Engbretson Underwater Photography

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

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Wonderful World of Walleyes: Underwater Video

We’re getting some great walleye video in 2017.  Here’s a compilation of some of the remarkable underwater footage we’ve collected so far this summer.  Straight from the depths of Wisconsin’s northern lakes, see crystal-clear underwater video in HD of walleyes where they live.  Abundant crayfish, rock piles, sunken timber, and other habitat elements attract walleyes like magic as they pose for our cameras in their watery homes.  Thirty seconds of walleyes up close in incredible clarity and awesome fidelity.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Northern Pike Underwater Photos

Our Paul Vecsei has been busy shooting some beautiful new pictures of Northern Pike.  As Paul describes it, "The key (to photographing pike underwater) is what I call the polite pursuit, where an individual is chosen and followed. If the Pike wants nothing to do with me, it can lose me in a second. But some just keep a short distance and eventually allow me to approach. Once the camera with its large dome port is put close enough, I have him. They become mesmerized by their own reflection."  
To view all our northern pike images, click on this gallery. To view all of Paul Vecsei's stunning work, click on this gallery.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Why Underwater Fish Photos Are Important

In the December '09 issue of Fisheries MagazineJeremy B. Monroe wrote a brilliant article that poignantly discusses why images of freshwater fish underwater are so important in generating public awarenss and conservation of many species and their habitats.  It was the best summation I've ever read, and I'd like to share some of his comments here, (albeit in a heavily edited way) because I wish I had written this article myself.

    "As threats to freshwater ecosystems continue to grow, the vast majority of their inhabitants remain “out of sight, and largely out of mind”. This lack of public awareness of freshwater life may ultimately limit freshwater conservation as a popular cause, or movement. By its nature, aquatic life is inherently less visible to human eyes, and so images, such as photographs, play a critical role in visually connecting freshwater ecosystems to their would-be stewards. And while images by no means replicate human experiences in the natural world, they are a remarkably effective surrogate to enlighten audiences about natural ecosystems and their values. A passing glance at a magazine rack, television programming, and popular internet websites reveals a narrow view of freshwater life. In these popular sources of public information and entertainment, the vast majority of freshwater species are simply unseen, and therefore unknown to most people.  A closer examination of the common images of freshwater life reveals an issue that is perhaps more problematic than mere obscurity. Almost invariably, popular images portray sportfishes and most other freshwater species after they have been “landed” or otherwise extracted from their aquatic habitat. In these images, aquatic organisms are far removed from their natural environment and behavior, which precludes an aquatic, and perhaps empathetic, perspective of their lives and their world. Moreover, these struggling or dead organisms are commonly seen “at the hands” of both anglers, and biologists, portraying a conquering image. Though rarely seen in popular media, underwater images of fish and other freshwater life in their aquatic habitat can more naturally convey the intrinsic and ecological value of these organisms, as well as their evolutionary, and even spiritual aesthetics. These images celebrate the aquatic world by depicting the natural beauty and behavior of freshwater life, the splendor and uniqueness of freshwater environments, and the intricate relationships among species and their habitats. In their natural medium, free of human hands or devices, organisms appear independent of humankind, and their intrinsic value is therefore made more obvious. Indeed, the vision of an organism behaving naturally and relating to its natural environment is precisely what can allow us to sympathize or even empathize with other species and appreciate their significance in our own world or worldview. It is these ecological, evolutionary, and spiritual aesthetics that will presumably resonate more deeply with the broader public, and are most likely to drive conservation movements." 

Nice work Jeremy.  Thank you for putting into words what keeps me doing this.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Video: How Crayfish Escape from Hungry Bass

Smallmouth Bass love eating crayfish, but not every crayfish becomes prey.  Sometimes they’re able to fend off vicious attacks by remaining perfectly still, by adopting a defensive posture, and by simply never giving up.  While bass eat plenty of crayfish, in this video, you’ll see the ones that get away-dramatic underwater footage of crayfish escaping certain death from the jaws of hungry bass.  Make sure you check out our other popular videos on this channel of bass eating crayfish.
(Make sure to adjust your YouTube setting to HD 1080 for best viewing results.)
Special thanks to my longtime friend and professional Foley wizard Tommy Kleinschmidt, of Berlin, Germany for the custom soundtrack for this clip.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Striped Bass Underwater

School of Striped Bass (c)Sean Landsman/Engbretson Underwater Photo
Our Sean Landsman has recently captured some amazing new images of Striped Bass in a North Atlantic coastal river.  Swimming with giant schools of stripers, (some of them approaching 30 pounds) Sean has brilliantly photographed these dazzling fish as they move downstream from their over-wintering homes on their way to spawning grounds and later to summer habitats.  See all of Sean's Striped Bass photos in our Striped Bass Gallery, and view all of Sean's exciting underwater images in our Sean Landsman Gallery.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

What Do Fish Think of Humans Who Scuba Dive Into Their Homes?

(c)Engbretson Underwater Photography

I've been photographing fish underwater for twenty five years and this is a question I've thought about a lot. I know what's it's like on the lake bottom taking pictures of fish, but what's it like from the fish's point of view?  How do they process the experience?  I can’t imagine what it’s like for them, but let's try to experience the encounter from their point of view.  Let's imagine for a moment that the roles are reversed.

So imagine you’re sitting in your living room one day and then, out of nowhere, an alien creature enters your home. It doesn’t resemble anything you’ve ever seen before. It has eyes like you do, but there’s very little about its body that you can comprehend. It doesn’t resemble anything you’ve ever seen. It’s enormous in size and you’re not sure where it came from or why it’s in your home. You’re terrified. But…. you might also be a little curious. You’re torn between running for your life, and trying to understand what you’re seeing. Let’s say you choose not to run. You keep your distance and start observing this alien life form. It’s immediately obvious that this creature has severe limitations. It seems to be clumsy and awkward. It doesn’t move with any grace or fluidity. In fact, it seems to have difficulty moving around at all. It’s also slow. This is reassuring to you because you’re certain you can outrun it easily if it approaches too closely.    Then suddenly it moves up to the ceiling of your living room and seemingly disappears. Where did it go? The entire encounter is incomprehensible to you. This is how I imagine the first time encounter would be like if the roles were reversed.

I can’t imagine what fish think of us.  But I’m always impressed with the fish that don’t immediately flee. I don’t know if I would have the nerve to hang around and observe this strange monster in the scenario I described. It’s extremely humbling to realize that these fish are braver and have more courage than I would in their situation.

I think after many repeated encounters, a certain level of comfort develops. While fish may never understand what we are, they know we’re not the otters they see who move with great speed and agility and should be feared. We’re probably regarded more like the way they view snapping turtles. Large, plodding creatures with no real underwater skills who aren’t a threat unless they get very close.

Over time, the fish begin to notice that as we clumsily move through the water, we create a disturbance. Unseen insects and other invertebrates that are hiding on plants or on the lake floor may be exposed or displaced and to the fish, they magically appear for them to eat. Maybe a crayfish is suddenly seen fleeing and again a food item is summoned out of nowhere. They may begin to view us as sorcerers who can conjure up food items by our mere presence. If they arrive at this conclusion, the entire dynamic between fish and us changes. We become viewed as a waiter or sorts. Instead of fearing us, we instead become something that should be paid attention to and even followed around so they’re able to snap up any treats that we may cause to appear.  For this reason, eventually, over time, I would say some of the fish are absolutely gleeful when they see us.