Saturday, March 30, 2013

Better fishing photos - 3

Telling a story

When there's nothing happening anglers often get their camera out and start taking snaps of their rods. I know I do. The trouble is there's only so much that you can do to make pictures of rods even vaguely interesting! One is to incorporate the rods in a photo that is more a landscape picture. In the example below it was the sunset which was more worth photographing that the rods.

Given a situation like this it is worth using flash (as described in Part 1) so that the sky is well exposed but the foreground isn't a dark mess with no detail.

Even so it is worth learning a bit about using software to enhance your photographs. I'm no expert in this department, but so long as you work on a copy of the original image you can do no harm by messing about. It really can give your pictures more impact.

Nice enough as this picture is there's not much going on in it. Being human we respond more strongly to pictures containing people. As nothing was happening on the day this photo was taken I messed around taking some staged self portraits. Again I used flash as the sky behind me was bright.

The equipment for taking self portraits is described elsewhere on this blog, a wireless remote to fire the shutter helps for the sort of pictures that follow, but a bulb release can be used if the tube is concealed or kept out of the frame. I must admit that a camera with a flip out screen makes the process a lot easier, but a bit of trial and error will work okay. It just takes longer. The following photos were all taken without being able to see the screen.

This is a reasonable enough pic but it's a bit boring and doesn't include enough information. The groundbait bowl is hardly visible, there are no alarms in shot and the overall composition is dull. There is also some nasty lens flare (the bright green bar by my knee) caused buy the sun being just about in the frame. Some lenses are more prone to flare than others, and this one is particularly bad.

Here the lower camera angle and slight, albeit unintentional, tilt to the camera coupled with my leaning forward pose adds a sense of movement to the picture. I am trying to pretend a bite is about to be struck! The alarms are in the shot along with the groundbait bowl and maggot tub. These all help to tell the story of how I am fishing. In all these pictures the clouds and sun add atmosphere and the clothing and dry reeds hint at the time of year and weather conditions.

There is even more flare in this shot, including a small blob in the sky. That blob can easily be cloned out, but the coloured flare is more difficult to remove. One simple way to make flare like this less obvious is to convert the picture to black and white.

Flare isn't always a bad thing. It can make an image look lively, but only when it isn't intrusive. There is some flare in the next picture, but there is so much else that works well it doesn't bother me. My pose could have been a little more animated, and my hand a little higher over the rod, but the story telling details are included, and the composition comes together well with the lucky break of the rays radiating from the sun and the shapes of the clouds. If you want to deliberately induce sunstars you have to stop the lens's aperture right down, to something like f18 or f22, the smaller the better. Even so, not all lenses will make a good job of it. There is a technical reason for that, but I'm blowed if I can remember what it is...

While I had to use myself as the model for these photos the same ideas about composition and details can be applied to photographing your fishing buddies. Either in staged scenarios like these or when they are actually doing things like striking, playing fish or whatever.

You can also get in closer for more of a portrait feel to such pictures. Don't be afraid to crop off bits of someone's body to make the picture work. There's no need to get everything in the frame. That often leads to wasted space. The same can go for trophy shots, but in that case it's wise to get all of the fish in the frame even if you slice the top of the captors hat off! Unless you are going for a detailed close up of it's head, say.

I apologise for the gormless expression, but I'm sure you get the idea!

For the technically minded the set up was pretty simple. The lens used was a wide angle zoom because the swim was cramped and such lenses exaggerate perspective to produce dramatic images. They also have a large depth of focus which can help in this sort of situation.

The cameras settings were dead simple. It was in Programme mode and set to chose its own focus point. With the the bright light making a small aperture inevitable and lens's depth of focus that meant that the camera would focus on the closest thing and pretty much everything else would be sharp enough to appear detailed.

The only technicalities were to override the Programme metering to underexpose by about 1/3 of a stop for some shots. This was to make the sky expose well and not burn out to white and lose all the cloud detail. The flash (I used a flash gun, but the camera's built in flash would have done almost as good a job) was set to work things out for itself too, but again with a slight nudge to boost output. Then I stuck the camera on the tripod, pointed it in roughly the right direction and started taking photos.

