A large westslope cutthroat trout — Montana's state fish — works his way into the current of a shallow spawning stream.
A westslope cutthroat trout swims into the bubbling current of a small spawning stream in western Montana.
Behind the lens.
This was a difficult image to create. I wanted an eye-level portrait of the trout that included the air bubbles, which would show off the current that the fish was swimming in. But the fish is under a log in the shadowed corner of an undercut bank. Just getting in position without scaring the fish away was challenging -- and time-consuming.
The low light levels meant a slow shutter speed,and that in turn helps show motion in the air bubbles. I had to be pretty close to the fish because that much current tends to pick up debris, and shaded underwater areas want to turn blue on you. So the resulting image is a pleasing compromise between lighting, motion and camera positioning.
A westslope cutthroat trout briefly rises above the surface while jostling for position in a shallow spawning stream in western Montana.
Behind the lens.
While photographing this spawn, I noticed that the fish tend to push each other around to get the best pools, and again after they've paired off. So I watched and I waited, focusing over the most active individuals.
With time and patience -- and a little luck -- I finally captured the full-face, out-of-the-water portrait that I had pre-visualized. If you look closely below this fish, you can see the black spots of the other fish involved in this tussell.
Because I was working in dappled sunlight and shade, I used a strong fill flash to really bring out the bright colors of the spawning fish.