Thursday, August 30, 2018

Party Boat Wreck Fishing

My grandfather was living with us for the summer, but the busyness of my schedule meant that we weren't able to go fishing as much as I would have liked. 

So when the end of August neared, I decided to take us out to the coast for a day wreck fishing on a party boat. The main targets for the day would be black sea bass and red hake (called "ling" locally), both of which would be new species for me. Funnily enough, I had never fished for these locally abundant species before, despite living so close. I was fairly confident that we would encounter sea bass and red hake, but I knew there were opportunities for several other bottom-dwelling fishes. 

The morning came quickly, and at sunrise the boat motored off towards the Atlantic. 

My grandfather enjoying the sunrise

The boat planned to stop at several inshore wrecks to target Black Sea bass, before moving to deeper water for red hake.

Upon arrival to the first stop, anglers dropped their lines as did I, and within a few seconds I have a bite and cranked up a double-header of black sea bass, a male and a female. We were using high-low rigs with clams as bait and 6-8 oz sinkers.

The black sea bass–species #130.

Both fish were too short, so back they went.

My grandfather and I did eventually tie into several nicer specimens that we kept for dinner.

The action was hot, although most fish were short. My grandfather caught a very plump Atlantic chub mackerel that we cut up for bait in addition to the clams.

Once most people had gotten their limit of two keeper sea bass, the boat left the area and headed east towards deeper water. It took a while to get there, and once we did, it took even longer for the boat to be positioned, since the lack of wind made for a tough drift. The first few spots produced a fish or two for some people, but the action just wasn't present. Finally, at one of the spots I got a little knocked, cranked up 200 feet of line, and pulled up a little baby hake that was missing an eye.

Species #131, the red hake.

As slimy as they are, I was able to position this one nicely enough to get a decent photo. 

After the first ling broke the ice, fishing improved and I caught several more hake. A man next to me was consistently catching American conger eels and ocean pout, but I couldn't replicate his success. 

Then on one drop, I got tangled with one of my neighbors (a common occurrence, especially on crowded days). After clearing the tangle, I felt weight on the line and set the hook into what felt like a much more decent fish than the ling we had been catching. Reeling it to the surface was an effort, but I was delighted to see an ocean pout on the end of the line. 

That's species #132, if you're following along. 

The pout was the highlight of my day, one of the strangest fish that inhabits our waters and one that I was really hoping I would encounter. 

Cool as they may be, they present quite a challenge to any person wishing to straighten one out for a quick photo. 

Beautiful pectoral fins on this specimen. 

I ended up finally getting a decent shot of it before sending it back into the ocean. 

One notable comment regarding the ocean pout: ocean pout are able to produce an antifreeze protein to prevent their body fluids from freezing in sub-freezing saltwater. My final project in Biochemistry is on antifreeze proteins in fish, and in researching it I came upon this knowledge; one more interesting thing about this species. 

No more new species would make an appearance, but as the day wound to an end I did get several nicer-sized red hake. 

A solid day fishing with my grandfather; we combined for a multitude of ling and sea bass to take back home to cook. And I got three new species out of the endeavor, bringing me to 132. I am on the road to 150!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Scientific Illustrator? Part 7!! Senegalese Fishes

After the 6 salmonids, I wasn't sure if I was going to be doing any more scientific illustrations. But sure enough, another one popped up, and this one required work of a significantly simplified style, which was in hindsight very good, as school was just about to begin.

I was commissioned to draw simplified illustrations of 10 Senegalese fish species that have a potential to control the disease schistosomiasis by eating the host snails which carry the disease at one of its life stages. 

Because these are simpler and took much less time, I don't really have any images of the in-process work. 

However, these are going to be published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene!

This is the research paper: 

Arostegui MC, Wood CL, Jones IJ, Chamberlin A, Jouanard N, Faye DS, Kuris AM, Riveau G, De Leo GA, Sokolow SH. In press. Potential biological control of schistosomiasis by fishes in the lower Senegal River basin. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Synodontis ocellifer

Synodontis schall

Synodontis nigrita

Clarias gariepinus

Malapterurus electricus

Chrysichthys nigrodigitatus

Labeo senegalensis

Hemichromus bimaculatus

Citharinus citharus

Protopterus annectens

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Scientific Illustrator? Part 6 : Sonaghan

The last commissioned illustration for this project was the sonaghan. Like the gillaroo, sonaghan are endemic to Lough Melvin, but they are even smaller, more silver in coloration, and feed in the middle of the water column as opposed to being mostly benthic feeders. Sonaghan are generally considered Salmo nigripinnis.

In my humble opinion, sonaghan are the most handsome of the Melvin brown trout, with jet black fins,a sliver body, and a rusty yellow cheek. They have a more elongate face and body suited for open water. 

Like the gillaroo's head structure, the sonaghan's long body also gave me fits. I've found over the years that placing a ruler image can help because you can literally measure out how the dimensions of one part of the fish (pectoral fin, for example) compares with another (like distance from eye to edge of gill plate).

Ah, scaling.

In terms of patterning, the sonaghan was relatively simpler, but the simplicity I took to be a positive attribute, with just a few, hard black spots and some faded reds near the caudal peduncle.

Scale detailing underway.

