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Tips for kayaking photography

Kayaking not only offers a range of experiences – adventure, exploration and sometimes just sheer relaxation and the feel of being on the water. It can also take you to places you simply can't reach on foot and gives you a perspective unlike any other. And very often you'll want to capture the images from those experiences. Taking photos from a kayak could seem quite a tricky process but with a few tips to keep in mind, you'll have memories to keep.

Over the years we have taken lots of photos from kayaks and have seen what works and what doesn’t. We're not camera experts, so can’t talk about specific camera gear or whether to use your DSLR or a compact camera (although we use waterproof Olympus compact cameras for ease on the kayak) but here are some practical tips we've gathered on taking great kayaking photos.

1.     Our first big tip - leash your camera

You do not want drop your camera in the water (just ask some of our guides who have lost cameras and phones overboard!). Secure it to yourself with the strap around your neck or attached to the kayak or life jacket. Make sure the cord is long enough for camera movement but not long enough to get tangled. Go Pros and other similar brands come with attachments you can secure to the kayak and then use a remote control to set the video and/or photos.

If you are using a non-water proof camera we recommend Pelicases to protect them from the water. 

2.     Leash your paddle

Tie your paddle to the kayak with cord – not only is it essential safety generally, it makes it much easier to find once you're finished taking those great shots!

3.     Get some close-ups

When you're on the water it's easy to get swept away with heaps of scenery shots - beautiful but all the same. Get in touch with your creative side and add in some different shots to tell the story of your on water journey. Think about the water drops on your paddle, moss or seaweed hugging the rocks, a small fern touching the water ... you get the idea!

It might take more time and effort to stop and find these components and it might take a lot of shots to get that perfect image but you might just get that one fantastic photo that shows the time and place perfectly.Seaweed in front of kayakers on the Tinderbox coastline

Photo by Reg

4.     Add in some people

We're often so focussed on all the scenery we forget the other part of our experience – our fellow paddlers!  Don't just have kayaks in the foreground, get the faces and reactions of your on-water comrades. You'll need to be closer than you think to capture their face and make sure the light is on them and behind you.

Kayaking beside the Candlestick, Fortescue Bay, Tasman Peninsula

Photo by Sean Scott

5.     Place your kayak in the environment

It's probably the most popular photo taken by paddlers and for good reason – it tells the story of what you're doing and the amazing place you're doing it in. So put the kayak in the foreground and let the rest of the picture explain the rest.

You can offset set the horizon from the middle depending what you want to emphasise, the water or the sky. Try different sets and angles, sometimes there’s great light that brings out the sky and not so much the water, and vice versa. There are some Norwegian kayaking instagramers who do this particularly well. Check them out on Instragram @tfbergen and @kristoffervan or Facebook.Breaksea Islands, Southwest Tasmania

Photo by Dan Braun

6.     Water droplets on the lens

Carry a microfiber cloth with you in a dry place and periodically check your lens for any water or moisture. If you're on salt water make sure you wash the lens in fresh water before wiping as salt can scratch your lens. Nothing is more frustrating than afterwards discovering all your pictures with smudges on them (yes – we still often do this!).

Another suggestion is to protect the lens with a UV or polarizing filter.

7.     See it from a different perspective

Reg’s favourite tip - try a range of angles. Sometimes setting your camera close to the water and shooting to the back or upwards can bring some really interesting results. Take a number of shots so you capture everything you want with the horizon the way you want it.Kayakers on Hobart Waterfront Harbour

Photo by Reg

8.     Take photos early or at dusk

The harder light of the middle of the day can flatten your images so try shooting at dusk or very early in the morning. Sunglasses (usually polarised) can also prevent you seeing LCD screens correctly.

Bramble Cove Port Davey Southwest National Park Tasmania Photo by Dan Broun    

9. Go to the shoreline

One of the great advantages (and joys) of paddling is being able get very close to the shore and to see things from a low perspective. Seize that opportunity and despite underwater rocks and some scratches to your kayak, go forth and study the shore for interesting close-ups. Go where few other boaters can go.

Kelp in Southwest Tasmania

Photo by Andrew Bain

10.  Underwater pictures

See what's going on below the waterline by using a waterproof camera. Occasionally set it below and see what’s happening down under. The place and season will both affect visibility. It can also be fascinating to place the camera just on the waterline to get the view of both above and below.Seal at Fortescue Bay on the Tasman Peninsula

Photo by Sean Scott

And last of all but perhaps the most important tip – simply slow down

Probably the most important thing we can suggest is to slow down once in a while. When you cut the speed, take breaks and let your kayak just float for a while you can observe and absorb your environment much better, taking in the natural surrounding plants and wildlife. 

Kayaking Blackmans Bay Blowhole Tasmania

11th January 2017