Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

My favourite photograph of 2015

If photography wasn’t such an important part of my life then I wonder if I would still be massively into bait fishing, indeed I am pretty sure that my pulling away from mainly static fishing rods and moving over so much to lure fishing has a lot to do with my starting to lose interest in more static based fishing photography. Lure fishing gives me what I need, with me wanting to be doing something all the time, and then with turning my cameras on it and so often having some kind of motion to include in my photos. And of course fly fishing falls into this category as well. Whilst I am perfectly useless at rolling a fly line out myself, there is no getting away from how creatively buzzy it can be to be around good fly anglers in good looking conditions.

Nikon D3, 16-35mm f4 lens at 20mm, f8, 1/500th, -0.5 exposure compensation, circular polarising filter turned to the max

The fact that I shot this particular photograph on an ultra-remote atoll that sits in the middle of the Indian Ocean and is accessible only to anglers who happen to have enough money is in my mind by the by. If I had the money myself you can rest assured that I would go fishing on these remote Seychelles atolls as much as I could, but I can’t afford to. Not even close in fact!! On the other hand I am of course extremely fortunate enough to be able to travel to locations like this for my work and get to see the places and the fishing. OK, so I’m not fishing myself, but it bothers me not. Nope, wandering such quiet and lonely places like Astove atoll with cameras around my neck and no fishing rods in hand are the sort of experiences that I have to pinch myself that I get to do, and sometimes every single little thing seems to come together at just the right time to bring about the creation of a photograph like this.

Now by no means am I saying that this photograph is some massive technological achievement, because it isn’t. There was absolutely no planning involved with getting the shot, as in it’s fishing, and how on earth can I possibly plan for everything coming together, when everything coming together must revolve around so much coming together that is completely out of my hands. Sky, waves, clouds, angle of the sun, awesome fly angler who happens to be casting at a fish he can see, good clothing colours, a range of water colours because of the different depths, indeed the only thing that niggles me slightly about this photo is the other angler in the background to the right of Keith here casting a 12 weight fly rod. Bear in mind though that the angler in the background is a paying client, and as the photographer on this trip, I am there to work around clients - this guy in the yellow shirt is looking for fish to cast at, and it’s not my place to shout over and ask that he gets out of the way for me. My kind of fishing photography is what it is - mostly working around what happens naturally.

I suppose the skill element is knowing firstly how to capture the images you can see unfolding in your head, and then having the ability to recognise when good things are coming together and being absolutely ready to fire away. Knowing your way around your camera gear just as you know your way around your rods, reels and lures (or flies). Knowing how, where and when to shoot just as you know where to cast. In no way at all do I mean to blow my own trumpet about this photography thing, because you can rest completely assured that there are plenty of far better technical photographers than me out there - but I do pride myself on “seeing” photos and being able to nail them. Sure, part of being a photographer is the ability to “find” images when not much good stuff is coming together, but as an angler naturally reacts to certain situations, I do believe that me being an angler first and foremost then lends itself to my photography of it - and then of course this highlights my limitations as a photographer because I specialise so much in fishing photography.

Which let’s be honest isn’t exactly taking the path towards a pot of gold!! It matters not though when my work can take me to a place like Astove atoll. When I get to see things that so few other people are ever going to see. Getting charged by sharks in shallow water and having to stand your ground and then stamp your feet when they get close, hoping beyond hope that they do actually turn away. Seeing baby turtles which have wandered into camp after hatching out on the beach the night before. Watching the most aggressive fish in the sea charge flies down. Seeing some of the most awesome fishing on this magical earth. Walking warm waters that are just so unspoilt and untouched. Getting to snorkel over The Wall, and hang there motionless with perhaps a thousand of metres of water right beneath you, not two hundred yards from the shoreline - with fish, turtles and sharks everywhere. Getting to meet all kinds of people from all over the world. Getting to get the hell away from a northern hemisphere winter for a few days. Etc. And of course getting the chance to shoot a photograph like this. I love how saltwater flats photography flies against the perceived “rules” of photography, as in the flats look their best when they are lit up by a sun that is high and bright and harsh.

When bass fishing comes together in a special place with special light, I’ll put that up against anything in the world as regards fishing photography, but it just so happens that this Seychelles fly fishing photo “speaks” to me the most this year. I can’t tell you exactly why, indeed it wasn’t until I was on the flight back home when I was doing a secondary edit of my photographs that this particular photo started to really resonate - and I was wedged into cattle class I might add, whilst the clients from the trip who were on the same flight as me to Dubai were in business or first and most likely not wedged in very much at all. One can dream I suppose!! Happy New Year and here’s to 2016.

RIP Lemmy. People like that ain't meant to die.