IT’S a brief moment in time captured after a gruelling two-year wait.
This rarely-seen spectacle of the North East’s natural landscape is pictured here thanks to one man’s determined efforts.
The majestic sight of a leaping salmon has been captured on camera after Mike Smith staked out the fish on the banks of the River Tyne for two years.
But it was more than luck that led to the stunning image. Mr Smith took the snap after months spent learning when the water would be at the right level, where fishermen went for the right spot and watching weather patterns known to influence fish.
He finally hit the jackpot last month as he waited by the river next to Hexham bridge, with camera in hand.
He said: “The water levels have to right for salmon to start leaping over the weir. On that day the conditions were right – there had been water released from Kielder reservoir and there had been a bit of rain the day before. I legged it up there and waited.
“When I took the picture the adrenaline rush was tremendous. It sounds a bit corny, but I was breathless as I pushed the shutter and then I was almost too nervous to look and see if I had caught it.
“You’ve got to enjoy it and be passionate about what you do or it would drive you nuts. It took so long so get a shot like that is very satisfying.”
Every year thousands of Tyne salmon make their epic journey up the river, against the flow of water to spawn high up in the tributaries. Their incredible sense of direction leads them thousands of miles back from their feeding grounds in the Atlantic to the spot where they were born to reproduce.
Mike, who runs his own business, Mike Smith Photography, based in Walker, Newcastle, said: “A couple of years I was asked by a client to try to get a photo of a leaping salmon or sea trout on the Tyne because they didn’t have one and every time they wanted to use a picture of one they had to use a Canadian salmon.
“It was a real nightmare. They were leaping and people kept telling me where I could go to see them. I managed to get a couple of shots at Wylam, but the salmon were so far away they were specks in the background.
“On the day I saw the salmon leap up the weir everywhere but in front of me. I couldn’t use a tripod so I had to hold the camera and my hand was getting numb. I had the camera slightly down from my eye when this monster salmon leapt up in front of me.
“I just pressed the shutter and prayed.” The resulting image is so impressive that some have doubted it is real. Mike said: “People have been discussing whether it was ‘Photoshopped’, but the reason it looks like that is because you’re shooting at such a fast speed, at one 3,000th of a second, that it freezes the fish in mid-air. I would be surprised if anyone’s got that close before, because it’s only through trial and error and a lot of luck that I managed to get it.
“I’ve never seen another photo like it.”