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Photo Tips for Tenkara
by John Evans
(San Antonio, TX)
Photos Help Tell the Story
Nearly 40 years ago, I made part of my living writing articles for outdoor magazines. Of course, this was before the computer/digital age, so we’re talking typewriters and film cameras. I had an editor tell me once, “It’s easier to sell a poor article with good photographs than it is to sell a good article with poor photographs.” Then, as now, people want to see the pictures.
Equipment has changed dramatically over the decades, but I was prompted to think about the cameras we use to share our tenkara experiences. Most folks rely on their smart phones, which are amazing devices with wonderful capabilities. Some use video cameras that allow them to capture still images. On the river, I use a waterproof Nikon Coolpix S33. At home “in studio,” so to speak, I have a Canon digital SLR that takes higher quality pictures than my inexpensive Nikon. I’d like to pass along five quick photo tips that may help others.
First, a camera must be available. The simple, inexpensive camera you carry means more than the fancy camera you leave at home. Ask yourself, “Is this camera portable and durable enough to where I can throw it in my pack, slip it in my waders, or wear it comfortably?” It’s sort of like knives. I have a couple of premium fixed blade knives . . . that almost never get used. Why? They’re too big and bulky! So, they mostly look pretty sitting in a drawer. Guess what knife I carry? That’s right . . . a little folding penknife that’s always available. The #1 photo tip for tenkara? Carry a camera with you, and use it.
Second, waterproof is wonderful if you’re in the water! Yes, the camera will get wet. I’ve already run the experiments on this, so you don’t need to. The trouble is, waterproof cameras are usually expensive or they’re not very waterproof. There are waterproof pouches and cases, but they add to the bulk. My Nikon has been a good compromise for me, but I’m certain there are other excellent options. Remember . . . your camera will get wet, so be prepared.
Third, get enough light on the subject. If the camera has a flash, as most do, make sure you know how to use it. The most common complaint is dim, murky, out-of-focus photos, with the subject too far away. Fishing sometimes happens in shadowy, low-light situations. You have to have some way of exposing the image properly.
Fourth, get a camera that’s easy to operate. When you’re fishing, you don’t have time to fiddle with a bunch of buttons and controls. The Nikon S33 doesn’t have the best of lenses, but it does have one thing going for it—it’s super-simple to operate! Hey, if I can use it, anyone can. I usually operate the camera, controls, and everything with one hand. That’s a real plus. So, ask yourself, “If I have my rod or a fish in one hand, will I be able to operate this camera with the other?”
Finally, learn to use good photo editing software. There are several excellent programs on the web, and most of them are easy to use and intuitive to learn. Again, I’m the guinea pig here. If I can learn to use one, so can you. Those editing programs will help adjust the exposure, color, and sharpness of images. You can crop and manage pictures in ways that weren’t possible a few years ago.
These 5 tips may not get your photos into National Geographic, but they will help you share your tenkara memories.
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” – Benjamin Franklin
"Study to be quiet." - Izaak Walton 1653
"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." Col. Robert Venables 1662
As age slows my pace, I will become more like the heron.
The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.
Beware of the Dogma