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Angler's Journal: CPR Saves Fish

December 9, 2008

By King Montgomery 

CPR has saved a lot of lives -- for both people and game fish. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation helps people stay alive until medical personnel arrive, and "catch, photograph and release" allows anglers to land fish, capture their image and put them back quickly, hopefully to be caught again another day. 

Captain Tommy Mattioli (left), angler Brian Trow and a huge fly-caught black drum. (King Montgomery)

Both CPR techniques must be applied rapidly and efficiently to maximize the subject’s chance of recovery. Here are a few photo tips to consider the next time you mix cameras with fishing and, to a degree, hunting.

There are really no bad cameras, just bad photographers. When fish photos don’t come out, it’s probably due to operator error. Whether using a small cardboard and plastic disposable camera, a point-and-shoot camera, a good 35mm SLR film or digital camera, or a state-of-the-art camera with associated lenses and other expensive paraphernalia, several simple actions will ensure acceptable results.

The secrets to good photography -- light and composition -- are obvious, yet often elusive to the person behind the camera. Thus, if you organize the subject in the viewfinder or rear screen, and have them properly lit by sun, flash or both, you should get a good photo every time. 

Yes, about anything can be fixed with computer programs such as PhotoShop, but a properly-taken photo will come out better with minimum adjustment.

An excellent point-and-shoot 35mm or digital camera with a moderate zoom lens and built-in flash can be purchased for less than $250. Some are waterproof or at least water-resistant, which helps in photographing a water-based activity like fishing. 

Shop around and check with fishing friends; the more choices, the better. The hottest water-friendly camera around now is the Olympus Stylus series that have 10 megapixels, are waterproof, take photos underwater, are shock- and freeze-proof, and cost less than $300.

Unless shooting in that sweet early-morning or late-evening light, use a flash on every shot taken of an angler with a fish. The flash fills the shadows caused by the high sun and hat visors. Have the subject tip back his or her hat, and remove sunglasses, if possible. If it’s too bright, ask the person to take off the glasses, look down, and look up with eyes open on the count of three.

Use the zoom feature to vary the shot, but fill the frame with the subjects as much as possible. Don’t hold the fish out toward the camera, because a large part of the photo will be out of focus - - and it just looks stupid anyway. (Ditto for putting the rod in your mouth and using the cork grip to bite down on while holding a fish with both hands.)

Be careful of silvery fish; tilt them slightly so they aren’t directly reflecting sun or flash light. Ensure the horizon is straight in the background -- many good shots are ruined because the horizon is tilted at a terrible angle. Take more shots than are needed. Film is cheap and digital images even cheaper, but the moment is priceless; don’t let it go.

The photo must be taken quickly. Also, make certain you dip the fish in the water periodically to keep it moist, or return it to a live well between shots if you’re in a boat. Save that release shot for last. Some of the best photos are of an angler holding a fish in the water just as it swims away.

Hunting photography is pretty much the same, but you don’t have to rush since the photo's subjects aren’t going anywhere. Take tasteful shots that don’t celebrate the killing, but rather strike a solemn pose where the harvested game is respected. And, as with fish, make sure blood doesn’t appear in the photos.  


Our Outdoors Editor, King Montgomery, consistently captures several photography awards each year, and his work is featured in many magazines, in books, and on book covers. He has so much fun taking pictures he sometimes forgets to fish or hunt. He once opted for a camera instead of a muzzle-loader for an 8-point buck, and the shots didn’t come out very well. But it’s always worth a try.

Issue 132: December 2008