Tag Archives: Kayaking

Intoduction to Kayak Photography: A How-to Ebook

Now available for instant download, my “Introduction to Kayak Photography” is a basic guide to using kayaks for nature photography. Presented in PDF format the book consists of five chapters: Choosing a Kayak for Photography; Gearing Up for Kayak Photography; Camera Equipment Considerations; Making Useable Photos from a Bouncing Little Boat; Finding and Approaching Wildlife. Concise and direct, there is a lot of useful information packed into 20 full-sized pages for only $4.99.

 

Cover shot of new ebook.

 

USD 4.99 / Download

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Snowy Egret on a Winter’s Day

During my last kayak photography outing I came across a reasonably cooperative Snowy Egret. Here’s a couple shots from the encounter.

Snowy Egret on a winter day.

Snowy Egret

Posted in Avian Photography, Nature Photography, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Sunday Morning Adventure: Kayaking on the White Oak River

I’ve been curious about the canoe/kayak trail on the White Oak river for a long time. But I’d never taken the time to explore any of it. The fact is that for me the kayak is largely a photography platform; a way to get close to wild life or gain access to areas I wouldn’t otherwise be able to photograph. When paddling the area’s blackwater rivers and streams photo opportunities are few and far between. The biggest exception being when the fall foliage is in its full glory. The creeks and rivers can present some lovely imaging opportunities then. Even knowing I’d be lucky to even get one useful photo, the adventure was calling. I wanted to see what there was to see. While kayaking may be mostly and means to and end for me, it can be a joy in and of itself as well.

I launched at the Long Point Landing area. This is a neat little spot with room for a couple of tents if one wanted to do some camping. When I arrived fog was heavy on the river so I delayed just a little to allow some of it to burn off. Upon launching I headed upstream towards the Hayward landing boat ramp. By starting my trip against the current I’d have the luxuray of a little help on the return trip. Along the way I spotted a few ducks… (you’ll almost never sucessfully approach a wild duck in a kayak for a photo op.)… a very skittish Great Blue Heron that never allowed me a single photo, a Cormorant or two and even a Bald Eagle (again, no photo ops). All in all it was a pleasant little 6+ mile paddle on a beautiful early December morning.

A kayaker surveys the White Oak river at Long Point Landing.

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Cold Weather Doesn’t Have to Signal an End to Kayaking

With a chill in the air this morning I thought it might be appropriate to do an article about gearing-up for cold weather kayaking. When you consider the origins of the kayak, indigenous people of Alaska, Canada and Greenland, it’s obvious that these nimble little boats have a long history of cold weather use. With the right clothing and accessory choices cold weather kayaking can be a rewarding adventure.

Lets start by taking a look at clothing. As with any winter activity the key to warmth is layering clothing. For kayaking, however, there’s an additional concern with staying dry. After all, drips, splashes and sprays do happen. Wetness robs the body of heat and can lead to hypothermia. With that in mind, choose layers carefully. Keep in mind that many synthetic materials will still provide insulation when damp. Cotton, however, will not. A long time saying among outdoors men and adventures is “cotton kills.” It has no place in your clothing selection for winter kayaking.

You’re going to want to start with a base layer. There are a lot of wonderful products available that have moisture wicking properties. This is the type of clothing you’ll want next to your skin. Your selection of the next layer will largely depend upon how severe the temperatures are. You don’t want to over dress, resulting in perspiration while paddling, but you don’t want too little insulation either. While adding and removing layers is a good option for the upper body, changing out pants is an entirely different matter. Finally, you’re ready to add a nice water resistant top layer. In a pinch you can get away with wearing a rain suit. A better option, however, is to invest in splash wear designed for kayaking: A pair of paddle pants for the lower body and a paddle jacket for the torso. These kayaking clothes will feature adjustable neoprene seals at the ankle, waist and neck. While they won’t keep you dry if you go for a swim, they will keep out the drips, sprays and splashes normally encountered during a paddle.

Keeping the feet and hands warm and dry are important goals for comfortable cold-weather paddling. Fortunately there are a lot of products available designed for that goal. On my feet I like to wear a pair of neoprene kayak boots. Mine are calf-high with a “skin seal” around the top to help keep water out if you wade in a little too deep. As the temperature drops I like to add a pair of socks inside these boots for some additional insulation. For all but the coldest days I wear a pair of fingerless neoprene gloves. I need my finger tips bare so I can operate my camera controls. If you’re not taking photos a pair of neoprene gloves with fingers would be great. When the temperatures really drop I need more protection that the fingerless gloves will provide. For those days I use a pair of “poagies.” These can loosely be described as mittens designed for paddling. The attach to the paddle and you place your hands inside where they’re dry and warm.

There are a few additions that will help insure you stay warm and dry on a winter paddling adventure. For photography I like the large, open cockpits offered by recreational class kayaks. This design makes accessing camera gear quick and easy. However, for cold weather paddling I like a bit more protection from over wash and spray. Starting in early autumn and continuing through spring I use a 1/2 spray skirt to cover a large portion of the open cockpit. This cover provides more protection for the elements and provides some handy storage pouches as well. If accessing photo gear stored in the cockpit isn’t an issue a full spray skirt offers the ultimate level of protection. In fact with a full skirt you could safely for go the paddle pants. Keep in mind, however, that the addition of spray skirts does make exiting a capsized kayak a bit more difficult. Be aware of the emergency exit procedures required with the gear you use. Another good idea is to carry a change of clothes with you, storing it in a dry bag. If you should find yourself soaked in cold-weather with a long paddle to get back to safety having the option of putting on some dry clothes could be life saving.

