Fishing is what I’d like to be doing today…or any other day. I’ve been quite under the weather today and am feeling sorry for myself for not being able to get out shooting photos downtown tonight with my buddy Pete Talke. Life is still good though!
Photo taken at sunrise on the beach in Port Aransas, TX with a 50mm lens @ f/1.4.
I’ve gotten over my thing about missing the snow and am now thinking about getting back to the Texas coast. My 7-year old son brings it up constantly so we’re just going to have to set a date and do it. The shot above was taken on our last big trip which was during Sharkfest at Padre Island National Seashore. When we scheduled our trip we weren’t aware of Sharkfest and on arrival were very surprised by the crowds. This 63-mile stretch of beach has one way in and out (via land) as is mostly limited to 4×4 vehicles so it’s generally rather empty. Of course “crowded” is a relative thing and even with 10x the normal crowd there were still plenty of places along the seashore to fish and play in the water without crowding anyone out. Normally you can pick a place where you have at *least* 1/2 mile between you and your nearest neighbor. We had to settle for 1/8 – 1/4 mile this trip (once we made it 30 or 40 miles)…first-world problems. Unfortunately we saw no sharks being caught. On our “normal” trips we often see them and thought that with all these shark fishermen we’d see several. No luck.
For those of you not familiar with shark fishing in the surf, here’s the very rough description of how it works. Gear consists of short-ish, stiff rods with reels capable of holding hundreds of yards of approximately 100# test line. At the terminal end there are leader rigs made out of materials ranging from 400# test monofilament to stainless steel cable. Hanging from those are huge hooks (the size of your hand). For bait something like a big chunk (even half) of a jack crevalle is used. Once the rig is ready, the bait is generally paddled out with a kayak and placed beyond the third sand bar. Then you wait, and wait, and wait. When you get a decent sized shark on the line the fight often lasts well over an hour. It’s pretty amazing to watch. On a side note, it’s extremely interesting to witness the various vehicular rigs that people come up with for their shark fishing — giant platforms on top of trucks, etc. If I’d known how unsuccessful our fishing was going to be on this trip I might have just spent time photographing the shark rigs.
I processed the image to make it appear a bit like an old print from film. Kept the colors reasonably saturated (via the vibrance slider in Lightroom) and made the image warm like prints in the “old” days. In Lightroom I added grain to taste. I rarely use additional grain in images but really like it for this beach scene and if it weren’t for the vehicles it could pass for a pic from the ’70s. I wasn’t “into” photography in my film days so I can’t wax nostalgic about this film or that film or tell you that I mimicked a certain film. I bought whatever was cheap.
I bought the spinning rod/reel combo pictured above for my son’s recent birthday. I knew I’d be taking him fishing at the beach and wanted him to have something he could handle, yet something stout enough to handle the creatures one may catch in the surf of the Gulf of Mexico. My oldest son caught a 40″ redfish (yep, 40″) on a rig just like this when he was 10 or 11 years old.
I’m amazed again and again how young children are able to learn and accomplish much more than we give them credit for. [In fact, I think that some part of society's problems these days are related to expecting too little out of our young people from age 2 all the way to 25…but that's a discussion to have in person over lunch or something] There were some lousy casts at first as my son learned how to use the spinning reel, but within 30 minutes he was practically a pro. He put on his own bait, cast it, reeled it in to check it here and there, and landed some fish completely on his own. I still removed them from the hook…we’ll work in that next trip maybe.
I didn’t have my camera out much on the beach b/c I (1) the trip was about father/son time and (2) I wanted to keep the sand out of the camera. But, I did take a little time to record some shots of him fishing. I took many that included a wider scene — the entire rod, more background, etc. but this is really my favorite. This photo wasn’t posed at all and he looks like a little man “working the fish”.
There were several cropping options considered but in the end I didn’t crop it at all. I really like a square crop because of the focus it put on my son, but I wanted the dunes and sky to give a more complete sense of location. Having the fishing rod disappear out of the frame actually bugs me somewhat. Post-processing was minimal and consisted of simple tone/contrast adjustments…I believe I did everything in Lightroom.
If I were a photographer on assignment I suppose what I would’ve done is gotten out in the water further — almost straight in front of my son. This might have allowed me to capture the whole rod with the dunes and sky while keeping my son relatively prominent in the frame. I was on a father/son assignment though and I got what I was really after and what mattered most — shots that capture the memory of the trip.
This past weekend I took my 6 year old son on his first camping trip on the beach. Specifically, we went to Padre Island National Seashore, which has been the site of many camping trips with my oldest son over the years. It’s frankly not the prettiest, most pristine beach on earth but the solitude is hard to beat.
From the point where the blacktop dumps you on the beach, there are 63 miles of uninterrupted sand on which to camp. The first 5 miles or so are accessible by any vehicle but it’s 4×4 only after that point for the most part. That fact eliminates the casual beach trippers and helps keep the number of campers down.
Our normal modus operandi on our beach trips is be very minimalist and not set up a permanent camp. This allows us to be mobile and chase the fish so to speak (often you can drive and spot them silhouetted in the surf as the waves roll over). We might go up and down sections of the beach several times in a day. However, since it was this son’s first trip, we just set up a camp and concentrated on spending time together having fun rather than worrying about how good the fishing was. He had a grand time fishing, finding shells, chasing crabs, throwing the football, swimming…he was never bored for a single moment.
The picture above was taken by our campsite as the sun rose Saturday morning. As you can see, there isn’t anyone in sight as far as the eye can see. It was the same in the other direction. Those tire tracks represent the long road back to civilization — 28 miles to the blacktop in this case. No cell service available anywhere on that road. It’s great to be isolated like that occasionally…we’re headed back in a couple weeks.
The image is not an HDR (you know you do HDR a lot if you feel like you have to specify when it’s *not* an HDR). I had bracketed the shot with the thought of tonemapping mainly to bring out the texture in the sand. However, I ended up using Topaz Adjust, levels, and curves on a layer then masking the original sky back in.