Welcome Home Salmon (Photos)
Point of View: By Aaron Kunz
Two photographers with Idaho Public Television and I are here to photograph the beautiful and often elusive Idaho Sockeye Salmon for a future Outdoor Idaho set to air in 2012. We brought two HD underwater video cameras and two standard HD video cameras to cover all angles during the two days we were scheduled to shoot.
Sockeye Salmon were on the brink of extinction just twenty years ago when just one returned to the natural spawning grounds. On this day there are 8 bright red Sockeye swimming just a quarter mile from Redfish Lake inside the Sawtooth National Recreation area. Overnight they would swim into a trap set by Idaho Fish and Game so they can track, monitor, and continue an effort to preserve the genetics of this federally protected species.
Mike Peterson with Idaho Fish and Game said most people believe his agency is working to recover Sockeye but says so far they have only been working on preserving the genetics. He hopes in a few years they can transition to a recovery mission and ultimately build a hatchery here at 6,547 feet elevation.
In order to capture video of the Sockeye, we planted one of the two underwater cameras on the bottom of the stream to catch the salmon as they passed over the camera on their way upstream. The second underwater camera was attached to a long painter’s pole so photographer Pat Metzler could follow their movements from the side and above. The water here is amazingly clear; we could easily see the streambed that’s only about 2 feet deep.
Photographer Jay Krajic and I shot from above the water using polarized lenses to make the pictures just as clear as one can get. This is an all High Definition shoot using both tapes and newer memory cards to store the footage. At night we would back up the memory cards on a laptop computer to store and view the footage. One difficulty with shooting with these underwater cameras is not being able to see what we are shooting. You hope it’s getting the job done but we wouldn’t know until the end of the shoot. We did miss a few shots because salmon kept running into the camera or the camera would run out of battery.
Mike Peterson called the Idaho Sockeye Salmon the superman of fish because it swims to higher elevation, longer distance and the furthest south of any migrating fish in the Northwest. Despite the long days and getting cold and wet, this is an important story to tell. By the end we have more than 7 hours of footage to sort through. What a day!