The Created Image: Turkana Fisherman

In Lightroom & Workflow, Photographs & Photoshopping, Tutorials &Technique, Without The Frame by David19 Comments

I was swimming in Lake Turkana, just outside of the town of Loiyangalani, Kenya, when I saw this fisherman on the shore mending nets. Lake Turkana, I am told, has the highest concentration of crocodiles in the world, so while the swimming was lovely, this was as good a reason as any to get out. Kura, my Kenyan friend, went over to speak to the young man, Benjamin, while I dried off, put my clothes on, and grabbed my camera. I shot for a few minutes while he mended nets on the shore, before standing up, wrapping his nets on his shoulders and striding into the water. I hadn’t anticipated this. I’d assumed he was done fishing for the day, not beginning. I’d already changed out of my swim trunks so I stripped down to my underwear, put my sandals back on (not the first time I’ve done this, but it’s never pretty) and walked into the waves after him. I’m not sure Benjamin knew what was going on, but he was a good sport about it. He set his nets slowly and paid no attention to me, except to smile occasionally or show concern that I might fall. By now we were chest deep and the waves were kicking up in the wind. I finished shooting and walked towards shore, turning back to wave to Benjamin.

And then I realized I’d done it all wrong. I’d been on the wrong side of Benjamin, shooting with the light instead of against it, which is odd for me, as addicted to backlight as I am. So I waded back out, arm high in the air and getting tired, and shot it all again, now deeper and with more spray. No time to set my white-balance, but I could deal with that later. I wish I could say I paid a great deal of attention to the histogram, but I didn’t. I trust the meter on my D3s in light like this. I left the settings where they were, the depth of field deep enough to account for missed focus, and the shutter speed high enough to freeze the water. The rest was trying not to fall over, keeping the lens out of the spray, and putting my subject where I wanted him. Nikon D3s, 16-35/4.0 @ 26mm. 1/1000 @ f/11. ISO 400.

In Lightroom I did very little. Here’s the RAW image without adjustments, followed by a screenshot of the global tweaks – mostly lightening the shadows a little, and warming it up with a Cloudy WB. I added clarity to bring out the texture of the water, then sharpened locally in Photoshop after cropping to a 16:9 ratio. The last thing I did was drink a cold Tusker and try to stop grinning; these are the unexpected experiences that make me glad to have a camera in my hand in some beautiful part of this planet.

Click the images to make them larger.

By the way, this week we launched Issue Two of PHOTOGRAPH, our quarterly digital magazine for creative photographers. If you missed it, or haven’t subscribed yet, you can find more details here on the blog. Don’t miss out on this. Our first two issues are getting overwhelming feedback, and we want you to be part of it. Big, beautiful, issues featuring excellent photography and teaching, with no ads.


  1. Author

    Hey now, that is NOT true! You came away with a lovely shot of me in my underwear hugging an inflatable squirrel. There are lots of shots of fishermen, fewer of me in a compromised position with a squirrel. Now let us never speak of this again. πŸ™‚

  2. I’d never think of getting in the water to shoot a fisherman…oh, wait, I did, with you.

    And, I didn’t come away with anything.

  3. Great image, looks like you’ve had another great trip to Africa. I’ll need to tag along one of these days πŸ™‚

  4. My favorite part of this story was at the end, where you were celebrating with a cold one and couldn’t stop grinning. While I can’t compare my photography to yours, I do know that feeling. I love it when that happens!

  5. Author

    Tom – Good point. I guess it was chest-deep for me because I was squating.

  6. As the other posters have said, great image, great light and great story. Thanks for sharing.

    Just an aside, how much taller than you is Benjamin….he doesn’t seem to be “chest deep in water.” πŸ˜‰

  7. Glad to see that even the pros sometimes get it “wrong” and have to re-shoot πŸ™‚ Also glad I’m not the only one dealing with pesky dust spots on my sensor.

  8. Thank you for sharing the process on how you MADE the photograph. It is also one of the rare times when a description the camera settings helped describe how the image was made.

  9. Thanks for writing & sharing. I plan on subscribing to photography next month. These photographs inspire me to shoot more & better. Thanks!

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