WORDS BY // DIVIDED BY SEASONS & DAN MASLANKAIMAGES BY // DAN MASLANKA
Dan Maslanka is a published Photographer, Videographer and all round ‘Creative Visualist’, who has worked alongside several of the big brands within angling for near on a decade now. With a passion for imagery and outdoor pursuits, including carp fishing, we catch up with him to talk about what sparked the interest in fishing and more to the point the media side of thing. We also gain an insight on how to produce better images of your own captures whilst on the bank, so you too can begin to get the best out of your prize specimen!
So Dan, lets start from the beginning. How did you get involved with carp angling and where did it all start for you?
Generally, everyone’s story seems to start on the lines of “my dad took me when I was little etc”. Well I'm no different really! I wanted to go fishing with a friend at around 10 years old, even though I had no gear or idea at that point, but it was the summer holidays I believe and I was normally at a childminder’s, so the thought of being with my mate and catching huge fish was a no brainer. I was lucky enough to be able to go for a few hours and then next time my dad took us to a small pond near where we lived, he surprised me with a cheap float road and tackle setup and that was it… Me, Dad and my mate would sit there all not having much of a clue, watching the floats go under time after time, catching Roach, Rudd, Sticklebacks.
I spent a few summers after that doing the same thing with my mate, when one day we got to go with a family friend who took us to a course fishery that had a ‘specimen lake’ - The same float setup and tactics were applied to this water and I remember it so clearly to this day - I was throwing corn and maggots little and often like I was told to… the float kept getting knocked back and forth and then suddenly, the float moved from left to right, sinking as it moved and suddenly the rod tip whipped round and I was into something a lot bigger, stronger and faster than what I had ever caught!! We netted the fish which has scattered scales and I didn’t recognise the shape or anything. I was educated that day that it was called a Mirror Carp.. It weight a whopping 3 and half pounds and to me it was a fish of a life time!
Can you tell us what it is about fishing that fuels the fire and keeps you coming back for more?
Ok, I'll be honest here! I like fishing, but im not obsessed by it! I've always liked being outdoors and trying sports and past times - Fishing has stuck with me for the last 23+ years and I think it was the case of it being something I liked to do at the end of a working week or tail end of college etc where I could just sit, relax and enjoy fresh air. I liked to float fish a lot, using pellet waggler's on waters where you can see the carp and know if you hook one, it was going to run you ragged and you will have to be clever playing it, was a thrill. Id happily sit around for a day on a swim or spend a few hours chasing fish, either way I was happy there doing it and just as happy when I got home and did other hobbies. So the fire has always been inside me for angling, but that fire is shared with other interests that just so happen to link up in the present day.
What are your favourite memories in carp angling and what stands out the most for you?
Hmmm…I have been lucky to work with a few brands in the industry, but I think one memory that stands out a lot of the time, is when I was at Nash Tackle… I learnt a lot working there and it was strange coming from a print and textile company where it was regimented and you knew what you were walking into every day, to joining Nash and each day/hour/minute something was happening that was different to the next day/hour/minute!
But one day I remember Alan Blair fishing the famous Nash Copse lake - I think it was a period where they were seeing what was in there over a few sessions. My mobile rang and I see his name pop up and he was like ‘Dan, get up to Copse Lake bruv! I’ve got some huge bangers in the net and we swear one has never come out before!’ The office was quiet on this day, so me and my colleague raced up and Alan’s face was covered in silt but more importantly a smile from ear to ear! I photographed a couple of the named fish, one being the almighty ‘Emperor’ common but the one Alan was most excited about was this chunky mirror, it was almost a leather and weighed the best part of 54lb! I shot all the photos knowing that Alan was going to be sending these to the mags. I think it was the following week when I walked in one morning and Carp-talk was laying there on my desk - I looked up and Alan was again smiling ear to ear and congratulated me on my first front cover!
Has your carp angling ever led to any interesting situations or events which you clearly would not have experienced without it?
