EVER struggled to take your own catch pictures when there’s no-one around to lend a hand? We aim to help you out here, with an Angler’s Mail guide to self-take photos with top advice from ace columnist Colin Davidson.
Although heavily lined banks are the norm on many fisheries, Sod’s law dictates that you’re going to have the session of a lifetime or bag a personal best when there’s not another soul about.
Pictures of a carp on the mat with your feet poking into the picture are just rubbish, so being able to take your own catch shots is a valuable skill.
I’ve practised self-take shots for years, going as far back as slide film days when it was bulb releases on old-style SLRs, lengths of cord unwound from tripod legs and much more besides. Nowadays, the technology packed into digital cameras – both compacts and D-SLRs – makes the job infinitely easier.
There are several options, and the flip screen Canon Powershot series are understandably popular, allowing you to see yourself holding a carp as you take the shot, so you know the picture is framed correctly. Yet on the same (or lower) budget you can produce much better self-take shots…
1. The best £200 I’ve probably ever spent on camera kit (Nikon D3 excluded) is the tiny little Nikon D40 SLR. Although discontinued and superseded by the D40X, there are still plenty of D40s about on eBay and elsewhere. Incredibly light at around 1 lb 8 oz, it fits in the palm of your hand with the supplied 15-55 mm kit lens. Most things are adjusted through the digital menu, and its simplicity is why the price is so low. It supports RAW files for real camera keenies, the usual J-peg options, and everything you’d expect in terms of white balance, exposure and creative control functions. The infrared key fob remote Nikon
ML-L3 sets you back a giant £15.
2. What makes the D40 so easy to use for self-take pics is in the auto-focus menu settings, and the option for Closest Subject. It focuses automatically on whatever is nearest to the camera as you trigger the remote. Whenever we hold a fish it’s inevitably the closest part of the frame to the lens, which means no more worries about a camera focusing on you and not the fish. Along with the ability to set the menu to respond to instant or two-second delay shooting when triggered by the remote, it’s all you need to guarantee you’ll have a sharply focused shot of a fish that you can control yourself, rather than being at the mercy of a timer function, which always shoots when a carp decides to flap…
3. After the camera hardware, the best few bob you’ll spend is on a Joby Gorillapod. These are amazing, featherweight tripods – the one you want is the SLR zoom model. Their unique feature is that each leg is made of multiple independent ball joints that allow the legs to be contorted almost like a child’s toy in all sorts of directions. You can wrap the legs of the Gorilla around the top of a bucket or the frame of a chair or bedchair – the packaging even shows an SLR strapped safely via the Gorillapod around a tree trunk! They allow you to produce a stable shooting platform at the right height in seconds, and securing the legs around a five kilo bait bucket is easy and puts a camera at the right height.
4. The other useful addition is the Gorillapod Ball Head, which screws on the tripod. Thumbscrew adjustment allows the camera to be set absolutely flat, with a spirit level indicator telling you instantly which way you need to adjust. Once the camera is stable and flat I position the mat in front of the camera, kneel in front of the mat and take a test shot to check for framing, zooming in or out as appropriate until it’s right. As long as you kneel on the edge of the mat in the same place when you bring your fish up the bank, you’re guaranteed a well composed self-portrait. The remote sits between finger and thumb on the hand nearest the pectoral fins. Press the button, hear a bleep as the D40 focuses on the fish and two seconds later you’ve got a great picture.
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