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Thread: Salmon leaping

  1. #1
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Salmon leaping

    Some of you will recall that I posted a colour image recently, here, in which I said my real reason for being at the location was to see if the salmon were running yet. They weren't at that time. This bit of water, called Buchanty Spout, is reputed to be one of the best places in Scotland to see salmon on the run up a river to the spawning grounds.

    Well I discovered two things last Saturday when there were dozens of salmon on the move:
    1) This is very, very hard,
    2) I have huge admiration for a) wildlife photographers who nail these sort of shots and, b) the bears in North America that scoop them out of the water.

    You will see that none of the set below is nailed properly. And that is why I've posted it - to illustrate how hard I found this.

    I was shooting on high burst rate with the Canon 40D, with the 70-200 f4 L on board. I was shooting at 1/1500 and 1/1000 (which wasn't fast enough) at ISO1600. I should have had the 24-70 f 2.8 L, but I didn't think I'd need it so left it at home (idiot!). Because, from where I was, I was shooting at 70mm. I filled 3 x 4GB cards. 99% were of water (with no fish) or half a fish as it disappeared out of frame.

    I didn't try to track the fish. Instead I set it up on one part of the river and waited for fish to come into view. I really tried hard to get the focus not on the water, as the fish would be slightly closer as they leapt. But I don't think I got that right.

    When I last visited the location I'd identified my shooting location. However, on Saturday there was a lot more water flowing and I couldn't access the location on which I previously stood. The shot I really, really wanted was a 'head-on' with the fish effectively looking straight into the lens. I could not get the angle for that shot.

    Anyway, thought I'd put them up here so you could share my frustration.

    #1
    Salmon leaping

    #2
    Salmon leaping

    #3
    Salmon leaping

    #4
    Salmon leaping
    Last edited by Donald; 22nd October 2012 at 08:24 PM.

  2. #2

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    Re: Salmon leaping

    I would first like to say very well done Donald for the patience you have shown to get these! Your photos are amazing, given the difficulties you experienced, but I understand your frustration. Thank you for sharing, I think it just lets us all know that we are not the only ones who sometimes don't capture what we aim to. Anne

  3. #3
    RockNGoalStar's Avatar
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    Re: Salmon leaping

    Hi Donald,

    You may not have gotten the shot you wanted but I wouldn't be too disappointed with these, in fact I really like them. In particular I thnk #1 and #2 are very very nice. In the 3rd one there is a strange squiggle to the left of the frame, almost like you accidentally scribbled with the pen tool. The 4th, sadly, is a bit too noisy and just isn't quite sharp enough for my liking.

    I would love to spend a day attempting this. I might have to get in touch with some details on best time of year and locations!

    I have a feeling that next time, armed with what you learnt at this shoot that you will get the shot(s) you went for!

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    Re: Salmon leaping

    It does sound very hard to do, getting to the fish fast enough for the focus to isolate on them. And you can't prefocus because you don't know where they will jump. I think you did great. I especially like the second, the two salmon performing their ballet.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Salmon leaping

    Thanks for the comments.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wernerg View Post
    It does sound very hard to do, getting to the fish fast enough for the focus to isolate on them. And you can't prefocus because you don't know where they will jump. I think you did great.
    I did take a pre-focus approach, Werner, but I'd be very happy to hear from experts in the field telling me to do otherwise. The fish moved far too fast to have any hope of nailing focus on them.

    I use back button focusing. I was using the tripod and cable release. I sat and watched for a while to see where the fish were jumping. They did follow a very clear pattern of behaviour. So, I set up and aimed on that area. I focused on the water and then pulled it back a bit to where I thought I'd be in focus about 3 feet (1 metre) from the surface, which is where I estimated the fish to be.

  6. #6
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    Re: Salmon leaping

    Donald, having shot jumping fish...I can tell you you did very well and not just for your first time. I am unsure the Fstop you used and see that you likely did not have much wiggle room due to light. In the situattionwhere I shot fish I could not pre-focus as the were in a lake and could jump anywhere at anytime. It is quite difficult indeed. I would have pre-focussed here as well and likely closed things down to around F8-F11 if possibe.

    All said and done, you came up with more keepers,{perfect or not} in one go than I have been able to. Well done and please share should you give it another go. I think #1 and #3 are my favorite. #3 because it is a nice shot and the only buck that I see.

