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Kayak bird help and canoe shots
  
 
Yajbuilder
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Kayak bird help and canoe shots


Hi All!

I have been trying with mixed success to shoot my avian friends from a solo canoe/kayak. the solo canoe works pretty good, except my range of distance (on the charles river) is limited by the ungodly slowness of the vessel.

so I tried a cheapo kayak to shoot some oystercatchers... and it sucked. (firstly, I was in a "sit on top" crappo BIC sea kayak...) and secondly I didn't know how to hold the 400 5.6, 50d AND better beamer with out it getting dunked/soaked/splashed.

needless to say I got a grand total of ZERO shots of the oyster catchers, which by the way were a in a huddle (6 of them) about 15 feet away from me, as I thrashed and struggled to stay afloat and dry. I was in Martha's Vineyard that day.

SO

what do you folks use to get on the water? and more importantly, what do you use to keep the gear dry in transit?

I was thinking about a sort of cooler/bin with top/ dry box to place somewhere between my legs? to stop the kayak paddle drips from hitting my gear?

Below are my current near hits with the local wildlife (from the calm river in a sloooow canoe)

thanks everyone! (And sorry for the rant), Jay






Black? duck







Swan







GBH




Aug 30, 2014 at 01:27 PM
KCollett
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Kayak bird help and canoe shots


Looks like you managed some decent shots. I like #3. Personally, I use a sit in kayak. I have many drybags to select from, depending on size of equipment and length of journey. If things are calm, I tend to keep the camera around my neck, and try to keep the lens pointed towards the back, so it is less susceptible to catching drips from the paddle (take lens cleaner with you). Some use tripods in a boat with a wider cockpit. I have a small one, so cannot do that (boat is narrow, so fast, but not so camera friendly). I can manage shots like this:





Lots of options, and I'm sure others will chime in with tips.



Aug 30, 2014 at 01:56 PM
Tim Kuhn
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Kayak bird help and canoe shots


My first suggestion would be to do a search on this forum for this subject, it has been discussed often and if you want a really wide variety of opinions lots have commented in the past who don't post here anymore.

I have been shooting from a kayak for many years and have become rather minimalist as far as gear goes. I do use a large dry bag for my gear for getting in and out of the boat. Once I'm in it I just lay the rig on my lap. Then again I'm usually on very flat water. I know some that will lay a towel over the gear while moving from one location to another to protect from paddle splash. I hand hold, using an 800mm, preferring the freedom of movement that allows me as well as the isolation of boat movement that affords. Using a tripod or monopod will transmit the boats movement directly to the camera and is quite limiting as far as where you can point the lens goes.

Tim



Aug 30, 2014 at 02:08 PM
Yajbuilder
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Kayak bird help and canoe shots


Hey thanks. So maybe a lower boat + longer paddle would reduce the splash enough to just put the gear on the lap? 800mm handheld from the boat is, with out a doubt, the most insane and epic thing I have seen on this site. could I see that in action? do you have a picture of what it looks like? that. is. sweet.

Yep, I think the splash is the thing holding me back. I mean, I've been paddling for years, but I'm officially trained only with the canoe. (canoe tours, outward bound, whitewater...)

so I wonder what gear and techniques could be learned for photography purposes.
Jay



Aug 30, 2014 at 05:35 PM
Elkoholic
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Kayak bird help and canoe shots


I have a Native Watercraft kayak which is designed to fly flish in standing up, thus is is incredibly stable. I've shot with both a 500 mm and 800mm using a monopod with incredible success on a wide varitey of birds/waterfowl. I simply put a heavy bath towel over the camera and lens while I paddle, which takes any spash off of the camera/lens. The kayak is more expensive than many, but it is amazingly mobile and manuverable.

Unfortunatley last winter I tore my rotator cuff in my shoulder and have missed this season using the kayak. I missed lots of opportunites that friends with similar outfits scored big on this year....

Tim



Aug 30, 2014 at 06:02 PM
Yajbuilder
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Kayak bird help and canoe shots


Hey thanks Tim! yeah- those Native kayaks are rather pricy, but if I get the feel for it, its one of those gear expenses.... right?

Plus, I might have a selling deal with the local paddling authority in boston, if I take enough wildlife shots from a boat... Huzzah!

There are a lot of birds in the charles river. I've been tracking a king fisher (belted), as well as a wealth of green, blue, and black crowned night herons. there are chimney swifts, barn swallows, etc
oops I won't even get started with that...
...and they all (except for the kingfisher) don't mind a passing paddler.

thanks for the tips, and more welcome!
Jay

Jay@Jays-photos.com



Aug 30, 2014 at 08:58 PM
Yajbuilder
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Kayak bird help and canoe shots


Elkoholic wrote:
Unfortunatley last winter I tore my rotator cuff in my shoulder and have missed this season using the kayak. I missed lots of opportunites that friends with similar outfits scored big on this year....

