Why to kayak with your camera

Kayaking helps you get down low, closer to the eye level of your subjects, making the images more portrait-like

So many times I would be driving along various bodies of water- lakes, bays, estuaries, rivers- and I would see a beautiful scene. I’d rush to the nearest place where I could safely pull my car off the road, grab my camera gear, and find the parking bay full of others clicking away or realize I’d already taken hundreds of pictures from the same spot. Over weeks and months the frustration slowly built. I needed to be able to get away from the road and over the water. I’d day dream of my own personal dirigible where I could float above, composing new scenes, arriving at new angles that no one else could access. Alternately I’d imagine the expensive, fancy boat I would have for quickly motoring out there to capture fresh perspectives and angles. I’d be free of the roadside and of all the other photographers.

Always I would be stopped by something from realizing these dreams- where to keep the big fancy boat, where to find a small dirigible and the helium to keep it floating, the money for either one, the practicality of transporting them to where I needed them and getting them ready for use single handedly. Finally I hit upon  a solution that I at first believed was only temporary, but was actually a revelation- a kayak.

Small, compact, easy to always have on my car for spur of the moment outings, the ability to handle it alone, inexpensive- a kayak seemed like a simple solution. I started slowly, learning how to handle the craft, and finding my balance in so many ways. There were the expected new angles, but it didn’t always seem perfect at first. However as I got more comfortable being on the water, and started thinking less about the possible mishaps, I became more impressed by the pictures I was bringing home. I started to understand the potential, and the inherent advantages.

Part of photography is expressing a point of view. When you are in a kayak, you are down low, only two or three feet off the surface of the water, you’re entire perspective has changed. You are at, or just above the eye level of many birds and marine mammals. For landscapes, this same angle gives you a nearby foreground that gives perspective to the images. You don’t have to crouch down to get this picture plane, you automatically have it. Kayak = knee level point of view, but with photogenic water stretching away.

Even better, you get to drift. No moving your body in ways that will frighten wildlife. Breezes can push you. You can get moved along by the current. If you are on calm unmoving water, you can get up speed, point yourself in the direction you want to go, and your momentum will carry you for a good ways, gliding quietly along.

From a kayak you can also catch animals in their natural habitat, acting like... animals

It’s quiet. It’s being in nature instead of bursting through nature. No motor to scare wildlife away. The sounds of the kayak are similar to waves lapping the shore, or of fish and other animals swimming. Some animals are much more approachable by kayak (although care should still be taken not to overly stress the animal, and to not approach so closely that your own safety is compromised).

There are more reasons why kayaking and cameras can go well together, but some of them you should learn for yourself.

Author Bio

Galen

Wildlife and nature photographer exploring northern California and beyond on his feet and in his kayak. Galen Leeds is one of the premier kayak photographers in the western United States. He has spent many thousands of hours on the water experimenting with technique and equipment. He works closely with his local National Park providing them with images and video for their displays, magazines, and websites.

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