Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

Who’d be a fishing photographer……….

Ever since I first started working in fishing, taking photographs of all things to do with it has been a major part of my work - and I love it as much as I love going fishing. Photographing various kinds of fishing has taken me all around the world and I have seen a lot of fishing through my stills cameras that I never thought I’d get to see, but there are times when our own fishing here in the UK and Ireland can look just as good as the most exotic and expensive stuff you could ever hope to do. Give me a good location and a decent bit of light or some crashing sea conditions and so on and I am just as turned on my photographing bass fishing especially as I am by say fly fishing for rampaging giant trevally on a remote Seychelles flat………..

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And of course things don’t always go exactly to plan when you’re photographing fishing. This might seem very obvious when you’re trying to photograph something which rarely goes to plan anyway, but fishing photography is never going to be as consistent as say fashion photography in a controlled studio environment, and come to think of it, the fishing thing is never going to pay quite as much either! I love it though, and I try all I can to get fishing across in the best and most exciting way I know how.

Anyway, so we’ve been catching a load of bass recently, and whilst there has been no real size to the fish, with the hectic and distinctly autumnal conditions we have been getting, to be able to find plenty of fish around here when so much of the water is in such bad shape is pretty good if you ask me. It’s been a lot of fun to be out on the rocks in some properly fizzed up conditions, and whilst the sea has been far too rough for me to be able to get in front of the lads and shoot from those angles, when you photograph fishing you take what you can get and you work with it. Plan all you like, but when did nature ever dance to our tune?

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So on Saturday I’m fishing away and I look to my left where Steve is standing. The light has suddenly changed and all the spray from the crashing waves is lit up and looking good as it moves past him in the stiff breeze, so as fast as I can I shimmy up the horribly uneven and slippery rocks to grab my camera. I never, ever go out fishing without at least one stills camera (a Fuji X-T3 these days) plus a lens or more depending on a bunch of different things. As I am delving into my bag for my camera I am thinking all about the shot I’ve got in my head - how to frame it with Steve fishing away, the f-stop I will use with the length of lens, what type of exposure compensation I reckon I will need to show off that glinting spray, and so on, plus as usual I am also having to make sure I hide where we’re fishing for many obvious reasons. This bit breaks me sometimes, but what choice do we have?

And by the time I get back down to the right position to line the photo up the sodding clouds have rolled in and everything looks horrible and flat again. No worries, I’ll wait for the sun to peek through again, and sure enough in a little while it looks like things are going to get interesting, but Steve goes and snags his lure good and proper in the bottom and he has to pull for a break - which in turn means he needs to head back up the rocks and tie a new leader on. This of course kills any chance I now have at the photo I had “seen” because I need an angler in the shot to make it work and light and conditions are always changing. We’re out fishing and I am not there to impact on the guys, indeed a big part of photographing fishing is being able to work around people doing what they love to do. Anyway, photo op gone!

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So I turn around to head back up the rocks and put the camera away, but as I turn around I see Mark hook into a fish to my right. Okay, so the light isn’t going to set my heart aflutter, but with where he is standing while he plays his fish, I can move around and frame him to try and nail a few shots of him lifting the bass out of the water on the rod - hardly an award winning photograph I grant you, but when I come to write about bass fishing in rough conditions it’s a useful shot to be able to submit.

With the weather we’ve been getting there has been no chance of getting down the water’s edge to grab your fish, so a lot of “controlled lifting” has been required to land the bass and unhook them. I’m lined up for the shot and I start firing away as Mark goes to lift his bass out of the raging water with his rod, only it isn’t actually a bass I see coming into frame - nope, it’s very obviously a little pollack, and a shot of a pollack being lifted doesn’t exactly fit in with an article about bass fishing in hectic seas. Oh well, photo op gone!

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Now to be fair I’ve shot a lot of photos over the last few days in all kinds of light, and I am really happy with some of them. I like to think I know enough about what I am doing to be able to make at least something out of most fishing situations, but it’s remarkable how much photographing fishing is like fishing itself. The shots that got away from you - or even worse, missed altogether - they are the ones that play on my mind the most…………..