Swimming with the salmon in a temperate rainforest stream is unforgettable. Recording the moment with a good photograph is the highest accolade for that memory. I struggle with several major challenges each time I go. First is getting close enough to my subject. I have to get very close in order for the wide-angle effect to become dramatic. If the Dolly Varden are not trying to bite my nose or camera dome port, I’m nowhere near close enough. Next is perspective. My view of things can be ordinary but easily changed to extraordinary by a slight shift in my angle of view.
And then there is the light; the single most important element in a really great image. It is what keeps me going back, day after day, because no moment is the same. The fish may be there for weeks but how their world is lit can vary between seconds. For example, the shot of the Coho school was taken during a week of non-stop rain. I swam alongside a pod of fish, ready to shoot if something interesting happened. Well nothing happened for hours and then, suddenly, the dusty beams of light appeared. My heart almost stopped.
The lesson from that day was: Be in place (underwater), for days if you must (literally), because that moment you are waiting for will come.
Paul Vecsei is a fisheries biologist in Yellowknife, Canada. Paul specializes in capturing underwater photography of a variety of fish species, beneath the surface, in their natural environments. When not behind the lens, Paul devotes a great deal of time to producing scientific illustrations of char and trout. To see more of Paul's work, please visit his Flickr page.