Generally you could say any carp angling role has led me to things I wouldn’t have experienced if I wasn’t in angling… but I would say maybe I have learnt how to think outside the box more when it comes to media etc. I still believe the fishing industry is behind the times in comparison to other industries. But then maybe thats the magic of angling that people enjoy?
My aim was always to bring in outside influences and apply them to any job I do. My current role as Creative Manger at RidgeMonkey has allowed me to do this more than any other role in angling I have had. We know we want to be different and change the thinking behind angling and outdoor pursuits. I think we are gradually being recognised more and more for the different product launch media, photography and general overall appearance. We look up to some of the more established brands, but we don’t aim to be them.
Was it angling that pushed you into photography or was working with camera equipment a skill/passion you always had a drive and motivation for?
100% I had the passion of photography before applying it in the angling world. I have been blessed with the fact that when I was at school and college all my friends were into music and being in bands etc, we were always at gigs and doing cool concept designs for merch. I attended a few video shoots and loved how people were producing edited work so much I just decided I was going to attempt it!
I managed to get some link ups with some music mags and promotors that allowed me to shoot their concerts or specific bands and I was hooked from then on! Promo photoshoots followed and then I started applying my knowledge to different aspects like Product photography, HDR photography and anything I could find or see people doing! I am more into my photography then I ever have been now. Portraits and commercial work is my bread and butter and I have had the honour of shooting for some top sports brands and agencies.
FOR SOMEONE WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE OF AN SLR CAMERA, HOW CAN THEY BEGIN TO CREATE BETTER BANKSIDE IMAGES OF THEIR OWN CAPTURES?
To put it simple… Use what you are comfortable using. It’s something I get so angry about in the fishing industry especially. Why go spend hundreds and thousands of pounds on DSLR’s, mirrorless cameras and the best lens and then ask people how to use it? Or ‘How do I get my photos like so and so, or my camera doesn’t make the photo look blurred enough…. It’s just a fad and a fashion!
When ever I work I use what I know, that for me is my Sony camera. I have worked with Nikon and Canon and would feel happy using any of the top brands if they were given to me. BUT you don’t always need them. 90% of people now have a smart phone that shoots slow mo, hi resolution photos and film and then you can edit them on the phone… whats wrong with that? I always tell my team to get what they can using their phones if they find it easier. Id rather have the moment captured and in focus than the possibility of under/over exposed and out of focus. SO yes, use what you are comfortable using, technology is awesome nowadays and the fact most people only ever see the shots/videos on their phones means you can get away with more.
If you are adament that you need to use a DSLR etc then take the time to learn the controls and what each option does. YouTube has everything you need to know on there… USE IT. And don’t care what others think or say about your photo. It’s your photo and every time you press the button to take a shot, you are improving again.
What creative projects are you working on at the moment? Can you disclose anything we should look out for in the future?
Well, obviously I can’t say too much but from a RidgeMonkey point of view, we have lots of product hitting the shelves over the next 12 months. Some are extending existing ranges but some are game changers and will be very popular, not just in the angling industry but several others! We also have the extremely popular ‘The Great Escape’ episodes to come and we have commissioned a second series with some MENTAL venues we will be visiting. Personal projects - Nothing major in the pipeline currently, im kind of taking a break to figure out what direction I want to go in photography, in the meantime il be taking on freelance projects and TFP shoots to stay fresh.
Do you have any future goals within angling or photography? If so, what are they? Whats on your bucket list?
My angling related goals are to establish RidgeMonkey and my team on the European and world map as one of the top 3 brands - Ideally for overall product goodness but also for quality of media and design. My own personal goals are to keep being creative, stay ahead of the game where possible and eventually have my own agency. I would love to be able to have that freedom and creativity and build a successful company doing it.
Bucket list… well, I want to explore the world when I get the chance and make sure I get the best photos possible at whatever landmark or country I visit. My bucket list is so varied and long I doubt a) I could type them all up and b) even tick them off anyway!