Tim


...and good luck with that cuff. a good fellow of mine did that in frisbee (while I was photographing it).
Jay



Aug 30, 2014 at 09:00 PM
surfnron
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Kayak bird help and canoe shots


Lots of people here shoot from kayaks, and inas many different ways as there are shooting from 'yaks. I use a composite sit in yak made by Hurricane. It has a large cockpit to make it easy to put the gear down to paddle, and fairly quick to pick it up again.
I use a dry bag while transporting the camera and lens, and have a Pelican 1500 that holds everything else. A beach towel is all I use to cover gear while paddling. The results are worth it. You can buy used from your local craigs list and save a ton of $$. Then, when you decide to upgrade, you can come close to getting your $$ back ~ Ron



Aug 31, 2014 at 03:14 AM
frdjohns
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Kayak bird help and canoe shots


Jay,

I just started trying to shoot from a kayak; it's fun but a bit more challenging than shooting on land. This shot is from my second time out: Commorants Sunning

I bought a Native Ultimate 14.5 (same boat Tim referred to above.) Very stable. I put a D7100 with 80-400 in a dry bag, and close it until I get where I want to shoot. I put a large bath towel in with it, to cushion the camera while it sits in the boat bottom and to absorb any water that might get in the bag. When I get to location, I take out the camera and shoot. I put it back in the dry bag, unsealed, when I maneuver the boat to avoid any splashes or paddle drips. Seems to be working well, as the camera has stayed dry during the three times I've attempted this.

Now, I just need more time on the water, and more practice.

Fred



Aug 31, 2014 at 03:45 AM
aboulenein
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Kayak bird help and canoe shots


I use a tandem kayak (Necky Manitou II). Usually, my wife sits up front, and I sit in back, with a Pelican 1450 case between my legs, holding my 7d+100-400mm lens. The camera sits in the case all the time, until we get near a bird, at which point I leave the paddling and navigation to my wife, while I pull out the camera and get ready. With this set up I've had some very nice keepers.

The Pelican case has been a life-saver - it's kept my gear perfectly dry, even through our one and only spill, when we managed to get the kayak flipped in the surf, while coming back in from trying to capture some puffins (unsuccessfully, I might add ).



Aug 31, 2014 at 05:35 AM
 

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morris
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Kayak bird help and canoe shots


Nice set Jay

Morris



Aug 31, 2014 at 04:00 PM
Tim Kuhn
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Kayak bird help and canoe shots


Yajbuilder wrote:
Hey thanks. So maybe a lower boat + longer paddle would reduce the splash enough to just put the gear on the lap? 800mm handheld from the boat is, with out a doubt, the most insane and epic thing I have seen on this site. could I see that in action? do you have a picture of what it looks like? that. is. sweet.

Yep, I think the splash is the thing holding me back. I mean, I've been paddling for years, but I'm officially trained only with the canoe. (canoe tours, outward bound, whitewater...)

so I wonder what gear and techniques
...Show more

I'm sorry Jay, I don't have any shots of me shooting from the kayak. I just sit and hold the camera, it really isn't anything more than that. For some samples from the boat;
http://timkuhnphotography.zenfolio.com/p321849889/h6e02ce3#h6e02ce3
http://timkuhnphotography.zenfolio.com/p321849889/h6e02ce3#h415920ee
http://timkuhnphotography.zenfolio.com/p251359208/ha45dcb#h22f6e381
http://timkuhnphotography.zenfolio.com/p65797659/hf07daa#hf07daa
http://timkuhnphotography.zenfolio.com/p65797659/hf07daa#h3f797a28
and I could go on and on...

Good luck!

Tim




Aug 31, 2014 at 06:20 PM
Yajbuilder
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Kayak bird help and canoe shots


whew! thanks everyone! I went out for the first time yesterday in a pungo 140. I brought my ortlieb biking pannier, which is essentially a dry bag with bike rack clips. in this I placed my rig, which includes the 400 5.6L, 50d, flash, etc. it was a BLAST!!
I could move quick with the camera dry, and I could still nab the GBH's and ospreys I found.
these are 2 GBH's I found, out of like 7.
thanks for the help!

