Luminous Landscape Forum

Equipment & Techniques => Landscape & Nature Photography => Topic started by: DarkPenguin on March 20, 2006, 12:53:15 pm

Title: Kayaks
Post by: DarkPenguin on March 20, 2006, 12:53:15 pm

Anyone do photography from a kayak?  How does it work?  What do you use to keep your gear from getting soaked?

Title: Kayaks
Post by: bob mccarthy on March 20, 2006, 02:25:43 pm
Certainly have from a canoe. I use underwater equipment. Nikonos in my case.

Title: Kayaks
Post by: Jack Flesher on March 20, 2006, 02:36:48 pm
I tried with my Eddyline and gave up; the H2O pools right where I set the camera. I even tried setting up a foam mat there to try and alleviate the problem and no go...

I think a canoe or maybe recreational, wide-hull Kayak like a Pungo is a much better solution for photogs.
Title: Kayaks
Post by: DarkPenguin on March 20, 2006, 03:01:13 pm
So, one I-treat-it-like-it-will-be-underwater and one it-will-be-under-water.

I'm seeing a theme.
Title: Kayaks
Post by: didjdoctor on March 20, 2006, 03:34:42 pm

Anyone do photography from a kayak?  How does it work?  What do you use to keep your gear from getting soaked?

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Title: Kayaks
Post by: didjdoctor on March 20, 2006, 03:38:21 pm

Anyone do photography from a kayak?  How does it work?  What do you use to keep your gear from getting soaked?

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My wife and I have the sit-on-the-top recreational kayaks that aren't very likely to capsize.  I just hung the camera around my neck and tried to be careful.
Title: Kayaks
Post by: benInMA on March 20, 2006, 04:31:06 pm
Add one to "it will be underwater".

If you have to ask this question I'm guessing you haven't done a lot of kayaking.

If you haven't done a lot of kayaking - you will get damn wet.

Make sure you secure the camera to the kayak otherwise you may just lose the camera completely!

If you're using the more stable ones you might as well go to a canoe.
Title: Kayaks
Post by: Bobtrips on March 20, 2006, 05:57:25 pm

Anyone do photography from a kayak?  How does it work?  What do you use to keep your gear from getting soaked?

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Use a river bag for when you aren't shooting.  There are special ones that have inflation chambers on the outside which both cushion your gear and keep it on top of the water.

And tie the bag to your boat.

If you want to do some hard core white water shooting consider a waterproof diving case.
Title: Kayaks
Post by: tsjanik on March 20, 2006, 09:43:40 pm
Hi Dark Penguin:

I have been kayaking and taking photographs for 30 years.  The short answer to your question is you canít really do both well at the same time.  If you are using a stable boat and carry your camera gear in a good dry bag you can take photographs.  The biggest problem is the boat is the antithesis of a tripod, it is moving constantly.  You need a very fast shutter (1/500 minimum) and even then it is a compromise.  Nevertheless it is fun.  Iíve carried a Pentax 645 or MX between my legs on paddles and have gotten a few interesting and many disappointing shots.
Title: Kayaks
Post by: DarkPenguin on March 20, 2006, 10:12:04 pm
That's pretty much my goal.  I'm thinking lake kayaking.  If I find a shot I'll take it if I don't I don't.

(I'm also trying to figure out how to attach my camera bag to my mountain bike.  Same idea.)
Title: Kayaks
Post by: tsjanik on March 20, 2006, 10:29:20 pm
Iíve tried mountain and road biking with a camera as well. Again, it is a compromise.  I can tell you to not consider any handlebar bag to hold camera gear.  The extra weight at that height causes the bike to behave in a very nasty way.  Saddlebags over a rear wheel rack are ok, but the best solution for me is to a carry a minimum of gear in a fanny pack.  Anticipating your next question: cross-country skiing with a camera has all the same problems.  I tried skiing once towing a sled with a Pentax 67 and a collection of lenses and a tripod-it was not very effective. If I want to take photos in snow, I go on snowshoes.  A small camera (in my case a Yaschca 124 ) can be carried in a fanny pack with no problem
Title: Kayaks
Post by: DarkPenguin on March 20, 2006, 11:34:16 pm
I'd hate to fall of the bike and have the cmos chip penetrate my spleen.

Thanks again for your help!
Title: Kayaks
Post by: benInMA on March 23, 2006, 11:47:29 am
For mountain biking I'd take a pocket camera and keep it in a jersey pocket.

I've done that a LOT.

The other thing you can do is sacrifice a water bottle cage, lots of small cameras can be wedged into the water bottle holder inside a small case.

