Category

Salmon

Adams River Sockeye Salmon Swimming Upstream

Canada, Salmon

Sockeye Salmon swims upstream in the Adams River.

This is another sockeye salmon photograph (Oncorhynchus nerka) that took a while to grow on me, but which is now one of my favorites. Usually underwater photographers spend much of their time trying to eliminate backscatter and bubbles from their compositions, hoping for the clearest and most pristine rendition possible. For some reason, perhaps because I do not shoot underwater much anymore and have lost the grip I used to have on backscatter-free imagery, on this trip I deliberately placed my camera into some of the most turbulent, sand- and pebble-filled sections of the Adams River rapids. My hope was to make a few gritty images showing the sockeye salmon struggling against really difficult currents. While in most of my attempts this approach resulted in photographs in which the salmon is so heavily obscured by gook and turbulence as to be unusable, I did manage a few keepers with which I am happy. In these few frames — such as this one — the suspended sand and streaking bubbles add to the atmosphere of the image and help to describe the amazing migration story of these fascinating fish. I had to experiment and discover some different lighting techniques that allowed me to shed artificial light on the scene, balancing strobe light with the available sunlight while not highlighting the bubbles and sand any more than necessary. The trip ended up being one of the most challenging and technique-expanding underwater photography efforts I have made in years. I really hope to do it again.

Adams River sockeye salmon.  A female sockeye salmon swims upstream in the Adams River to spawn, having traveled hundreds of miles upstream from the ocean, Oncorhynchus nerka, Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada

Adams River sockeye salmon. A female sockeye salmon swims upstream in the Adams River to spawn, having traveled hundreds of miles upstream from the ocean.
Image ID: 26161
Species: Sockeye salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka
Location: Adams River, Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada

Photography efforts undertaken by permission of Fisheries and Ocean Canada and BC Parks.

Sockeye Salmon Migrating Up The Adams River

Canada, Salmon

A group of sockeye salmon school tightly as they migrate upstream in the Adams River.

In reviewing some images I shot last year I realized I almost trashed this one during the initial edit. I’m glad I saved it, because in the months since I shot it last October it has really grown on me. More than most of the sockeye salmon photographs (Oncorhynchus nerka) I made during my short day and a half at the Adams River, this photograph offers some intimacy and insight into the final weeks of life that sockeye salmon experience. The salmon migrate up the Fraser and Adams Rivers in large schools. At times they are “shoulder to shoulder”, pressed up against one another as they struggle against the neverending downstream current. Their bodies take on a rich crimson hue in their final weeks of life. That the color is “blood red” is poetic in a sense; it signifies their impending doom. They are struggling in the contest of their lives and even those individuals that successfully travel hundreds of miles from the Pacific Ocean to reach the spawning ground and produce eggs or sperm will still die. But perhaps the most appealing detail in this scene is the damage the salmon sustain in their migration. In the thousands of photographs I made of the spawning sockeye I did not see a single uninjured fish. Virtually every fish that reaches the Adams River looked “seriously thrashed”. Most injuries were contusions on the leading edges of the fishes jaws and head and on the dorsal, ventral and caudal fins. These appear to have arisen from collisions with rocks, branches and other obstacles that they slam into as they throw themselves upstream. It is a brutal pursuit. I have a newfound and keen appreciation for the hardiness of sockeye salmon after seeing the end of their migration firsthand and I hope the photographs I made will help convey that appreciation as they are used in publications in coming years.

Sockeye salmon, migrating upstream in the Adams River to return to the spot where they were hatched four years earlier, where they will spawn, lay eggs and die, Oncorhynchus nerka, Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada

Sockeye salmon, migrating upstream in the Adams River to return to the spot where they were hatched four years earlier, where they will spawn, lay eggs and die.
Image ID: 26149
Species: Sockeye salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka
Location: Adams River, Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada

Photography efforts undertaken by permission of Fisheries and Ocean Canada and BC Parks.