Photography from Kayak

Hi All,

I went through the archives but didn’t find what I was looking for. I am interested in doing photography from a kayak–mainly bird photography with a 500mm lens. I have been looking into kayaks for a while and am very interested in a Jackson Kilroy and a Native Ultimate 12. Is one demonstrably better than the other? I am mainly worried about stability. I will mainly be using the kayak on calm lakes in the mid-south. Thank you for any guidance.

Both wide
Both are wide boats, so should provide decent stability when the water is flat. Any waves, and the boat will start rocking, which will make balancing that big lens difficult.

A boat with a rudder may come in handy. If you are moving when you decide to take a picture, a boat without a rudder has a tendency to turn one way or the other (usually the less convenient direction) once you stop paddling. But a rudder let’s you manage this.

I’m both a paddler and a photographer but I never take my good camera with me paddling - just my waterproof Olympus Tough. I can’t imagine the devastation I’d feel if I took a spill with my good setup!!

let me know your secret
I usually find it difficult to photograph birds clearly. The movement of the kayak makes it hard to keep the shot in the view finder or display and it’s tricky to hold the camera still.

To be fair it seems I always boat where there is a bit of current or wind, but is flatwater ever truly flat? I think if I was going to give it a go I’d film out of an oar rig (raft) and let someone else work the oars. That way they could hold me in position for the shot, much like guided fishing trips.

get a paddle float
It’ll give you confidence and some added stability using it as an outrigger.

Can you get a waterproof case?
Like the ones that Cannon has manufactured, that give you full access to all the controls.

Though above post is spot on. No matter what boat you get the boat is on water which is a moving surface. It is not going to be totally still. If you think you can absorb that movement naturally with your own balance so the camera is not jiggling, and many have done so, you can get some nice shorts. But I would suggest you take a dry run to see how likely that is for the quality of shots you want. Rent a rec boat or a SUP somewhere, take it out and stay relatively near shore, and try to take some shorts with that fancy lens.

another option

– Last Updated: Jun-21-16 9:06 AM EST –

Have you considered an older manual lens at a similar focal length? Quality will still be well ahead of any waterproof point and shoot, and you won't be exposing your newer lens to water damage. A newer 500mm can't be an inexpensive lens...

No problem
The Jackson is 31" wide, the Native 30". I take a DSLR (Nikon D7200 with 300mm) on my 24" kayak frequently and don’t really have any problems unless the water gets really choppy. When I’m not actually using the camera it goes into an Aquapac dry bag between my knees in the cockpit.

I use a bridge camera with a superzoom
Its a Canon SX 60 HS. If it gets wet its not a budget buster. Its not a waterproof Pand S.

It can zoom to 1300 mm equivalent but for best results I go much less. to about 600 mm. Then do post processing.

Its really hard to get sharp pix of birds in flight even though it has manual controls.

Its shortcoming is a shallow range of f stops and so so in low light. But I have gotten some wonderful eagle and moose shots from the water as well as loons.

Are you trying to mount your tripod to the kayak with some sort of attachmnent?

I got the superzoom as I just didnt want to deal with a tripod on the water which I would need with my Canon 7D and telephoto and I have been pretty happy.

there you go
There is a risk/reward.

FWIW, older DSLR bodies like the Rebel XTI are ridiculously cheap and coupled with a good lens, still offer superior image quality. I’ve seen people using both the older Canon and Nikon crop-sensor DSLR bodies in tougr conditions as a way to limit their financial exposure.

Good advice!
That’s good advice to use an older body.

I have an older Nikon D90 body that I probably should be taking for my kayaking photography “adventures”! If I ever dunked it I could probably buy a used replacement for $200.

Ultimate 12 - Photography

– Last Updated: Jun-21-16 2:23 PM EST –

I use an Native Ultimate 12 & shoot a lot of wildlife from it. I'm typically outfitted with an SLR body & an 80-400 VR lens handheld. I use it in calm lakes & reservoirs. Very stable, comfortable & paddles nicely. I use a Watershed dry bag to keep my camera & lens in. Here's couple of links for the drybag & Ultimate used in the manner you describe.

yeah, it blows my mind
how cheap some of the bodies have gotten. I’m probably going to pick up an XTi at some point this summer, if I’m lucky, for under $150. It gives me everything I’ll need when paddling or skiing (last year I had a very close call skiing with my camera).

How expensive is your lens
The madness started with a Rebel T1i but soon escalated as it took very good lenses…Thats the dilemna you want good glass and older bodies do work… Older glass perhaps?

very impressive images!

Thanks all
Thanks all for your replies. John, I had already seen those videos, and they are a big reason I wanted to get into kayak photography!!

Again, thank you all for the replies. I am definitely going to give it a dry run first. I also plan to keep my gear in a dry bag until I am settled into the kayak. Hopefully the stability will be good enough to get some shots close to as good as John’s!

Good stuff

– Last Updated: Jun-22-16 9:51 AM EST –

Awesome work!