Take one frame then check it out for composition and exposure. Make any corrections and try again. Repeat until bored. It's something to do when the fishing is slow!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Dry nets again

Despite the continuing wintry spell if you can get out of the wind when the sun shines  you could believe spring is here. Not that there are many green shoots to make it look like spring. Still, the days are lengthening noticeably now and there's time to get a decent length session in after lunch. With that period likely to see the water at its warmest while the overnight frosts persist I planned to resume my roach fishing this week with the purchase of a opint of maggots.

There was one pole angler on the lake when I arrived, sensibly fishing with the wind off his back and the sun in his face. It felt positively balmy as I stood chatting to him. he hadn't had a bite in teh couple of hours he'd been there, but he'd put his fishfinder out (I guess a Smartcast) and reckoned there were fish in front of him, tight to the bottom and some big ones. Knowing fishfinders as I do I humoured him.

In my typical fashion I headed to the other end of the lake where the wind was blowing into me at a slight angle, and the sun was heading towards the horizon over my other shoulder. If I'd gone on the other bank I'd haev had the wind coming over my back at and angle and the warming rays of the sun in my face. D'oh! Not to worry I had a cosy swim to fish from.

It's hardly worth detailing my approach as it was almost identical to that which I've used for a number of sessions. I did make one change. To swap one of the cage feeders to a blockend. I'd also added some brown crumb to my hemp and crushed pellet feed. I have the feeling that while pellets are attractive, they might be filling. Especially the larger particles. Crumb might hold the fish longer. If they ever find the feed that is.

Although the wind was cutting it wasn't strong enough to blow the feeders off course during the cast, so accuracy was fairly easy to achieve when casting to the three far bank markers I'd picked out. There was one fly in the ointment, however. While the water was reasonably clear there was a tinge to it reminiscent of snow melt. My big mistake was throwing the thermometer in the lake. True enough it was warmer than the last time I fished the lake, a month a go. It had risen by a whole 0.3°C to a boiling 3.9°C! The air temperature was pretending to be over 8 - but that was in the sun, out of the wind. When the sun went behind clouds as dusk drew near the thermometer told the truth - 4.2°.

As far as fish go I have nothing to report. One alarm gave out a single weary bleep as the light began to fade, but my hopes had already faded completely. My intention had been to fish until dark, which is coming after seven now, but the bitter wind made me advance that to six o'clock. When the wind dropped and it felt warmer I decided to linger longer. Six thirty came and went before I began a slow pack up. At twenty to seven I wound the rods in.

Despite being a dismal failure on the fish catching front it was good to be out again. The willows are making the best effort at brightening the world up. Close to the leaves are curling out of the buds and from afar there's a gentle shading of green to their branches. Pretty much all the other leaves are still in hibernation though.

Grebes were a-courting. Well one pair was while another patrolled the lake together. A lonely fifth grebe kept me company by holding station in the wind some twenty yards out allowing me to inspect it's plumage through my binoculars. It's amazing how waterbirds can tuck their heads away as if in sleep while paddling to avoid being blown from their position by the wind. Also in evidence were two pairs of teal alternatively swimming and flying round the lake in a group. As the sun set two kestrel began calling to each other while oystercatcher arrived for the night.

The sky was bright and blue, but with fluffy white clouds (remember that annoying song?) making it quite photogenic. And the sunset was far more dramatic than I was able to make it appear with my camera. As I wasn't recasting as frequently as I do in warmer conditions and bites were non-existent I spent a few minutes taking self portraits to relieve the tedium and postpone the inevitable task of putting the dry nets away. I'll put another post about the process together to occupy my Bank Holiday weekend. I'm sure as hell not going out for a repeat of today's disaster!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ring trends

It doesn't seem that long since Fuji were telling us that we didn't need large rings and that their new Low Rider design were guaranteed to add yards to your casts. They're horrible rings with bulky, heavy frames. I tried a set, briefly, on a spod rod. Apparently they were popular with carp anglers for a while on the continent.

20mm Low Rider
Low Riders have widely spread feet, which coupled with the heavy frames, made them very rigid and (I think) adversely affected a rod's action. For all they are supposed to be smaller than the usual rings they seem excessively bulky. You're also supposd to fit the butt ring the 'wrong way round' - as in with the single leg facing the reel. Looks bloody awful! Something that wasn't mentioned was the way they made a clicking sound as you flexed the rod. I don't think anyone worked out why, but I'm told a spray of WD40 shut them up.

