Fish O’pinion: Fishing Photography

Ever since I started fishing, I can’t help but notice a trend in the local fishing scene (Singapore & Malaysia thus far), one that I categorize as a personal pet peeve. Coincidentally, whilst browsing fishing forums, I came across an article written on a fishing community page entitled “10 Fishing, Picture Taking Tips”. .

My immediate reaction after reading what was written was that of displease, because my pet peeve in the sport of fishing in Malaysia & Singapore is the way anglers take the photos to showcase their fish, to be specific, when they put out their hands to make the fish appear larger than it actually is (don’t give the excuse it’s merely photography).

The article was written with good intentions, I find the areas of fish handling to be very helpful and hope a lot more writers out there will be willing to share as they learn more about fish handling methods, however, encouraging the edit & altering the impression we get from a photo of the fish, is unnecessary and just as good as cheating.

There are individuals out there who mock the editing of personal photos that are shared on social media because they do not do justice to that individual in person. Same goes to the fish! Why make it look like something it’s not? In return, it makes you look like a fool, especially when our brains are designed with the ability to scale in size what we are looking at. The fish may look bigger than your entire torso, but it certainly cannot cheat the fingers holding on to it.

The problem could lie in the competitive impression of fishing. Having had the experience myself, it is never easy to explain to someone how it feels to fight a darn good fish at the end of the line- that fish, could be the size of your palm, and it’s ok. When I started, evidently, I was surrounded by men (still am!) and all they could speak about was catching that big fish. The GT, the Billfish, the 50 lb monster at sea on a boat with big waves. Wow! What an adventure! Well done “FIN”diana Jones.

I am certain, the sport and art of fishing is not all about that. There are some quality fights in smaller species, even a juvenile tarpon is an exhilaration in itself. Due to my size and lack of strength in comparison to most men, I made a decision very early on that I would like to land quality fishes with quality fights, regardless of it’s size, so as long as I am able to, 5 to 50 lbs. Lo and behold, a 5.5 lbs Milkfish nearly took my arm off. I held that baby close to me, snapped a photo and when the news started making its rounds, I will not forget my first disappointment coming from a comment along the lines “you did not hold the fish properly, do you have a better photo?”.

Excuse me?

I did not know the third fish I would land in my life would be a Milkfish, forget knowing how to handle or pose with it!

There were a few points in the article that I felt did not do justice to the term “Photography”. For instance…
No. 4: Hide Everything.
Seriously?! Fact is, you caught the fish, if you want to hide everything, take a photo of the fish in it’s most natural element then… in the water. Unless you want to hide the water too?

Followed by No. 7: Wrong Background (an image of fishes in the sink); help me understand why is there such a rule?

I think it is essential for us to know and understand that a lot of anglers these days, thankfully, from the new to the experienced, fish with the knowledge that they do not wish to deliberately cause harm to the fish. Lets face it folks, fishing will somehow or rather harm and hurt the fish. We take all possible precautions because it’s right, it’s the least and most organic thing we can do to be one with mother nature, especially for anglers that practice Catch and Release. However for those that fish, and look towards fishing not just for the fun, but also as a means to feed their family, you need to be able to stomach and deal with the fact that the fish will end up in the sink at some point to be cleaned, and if a photo is snapped then so be it. It could end up being a beautiful photograph, we are still on photography right? Why do they need to feel guilty about it? In Malaysia, we are aware of people who fish because they need to feed their family, what do you say to people like them? They’re wrong? It’s, I quote from the article, “Gruesome”? Then don’t fish, and make sure you don’t eat fish too.
The article also mentioned and I quote, “fish don’t belong with such backgrounds…”, again, if that is indeed the case, I repeat myself, take the photo of the fish in it’s most natural element… in the water.
Plus, since when are we supposed to enjoy the sport and art of fishing and now add on photography to the equation…Wait a minute, do we need to bring a fish photography kit now with background and all?!
Where does that fit in my tackle box!

Last but not least, the mother of all pet peeve in my life of fishing, No. 10: Don’t Waste the Shot, and under it, I quote, “The painful one is the $5000 trip and it’s a big GT but showing you friends you say “The picture does not do it justice” ”

I personally do not bother how much you spend on the trip, but whatever it is, it’s better that the image does not justify the size, rather than you cheat evidently for others to see that you are, by manipulating the image. You paid for the trip, not the fish, photograph the moments, whilst fighting the fish or when the fish leaps out of the water. Isn’t THAT photography? Isn’t that a background one doesn’t need to manipulate?

Impression, Impression, Impression… it’s similar to when women get insecure over another of her own kind and go the extra mile to pose a trillion times with the same angle on every photo, edited to make them look slimmer, fairer, taller, more “luxurious”.

Men, you are doing the exact same thing with your fish, because majority of us, let’s face it, want a photo to justify the fish rather than “fish photography”.
When you tell the women to be comfortable in their own skin, you need to feel very proud of your fight and your fish.

Fact of the matter is, the beauty in fishing is not in it’s photograph, it’s in that moment when your reel is screaming, fish is running and it’s just you, your knowledge, your effort, your patience and your determination to land that fish. No photography could ever justify that moment, and you know it. Take a decent photo, to capture the memory, but don’t let the social sites lure you into taking photos according to their terms and conditions to appear or be featured on their site. Don’t tarnish the beauty and the art of the sport with unnecessary guidelines and especially, don’t make yourself look like a fool holding up that fish that we all know is trick photography. Holding the fin in line with your nose… What?!?

In the article, the author did mention that it’s not about making the fish look bigger than it actually is (point No. 2), but let’s face it, there are many other ways to showcase a fish and I personally feel, one that manipulates it’s size, colour and background shouldn’t be a preferred criteria. Capturing the moment with the fish would produce even better photographs.

If there is a rule in photography of fishing, it’s the one’s with common sense to it, showcase your beautiful fish proudly, close to you. Handling it right, is far more essential than hiding it right.

For the love of Uni-Knots,
The Milkfish Lady

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