I first spotted Jay Fleming in a net full of fish. He was happily caught up in the (legal) pound-net with thousands of flopping menhaden. I was working on a story about menhaden at the time and did a double-take. There’s a guy in there? 

Jay Fleming in a net full of fish
“Sometimes you have to be creative to get the right angle for a shot!” – Jay Fleming (Photo by Burl Lewis)

I had to check this guy out. You see, I’d just learned about him when a friend in Florida sent me a Facebook post of the Chesapeake Bay bridge. It was amazing. I figured a national art photographer had swung by on vacation. Turns out it was 27-year-old, Annapolis-based Jay Fleming. Whoa, a local guy! I had to know more.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Chesapeake Bay Bridge through the lens of Jay Fleming

Jay is a seasoned ‘photog’ who’s been working at his craft since age 14 when his dad gave Jay his old Nikon. His dad is Kevin Fleming, an award-winning National Geographic photographer now based in Delaware. Jay trained and learned through dad.

“A photograph I took while tagging along on an assignment with my dad ended up winning the grand prize in an Environmental Protection Agency photography contest; that sparked my interest,” Jay explains.

But while dad, Kevin, traveled the world, Jay decided to stay local. He focuses his camera mainly on the Chesapeake Bay, as an outdoors/adventure shooter who jumps in the boat with the crabbers and in the water with the critters. The results are amazing.

Jay Fleming underwater photographer
Jay taking underwater pictures (© Jay Fleming)
Sponge Crab by Jay Fleming
“Sponge Crabs are egg bearing female Blue Crabs. The females are only able to mate when the are soft after shedding. Once impregnated, a ‘sponge’ of eggs will begin to grow out of the apron on the underside of the crab. The eggs will start out as a bright orange and over time will turn black, indicating that the crab is ready to spawn. Spawning takes place in the saltier waters of the lower Chesapeake Bay. The females will gather in large numbers around shallow sand bars where they rub their sponges against the bottom, releasing the eggs.” – Jay Fleming

“I enjoy spending time on the Chesapeake Bay, learning about how it works, and meeting the people who make a living on it,” says Jay. He takes time to get to know his subjects and then gets into action with them. 

Croaker Boil by Jay Fleming
“The image Croaker Boil was taken on a recent trip to the Eastern Shore of Virginia. I met up with a group of Pound netters down there who were kind enough to invite me out for a morning of fishing. The camera was in an underwater housing which protected it from the splashing water and the fish.” – Jay Fleming

And for the past 13 years, he’s been focusing on nature, showing its beauty, in an effort to demonstrate — through photos — the importance of ecological conservation. He spent the summers of 2011 and 2012 working on photos of Yellowstone National Park’s dwindling Cutthroat trout. National Geographic News used Jay’s pictures in a story about the impact of non-native lake trout on the native Yellowstone cutthroat (here’s the story).

Photo of Jay Fleming
This is Jay Fleming fly fishing for brown trout in Yellowstone National Park (© Jay Fleming)

Since then, he’s done freelance work for a number of local and regional publications. You’ll see some of Jay’s work from Drum Point in an upcoming edition of Wooden Boat magazine. He was shooting over Labor Day weekend for a story about a working replica of a Smith Island crab scraper (a wooden crabbing boat).

One thing you will not find in Jay Fleming’s portfolio is sailing pictures.

“I like to focus on topics that are not ‘over’ photographed,” he says. Although he plans to eventually check out the Wednesday Night Races (the wild and crazy weekly sailing races in Annapolis). 

Soup at 26 Restaurant Annapolis
“Keith Long is a dedicated supporter of Maryland Seafood and a very talented chef, we had a lot of fun photographing some of his Chesapeake inspired dishes that are on the new menu at 26 Restaurant.” – Jay Fleming
Oysters Chesapeake. Alewife, Baltimore
Oysters Chesapeake. Alewife, Baltimore

In between magazine assignments, Jay does weddings and artistic commercial photographs — the pics you see in ads and on menus.

He points out that “being an above average photographer in todays market (over saturated with photographers) and making a living means that you have to diversify and be able to handle a wide variety of subject matter.”

But what Jay does best, and enjoys the most, are the photographs of the Chesapeake Bay at its natural ferociousness.

Jay Fleming photo of herring
This is the photo that resulted from Jay being in that net full of fish at the start of the story. “Alewife Herring are stopped on their spawning run at Little Falls on the Potomac River. I was hoping to see Blueback Herring which typically spawn after the Alewifes but this years cold spring has delayed their spawn.” – Jay Fleming

Jay’s art photos are exhibited at the Delaware Art Gallery in Rehoboth Beach and are available through his website, JayFlemingPhotography.com. His Facebook page contains his latest adventures and we’ll be featuring some of them in the future here on ChesapeakeLiving.

He now has a book of his photographs out in 2016, “Working the Water”.
Photo courtesy Jay Fleming
Photo courtesy Jay Fleming