Without question, photography has become an integral part of the fly fishing culture and we’re really lucky to have worked with a bunch of truly great outdoor photographers over the years.
Those who have been following our blog for the past few years may have noticed many of our photos credited to Gregory Houska. Greg is an alumni to Alaska West, and aside from being a great guide, he’s also one heck of photographer. Over the past few months, you may have even noticed a few of his images in the latest issues of publications such as the The Flyfish Journal and Swing the Fly Magazine.
Greg has a knack for capturing the fly fishing experience beyond your standard grip-and-grin. That’s why we reached out to him for his thoughts on the fundamentals of great fly fishing photography, and today we share those thoughts with you.
What Makes a Great Fly Fishing Image?
In my opinion, the best images capture relatable moments or experiences from a day on the water. Sure, an angler positioned on a scenic river bend while romantically high-sticking under a perfect sunset is going to be a great image, but there are an infinite number of relatable moments that can make for great images without the variables required for one of these ‘money shots.’
As a guide I’ve spent endless hours observing anglers interacting with landscapes, fish/wildlife, weather, other anglers, and everything else involved in a day’s fishing adventure. Its through these experiences that I’ve learned what situations speak to me most, so I strive to anticipate similar moments in hopes of photographing them in a unique manner.
With that in mind, here are some easy ways to transform your photography for the better.
- Study up. Before you get on the water, spend some time looking at fly fishing images that speak to you. While it’s important to find your own style, finding an influential photographer and dissecting their process can quickly elevate your own abilities to capture a moment. Hint: You’ll notice that excellent photographers ALWAYS keep their audience in mind before clicking the shutter.
- Be ready. Always keep your camera accessible and take lots of photos! No one ever took a great photo without access to a camera. If you’re just starting out, take time to learn your camera as well. The more you play with your camera the better prepared you will be when that ‘money shot’ presents itself.
- Don’t take light, lightly. What’s the light doing? Look back at your influential photographer’s work and try to determine how their use of light made their shot remarkable. Outdoor lighting is hardly ever perfect so it’s important to experiment and know how to use light to your advantage.
- Know your subject. Who/what is your subject? A great image makes you feel like you’re experiencing it first-hand, right? So, if you’re going to place an angler in a landscape image try to frame them into the shot with your own perspective in mind; where you’d desire to be, where/how you’d be fishing, etc. Keep in mind that having the subject participate in the image creates a story for the viewer’s eyes to interpret.
- Play with your perspective. How do you want to the viewer to experience your image? In most situations, I try to avoid shooting an image from the same plane as my subject. This is the same perspective we view the world from in everyday life, and therefore is not nearly as interesting as if taken from different angle such as looking up or down. For example, taking a lower angle shot while looking up can make the subject appear more prominent and actionable, whereas looking down at a subject tends to give a more personable feel.
There’s a lot that goes into a great fly fishing image, and most of the exceptional images are the product of two important aspects; the right place and the right time. Spend enough time shooting while keeping the elements above in mind and there’s no doubt your photography will get better by the picture!