20mm Low Rider and 30mm BSVOG from above
The latest 'must have' ring is the 'K-Series', which does look rather more elegant than the Low Riders. I'm writing this having just built a pair of rods up using these new no-tangle rings.

40mm K Series

Available in double and single leg frames they still suffer from the Low Rider's heavy frame and widely spaced feet problem. Maybe not quite so rigid a frame, but still unnecessarily heavy in my opinion. The big selling point is demonstrated in the video below. Any line tangles round the ring frame will unravel themselves. When did you last suffer from endless line tangles round your rod rings? Smoother casting should alleviate the problem if you get it.

For my money the nicest (as in aesthetically pleasing) frames are those of the MNSG style, which are also used on the Alconites. While they stand off as far as BSVOG frames they look lower profiled. There's also a little-known lightweight version in smaller sizes - intended for use on fly rods they are great on light specialist rods. I have them on my 1.75lb Torrixes.

20mm MNSG (L), 20mm BSVOG (R)
MNSG style frames may be a little heavier than the BSVOG style, but there's the added benefit of the frame protecting the liner. Not that I've had any problem in that department with old style rings when it comes to Fujis.

Something else that's new-but-not-new are stainless collars for 18mm reel seats. The rods with the K guides are fitted with 18mm DNPS seats and have the stainless collar at the front. It's worth noting that not all reels will fit in one of these reel seats, although most will fit in a DPS seat of the same size.

Friday, March 15, 2013

It's that time again

It seems like every year around this time I get the urge to chase the rumoured big perch in my local canal. And every year it amounts to a couple of hours getting bored chucking lures around. If that's the case my canal perch campaign is over for another year. With a little more success than usual.

I know the current trend for catching perch with lures is to use jigs and soft plastics. I find that ever so slightly more tedious than fishing spinners slow and steady. No matter what the currently fashionable Japanese soft bait is for catching perch, if I had to pick one lure to use for ever more it would be a silver Mepps. So that was what I clipped on to my trace to start with. There's the added bonus that blank-saving micro pike have a liking for silver spinners too!

My plan was a simple one. Work away from the bridge for an hour with the Mepps, cover the same water back for an hour with crankbaits, then go to the chippy. The plan worked. After about three quarters of an hour I'd reached a clear area of bankside pilings and first cast along the edge I felt some rubbish attach itself to the spinner. Except it wasn't rubbish, it was a small perch. Knowing my luck with perch on lures I used my ridiculously large landing net to make sure this little fishy didn't get away.

Filled with enthusiasm I managed another ten minutes before starting to get bored. Something, I suspect a micro pike, turned away from the spinner as it left the end of a reedbed, but the tedium of slowly winding in a spinner was getting me down. I clipped on a Mann's crankbait and started working my way back to the bridge. I was still using the slow and steady retrieve which I find better for perch than the erratic, twitching retrieve pike find so attractive and which keeps my interest up. I swapped the Mann's for a larger Bagley's shad-shaped bait and twitched it through the rest of the swims.

The chippy was almost empty. I didn't have long to wait for my chips, fish, peas and barm cake. Back home the kettle went on for a brew to accompany the fish and chips. Why does tea always taste better with chippy fish - and bacon butties come to that?

Friday, March 08, 2013

Pond news

Looking at the Pond Story page just now I realise frogspawn appeared in my pond on the same date last year as this - 7th March. I'd spotted a frog in the pond earlier in the week. Then two, and then four. They wouldn't let me get close before plopping under the surface and hiding in the weed. One considered itself so well hidden with it's head in some weed that it didn't flinch when I gave it a poke with a finger!

Yesterday I spotted a few more frogs. I counted 19 of them. Another count today came to 23! I'm pretty sure there were a few more lurking beneath the surface too.

Where all the frogs have come from I don't know. But they're having a whale of a time. I hope the predicted frosts don't do for the spawn over the next week or so.

If you fancy playing Spot the Frogs click here. The answer (I think) can be found here.

The fishing line over the pond was put there to keep ducks off. A pair of mallards landed on the pond late last year and ate most of the snails. I've seen one or two snails since, so I'm hoping they'll breed as rapidly as my initial stock did and recolonise the pond this summer.