Engbretson Underwater Photography

Search The Fish Photos

News From Behind the Scenes at Engbretson Underwater Photo and Stories about the Freshwater Environments We Visit.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

How To Shoot Better GoPro Videos of Fish Underwater

We've been getting some nice underwater footage lately from the clear lakes of northern Wisconsin, like this short clip of walleyes relating to sunken timber and rocks.

I'm often asked for advice on ways one can improve the quality of underwater fish videos shot with GoPro cameras in freshwater.  Here are my three best tips for aspiring underwater shooters. 1) Shoot in the clearest water you can find. Lakes or rivers that are cloudy or discolored will ruin image fidelity and definition. If the water isn't clear, nothing else really matters. 2) Use strobe lights to bring out colors and fill in dark shadows. 3) Don't chase the fish! Let them come right into the camera. This is a much more interesting view of them than the "tail shot" you'll always get if you chase them.  Fish are naturally curious and if you're patient, you'll find that they'll swim directly into your lens on their own.

Of course, there are many other tips, but in my mind, these are three things you can start doing today that will dramatically improve your underwater videos taken of freshwater fish.
To see more of our underwater fish videos, visit our YouTube Channel.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Can you Recommend a Good Underwater Camera?

Scott P. wrote to me recently asking about Spearfishing and Underwater Photography:

Been spearfishing for a while. Wanting to get into underwater photography. Any tips on a decent, but simple to operate camera? – Scott P.”
As an underwater photographer, I can always tell when a lake or a river gets a certain amount of spearfishing pressure because the fish become very wary of divers. They learn to avoid us. In waters where spearfishing doesn't happen, the fish tend to be friendlier and you can approach them closely and quite easily.  I mention this to you because if you start doing any underwater photography, you will definitely want to avoid lakes you spearfish and vice versa.

Spearfishing is outlawed in most counties of the northern Wisconsin where I spend a lot of time so luckily I don't encounter fish that are inherently frightened of divers. When I go to southern Wisconsin, or even Lake Michigan, it's a different story. When photographing fish, ideally you want to be about 2 feet away from them. As you can imagine, on lakes where spearfishing occurs, the fish never let you approach that closely.
There's a lot of digital cameras on the market that work well underwater. As a rule, the more expensive they are, the better they perform. If I had to single out one to recommend to you, I'd say go with a GoPro Hero. The latest one is the Hero 6, but the Hero 5 and Hero 4 models are also excellent. You'll be able to get some nice photos with any of these models along with truly exceptional video. You won't be disappointed. Trust me. They're small, easy to use and the results are very impressive. Both the GoPro Hero 5 and Hero 6 are waterproof to 33 feet. The Hero 4 requires a waterproof housing.  All the GoPro models shoot exceptional videos. However, their still photo capabilities are limited to 12MP images, which is a little less than we like to use for professional purposes.  All that means is that unless you’re a professional photographer, the images from the GoPros will be more than satisfactory.

Thanks for your question Scott.  If you have a question about fish, underwater photography or any related subjects, feel free to email me here.

Friday, June 29, 2018

The Biodiversity of Florida's Springs

Our Isaac Szabo, continues to amaze us with more stunningly beautiful pictures he's taken from the clear spring-fed rivers of Florida.  The biodiversity of Florida's springs is astounding.  Not only has Isaac captured many freshwater species like gar and brown bullhead, but he's also masterfully photographed many coastal species that are generally regarded as marine fish, such as Tarpon and Snook.  We're pleased to add all of Isaac's new images to our online collection.  He is a superbly talented underwater photographer and we're excited to continue representing his work at this agency. You can view all of Isaac's latest underwater work, including new images from Florida Springs in our Isaac Szabo gallery here.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

From The Mailbox "How Do I Find Fish Cribs?"

I thought it would be fun to share with you some of the questions I get about the underwater environments I visit, the fish I see, the structure fish are attracted to, and other observations I make when I’m photographing fish underwater.  (If you have any questions, fire away, and I’ll do my best to answer them.)

Today’s email comes from George Mycroff of Antioch, IL. who writes: 

”Hi Eric.  I've been looking for a source for 'marked' crib location maps for various lakes I fish in Northern Wisconsin.   Very hard to come by!  While the 'primary' purpose of fish cribs is to promote the growth and proliferation of fish species in a lake,  the secondary purpose is that it's an excellent spot to find fish....The reasoning goes, 'find the cribs, you'll find the fish'!  So my question is how do I find 'fish cribs', marked on a DNR 'topo' map or 'GPS' coordinates?  If the DNR installs them don't they use permits and note the location for later study? So wouldn't they be 'public record' anyone should be able to obtain?  WHERE? I've checked with the DNR, they say since 'fish cribs' don't last over years, they may not have records, or the locations move from year to year. I’ve checked the internet, but have not had much luck finding 'marked' fish crib maps for, the lakes I'm interested in.  Any comments or suggestions or recommendations from you would be greatly appreciated!” 

