Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Gone Fishing

I just sold a print of this Coho salmon that was jumping in the ocean close to home at Sargeant Bay in Halfmoon Bay on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.

Before I took this picture I didn't even know that salmon jumped in the ocean before swimming upstream to spawn. I remember parking my car that day and as I walked towards the water I heard quite a loud splash. Excited, I started walking faster and I soon heard another splash, and another. They were coming fast and furious and I couldn't wait to find out what was creating a commotion down at the beach.

Turns out it was the salmon. They are in a kind of holding pattern in the bay for some days before they swim upstream to spawn. Salmon are anadromous...born in freshwater, they migrate to the ocean as juveniles, reach maturity in the sea and return to freshwater when it's time to spawn.

There are a few theories about why salmon jump. Probably the most common is that they're ridding themselves of sea lice. Another theory is that the jumping fish are females trying to loosen the eggs in their skeins before spawning. A third theory is that fish jump because they can, and it feels good. I prefer that theory.

I took this photograph handheld a few years ago when I very rarely used a tripod. I spent a few hours down at the shore, my arms up and my trigger finger poised, trying to get a shot of a salmon jumping. I discovered it was no easy feat because you could never predict where the fish was going to leap out of the water; therefore, it was hard to focus in time on any specific salmon. But eventually I tuned into the fact that the fish often briefly chose a smaller area in which to indulge their acrobatics, so I simply pre-focussed on that area and kept the rest of my fingers crossed. Meanwhile there were fishermen madly rowing their boats to the spots where the salmon seemed to be jumping the most. Only one salmon was caught that day, by a woman, not a fisherman. I had much better luck capturing a salmon with my camera than the fishermen using their rods.

So next time you're down by the ocean in September, go have a look for some jumping salmon. If you're into photography, give it a shot. It's an interesting challenge. Happy shooting!
salmon art

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