Henry Gilbey

Wide-angle fishing photography


Photographing fishing is so much to do with placing the angler in the location, and on that front I would argue that a wide-angle lens is one of the most important ones that anybody with any interest in a bit of decent photography could carry. When the light goes off like it has here on the remote Providence atoll in the outer Seychelles, my aim as a photographer is to help make the place look as vast as it does through my own eyes, and shooting wide is one way of doing this. The fact that the angler is a mere speck on the right hand side of the photograph is entirely deliberate. What was still about the largest flat I have ever seen was so big that a fisherman almost does not exist in the sheer scale of it all.

20mm, ISO 200, f16, 1/100th, polarising filter

20mm, ISO 100, f16, 1.5 seconds (tripod), +0.3 exp comp, polarising filter

And on the flip side, much as a wide angle of view can give such a grand sense of scale, in the right places you can use a wide-angle to give a real sense of intimacy. I have a thing for photographing fly fishing on rivers, and we are lucky in the south west in that we have plenty of smaller, more intimate waterways that not only offer some very cheap fly fishing, but they also do it for me photographically in a big way. OK, so the fish are often not very big, but that is missing the point completely. Just spending time in a place like this is what the fishing experience is all about, and the use of a wide lens has allowed me to keep the intimacy, but still be able to place the angler and his close proximity surroundings into one photograph.

20mm, ISO 400, f8, 1/200th, polarising filter

The kind of photo that I tend to call the “no-brainer”. Big blue skies with fluffy white clouds, but not so bright that the light is horribly harsh. An outstanding location, but then Iceland seems to be awesome wherever you look. Snow-capped hills in the background. A perfectly wonderful and clear river with a fly fisherman fishing in just the right position. Intensify that blue sky and cut the glare from the water with the use of a circular polarising filter on the front of your wide-angle lens, and snap away. This photo is all about right place, right time. There is nothing remotely complicated or tricked-up about it, and that’s why I so love photographing fishing. It will tend to happen when it wants to!!

20mm, ISO 100, 1/8th (tripod), +1.3 exp comp, polarising filter, grey grad

Iceland again, but this time it’s what I would call a “typical” Icelandic salmon river. Many lenses are referred to as wide-angle, but personally I would expect any wide lens I used to have the ability to shoot as wide as 20mm, and perhaps more if required. 20mm is a wide angle though, and you need a lot of subject matter to fill that frame up and draw the viewer’s eye right in. To me it’s the combination of the rushing water and the clouds that drew me in to taking this photograph in the first place. I have obviously got fly fishermen in the frame because I am a fishing photographer after all, but I just loved that combination of dramatic, roof-like sky and an almost other-worldly looking river. Iceland is one hell of a place, and it is so easily accessible from the UK.

31mm, ISO 200, f5.6, 1/1000th, -0.5 exp comp, polarising filter

Another use for a wide-angle lens. The “look at me, I’m one proper fish” kind of photograph. Yes, the fish is pushed out to my lens, and yes, I can hear all those “but you’ve made the fish look bigger” arguments already. But guess how much I am listening ? This is an out and out impact shot, plain and simple. This strange looking yellow-dot trevally snaffled a fly out on the remote St. Brandon’s atoll, many miles away from Mauritius, and I deliberately got down low, asked the guide to hold the fish in this way, and then used a large aperture to really come in on the eye of the fish and allow the rest of the photo to blur away. As I said, impact. These fish are members of the trevally family after all, and they are impact fish themselves.