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Kayaking 202 (C): 3 things I have learned the hard way

Ok, so this wasn’t nearly as easy as I thought it was going to be. To be honest, though I am in very good shape, I am in terrible shape for kayaking and I much underestimated the flexor muscles necessary to keep this tippy thing above water. Therefore, today I am sore and, (I know from experience), tomorrow I will be REAL SORE! That is okay though because I really learned a lot from this endeavor.  And I really had a good time. Despite living a life fraught with danger and adventure, I have never been kayaking before. I have spent hours and hours canoeing but the two aren’t really alike.

Kayaking for the purpose of photography, too, added a dynamic to this experience that makes it like no other endeavor, and since the purpose of this writing is to give advice on kayaking for photography, here is what I have learned from my first try.

  1. Use that launch at the marina. I took the path of naturalism for my first trip and I found out that the path of naturalism involves two things: water and filth. There’s nothing like flinging wet lake scum across your camera lens while flipping your legs into a kayak from the water’s edge that will make you squirm and squeal maniacally. Although it’s doable in a pinch, there is a very convenient launch at the marina that offers you the opportunity to insert and extract easily with very little water and no lake scum involved.
  2. Lose that tripod! Though it seemed like a good idea at the time, I am better off using a handheld camera because the kayak is in constant motion. Just… no! put the camera around your neck and shoot by hand. You can keep the tripod with you for the chance that you might pull up to shore and get a shot from the land, or from a submerged log.
  3. Use your rivets. Remember the nifty watertight containers that I gorilla glued to the kayak? Well, it doesn’t hold. So there is a reason that most things end up getting pop riveted for marine purposes.

In our next installation we will look at some of the improvements I’ll make to the improvements I made initially and we’ll give her another try… stay tuned.

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Kayaking 202(B): 3 ways to tell when you should just go home

And so with great trepidation and trembling fingers, I loaded my brand new kayak onto the Subaru and headed for the local state park and lake.

It has been raining to beat hell here in southern Ohio, and there was finally a break in the constant drizzly downpour that is supposed to last a few days. So I figured to take advantage of the respite, (I understand that we have another hurricane coming through at some point), and when I got there I discovered that regardless of how excited I was to get out into the water and grab some awesome exposures of buttery wildlife goodness, there was absolutely no way in the world that I was going to. The biggest clue for me was the fact that the only other watercraft on the lake was the mud drudger, and those two guys on it looked   nervous as hell.

The next clue was the fact that there was about five inches of concrete left showing on the boat launch dock, (when there is usually a foot or better), and I could literally see currents forming out on the body of the lake, which was choppy and wind driven. I pondered about how tippy my little 8′ kayak was just being manipulated by the current created from the circulation pump in my swimming pool, and even though I could see the white slash of wings from the eagles flying way out in the distance on the other side of the lake, I left the dreams and visions of snapping some shots there on the lakeshore and grudgingly headed on home. So, here are three clues to keep in mind when you are ponding stormy waters.

  1. Watch for activity on the water. Basically, if no one else is on the water, not even a gaggle of geese, you should probably be asking yourself why that is. If no one else wants to go out because of high water you should most likely follow suit.
  2. Look at the topological indicators. Water levels as opposed to established water lines for instance. Understand that the more volume is present, the greater the force of gravity will affect it and you.
  3. Watch for white water. It shouldn’t take me to tell you that the whiter and more turbulent the water is the more dangerous it is.
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Kayaking 202: Turning a kayak into a photo taking machine

And so I take my final bow as I present to you my kayak, all tricked out and ready to go on lake-water adventures as I endeavor on a trip to capture the stoic visage of a family of American Bald Eagles which inhabit the local state park.

I have labored long and hard on it, (not really), and I have done all that I wanted to in order to get it seaworthy.

Here are the changes I have made to it that make it ready to capture the photos and video that I am going after.

  1. I installed a go-pro mount on the top at the bow. I discovered right off that trying to mount it with marine rivets as I did nearly everything else, because the rivets heads would interfere with the camera mount. Hopefully the gorilla glue that I utilized to mount it will hold, otherwise I’m going to be hoping that the waterproof case makes it float.
  2. I used the gorilla glue to also mount two watertight cases to the floor of the kayak. One is big enough to hold the camera that I plan to use for the kayak photography, and one to hold my cellphone. Though I could have easily drilled and riveted both of these cases in, I didn’t relish the idea of breaking that watertight seal in any way.
  3. I riveted two eye brackets into the bow in order to strap a tripod into the bow. As I shoot more and more photography, I learn more and more that I need to have a tripod for stabilization. And so I plan to utilize this configuration in order to get those photos that have so far eluded me from across the lake. Of course I’ll keep you posted! Stay tuned for the next installment of kayaking for photography…
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Kayaking 201: 3 modifications you must have for photography

Ok, so I have my kayak purchased and I have been practicing with it in my swimming pool. It is very tippy.  And while this is unfortunate, it is not a tragedy because it is very easy to get out of too. However, water and cameras don’t mix well, so I will be practicing extensively with this dude before I get any of my camera gear into it. Perhaps I will visit the local goodwill store or get online and find a nice little zoom camera like the Canon Powershot SX20 IS, which will shoot high definition video and has digital zoom capabilities that allow it to be shot at up to 500mm. I had purchased a Canon G series G1X for these romps into the lakeside wilderness, but with a $400+ pricetag, the tippiness of this kayak has left me feeling less than optimistic about taking this little camera out.