  7. #7
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Salmon leaping

    Quote Originally Posted by jeeperman View Post
    I am unsure the Fstop you used and see that you likely did not have much wiggle room due to light.
    Paul - I was at f4 and ISO1600 in order to get the shutter up to 1/1500 and, when it got a bit dull, 1/1000. However, as we've been discussing in respect of some of my landscapes, we tend to have quite a soft, subdued light in this part of the country. I could certainly have used another few stops-worth of light so that I could have closed down the aperture and fired-up the shutter a bit.
    Last edited by Donald; 22nd October 2012 at 10:25 PM.

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    Re: Salmon leaping

    Upon a second read I see the F4 now. Yes the subdued light would have been a difficult chore indeed. You certainly did well and you were right in trying to stay above 1/1000 sec as fish are much faster moving than most think. Tip of the hat to you Sir.

  9. #9
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    Re: Salmon leaping

    You should have been able to catch #4 or was it in the process of flipping? At a different angle to their upward progress those shutter speeds would have been sufficient.

  10. #10
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    Re: Salmon leaping

    Hi Donald!

    This looks like a totally fun shoot and I just bet these guys were a blast to watch.

    Reminds me of hummers only with a much more reflective and close BG.

    I know you have the capability and gear.

    Have you considered lighting or am I:

    1. Obsessed with lighting, or…
    2. Would have been impractical?

    I really like the shutter on these. The frozen water drops really add to the action.

    Were these guys really colorful? I was under the impression that they are during the spawning run.

    I wish I had this kind of opportunity.

  11. #11
    Plumcrak's Avatar
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    Re: Salmon leaping

    Donald, I really like the first and second shots. Impressive that you got a 1% capture rate the first time with those conditions. Well done sir. I would have had 100% water with 0 traces of a fish at all.

    Cheers

  12. #12
    djg05478's Avatar
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    Re: Salmon leaping

    I love the second one.

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    Re: Salmon leaping

    Fish in water are extremely difficult subjects to nail particularly as you see them for only a split second and a random spot. Reflecting water is absolutely no help either.

    Given the conditions you did quite well. These are more then decent shots. In fact, very decent shots.

    If you do try this again (probably next year ) ditch the tripod, cable release and AF. Take a folding stool to get lower and use your elbows on knees for support. Set yourself a working radius, manually pre-focus to some spot within that and wait keeping camera close and at eye level at all times. With a bit of trial and error you should be able to nail focus with just a slight touch of the focus ring. That momentary period out of water should be enough.

    If you fail the first day, keep repeating. This is how I now do dragonflies in flight. Not many keepers but certainly more then enough for that sense of satisfaction. It took me 3 straight days and some hours of trying to get the elbows on knees and hip swivel to work out before getting the first shot.

    Patience, persistence, technique adjustment, practise...

  14. #14
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    Re: Salmon leaping

    Donald,

    Nice. Yes its hard. I had left my 400mm at home.. 200mm was not enough reach.. Also access was a problem ....

    Try your location next year ...

    Regards

    David

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    jprzybyla's Avatar
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    Re: Salmon leaping

    Wonderful images Donald. I am amazed... I have shot flying birds but I think jumping fish would be so much more difficult. The birds I can see a long way off, uncertain how you would anticipate when a fish would jump.

  16. #16
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Salmon leaping

    Quote Originally Posted by jprzybyla View Post
    uncertain how you would anticipate when a fish would jump.
    And that is, indeed, the challenge.

    However, by the time you've spent 4 hours there, you do begin to detect some pattern to the behaviour.

    It seemed to me that all the salmon (and there were dozens of them) all collected in the calmer pool downstream. When one set off to try the jump, it seemed to spark others to do the same. It was as if there was a sort of herd instinct operating, or maybe it was just the stimulus of one that made the others go for it.

    They'd do this for a period until, obviously, they began to get exhausted, when they'd return for a period of inactivity down in the holding pool. So, it was all action in bursts.

    The other thing I began to observe was a certain pattern to the point in the fall where they'd make the leap. For example, if one jumped just right below me, nearly landing on my feet, you could pretty much guarantee that there would be a number of others in the next minute or so would try at the same place.

    Now, of course, there is no way of anticipating the moment when they will emerge out of the water, nor indeed how far from the face of the fall they would emerge. Some jumped from right at the foot of the falling water. Others took off 3, 4, 5 feet away.

    So, it was quite a challenge.

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