First attempt at doing the leaping salmon shot. I headed to Buchanty Spout on the Almond in Perthshire, which was featured on the BBC Autumn Watch in 2011. I didn’t appreciate quite how close you are to the fish – I had taken the 200 mm f2.8 lens for the close-up work and it was really too close! I did a few with it, but mostly used the good old Jack-of-all-trades 24-105 mm f4 IS.
The other problem with being so close to the fish is that you have so little warning to get ready for the shot. You have a split second to react and get the shot before the fish has passed on up, or fallen back down. I gave up trying to focus – 61 AF points on the camera, and I didn’t use any of them! I set the camera so it didn’t wait for focus to be achieved and just went for the shot. I went for pre-focusing on a point in mid-air and waited for a salmon to fill the spot. Of course you can’t focus on mid-air, so I had to make a mental fix on the spot and turn my head until I saw a bit of the river at what I reckoned to be the same distance away. I focused on that spot and then turned back into position, and waited for a chance. I set the camera to try to focus (in servo AF on the centre group of points) after the first shot in case it helped, but I don’t know if it did much, to be honest. So, focusing was very hit-miss. The answer is to have a fully charged battery, plenty memory cards and to take plenty shots. I took 585 shots in an hour and 40 minutes. If some of the shots below look like I applied a bit of extra sharpening to compensate for the focusing being off, that’s because I did!
Drive was hi-speed at 6 fps. Metering was ‘evaluative’. I did some at 0 EV and some at +0.5 EV in case it helped the salmon not to be silhouetted against the white water – but I didn’t go any higher, as I didn’t want to ‘blow out’ the highlights in the water.
It was quite shaded, so light levels were low. I use shutter priority at 1/1500s for these sorts of action shots, so I really had to go to auto ISO and needless to say the camera chose wide-open aperture all the time. That meant the usual wafer-thin depth of field when doing 105 mm or 200 mm shots. On the way back down the road I remembered I can set this camera to manual shutter speed and aperture, and allow auto ISO to line up the needle on the centre of the meter. I could therefore have bought a couple of stops of aperture to help depth of field at the expense of even higher ISO. I’ll try that next time. As it is, most of the shots weighed-in between ISO 500 and ISO 2000.
There were plenty salmon coming up, or at least attempting to. I was sat there for over an hour and a half, and I recognise some of the fish in the shots taken at both ends of the shoot – that big old tartan cock fish showed up about half a dozen times – and I never got him in focus yet. Hope he made it up eventually!
With the exception of the 2 landscape shots at the end, all the shots below were taken from the exact same vantage point – only the focal length of the lens changed.