Tag Archives: Kayak

Photographic Challenges from a Kayak


Despite the obvious perils, kayaking with a camera gives me an interesting close-to-the-water perspective and allows me to explore areas not easily reached otherwise. In the two shots here, I was able to nudge my kayak through very shallow waters in a boggy area of a lake.

You have to fiddle a bit to get the right position. It’s not like I can put the kayak in park and grab my camera. It keeps moving, slowly. I look at the camera to make some adjustments and when I look I find I have floated away, or twisted facing another direction and need to re-position myself. As I’m focusing and composing, I can be on a gentle “spin” and need to twist to compensate. At times, I use the paddle as a brace in the soft soil to help limit the motion. Each adjustment can send ripples through the water, preventing me from shooting until they subside and, of course, I am once again out of position. Patience helps.

KK-1I can’t “plant” my feet in a kayak; the motion of my body is transferred to the kayak, so faster shutter speeds are preferable. A polarizing filter is often helpful when the sun is out and I want to cut through the reflections on the water and the lily pads.

And of course, the very thought of changing lenses in a kayak sends shivers down my back. I’m still looking at alternatives to my D600, perhaps the Nikon AW1 waterproof camera with the zoom lens would be better for overnight adventures.




Toronto Walk-1

We hadn’t intended to buy kayaks. We threatened to do so for several years, wondering where to store them in our small downtown house or using them enough to justify no longer renting. It dawned on us that, living 10 minutes from Ashbridges Bay on Lake Ontario, our use would increase. So, at an outdoor show we had never intended to visit, we bought two kayaks to be picked up in May.

I started canoeing in my teens and did several 2-week wilderness “voyages” through lakes and down the Spanish River before returning to university at the end of summer. We camped on small islands and slept under our canoe or tarp. We saw all kinds of wildlife and at night the magnificence of the Aura Borealis and more stars than I have ever seen since.

A few other images flash through my mind. A flashlight bobbing in the water at night, marking the spot my now swimming friend had slid into the water cleaning the night’s dinner plates.  The smack of a canoe hitting a tree in the forest as another portaging paddler, canoe on his shoulders and pack on his back walked with determination,  blissfully unaware he had left the trail and marched into the woods. The laughter as florescent-colored ponchos lashed to paddles propelled us across the lake.

Kayak at Outdoor ShowAnd the rapids. Walking alongside, planning a route. The excitement, the spray and the elation of making it to the other side. Oh, and hanging from a rock in the middle of the Spanish River, holding a pack too heavy to lift out of the water waiting to be rescued by my companions, the current too swift to paddle against.

Then life got in the way and except for a vacation or visit to a friend’s cottage, I canoed very little. My wife enrolled us in a 2-day kayaking course and that was it – I was back and loved kayaks.

My challenge is photography. We are planning several overnight kayak backcountry paddling trips this summer and I have been looking at various camera alternatives. At the moment, I’m leaning towards a GoPro to create video and time-lapse photography and since it is waterproof and small, would suit me. I’m looking for a good still-shot alternative even though the GoPro does still photos, too.

Long weekends are too short

It’s a tradition now. Each year my wife and I head up to our friend’s cottage on the Canada Day long weekend, three and a half hours away from the noise and daily routine of Toronto to a small lake shared by two cottages. My friend Heather, the owner of what she calls Kamp Krusty, has pretty much left the land to take care of itself, but does boast a house boat perched on a hill playing the role of guest house.

Early in the morning, and I mean at 5:30am, the lake is still. Each morning there was a mist over the lake, practically a fog on our last day there. I would quietly make my way to the water and set up my tripod, taking photographs and then heading back to bed. One edge of the lake is covered with reeds with several openings and channels. My intention was to take the kayak and venture into these secluded areas to take photographs from a different angle. For a couple of days, the bugs, particularly the deer flies, kept me at bay, but by the third day, covered in “Off,” I pushed the kayak into the water and retrieved my camera from the dock and headed off for an early morning adventure.

There is something special about being alone on the lake early in the morning in the still water. Taking photographs from a kayak takes a little patience and care. First you get into position and then wait for the water to go still again. By then you have drifted out of position, so you learn to drift into the target location while the water calms down. This kayak was all open allowing me to rest the camera, securely around my neck, on my leg. Traditional kayaks offer a little more protection, but with the still water, there was little concern beyond swatting a fly too enthusiastically.

I used my 24 – 120mm zoom – I have no intention of trying to change lenses while adrift. I can hear the kerplunk even as a write and it makes me shudder. The lighting was good and allowed me to use an aperture for some decent depth of field. I’ve been out later in the day and the dynamic range overwhelms the camera  fairly quickly, so being early not only brings nice lighting, but is more manageable.

While I come back lumpy from bites, often a little too red from the sun, hauling a huge bag of empty beer and wine bottles, I always come back more refreshed and relaxed. And yes, with a picture or two.