Take a Digital Camera Fishing!
Back to Articles/Favorite Stuff  

By Peter Frailey, June 2005

Like many fisherman, I enjoy using a camera to document trips.  This includes the obligatory picture of friends in front of a fishing lodge or a buddy holding an over-sized fish. 

But with a little imagination, today’s digital cameras can do so much more.  Below is a sequence of three pictures that tell a different kind of fishing story.  Perhaps no words are even needed.  But I will tell you that these pictures were taken in the summer of 2004 in the Mt. Washington area of New Hampshire.  This river is regularly stocked with rainbows, but I am told that the brookies are wild.  Because the streams in this area are not particularly rich, a 6” brookie is a “nice” size.  The bigger one pictured here was the “catch of the day”.


My fishing camera of choice is the Pentax Optio 33WR.  The “33” is for 3.3 megapixels, a measure of the maximum size of the digital image  (2048 x 1536 pixels).  The “WR” stands for water-resistant – my favorite (a must-have!) feature.

With 3.3 megapixels, the picture size is perfectly ample for email and Web site use and makes nice 4”x 6” snapshots (I haven’t tried anything bigger).  In fact, the largest images shown here are only 500 pixels wide, which means I reduced the image substantially from the original 2048 pixel width.  (Because color prints have more dots per inch than your computer screen, you would use the full 2048 pixel width to make a 4"x 6" print.)

Zooms and Macros

In addition to the zoom lens, a required feature for me is the macro capability.  This allows close-up pictures to be taken of flowers, insects, and fishing flies.  Back in the days of 35mm cameras, macro pictures required the purchase of an additional and expensive lens.  And of course such a 35mm camera with interchangeable lenses might require the additional expense of hiring a fishing sherpa!

This wild iris stood alone among marsh grass on the banks of one of my favorite fishing rivers.
This image was captured using the macro mode with center focusing.

Camera Convenience

Like most digital cameras, this one can fit in your fishing vest, in a small pocket.  And because you don’t need to protect it from the elements in multiple zip lock bags, it can be easily and effortlessly accessed when needed. 

I have attached a short lanyard of old fly line. 
It makes holding the camera in your teeth easier, if you need two hands to position a fish.

Center-focus Mode and Default Settings

Use the camera monitor and menu options to set the camera defaults. The "memory" feature available in the set-up menu allows you to lock-in your preferences.  My camera defaults to (1) macro mode, (2) center-focusing and (3) no flash. All I need to do when taking a close-up picture is center the object in the monitor and depress the shutter release button.  In this mode the camera should focus on the centered subject (e.g. fish) and not on the background (e.g. rocky river bottom).  But take plenty of pictures just in case. The included 16MB memory card is woefully inadequate if you like to take a lot of pictures, so I replaced it with a 256MB SD memory card.   With the larger card I am able to take 123 pictures using the best image quality and the maximum (3.3 megapixel) image size.

Water Resistance

The 33WR is rated as "Class 7 Water Resistant."  This means that water will not (should not?) enter the enclosure for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter. 

I have dropped this camera into the water only once, in heavy current just last month.  Fortunately, the 33WR did not float away.  Instead, it sank quickly to the bottom in about three feet of water.  I got a bit wet over the top of my waders as I reached down to get it (my arm is long, but not that long).  Thankfully, with its silver body it was easy to locate on the dark-stone riverbed!  Bottom line: all the photos were intact (including the 18+ inch brookie shown below that I released just before dropping the camera) and the camera is still working fine.

Focus could be better, but I was shaking with excitement! (For perspective, that's a size 4 bugger)

Suggested Software

Like all digital cameras, this one comes with software for uploading your photos to your computer. I cannot comment on its power or friendliness, as I have not used it. Instead, I use Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 (Album 2.0) for both brands of digital cameras I own.

What I especially like about Album 2.0 is that it allows you to use self-created categories, sub-categories and tags for all your pictures.  This means that if I click on the tag “Brook Trout” within the category of “Fish”, I will see a catalog of thumbnails of all my brookie pictures. You can also add comments and audio clips.  I have another category for “Rivers”.  So, if I click on “Millers River” and click “Brook Trout” together, I will get all my pictures of brook trout on the Millers River. 

You can get a free trial package from the Adobe Web site, the maker of a long line of Photoshop products.  If you like it, buy it.  The retail cost is about $50. 

Like most image uploading software, Album 2.0 also does simple photo editing.  I have not used the editing feature because I use Photoshop Elements for that purpose.  I do however, use Album 2.0 for emailing pictures, creating CDs and developing slide shows.

Update on the Pentax Optio 33WR

The 33WR (below left) was new to the market when I bought mine in December of 2003.  In the 1 ½ years since then, Pentax has introduced two new WR models: the Optio 43WR (middle) and the Optio WR (bottom right).  As of this date, information on all three is available on the Pentax USA Web site. The 43WR has 4.3 megapixels and retains the body shape of the 33WR.  The newest model, the Optio WR has 5 megapixels, but in my view it is unfortunate that Pentax abandoned the unique body design of the earlier models in favor of a slimmer design.  In my opinion the original “square” design makes it easier for large hands to hold the camera steady in the field (and on the water.)

Camera images are from the Pentax USA Web site

...you'll be happy you did

I urge you to consider buying one of the Pentax water resistant cameras.  When the next fishing photo opportunity comes your way, you’ll be happy you did.



 copyright © Notice by fishingwithflies.com. All rights reserved. This material is for your personal enjoyment. Please obtain prior written permission from the author and fishingwithflies.com before any other use.