Engbretson Underwater Photography

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

Saturday, June 20, 2020

What's the Easiest Fish to Photograph Underwater?

Smallmouth Bass Underwater (c)Eric Engbretson

I received an email the other day from someone who asked me what I thought was the easiest fish to photograph. Well, none of them are that easy to photograph well, but if I had to pick one that gave me the least trouble, it would be smallmouth bass. The reason for that is they have a unique inherent curiosity and sociable nature. They’re not by nature a timid fish so they'll eagerly come around you. I think they've learned that divers stir up food items. They’ve kind of put that together. So when you get in the water, you’ll get them following you around after a while. It’s not unusual at the end of a dive to have 15 or 20 smallmouth bass in a parade, following you. 

If a smaller one comes too close to you the larger ones will chase them away so they can have exclusive access. Because they are so friendly and easy to approach, you can blow all the bubbles you want to or spend crazy amounts of time fooling around with different camera adjustments or lighting angles without worrying about them being scared off.  

They're an excellent fish to spend time with if you're a novice photographer, because they have loads of patience. But after decades of underwater photography, I wouldn't say photographing them is especially challenging. At the end of a dive, if I can’t find anything else, that’s when I do the smallmouth pictures.

So, what's the most difficult fish to photograph? I think it's the carp. They are so aware. They have excellent vision and hearing. They can see you so far away in clear water and if you make any slight noise, they're gone. Even if you don’t blow a bubble but you take a breath, it makes a tiny whooshing noise. It’s such a tiny sound, but they hear that and they react. You have to be so still and so quiet. 

What I do with carp is I pick a spot where I know they’re milling about and I get behind a rock and hide and hopefully one will cruise by. If they see you it’s over. They’re really smart and are really sensitive to the bubbles of divers. That's why they give me so much trouble. But they're not the only species that are bothered by bubbles. Crappie, yellow perch, trout, catfish, sturgeon are some others. They’re all hard to get close enough to to get great pictures. To be successful, you need patience, and frankly a lot of times luck.