It was vital for the book to show the weed in the chalk streams which, apart from being an iconic feature of the habitat, is so essential for invertebrates and the food chain in general. I have photographed the weed such as Ranunculus (River Water Crowfoot) in a number of ways. Some images were achieved from the bank with a camera fitted with a polarising filter to reduce the inevitable reflections on the water. However, most photographs of weed were taken by wading into the river and using a camera that can be used underwater or, in the case of the above image of the bridge over the Itchen, with a standard camera but held perilously close to the surface of the water. Note that again I have used a bridge to give a focal point. This time, a typical fishing beat bridge made of wood with guide rail on one side. There are scores of these across the chalk streams.
Inevitably a book on chalk streams will feature many images of the rivers themselves as well as the intended record of the rich variety of flora and fauna they support. In the book there are many images of beautiful chalk streams but sometimes I needed more of a focal point. I frequently used bridges for this purpose. The bridge above on the upper Itchen has been used several times. It can be seen in photographs that capture views in different seasons and times of the day and has also been used to demonstrate that some sections of the protected chalk streams are accessible to all (this bridge is on the Itchen Way public footpath). It was even in the shot of me, taken by my wife Lynne, which will be be used in the bio for the book!
We think of chalk streams as flowing through beautiful open countryside, but there are chalk streams running through urban areas. The River Wandle is one such river and was once fished by Isaak Walton and Lord Nelson. The source is in the chalk of the North Downs and after meandering through the urban sprawl of south London, it joins the Thames in Wandsworth.
It has been restored in recent years and the shoal of chub in the image above was taken at Morden Hall Park which is run by the National Trust.
Continuing the background to the photographs of wild brown trout in the book. This one from the Wylye is looking quite calm in the image here, but when taking the photographs this was one of the very brief moments when the young trout was still. Thank goodness for digital photography where it doesn't matter how many shots you take/waste. More recently I have taken what I think are better shots of both trout and grayling by utilising the crystal clear water of the Itchen and more animated "poses" with interesting light on the swimming fish and surroundings.
My book is about the whole environment of the chalk streams with the rich variety of wildlife. It is not a fishing book, but should, of course, include images of one of the iconic species - wild brown trout. However, this has proved to be more of a challenge than anticipated as I wanted shots of them in their natural habitat, not in a net or handheld. Many attempts photographing them from the bank or bridges proved to be unsatisfactory because of reflections (although some can be eliminated by the use of a polarising filter) or the refraction of moving water giving a blurred and milky picture. It took a crystal clear stretch of the upper Itchen and bright sunshine at the right angle to get the image above which will probably appear in the book. I rather like all the colours and patterns created by the light on the clean gravel on the riverbed.
Some of the other images of fish I have shortlisted for the book were taken while wading with a waterproof compact camera. Again, it took the right weather, light and clarity of water to get acceptable outcomes - and the rejection of vast numbers of out of focus or badly composed efforts!