Better fishing pictures: Bent Rods

Published May 2nd 2009

The bent rod is a sign of success: fish on!


Four categories

This might be considered a strange and kind of exotic photography subject to write a whole article about, but looking at the images that my fishing friends and I shoot, I can see that it's a very popular thing to shoot. As soon as a fish is hooked, we rush to the scene, and get quite a few bent rod pictures. That has made me think about how to get the best pictures of bent rods.

I basically see a few categories of bent-rod-pictures, meaning that most of our pictures fall in one of four certain categories.

- Straight on
- Over the shoulder
- Fish perspective

Straight on
This should be almost self explanatory: a shot of the angler, taken from the side where you see water, angler, rod. There are certain things that can make such a picture more exiting, namely making certain that the whole rod is in the picture - especially the rod tip - and trying to get the fish or a splash or at least the place where the line disappears into the water. If you get those elements in the frame, you get a very good impression of the scene.
Using the classical golden section in the composition doesn't make it worse. Put the angler in one corner and the rod tip in the opposite, letting the bent rod make a curved line across the image. You can do this both on a landscape and a portrait format picture.

Straight on is not bad, but can be a bit bland. Remember our previous rules: go close and go low. Both things will definitely enhance the dynamics in the picture and give the viewer more sense of presence.

Straight on

Over the shoulder

Over the shoulder
If you really want presence you need to go near the angler and shoot over his or her shoulder. Using a wide angle lens, lifting the camera a bit and shooting almost in the perspective of the angler can give a really nice picture with lots of action.

Make sure you are not in the way. Some anglers are very anxious about others being in their way while fighting a fish, and since you are not the one concentrating on a fish, your as the photographer need to be there and then be gone before you interfere with anything.

As usual you should remember to use different angles, tilt the camera and lift it up as well as holding it low. All these measures combined with shooting many pictures will inevitably secure you a nice fight picture.

POV - Point of View
I'm not sure how this began, but amongst my fishing friends and I we suddenly began seeing pictures of bent rods during fights shot by the angler himself. The idea was that since no one else was near to shoot the fights, well, we might as do it ourselves, and it has evolved into a whole category of fight pictures all shot up along the rod from the reel, and often with a splash, a fin or other signs of a fish in the frame.

It takes a bit of nerve to do this. You have to get the fish under control, then handle the rod with one hand while digging out the camera with the other and last but not least, turn it on, focus and compose and press the shutter. Since the rod is rarely in eye height, you also take some chances and misfire with some strange angles and odd results.

But as a whole this is a lot easier than it sounds, and shooting POV-shots of bent rods really give the extreme sense of being there.

Credit where credit is due
Thinking back after having written and reread this article, I thought I'd give credit to the person who unknowingly got me hooked on POV-shots: Sören Essebo. This Swedish pike fishing master fishes by himself, and has made some stunning POV-shots over the years. His page might be in Swedish, and difficult to decipher for most, but it's worth a visit just to look at the pictures.


Fish perspective

Fish' perspective
You can also choose another point of view - the one of the fish. With the latest generation of waterproof cameras you can indeed get under the water and shoot from there, but since this is about bent rods, it's more likely that you catch carbon or cane under pressure if you stay above water. Or at least you keep your camera above water.
But the idea is to place yourself so that the fish is between you and the angler, and make sure you get the fish in the picture together with the fighting flyfisherman as well as the whole bent rod.

Wide angle lenses lend themselves really well to this type of pictures, and I have personally used fisheye lenses on several occasions, which require you to get really close, but on the other had gives some great shots.

Be there
There are of course countless other ways of shooting bent rods and fights than the four I mention above, but these were just the categories I saw when looking at my image archive.

But one thing is certain: If you want to shoot bent rods, your have to be there when things happen. As soon as you move away from the straight on type, which can be taken from a distance, you need to get in close or be your own photographer. Experiment, fool around, go low and high, play with shutter speed, use your underwater camera.

That's a way to get better pictures of bent rods.

Bent rods

A series
These are all the articles in our series about better fly fishing photography. Read this series and you will learn a lot ebout getting better pictures while fishing. General outdoors pohotographers may also pick up a thing or two...
Better fly-fishing pictures

User comments
From: Baz Davies · davies.b·at·  Link
Submitted March 25th 2011

Nice series of articles Martin.
Very instructive and helpful-great pics too.

From: Jeppe Lyngså · swebbe·at·  Link
Submitted May 6th 2009

Nice shots as usual :)

Found this one at flickr which really shows a nice POV perspective with lots of action on top.

From: cornelis · corneel77·at·  Link
Submitted May 4th 2009

great topic ! hate to see only man/woman with big fish pictures. Bent rod pictures are one of the other options.

The Netherlands.

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