16 October 2012

The trophy shot

Once upon a time, angling evidence was all about the fish on your plate; or possibly stuffed in a cabinet if it was a particularly noteworthy specimen. It was either there for all to see else it was time for the eternal fishy tale of 'the one that got away'.

Early birdwatchers had a similarly emphatic definition of proof. Before binoculars replaced guns as the naturalist's chief instrument, all bird sightings could be neatly divided into two categories: "what's hit is history; what's missed is mystery."

Of course things have changed greatly in this era of conservation and fish care, and catch and release is now the cultural as well as legal norm in UK coarse fishing.

All of which means is that the proof of the plate (or taxidermist) has long since been replaced by the ubiquitous trophy shot - the posed photograph of the grinning angler, usually on one knee with his latest capture thrust towards the lens for all to see.

The trophy photo is as much an art as that of the taxidermist, and much has been written about it over the years - how to get the background just so, how to cradle the fish safely throughout and, most importantly of all, how to get the angles and distances just right to portray the fish in all its glory without attracting the accusation that one might be trying to deliberately distort the fish's true size (perhaps in support of that other timeless fishing phrase: "honest, it was this big").

Many angler take the trophy shot very seriously indeed. When they fish in pairs, both will be well versed in the requisite technology and technique. When alone they have tripod and remote control set up in advance to allow them to capture that all important shot.

All of which would be dead handy for me as a blogger looking for regular images for the website, except that a) I generally fish alone and b) I can't be bothered with the hassle of self-portraiture by the bank side.

Instead I find myself relying very much on the kindness of strangers. If I am to get anything more complicated than a photograph of the fish in a landing net then I must ask a passer by or fellow angler for their assistance; and, since the human race is generally a great deal more decent than the Daily Mail would have us believe, the vast majority are only to pleased to help.

So, while there's not always someone to hand at my moments of triumph, I generally get at last a few trophy shots along the way - of, admittedly, widely varying degrees of quality.

But blimey what a difference it makes when a 'proper' angler is on hand to do the honours. At Stockton last week (or at least it was 'last week' when I first drafted this article; I'll post again shortly to catch up on about four weeks of lost blogging in the meantime) I managed to drag another low double out of the margins on the pole, and the chap next to me offered to photo it.

I has already deduced he was a 'proper' carper by the bombardment of bait I had witnessed raining out from his peg, and sure enough he was soon taking me through the proper trophy shot ritual: "up a bit", "forward a bit", "higher, higher", "just angle it a bit towards me" and so on.

What a palaver I thought. But blimey what a difference. The photo in the previous post was of me holding an 11lb 4oz carp - my personal best in fact, and very nice it looks too. But the one of me in this post is with a fish weighing just a few ounces over 10lb - and I know which of the two I think looks more impressive.

So there you have it. On the one hand I'm delighted to have my own 'proper' trophy shot for once (thanks to my friendly carper). But on the other I shall be looking with a great deal more scepticism at everyone else's trophy shots from now on ;-)


Pete said...

ooh very nice!

George Burton said...

Love the bit about stuffing fish and gunning down birds! Never a truer word.

Jeff Hatt said...

Oh I hate making self-takes but they've gotta be done even with fish far, far less than a PB if there's a blog to run. Strangely my worst efforts are of PB's, when the camera invariably gets it all wrong and there's little else to do but return the fish and make do with whatever you've got.

Put the camera in my hands for your PB though, and the camera behaves itself and does what it's told.