George, Just to be accurate. Fish cribs DO NOT promote growth and proliferation of fish. This has been studied extensively, and fish cribs do not lead to more fish in the lake. If anything, they decrease over-all abundance because fish tend to be concentrated and can be over exploited. I don't spend a great deal of time around fish cribs myself.  When I'm taking pictures, I prefer more natural backgrounds like plants or sunken trees.  It just looks prettier in photos than a big cube of wood. Also, many cribs are poorly constructed or deployed in bad locations. Therefore, finding cribs doesn't at all mean that you'll also find fish.  I'd go as far to say that most of the cribs I've seen hold few if any fish. It depends on where they were placed and how they were constructed. 

Here's what I've noticed with marked fish crib maps.  Usually, those cribs were placed decades ago and have fallen apart.  Meaning, the wood is still on the lake floor, but the structure no longer has any vertical height and consequently no longer attract fish.  The cribs I occasionally visit aren't on any maps I've seen.  So I wouldn't put too much stock into the credibility or integrity of maps.  The best info comes from fisherman who know where the cribs are. They can usually direct you to the most active ones.  They share this info readily with me, but perhaps are more tight-lipped with fellow fisherman. 

The DNR topo maps that you refer to are a notoriously unreliable resource for finding any structure that was placed. So many of these maps were drawn in the 50s and 60s.  I think if I were you, I'd just spend some time slowly motoring around the lakes in the 10-20 foot depths and looking at your electronics.  I know this can be a tedious way to locate cribs, but if you're looking for a short cut, the DNR maps aren't going to help you.  Another trick is take a drive around the areas lakes before the ice goes out. You'll be able to spot any new cribs sitting on the ice and note the location.  But I don't expect you'll see many these days.  They aren't as popular as they once were.

Wisconsin DNR has never marked GPS coordinates of the cribs and made them public. Other states do this religiously.  WDNR is now of the opinion that fish cribs are detrimental to fish populations, and no longer deploy them. They now favor fish sticks, which actually do help to grow fish.  All the reasons the DNR gave you for why they can't help you are valid in my estimation. Cribs do disintegrate and move, and they didn't have GPS back when they were building and placing them.  Thanks very much for your question George. 

I love talking about the lakes, fish and of course underwater photography. If you have a question, feel free to email me.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Best Time of Year For Muskie Pictures

Muskellunge Underwater (c)Engbretson Underwater Photography

Spring is the best and easiest time of year to photograph muskies. I shoot most of my musky images before Memorial Day. After spawning, they will continue to hang around in shallow water (generally 6 feet or less) along the shorelines. This is where it's warmest for them. I can approach them quite easily up until Memorial Day. Then, boat traffic and other increased human activity on the water drives them from these locations toward their typical summer haunts where you're less likely to easily find them.

How do you get so close to fish like Muskies? Don't they spook?
That's a question I get asked frequently by many people. To photograph fish well underwater, it's necessary to get very close to them. So how do I do that? One thing I've done is to develope a series of techniques that communicate to the fish my lack of hostility, and my general inability to compete with them as creatures perfectly designed for life underwater. One way I do that is to present myself as obviously as... possible. I don't try to ambush or deceive them. I don't wear a camouflage wet suit. I don't sneak around or hide behind boulders or timber. I don't try to advance toward a fish when he can't see me. I don't even try to be particularly quiet.
In fact I do the opposite of all those things. I make sure the fish see me coming from a long way away. I try to show myself out in the open and to demonstrate what my limitations are. Ideally, you want to convey to the fish how slow and incompetent you are in it's environment; how clumsy you are; how incredibly un-stealthy you are; this is so opposite of what a predator would do that many fish are able to detect that you're not a threat to them, based on your complete lack of cunning or covertness. You want them to see you and think that you're completely ridiculous (which you are of course). The faster you can get them to understand this, the faster their fear will disappear.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Florida Springs

Our Isaac Szabo, has been busy this spring photographing a variety of fish that make their homes in the springs of Florida.  The clear water here helps to contribute to some truly stellar underwater images, like this spotted sunfish pictured below.  You can view all of Isaac's latest underwater work, including new images from Florida Springs in our Isaac Szabo gallery here.