Reeled in from New York, photographer John Kuczala shares with us his underwater series titled Fish. Initially, the fishing lures were meant to be the stars of a product shoot, but with the help of a few aquatic ‘photo-bombers,’ John quickly realized the spotlight was destined for his highly photogenic background elements: the fish!
Getting pictures of the freshwater species took some planning. Those were shot in a 10-gallon fish tank that was filled and strategically placed, depending on the lighting scenario, in the back of my car, by a dock, or in a boat.
Rigged with a light gray background on three sides and a flash at a 45° angle to the top front edge, the tank remained occupied by the quick swimmers. With patience and finesse, John was able to bribe the fish with submerged wire or taps to the glass until they settled into a comfortable pose.
Some didn’t want to be bothered, and I got splashed a few times by the larger fish. The saltwater fish, striped bass, and bluefish were too large for the tank so I needed to position them after spending time in a cooler.
Whether you’re armed with a hook or a camera, capturing fish is no easy task. But as an avid fisherman himself, John shares how his knowledge of the activity, and lures, in particular, was a huge advantage for him as he executed this project.
Challenging his technical abilities, John encountered a few issues while shooting in the tank. Firstly, the glass tank itself created a reflection problem, so John was sure to flag the light to limit the spill. He also recognized early morning hours were ideal, as the natural light was still low. To stay incognito, and not contribute to additional lighting obstacles, John covered his white Canon logo in black tape and even dressed in head-to-toe dark colored clothing.
Equipped with bubble wrap, paint cans, and an array of diversely sized storage containers, John found himself facing styling issues to make the recently-chilled saltwater fish look alive. Further, lures were rigged in the studio with hooks in different positions, so when it came to deciding on the best fish-to-lure angle position, John had many variations to choose from.
The challenges didn’t stop there, though. For this type of organic composition, it was key that John made sure the fish and background complemented each other in a natural-looking way.
The bluefish, which is a saltwater species, was placed in a Poconos stream, which I had archived, and amid tropical water archives, I placed the cold-water or freshwater fishes.
Amongst the fishing community, John’s finished series has made a huge splash. His images made the front cover of Fisherman Magazine and were also featured on screen-printed t-shirts.
Reaction to the images has been great. I get a lot of “How did you get that picture?!”
The process of this project, from shooting each element to whipping everything up in Photoshop, has been the most thrilling part for John. He is excited to expand on this venture and hopes to substitute artificial lures for a menhaden or a crab being eyed by a striped bass or snapper-bluefish. Stay afloat to hook more of this series soon!
See more of John at kuczala.com!