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Picture of the Week

July 13, 2010
Watching fish at Bonneville

A tourist watches as shad migrate upstream past an underwater viewing window into the Bonneville Dam fish ladder. Copyright Mark B. Gibson/The Dalles Chronicle

When I was a kid my dad took me shad fishing below Bonneville Dam. We always started out with a visit to the viewing windows into the fish ladders.

I loved seeing the fish. The small, shad with their deep V shaped tails, the larger sockeye salmon and the mysteriously huge Chinook salmon. The lampreye eels, though, were my favorite. They would suck up onto the glass window with their round, toothy mouths, then release and wiggle on upstream.

Visitors today look through the same windows, and see the same mix of fish. The only change is having to stop and drive through the security gate.

I started out fairly close to the window, shooting with a wide angle lens. Without a flash, which I felt was too disruptive, acheiving a balance between the dim interior of the visitor center and the windows was very problematic. I wanted people in the picture, looking at the fish. Yet the camera became a barrier, as people stacked up behind me, afraid to “ruin” my picture. Some of the shots worked, but not well.

I eventually moved far enough back that people didn’t avoid the window area in front of me. With a longer lens (80-200) I framed visitors in the window, which also solved the exposure problem. The green tint is true to the view. I would have liked to have more fish in the photo, but only those right up close to the glass showed in the final photograph.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. clytie permalink
    July 14, 2010 06:36

    What a wonderful picture, bro. The intense concentration of the camera-laden watcher is mesmerizing.

    I also remember going to watch the fish window. It’s funny, but what I remember best was the lady in the little room off to the right with her little fish clicker. Each time she saw fish she had to ‘click’ the right counter button to get the correct number. The day we were there last, all we could hear was click-click-click-clickety-click. No talking to us on this day!

  2. July 21, 2010 06:09

    I remember going to watch the fish window too. Alan and I took our children there to watch them in later years.

    I like this photo–the faint outline of fish in blue with the woman silhouetted has a feeling of wonder about it. There is magic in this picture.

    And it fills my eyes.

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