I had previously written about a cute little Sony a100 I purchased for $37 that I ended up selling for $250 to an enterprising young lad who wanted to get a start in photography. The problem with the cheaper Sony was the fact that it doesn’t shoot video and it leaves a lot to be desired in really low light. I definitely don’t want to be juggling two cameras in a kayak… but I digress.

This is a blog about kayak modifications; and here are three must have mods for photography.

  1. Fishing rod holder. As simple as cutting a hole, drilling three more, and pulling three rivets. Viola! You have a fishing rod holder. This is very important because when there is nothing to photograph you are going to need something to do.
  2. Handle and oar holder. Needed so that you can have both hands free to grab camera and tripod to keep them as safe as possible. you don’t want to be juggling a double paddled oar while trying to handle your gear.
  3. A comfortable seat. If you are going to be going after eagles like I am, you will need to have some padding on your rear. Make that seat as comfortable as possible.
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Kayaking 102: Getting Started

Kayaks on a Subaru Impreza

Ok, so I looked around a long, long time before I finally decided on what kayaks to buy for me and my son. I considered everything from used kayaks to inflatable kayaks… I even looked into used inflatable kayaks; here’s what I discovered:

Kayaks become more valuable with age.  And, like good military surplus, those that have a little wear and tear on them, (like a Vietnam era canteen with a bullethole in it), are worth much more than those that are brand new still in the package.

I mean I pored over the used kayaks in the online classifieds. I called, made offers, placed bids… all to no avail; because, every single kayak owner I found, who was willing to part with their beloved kayak, refused to do so -it seemed- without at least doubling their money (and sometimes tripling it). And so, after a couple of weeks of frustration, (yes I’m tenacious), I finally got on the Wally-world site just see what they had to offer. Boy, was I pleased. Wally-world had everything I had wanted and dreamed of right there at my fingertips.  Not only were the exact kayaks I wanted available, they were the right color, $40 cheaper than anywhere else, and they came with oars! Plus, Wally-world had a roof rack to fit my Subaru, AND they had a set of kayak racks as well. All told I spent $448 dollars and there was no shipping costs because I had the entire kit and caboodle sent to my local Wally-world. They sent me an email when it all arrived, and I shot right over there and installed the rack and roof mounts right there in the parking lot with a $5 tool kit I bought in the hardware section.  Total cost… $453, (including the toolkit).

Well, kinda… in the next installation, I will show you the modifications I found necessary to get my kayak right where I needed it to be to turn it into a wildlife photography machine… Stay tuned!

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Kayaking 101: 2 things you must do before you get started

 

 

 

A Sony a100 DSLR camera equipped with a Minolta 100-300mm

I have recently grown weary of walking the same old trails and driving the same old access roads looking for fresh game and new scenery for my photography.

My wife suggested that I take up kayaking in order to get to areas of a local state park that are inaccessible in any other way. Eagles for instance, are nesting on the far side of the lake and if I use digital zoom, my expensive Panasonic FZ-80 will zoom right over there so that I can just make them out, sitting in their trees and cavorting amongst themselves. Below them I can usually find where the Great Blue Herons are raising their elegant younglings, gracefully teaching them to fish among the cattails.  And so, I began the endeavor to find my path towards becoming a water borne photographer, and it was then that I discovered that I need to do two things in order to get started. Here they are:

  1. Consider costs and find the best deal out there. Now, I don’t mean just finding the best deal on a kayak, although I do mean that as well, but consider what kind of risk you will be putting your equipment through before you get started.  I have several expensive cameras and lenses. The first thing I did was go to my agent and add some extra insurance to my equipment. I also got online and looked for some inexpensive but useful alternatives to taking my best stuff out there. I found a Sony a100 on a popular repurposing site online for $37. It’s only 10mp, but it takes legacy Minolta lenses which are extremely cheap but very sharp.  I also found a Canon SX20 IS which is only 12mp but which has a 500mm focal length, ($24, same site). Both cameras work wonderfully and if they fall into the drink, I’ll be disappointed but I won’t sob uncontrollably for several days.
  2. Learn your equipment. Go to the local university and find out where the outdoor pursuit center, and get some safety training. The last thing you should want to do is get drowned while trying to get a couple of photographs. In upcoming posts, I will take you through the process of acquiring kayaks and equipment requirements to start using them for photography expeditions… stay tuned!
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