If you're careful a small top loading camera bag will go onto a rear rack on a bicycle just fine, and if you make sure not to carry too much heavy gear it won't effect the handling much.

Effects on handling also depend a lot on the design of the bicycle.  If you're lucky enough to have a touring bicycle you'll be able to carry a lot more weight without negatively impacting the handling.

But again best option is keep it small and keep it in the jersey pocket, whether or not you have negative handling effects, all weight you carry is weight you have to haul up and downhill.   If you overdo it you're not going to get very far.
Title: Kayaks
Post by: Bobtrips on March 23, 2006, 02:58:36 pm
If you can do what you want to do with a 7 meg, 3x compact check out the Oly 720SW that was released a couple of months ago.

Waterproof to 3 meters, built to take a bit of rough handling.
Title: Kayaks
Post by: fike on March 28, 2006, 02:09:37 pm
In a kayak, you have to hold on to your paddle which drips water on your lap, which is where your camera is, and when you put down your paddle to take a picture, the boat veirs off to the side away from your photo.  with that said, I am planning to do just that with my kayak this season.  I have been shooting my point and shoot with a waterproof cover for a couple of seasons and it just isn't very rewarding.  

Instead, I am going to get a pelican case like this one:

REI Pelican case (

I will be attaching it to the bottom of the kayak with velcro.  As some people said, if you are in a kayak, you WILL get wet.  Everything will get wet.  this is true as a rule, so cameras need special care.  I will not take my good camera out unless I am in calm sheltered waters.  

As for photography in a kayak, there are some great things and some terrible things.  Since you are so low in the water, there are opportunities that you might never see in other places, but your point of view is limited and somewhat constrained.  Unless you have a longer lens, your foreground will almost always be lots of water with lots of sky above.  Polarizers help to improve images in this situation by both cutting glare and decreasing some of the dynamic range as a result.

Further up in the discussion, someone suggested that boats are always moving so that is a problem with slow shutter speeds.  Add into that the fact that you need long lenses to take pictures of anything interesting and you compound the problem.  

So what are cameras good for with kayaks?  I think they are best for quietly sneaking up on wildlife, mostly water birds, to make their picture.  I also think they are great for micro landscapes along the shore....little images where the landscape may be only a few feet across the waaters edge.

You may also want to check out the  bulletin boards for suggestions about boats to use for stability.  Some kayaks are low and fast (also generally wet and unstable) while others are higher, dryer and more stable (generally slow and clunky). (

Check here for some pics from kayakers on the water.
Woody's Kayak Trip Reports (

see you on the water.
Title: Kayaks
Post by: DarkPenguin on June 13, 2006, 05:13:39 pm
Ended up with a Necky Zoar Sport.  Seems fine for the purpose.

You can definitely get very close to birds you just glide up.  They get nervous at around 15 feet.

Still haven't figured out the camera thing.  I've been risking the Fuji F10 so far.

I still need to buy at least a half skirt.  So the boat gets a lot of water in it.
Title: Kayaks
Post by: BernardLanguillier on June 13, 2006, 06:48:25 pm
I have only done limited amount of kayaking, and did typically only take a stabilized compact in a dry back attached to the kayak. The camera was protected fine, but it just takes too long to open up the dry bag and close it down again.

Next time I'll try a compact DSLR with a good high ISO image quality (probably a Nikon D50) with a 18-200 stabilized lens. Instead of putting them in a classical roll up style drybag, I'll try using my Patagonia dry zipper bag (same zipper technology as the Lowpro Dryzone 200). It is much faster to open/close than regular dy bags.

Title: Kayaks
Post by: Hank on June 14, 2006, 09:53:57 am
Check out this ( 22 second video clip on sea kayaking.

I've found a solution to the drip problem that satisfies me.  I put the camera in a plastic garbage bag in my lap with the top of the bag folded over, then the spray skirt over that.  It keeps things dry, but allows fairly quick access to the camera.  Lenses as long as the 80-200 f/2.8 are about the top end of convenience, and longer ones get hassly in a hurry.
Title: Kayaks
Post by: loonsailor on June 18, 2006, 01:19:45 pm
You don't say what kind of kayaking.  I have no experience river kayaking, but I did a bunch of sea kayaking, including in Antarctica.  It was snowing often, but not a lot of wind.  I used two cameras - a waterproof Pentax WPi digital point-and-shoot, and a Nikon D70 (with18-200, because changing lenses is tough) in a drybag onder the deck netting.  I pulled out the Nikon whenever we were stopped long enough to make it possible, but I kept the Pentax in a small case clipped to my float vest so it could be grabbed instantly.

Maybe my most critical piece of gear was a lens cleaning pen which I used OFTEN.  I still lost a bunch of otherwise good images to big water splotches on the lens.

