Marlin Fishing Photography

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Marlin Fishing Photography by KellDallFall

My name is Kelly Dalling Fallon, and I’ve been photographing giant black marlin on the Great Barrier Reef for almost 20 years, most recently as crew on board KEKOA Sports Fishing.

Once upon a time a boss gifted me a Canon Eos Kiss camera as a thank you for a job well done and that’s all it took to hook me on taking photos (albeit on land).

Over the years its very much been trial and error as I taught myself the ins and outs of photographing marlin in flight.

Since my first season working on board Reel Chase with my dad back in 2005 (during which I can confidently say my camera never left auto mode) I have been upgrading my from  Canon 450D’s and settling on my collection of trusty Canon 7Ds (I’ve owned about 6 over the years!)

Fortunately for my practice makes perfect mantra (and a fair amount of self study) I have had plenty of opportunity over the years to take photos of marlin. In fact, something that is quite hard for me even to believe myself, 2023 will be my 19th giant black marlin season on the Great Barrier Reef. 19 year of marlin fishing photography!

First and foremost on board though I am a member of the crew. I am always found with camera in hand at some stage throughout the fight, but quite often I will be reeling in the third rod or helping an angler get settled in the chair first. And I’m always watching what’s happening and have been known to scale the tower camera in hand to show Luke an iffy hook placement during the fight or to show him a shot I’m particularly happy with after its all over!

My favourite shots are the ones up close on the leader. Quite often I will stay upstairs on the flybridge until the rigger mark is on the reel before descending to the cockpit to join the action. This keeps my camera drier and keeps the cockpit less crowded during some of the excitement of the chase!

Aside from the giant black marlin, I most like to photograph the juvenile blacks and, as much as I love to catch them as well, I will easily forgo my turn on the rod to have more opportunity for pics.

I also love to photograph striped marlin as they are such pretty fish, but we don’t often fish the southern season any more so my chances are limited.

My marlin fishing photography nemisis is the blue marlin. While we don’t catch them as often as the blacks, I find their behaviour much harder to anticipate and as they do so much of their jumping way out yonder compared to the blacks which will put on quite the display on the leader. I’m yet to capture what I feel like is a standout shot of a blue marlin, but I keep trying!

My favourite marlin photo

Giant black marlin photographed from the tower.

We all saw the bite and the fish came up jumping right away and then kind of hung in a bit deeper. I got a few photos off but nothing worth keeping (I had been testing a new lens and I did not like it!) So there I was cranky at myself for using this stupid lens again on such a good fish and worried I’d missed my chance. By now we’d been fighting for over an hour and I thought we might not see it jump again. So I thought I’d head up to the tower with Luke and see what I could get from up there since it was a very calm day.

So starting on deck I put all the spare rods away inside on the floor of the saloon and then same up  on the bridge, basically putting anything away that might get in shot.

Then I went up to the tower and waited. And almost immediately after I got to the tower it came up jumping straight at the boat. So I was annoyed at myself for being in the wrong place to get those shots either. I didn’t know whether I should go back down to deck level in case it came up jumping again or to stay up in the tower. Fortunately this time I chose right and stayed up top and by the time that Ross had the fish on the leader she was laying beside the boat giving me the perfect view straight down on here. She was still pulling hard so it took a bit to get her to the surface but she on the right (correct) side of the boat so that I wasn’t dealing with sun reflections either.

I took about 20 photos in this sequence and I tend to think its a photo I’ll never get so perfectly ever again!

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