Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

The penultimate day of 2016 and I manage to nail what may well be my favourite bass fishing photograph of the year

If a lot of outdoors photography is about being in the right place at the right time, then I would like to suggest that fishing photography is even more so about this, plus a great big serving of luck as well. Sure, when the light goes off you can work on putting yourself in the right position to shoot photos of your mates fishing away (whilst trying to hide where you actually are etc., one of the “joys” of shooting fishing!), but you can’t plan for when fish are hooked, and when you are out there fishing yourself, you can’t always plan for where you yourself will be standing as and when something visually exciting goes off. Saying that though, when the light goes off I’ll be shooting stills instead of actually fishing………...

There’s a hell of a lot that came together at just the right time for me to be able to shoot this simple photograph above, but as a whole it’s everything about lure fishing for bass that so floats my boat, and as such I think it might well be the photo that I am most pleased with from 2016 - which considering it was shot on 30th December 2016, well I think I’ll take that thank you very much! If you are interested in my camera settings for the photo, well I shot it on the awesome Fuji X-T2 mirrorless camera plus Fuji’s outstanding 50-140mm f.2.8 lens (70-200mm 35mm equivalent). The exposure was at the 140mm (200mm) end of the lens, f2.8, ISO 200, 1/500th, +1.0 exposure compensation. I love how it’s WYSIWYG when you are looking through the viewfinder on these much lighter mirrorless cameras - I am constantly adjusting f-stops and exposure compensation as I am shooting and I can directly see the differences to the photo before I press the shutter button. I knew the metering so well on my old Nikon D3 cameras that I could adjust the exp comp button just fine without this WYSIWYG capability, but damn it’s brilliant to actually have it these days.

So if we bear in mind that I was fishing myself on this particular day (but I never, ever go out fishing without camera gear on me), I was also keeping an eye on Jody because as per the photograph above, the conditions were nice and bouncy, and the light was about to get interesting. Mark and I had headed down towards Jody’s part of Cornwall but found the conditions were that bit too big to effectively fish where we were, so it wasn’t as if bass were jumping on our lures and as such I was keeping that eye on Jody and the light. I really like the photo above, but the light didn’t then develop as nicely as it was initially looking.

The fishing’s quiet and I am continuing to work my way over the ankle-bustingly slippery rocks to get a different angle on Jody. There’s only a five minute gap between that casting shot with the nice light to the one where he’s fighting the bass at the top of this post, but in that short space of time the rising sun to my left has gone behind some clouds and flattened everything out - and this ended up working in my favour……...

I am in position now and by pure chance I am lining up a shot of Jody when he goes and hooks the only bass that was landed that session. As per the photograph above, it’s looking ok but not seriously floating my boat from a creative point of view - yet. I need some of those waves to roar in at the right moment and I’d love for that HTO Shore Game 9’6’’ rod that Jody is using to really bend right over into the bass. I can’t make this happen, but I sure can hope so while I am firing away.

And then it does all come together. I am focused on him and I am using the large aperture (f2.8) to help blow the background out and draw your attention right in on him fighting that fish almost right in amongst those now defocused waves crashing behind him. Jody’s bass is nearly to hand so he is slightly crouching and the rod is properly bent over (check out the head of the bass in the bottom right of the frame), some proper waves are exploding right behind him, and the light that has actually flattened out in those five minutes has helped me hold the exposure of Jody in his grey StormR jacket against all that white behind.

If the sun had been really bright and contrasty then something would have had to give a bit due to the difference in exposure between Jody and the white waves, but I’ve got it all here and it was one of those times when I am literally shaking with excitement because it’s all come together and I am thinking that with one simple photograph that I can show lure fishing for bass fishing off how I see it - exciting, dramatic, on the edge, ever so slightly dangerous (but he’s kinda fine where he is standing because he knows what he’s doing and a 200mm lens at f2.8 is really compressing things), fish on, rod bent, that divine moment when a bass is so nearly landed but can still come off, and just a real sense of the angler being right in amongst it. Fishing to me is such an involved way of enjoying the outdoors and I want to try and show that off with my photography.

If it sounds like a lot of stuff is going through my head when I am shooting photos then you would be right, but to be perfectly honest I am doing it on instinct and it’s not until afterwards that I work through my thought processes and what I did with my camera gear almost without thinking because I suppose that I’ve been doing this for so long now that it would be slightly worrying if I wasn’t able to do this!

The photo that so floats my boat at the top of this blog post may never see the light of day in a magazine or book because I don’t get a say over which of my photos are used, but that’s the way it goes. I can’t not shoot when it’s like this because photography is as much a part of my life as fishing is. I got the shot, I am very pleased and I suppose proud as punch with it, and it’s always going to be here for me to have a look at when I need a jolt of what lure fishing is all about. And of course it’s a big thanks as always to those kind anglers who are comfortable with me sticking my camera gear in their faces while they are fishing away.