You can check out some of the images at, and better versions of a few of them at .../OCSC-Antarctica.  For reference, the wierd abstract icebergs in the Petermann Island gallery are with the little Pentax, and they're some of my favorites.

Good luck!
Title: Kayaks
Post by: rpinciuc on September 12, 2006, 03:10:33 pm
Hi there,

Looks like you've already made up your mind, but thought I'd share my technique for you/others.

This applies to sea kayaking, I haven't tried whitewater so it may not be appropriate.

I have a SealLine Baja Deck Bag like this: (

This is mounted on the deck directly in front of me, with the zipper opening facing me. The mesh pocket is a great place for small things like sunscreen, hard candy, etc. I clip my map (in a SealLine map case) to the top of the bag. It is splash proof, but not dunkable.

Therefore, the camera with lens attached goes inside a waterproof SealLine dry bag, like this: (

I place the dry bag inside the deck bag to keep it directly in front of me for easy access. I find it easier (and safer) to remove/reinsert the camera from/to this zippered pocket than lashing the dry bag directly underneath the bungees on the deck. Just unzip the deck bag, then unclip and unroll the dry bag. Should the kayak roll, the deck back isn't going anywhere (just make sure it's zipped up), and the dry bag keeps your camera dry.

You can also fit another small dry bag inside the deck bag, containing another lens, if desired. I usually bring the Canon 70-200/4L and a couple of wide angle Zeiss primes and they all fit, no problem.

Photographing from a kayak is fun, and difficult if you're not in absolutely calm water. But you gain access to viewpoints that you can't otherwise get. Sea caves, cityscapes, wildlife, etc. It's worth the hassle, good luck!

Title: Kayaks
Post by: DarkPenguin on September 12, 2006, 03:59:09 pm
Good information there.  I rolled my kayak in the first 30 seconds last time out.  Drybags are a godsend.
Title: Kayaks
Post by: Hackman on September 15, 2006, 11:17:38 am
place camera in ziplock sandwichbag, cut a hole in it for the lens to stick out,  on the top corners to put the straps through and a whole where the viewfinder is. Then tape it off.

I found everything to still be accessible. Works fine.
Title: Kayaks
Post by: elkhornsun on March 25, 2007, 04:28:20 am
For photography on the water consider a small inflatable with a trolling motor. Very quiet and the flat floor is great for a tripod. Add a piece of camo netting and you have a portable blind that draws no more than a kayak and can go in very shallow areas.
Title: Kayaks
Post by: gabuja on March 26, 2007, 07:52:49 am
Try a pelican case and a dry bag.
I use a pelican case (1600) for big water and when I'm in a "safe area" I put my gear in a dry bag that is between my legs. The one thing I will mention is to look into your dry bag after you have been shooting and verify it is still dry. I was photographing whales last year and wound up with some salt water in the bag that I did not notice till I got back to sore. Stressful time while I assesed potential damage.
Title: Kayaks
Post by: Sherri Meyer on March 27, 2007, 10:45:20 am
I have paddled for pics in both sea kayaks and a canoe in flatwater, but I prefer sea kayaks, as they are much more stable than a canoe. Most of my paddling for pics is with my husband and our dog and they are often models for my stock photographs. We use a Wilderness Systems Pungo and a Old Town Loon, both of which will accomodate the dog.

I usally start off with my camera in a large ziplock bag, then I place it in a dry sack. Of course, that doesn't last very long! After a few minutes of paddling, I'm  ready to photograph our adventure as long as the dog is not in MY boat! If you don't have your camera handy, you will miss out on a lot of great photo opportunities!

The biggest challenges for me so far (other than dealing with our dog and her desire to jump from kayak to kayak), have been getting sharp images and keeping the little bit of water that drips down the paddles off of the camera.

Here are my tips:

I recommend using a shutter speed (SS) of 1/500 or faster to insure that your images will be sharp. Set the ISO on your camera (I am assuming you are shooting digital) to a speed that will allow you to shoot this fast.  If you are shooting early or late in the day, you will probably need to use ISO 400 or greater. Don't sacrifice sharpness for a lower ISO!

If you are not able to shoot at a fast enough SS to create sharp images and you are photographing a moving subject, you can experiment with slow SS's to capture motion. Set your SS at about 1/8 - 1/15 and pan your subject.

For dealing with the water, I either put a towel or a plastic bag over the camera when I'm not shooting, or I just wipe off the water with a towel or a Chamois cloth.

Our paddle trips so far have all been very short and on flatwater. If we were to do longer trips, paddle whitewater, or paddle in the ocean, we would invest in a Pelican Case and probably an underwater camera.