Jay

















Sep 04, 2014 at 02:18 PM
PeeDeeDD
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Kayak bird help and canoe shots


One thing you may want to try if you have one since you have a canoe...is to paddle your kayak once you reach your shooting destination using a short bent shaft canoe paddle. Learn what is called the Indian paddle stroke where you don't lift the paddle out of the water...it is like a forward sculling motion. This keeps the paddle flash down from lifting the blade out of the water and high into the air. It doesn't alarm your shooting subjects like a kayak paddle will. Also paddling with a bent shaft keeps the drips in the water where they belong. When you get ready to shoot, you can easily lay it across the cockpit with the bent blade facing downwards on the outside of the boat and the drips will run down the blade back into the water...not into the boat. You can buy a paddle taco clip and mount it to your gunnel to stow your kayak paddle when you are using the canoe paddle. The canoe paddle doesn't replace the kayak paddle since it is definitely not as efficient for the long haul...especially when wind is involved...the canoe paddle is just a tool well worth the look and consideration.

Edited on Sep 16, 2014 at 12:54 AM · View previous versions



Sep 12, 2014 at 01:57 AM
Adam Strochak
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Kayak bird help and canoe shots


I use an Emotion sit-on-top kayak and put the camera and lens (Canon body with 100-400 zoom is my kayak gear) in a dry bag between my legs. A towel in the bag helps for cushioning. Have been looking at alternative arrangements because I have same problems you do and am considering a Hobie mirage drive kayak. These have a pedal drive so you can keep hands free for the camera. Would be interested to know if anyone here is using one of these for photography. . .I know they are popular for fishing.

Adam



Sep 15, 2014 at 01:05 AM
40Driggs
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Kayak bird help and canoe shots


A couple of tips to add to the great advice so far.

-stick with calm water and mornings and evenings. The calm water without wind is a lot more pleasing for images in my opinion.
-let your 'yak drift towards subjects, preferably letting yourself float by your subject. I have found that paddling and heading strait towards an animal will sometimes spook it.
-have fun and focus on getting a technique that works for you. It can be frustrating at first until you get used to all the elements involved, but practice makes perfect.



Sep 15, 2014 at 02:01 AM
ScottHM
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Kayak bird help and canoe shots


I like the Native Ultimate, looks like a good boat to shoot from, my main one probably wouldn't be as good, narrow, sits lower and more cramped, older Kevlar Necky Looksha IV, great for touring and trips, but have to try it out for some real shooting.


Sep 15, 2014 at 07:25 AM
DiPace
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Kayak bird help and canoe shots


The boat:
I've used an Advanced Elements AirFrame (inflatable). It's really slow and a pain in the lumbar, but the flat bottom and wide beam make it super stable. It packs into a suitcase-size case, which let me take it to Costa Rica. The main thing is that kayaks are much better than canoes in a current, since a canoe would be rear-driven, and the bow can get really squirrely. If you ever get a chance to test a bunch of boats, take each one out and tip it over; the harder to tip, the better for shooting. There are sometimes high-volume versions of boats with wider beams for larger people.

The bag:
I may actually have the same Ortliebs, but never tried on the water... but may. I used a deck bag, dry bag, Igloo soft cooler.... I think a good, over-sized dry bag works the best, 'cause the camera needs to be accessible at the right moment. I also use a skirt when I paddle out, especially paddling through surf (Southern California).

The technique:
There's lots of good advice here. 40Driggs is totally right about the drifting; I keep a paddle blade in the water to slow myself or give a slight push, but otherwise just drift in a low profile. I definitely use a leash on the paddle so I don't lose it while I'm shooting. I usually keep the left paddle blade in the water, the shaft under my left arm and held in my right elbow while I shoot. This acts as a sort of stabilizer for the camera, and I can make minor course-corrections at the same time.

Taken in the canals of Tortuguero, Costa Rica with D200, Sigma 100-300mm f/4:





Sep 15, 2014 at 06:41 PM
PeeDeeDD
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Kayak bird help and canoe shots


Here is a product review on the larger Native Ultimate FX 15. Near the end of the article it mentions wildlife photography and some of the replies are from photographers. It also links to another post that has some shots of the boat in use. Looking at other post from its author, the guy is something like 6'3" and 260lbs...so he is a great big guy...kind of makes that boat look not too big.
http://www.nativeownersgroup.com/articles/52689-ultimate-fx-15-review
Reading up on Native's Facebook page, they have pedal driven kayaks including a future 13' Ultimate pedal model that is due out next spring. The interesting thing about their pedal driven boats that would be attractive to wildlife photographers is that you can make this boat go forwards or backwards to hold your shooting position. The Hobie only gives you forwards. I would think you could set the Propel Native up in a side drift with the wind like what is mentioned and then pedal to hold your distance from your subject during that drift. They make that boat in a natural camo color...making a neat grass muskrat hut over the front would be interesting!



Sep 16, 2014 at 12:47 AM





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