Saturday, 12 February 2011 13:14


Long back I discovered that fly fishing photography is an absorbing pastime, maybe because in its own way it has so much in common with fishing itself.  It’s creative, mostly challenging, at times dead easy and like fishing, there’s an incidence of sheer luck where you get the odd really good picture – as with fish – without really knowing quite how you did it. In fact, setting out with a camera is a lot like setting out with a fly rod in that you’re never exactly sure how things are going to pan out, meaning there’s always plenty of high anticipation laced with a big dollop of uncertainty, which is maybe one of the main reasons we go fishing in the first place.

An upside of fly fishing photography, of course, is that it gives you a record of your trips, your occasional triumphs, but also some of those lighter, magical or more dramatic moments that just seem to happen every time we pick up a fly rod; anything from a perfect spread of star lit night sky, or the congenial glow of a campfire scene, to a sudden and unexpected snow storm.

Lately a lot more anglers are regarding camera gear as just as important as any item of tackle, which gave me the idea of a reader’s fly fishing image forum, a place where you can show your work without feeling you have to be some kind of a professional guru just to enter.

That idea also got me thinking that the greatest tool in digital photography, as opposed to film, is the ability to apply instant colour management. So why not invite readers to send in images, get them published on the site, with your name or anonymously, that’s up to you, maybe a short description of the place or scene, and see what I might be able do to with your image using only one modality in Photoshop software – the Curves feature, nothing else – except maybe to straighten a horizon. Here are some examples. Now let’s invite you, the readers, to send in your snaps to this new forum. I’ll post any changes or enhancements I might have made to your picture.  The rights to your image will be protected of course and will always belong entirely to you.

All you have to do to submit an image is to scale it to email size (make it less than 1 MB), email it to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I will do the rest.

Let's start by having a look at what the Curves modality can do on Photoshop CS or Elements. It's one of the best ways in my view to get colour correction right. Have a look at these three images.


Notice the pitch black of the trout's eye. I put the curves 'Set black point' eye dropper right on it and clicked. This is what happens.


Better, but we need to find the magical neutral grey spot in the picture and touch it with the dropper that sets the mid tone point. Done. And here's how it looks now. (Note there is no real obvious 'white point' so I have left that undone.)


Now scroll through the pictures to compare them.

Gerhard Delport sent this lovely Dullstroom rainbow. All I am going to do is set the black point using the fish's eye. Watch!



Here's another lovely composition from Gerhard Delport. Again I will just select the blackest point and click on it.


This transforms to...


And here's Gerhard with his Dulstroom rainbow



Here's a picture of an angler everyone knows, Dean Riphagen. He's holding a beautiful rainbow from Jurassic Lake in Patagonia where Frontier Fly Fishing do guided trips. The picture is great, but it has a blueish cast to it (at least I think so!) and it could be straighter.


So I tweeked the black spot and the mid tone grey and straightened the riverbank.Blue cast gone, picture brighter!


Agostino Gaglio, a keen Vaal River angler with a largemouth yellowfish. The picture is a tad over-exposed.


Corrected only with the black spot dropper!


Here's another famous angler, Jonathan Boulton, owner of Mavungana Fly Fishing Centre in Dullstroom, with a magnificent, locally caught rainbow!


Let's touch the blackest spot and straighten the horizon just a little! Notice in straightening the horizon we cropped the picture a little, making the angler and fish more eye-catching.


Tom Lewin also needs no introduction. This is one of the many double figure rainbows he has caught from the inlet stream into Jurassic Lake in Patagonia. Unbelieveable fishing, but again the picture has a blue cast.


A touch of the black spot and mid tone eye dropper tool in Photoshop and...


Martin Knoetze sent me a KZN landsape that he is justifiably proud of. It's hard to improve on, but lets try the Curves eye droppers and the cropping tool to straighten that far bank a little.


Maybe a marginal improvement to an already great picture. And I dropped his name into the picture!


As more pictures come in I will be posting them.

Tom Sutcliffe

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