Pufferfish teeth by Jimmy Gimbal
Murphy: A fishy celebrity

This is Murphy. He's got some teeth on him and likes to pose for pictures. Actually, it seems that all fish like to pose for Jimmy Gimbal.

Jimmy is a fish nerd like the rest of us, but he also gets to play with some mighty cool cameras and equipment. One glance at his Instagram and you won't want to click away. We had a chance to chat with Jimmy about his mad photography skills for our community spotlight feature on the freshwater hobby.

Getting to know Jimmy

jimmy gimbal pencil fish
Pencil Fish

Why fish?
Why Not? It’s easier not to step on their poop. In all seriousness, this community of fishkeepers is a huge part in why this hobby can be everlasting. I’ve met so many great people these past 3 years and we all are under the umbrella of the aquarium hobby.

Do you make a living off the hobby or this is a hobby for you too?
I don’t think I’d be this far deep into photography without the love for the hobby. I got my job doing video editing for Aquarium Co-Op and watching the work ethic of Cory McElroy really has made me focus more on honing my skills as his Editor and Cameraman. Not a lot of people can say they made this hobby into a job so I’m proud to be up there with one of the few.

freshwater fish by Jimmy Gimbal
Neon Tetras

Three biggest influences on your photography (people)
Ah! Chris Lukhaup, Visarute Angkatavanich and the last I’ll leave to the inspiration I’ve got outside of our hobby. Names like Paul Nicklin, Joel Sartore and Frans Lanting.

Do you have any fishtanks at home? What kind?
I have about 16 of them. Mostly all planted besides my turtle tank and even then it has Aquarium Lilies. I do enjoy having that little underwater garden and little nano fish to accompany them.

What is the most challenging place you have ever had to go to photograph fish? Terrain? Weather?
I remember a trip to The Big Island of Hawaii where I wanted to photograph the native gobies. They were incredibly fast and the river was flowing fast due to recent rainfall. Never did get a good photograph but got some grainy video as a souvenir. Other than the great outdoors, I would say Rusty Wessel’s fish room was hard as he doesn’t have lights on his aquariums.

Freshwater fish by Jimmy Gimbal

Equipment and tips

Preferred lighting method /setup to deal with glass for planned shots.
My ideal setup is usually low iron tanks from any manufacturer with a lid. Shooting through pristine glass is always welcome and the lid helps me place a flash above the tank to get more light if needed.

Iso vs aperture preference?
Definitely ISO preference. The lower the iso the less noise giving you a better photograph. Although, I can make a strong argument on why I would want aperture. It just really depends on the situation at hand. Is there sufficient light and do I have my backup light with me, is what I always consider when shooting aperture.

Freshwater fish by Jimmy Gimbal

Preferred print houses.
I prefer to print my photos myself. A better feeling of accomplishment.

Zoom or prime lenses?
Prime lenses all day! Sharper, faster and lighter.

Nikon, Sony, Canon or other, and why.
I’ve used Canon when I first started but as the tech grew, so did I. I am now fully invested into Sony with about $10,000 worth of lenses to prevent me from switching again. From Sony’s megapixel beast the Sony a7rIV to the little awesome point and shoots like the Sony Rx100 VA, the tech’s in these cameras are absolutely mind blowing.

jimmy gimbal aquatic plant photography


Pancakes or Waffles?
Waffles, I love the extra crunch and filling up the squares with as much maple syrup as they can hold.

jimmy gimbal town photography
About Town

You have 5 minutes to pack/grab gear for a surprise destination trip. What essentials do you toss into a bag to make sure you can get good shots? And..go!
5 minutes?! Easy. My full frame camera and my APS-C camera including my Sony 90mm f2.8 Macro, Laowa 15mm f4 Macro, Sony 24mm f1.4 and Sony 85mm f1.8 - Of course my little essentials like my Falcon Eyes F7 light, Tripod, Batteries and cards.

jimmy gimbal freshwater shrimp

Most under appreciated freshwater fish you think needs more recognition?
Ah, controversy. There’s no right answer here. If I say nano fish the monster fish community will rip me apart and vice versa. Without thinking too far into it, I would say Killifish even though they have their own huge fanbase and convention every year.

What came first, fishkeeping or photography?
I would say fishkeeping. The year before I got into fishkeeping I bought my first camera and took a trip to Alaska where I truly enjoyed the art of photography. As I got into youtube and the whole fish world, I took a lot of countless nights wondering how I could incorporate that art into fishkeeping and the rest is history, I suppose.

Ever purpose built an enclosure for photographing fish? Does the animal get stressed?
The only aquarium I setup for a specific fish was for my Mata Mata turtle. I usually can deal with what I’m dealt with for the shot.

Freshwater Florida Flag Fish by Jimmy Gimbal
Florida Flag Fish

Most colorful fish?
Besides the usual Bettas and what not. There are many fish that wouldn’t ever be considered colorful until you capture them and do the proper color corrections. For example, the Florida Flag Fish. Not a fish that’s known for colors but I can definitely show you a shot that would change your mind. I would say most colorful would be annual Killifish or Rainbowfish though.

What are the challenges you face every time you try to photograph a fish?
How erratic some fish are, especially guppies. Sure they can be just as if not more cooperative as people but some are just like 2 year old toddlers. Just a constant sporadic locomotion.

jimmy gimbal freshwater planted tank snail
Bladder Snail

Would you rather be stuck in a tank with a hungry cory cat the size of a shark, or 1000 hungry sharks the size of cory cats?
1,000 hungry cory sized sharks! Are you kidding me!? Who picked the other? I want his name and social security number.

What was the best fish photographed and why?
Not an easy question because I don’t have an answer. I can say my most popular shot was of Murphy the MBU Puffer. It’s my most sold photograph to date because of the popularity he holds.

jimmy gimbal freshwater fish picture

What are your goals for 2020?
To visit more fish room’s and to travel to these smaller island’s and state’s where I can capture native fish.

Now back to his Instagram feed, because we can't get enough.