Dabbling in Photography and New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year! While 2021 certainly wasn’t the major change of pace from the year that shall not be named, I’m sure we can all find something to be thankful for from this year of uncertainty and hope.

Throughout 2021, I found myself dabbling in photography; more specifically, photographing flies that I have tied. As with almost all tyers, I enjoy preserving and sharing my work, so photography only seems like a natural part of the process. Also like many tyers, I have found there to be a steep learning curve in fly photography, one which I am yet to surpass. Still, I have learned a ton in this year-plus, and although my knowledge is still quite limited, I’m sure a few could stand to learn a thing or two from my experimentation.

The first ever picture I took of one of my flies was in September of … well, you know the year. While both the fly and the picture leave much to be desired, I’m still proud of the job I was able to do with my extremely limited knowledge of cameras and lighting. Prior to this point, I had taken a singular photography class. Seeing as I hadn’t been taking many pictures then, though, most of the information went into one ear and straight out the other. When I went to take the picture of the fly, the immense amount of settings available on my Dad’s DSLR was overwhelming and confusing, leading me to use the automatic setting and hope for the best. The one thing I am proud of about this picture is the lighting; the entire fly is well-lit, and the background is a pleasingly bright shade of blue.

The first picture I took of a fly I tied.

The next set of pictures I took are still available on this website under the tying instructions for a Thunder Creek variation I developed with a ridiculously long name (the fish don’t care about the name, though). Despite learning a little bit through trial and error during my first attempt, the quality of my pictures seemingly regressed during this take, likely due to the fact that they were taken in an area with worse lighting, a less pleasing backdrop, and while I was in the process of tying the fly.

Throughout 2021, I took many pictures of my flies, with increasing quality and lighting. I even tried a couple using my phone, which turned out better than expected. Some of my favorites included a klinkhammer I tied for an online contest, a phone picture of some small blacknose dace, a partridge soft hackle streamer, and some of the pictures taken for my online shop.

Still, the setup time for my miniature “studio” was aggravating, and I wasn’t getting the perfect image quality I wanted, leading to long hiatuses in my picture taking. Sometimes I’d go months without taking pictures, frustrated by out of focus hackle fibers or my limited time. This only worsened my photography skills, making it difficult to share the progress in my tying.

So, when I received a lightbox for Christmas this year, I was elated. Now I’ll have a portable studio that’s easy to set up, provides more than ample light, and has backgrounds that can be quickly swapped. In just the last week, I’ve already got some good use out of the box, figuring out the prefered camera settings to use with it and the perfect light levels for each shot. What I’ve found was that I was using an F-stop and ISO that were too low (6.3 and 800, respectively. Now changed typically to 18 and 1250), and wasn’t changing my exposure or white balance, leading to out-of-focus pictures that had varying levels of brightness.

A picture taken with my new lightbox. Admittedly the white background was not best suited to this fly.

Now that I have the lighting and settings a little more dialed in, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to take far more pictures in 2022. These pictures don’t always have to be under the lightbox or taken by a DSLR; I just want to generally take and share more pictures of my flies. I am finally at a stage where I am proud of the quality of my flies, and want to share my success with others.

Not only do I want to take more pictures of flies, but also of my overall time spent fishing and in the outdoors. As I’ve written this blog and other articles, I’ve had one major realization about pictures: you can never have enough. I am almost certain that there will never be an occasion when I am displeased to have a vast selection of images. I’ve also learned that there are small tips and tricks to improving my overall photography, which I intend to implement as I spend time on the water, ice, and behind a vise in this new year.

In addition to these resolutions, I have plenty more of the classic angling resolutions, like catching more species of fish on my own (pike, anyone?), through the ice (still yet to catch a trout on hard water), and on the fly (striper on the fly, here we come!). I also can’t wait to meet more anglers and tyers, as well as spend another year in the outdoor spaces I love most.

As we enter 2022, I think we can all be hopeful for changes on the horizon; in the meantime, we should take everything in stride, and make this the best year for family, fishing, and fun we can.

One thought on “Dabbling in Photography and New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Spencer, nice post. You might pay attention to macro photography (close up photography of small objects). There are lenses specific for that purpose. My camera club has sponsored meeting presentations by folks very skilled with impressive results. Also, pay attention to the organization, identification, backup, etc. of your images. It can get out of hand. I use Adobe Lightroom, whose design center is the photographer (unlike Photoshop). It includes very robust editing and organizing tools. The downside is that there is a modest monthly fee. If you choose to go without (understandable), be sure to establish a disciplined “work flow” so that your collection doesn’t fall into disarray. Finally, I was told several years ago (slides and prints) that “a photographer’s best friend is the wastebasket.” That is, pare down each shoot. The blogs continue to be great, thoroughly enjoyable. Paka.

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