You can see samples of our paddling pics at (
Title: Kayaks
Post by: kayakherb on March 29, 2007, 06:31:59 am

Anyone do photography from a kayak?  How does it work?  What do you use to keep your gear from getting soaked?

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When I am shooting from the kayak in absolutely still water, I place my small digital in a plastic sealable sandwich baggie and use the breast pocket on my shirt. If I am going into more risky water, I transfer it to a pelican box for that time.
I have learned the hard way not to take the SLR with me when fishing. Either do fishing, or photography.
Title: Kayaks
Post by: dobson on April 02, 2007, 02:22:20 pm
How reliable are those dry bags? I ask because there is absolutely no space in my boat for a pelican case that would fit a DSLR. If I empty my Lowepro slingshot 100 of everything but my camera and 17-40 lens, I can barely cram it behind my seat. If a dry-bag is safe I may go that route and put the camera bag inside of it.

I won't take the camera out while on the water, but it would be nice to be able to take photos while on shore; (while I'm portaging around difficult parts).

Title: Kayaks
Post by: DarkPenguin on April 02, 2007, 05:49:40 pm
I haven't gotten a drop of water in mine despite repeatedly rolling my kayak because I suck.  I wouldn't put an SLR in one and strap it to the kayak.  I'd at least make sure it was in one of the bulkheads.  This reminds me.  I need to buy a bunch of drybags.
Title: Kayaks
Post by: skibum187 on April 03, 2007, 02:37:34 pm
I've spent a fair amount of time taking photos on my whitewater kayak trips. There really is no easy way that I've found to take pictures while inside a kayak.
I've used several different methods of protecting my cameras. First was simply placing them in a dry bag, which works, but dry bags do leak sometimes and are also a hassle to roll and unroll all the time. They don't provide much impact protection either, so a softcase for my camera was necessary and also a hassle.
Second, I tried an underwater casing, which worked well for protecting the camera and keeping it dry, however, it's bulky and awkward. However, the biggest problem I had was getting water spots on the lens. Since I whitewater kayak, I'm continuously being splashed or rolling, hence the water spots. This may be less of an issue with recreational touring. This could possibly be alleviated by applying CatCrap or some other optical water shedding agent, but I wasn't sure how that would affect the optics and since the case wasn't mine, I did not try it.
Thirdly, I use pelican cases. They offer great impact protection and are waterproof. I have heard about the gaskets failing and condensation getting inside the case, so sometimes I'll put the camera inside a ziplock inside the Peli case. The main problem I have with this method is I have to wait for my hands to dry off until I can handle the camera which usually isn't long if I have a dry towel in my case, but is still long enough that I might miss the shot. This is the method I use now and am the most happy with. It does have its drawbacks, but seems to work the best.

On a side note, I've all but given up trying to take images while in my kayak. They are simply too unstable and squirly to do so. Once again, this may be easier in a Rec kayak. Even when I had the underwater housing, I couldn't compose an image well enough while in my kayak to make it worth it. All of my successful images have been taken from the shoreline.
Title: Kayaks
Post by: peterpix2005 on April 03, 2007, 07:50:20 pm
I haven't gotten a drop of water in mine despite repeatedly rolling my kayak because I suck.  I wouldn't put an SLR in one and strap it to the kayak.  I'd at least make sure it was in one of the bulkheads.  This reminds me.  I need to buy a bunch of drybags.
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I love it,DP! I can 't roll but love to photo from a kayak. Problem is they are always wet. Salt water is the worse. Olympus makes digital weatherproof point an shoots. I hAve tio try one
Title: Kayaks
Post by: davidh4976 on April 11, 2007, 01:00:06 pm
Certainly, you have different situation if you are doing 1) white-water, 2) ocean, or 3) lake kayaking.

I have often thought about putting a trolling motor on my kayak (a 2 person sit-in type) and using it on lakes.  I've done a similar thing using a row boat and trolling motor and it is amazing how close you can get to wildlife before they spook.
Title: Kayaks
Post by: bobtowery on April 24, 2007, 03:33:31 pm
Here's a shot from my kayak:


Birds aren't very afraid of kayakers for some reason. I just paddled up to this guy and waited until he took off.  Note that this was years ago, probably my D60.

I have a recreational, open kayak. There's room for a dry bag or pelican case. I have both. But my boat is hard to flip, so I can just leave my camera sitting there.


It's a great way to see animals/birds in a different way.

Title: Kayaks
Post by: franta on May 16, 2007, 03:27:04 pm
I have no experience with them but ewa-marine produces underwater camera bags and promises that they are waterproof to 20m, they do not cost too much. (