The sonaghan's fins, as aforementioned, are particularly dark. This made it easier to draw, since I didn't have to worry about layer opacity as much. If, for example, a fish has especially clear fins, then opacity would matter because it would look different depending on the background. That's why I felt a neutral, middle-tone grey for this project was the right choice.

Sometimes I like to make notes on necessary adjustments to remember, or comments for my employer when I send them to routine update on my progress.

And there's the sonaghan. This illustration, my last for this project, is probably my favorite, although it's a close race with the ferox.

I will say that there was noticeable improvement in my technical ability over the course of this project, which is a trend I hope to continue in the future with more practice.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Scientific Illustrator? Part 5 : Gillaroo

Following the ferox was the gillaroo, this variety (considered S. stomachicus by some) is endemic to Lough Melvin, which the ferox trout is not. And unlike the ferox, this brown trout is relatively small and is usually bright yellow in coloration. Instead of fish, its primary forage food is snails, and it inhabits shallower waters. 

Since it is a benthic feeder, it has a subtle overbite. This attribute I admittedly struggled with, playing with different versions of head structure until I created one that I felt was adequate.

Once I had finally gotten the head structure down, painting began. This fish was especially fun to draw because of all the bright yellows I was able to use, as opposed to the usual muted colors with most species.

As with the ferox, while illustrating the gillaroo I paid attention to maintaining a high level of detail and structural accuracy, another reason why I usually start with the head. When I begin an illustration is when I have the most motivation, a statement that probably rings true for most artists. And since the head can arguably be the most significant part of a scientific illustration, considering that it is usually the point of entry for an onlooker, it is important that it receives the most attention and quality of workmanship.

Scaling. With these later illustrations I took less screenshots of in-progress work, as I had gotten used to the rhythm of producing these fish.

After the scaling, I transitioned to patterning. The gillaroo also have prominent and plentiful red spots, another morphological difference separating it from ferox trout.

Scale detailing (ugh). But the final product is always worth the effort!

As I finished the body, the reddish fins of the gillaroo began to materialize.

And there's the gillaroo.

For some reason I didn't enjoy this as much as I did the ferox; it's probably because I feel that the ferox is generally a more aesthetically pleasing fish. But the next brown trout I found quite attractive, even more so than the ferox.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Scientific Illustrator? Part 4 : Ferox Trout

After finishing the sockeye salmon, I was off to Europe.

Not literally, but in the sense that I was drawing European salmonids, in this case three varieties of brown trout (Salmo trutta) that diverged in a single waterbody: Lough Melvin, Ireland.

The first such variety was the ferox trout, a brown trout variant that I eager to draw, simply because of the size, beauty, and power of these lake-run brown trout that consume a diet of mostly fish and grow to extreme size.

Historically, ferox trout have been described as S. ferox, a distinct species  and reproductive isolated from S. trutta, but current literature suggests that they are not in fact a distinct species because separate populations in various lakes may have arisen independently in their respective waterbodies.

Regardless of taxonomy, however, I was absolutely floored to have the opportunity to draw this fish, and so I got to work on it immediately after finished the salmon.

As per usual, I began with an outline of the fish to make sure proportions were in order.

Then head work commenced. With this fish in particular I payed much attention to detail, probably because I was so invested in making sure the final product was as good as it could be.

The file sizes on these documents are huge; I think this one was 6000 x 8000 pixels. The large size allows me to work with a very high level of sharpness and detail.

As head worked continued, I found a challenge in illustrating the metallic nature of parts of the opercle, but I believe the final effect I decided on was the right decision with the addition of some light blues to complement the grays and whites and to give it a silver effect.

I started the flank by setting a base color gradient before scaling.

Then came the arduous process of laying out each scale, one by one.

In the meantime, I adjusted the body coloration some. Another advantage of digital media: I was able to manipulate color settings of layers and groups very easily and quickly, something unattainable with traditional mediums.

Once the fish was fully scales, I began work on the trout's spotting. I chose a rather densely spotted specimen, and added blue-grey highlights for the halos around the spots.

If I thought the scaling was hard, this part was a whole other level. With the salmon, I had managed to get away with not adding detail to each individual scale because the scales weren't defined enough to warrant that kind of attention. With the brown trout, however, the scales were defined quite markedly and thus each scale needed attention.

Below you can see the beginning of scale details.

A mid-scale detailing shot, before adding layers of color in various places between and on top of existing layers.

Here the scale detail is nearing completion. For this particular ferox I chose a buttery-yellow coloration, but the actual coloration of ferox can vary greatly, from nearly orange to silver to very dark brown.

Once scale work was complete, then came the fins, which at this point seemed like a piece of cake after drawing out every scale.

The caudal fin—note the scale work around the fin rays.

How fins are generally layered:

And the final version... or was it?

Upon further talk with professors, the student, and experts it became apparent that the particular ferox of Lough Melvin were generally more silver in coloration than yellow.

However, digital media made this adjustment as easy as changing some values on a slider, and brushing up some other minor changes like the addition of darker pigment on the belly.

There you have it; the ferox trout. From the salmon to this fish, I felt like I had made a leap in skill; from a technical standpoint the brown trout illustrations are, in my opinion, far superior. Two more brown trout are to follow.