and read this piece again and wonder if I have actually explained anything at all. Have I? Or is the fact that I am self-taught at all this rendering me utterly useless at getting across what I am doing and thinking? Have a good weekend, and please note my lack of rugby talk - it's tough times is it not?

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