Below are a few links to some of the gear and accessories I’ve discussed in these articles. While it’s always appreciated if you choose to purchase from one of my online retail partners via these links… who doesn’t enjoy a commission… there are many outfitters that offer the same or similar products. Dress appropriately, stay warm and enjoy a year round season of paddling. You can bet I will.

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Short Billed Dowitchers

Autumn is a wonderful time to explore the marshes and estuaries of coastal North Carolina. With a combintion of year round residents, magratory species passing through, and those that spend their winters here, there’s a wonderful variety of shorebirds to be found. While exploring one of the local estuaries with my kayak I found a large number of birds clustered to gether on a shoal during high tide. As is often the case it was a mixed flock with Dunlins, Willets, Terns, Black Skimmers and Short Billed Dowitchers all sharing a gradually shrinking patch of sand. Here are a few photos of some of the Short Billed Dowitchers.

A Short Billed Dowitcher shares a shrinking patch of sand with a variety of other shorebirds.

Short Billed Dowitcher along the Carolina coast.

Short Billed Dowitcher.

Posted in Avian Photography, Nature Photography, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Horses on the Tidal Flats: Kayak Based Photography

There are two things I really enjoy doing; kayaking and photographing wild horses. When I combine the two it’s almost nirvana. This morning I made it to the flats enough ahead of the incoming tide to find a few horse still feeding on the flats. There was enough water to get around in the kayak, as long as you picked your routes carefully. Here are a few shots from this morning.

A wild horse feeds on the tidal flats along North Carolina's Crystal Coast.

Wild horse with White Ibis.

Wild mustang along the Carolina coast.

A wild horse feeds on the tidal flats.

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Posted in Banker Horses, Nature Photography, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

Willets on a Chilly Morning

It was one of those mornings that makes me question my sanity. Up before the first hint of light in the eastern sky… nothing too crazy there. Step out the door to excercise the puppy while the coffee is brewing and notice frost will need to be scraped from the windows… now considering I was going to be on the water in a little kayak, that might be a little crazy. I cleaned the frost of the windows and continued with my plans. If you stop and think about it, kayaks are associated with Inuits, aka eskimos. Not exactly a people known for living in warm places. Like most activities as long as you equip yourself appropriately cold weather doesn’t have to bring an end to the paddling season.

Willets are probably one of the most common wading birds living in the Rachecl Carson Estuarine Reserve. A year around resident these medium sized shorebirds are usually quite skittish about being approached. This morning, however, getting close wasn’t as challenging as usual. Here are a few photos from the outing:

The Willet is a common shorebird along the Carolina coast.

A Willet wades near the shore at high tide.

Willet.

Willet in the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve.

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Up Close With the Wild Horses

I was out on the flats at the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve this morning, as were the wild horses. The wind picked up and kept blowing me in a bit closer to the horses than I usually get. I finally hit bottom and grounded. Interestingly, the horses moved in closer and closer to me. At one point one of the mares actually put her nose on the tip of the bow of my kayak. For a moment I thought she was going to climb in to take a ride! It definately made for a fun morning.

A wild horse moves right up next to my kayak. A close-up of a mustang on a North Carolina tidal flat.

Wild horse feeding on marsh grass. Wild horses along the Carolina coast.

Posted in Banker Horses, General Photography, Kayaking, Nature Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Return of the Sigma 50-500mm Lens: Heron Photos

Several weeks ago my Sigma 50-500mm lens developed a problem. Now honestly I’m probably not super easy on gear. I drag it along on hilkes, in and out of cars, in kayaks. My photo gear gets a serious workout. I sent the lens to the Sigma Factory service center in Ronkonkoma, NY for a repair estament. I agreed to the repair price, provided payment and started waiting on the lens. When the lens arrived I unpackaged it an noted how really nice it looked. Then I mounted it to a camera for a little test run. For whatever reason it locked up and would not zoom. Whether something worked loose in shipping or if it made it out of the service center without a check I have no idea, but it wouldn’t function. I called Sigma and the immediately emailed me a shipping lable tor return the lens. Five days later UPS knocks at my door with a package from Sigma. I was impressed to see that fast a turn around time. I signed for the package then opened the box. To my utter surprise inside the package was a new in the box lens! Now that’s some outstanding customer service!

This afternoon I finally got a chance to get out with the new lens for a little “test drive.” I launched the kayak a little before this evening’s high-tide for a paddle around the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve. Below are a few images.

Black Capped Night Herons are a special find for most nature photographers.

Tricolor Heron. Tricolor Heron at Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve.

A White Ibis near Beaufort, North Carolina

Posted in Avian Photography, Kayaking, Nature Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , |

Wild Horse Photos From a Kayak? You Betcha!

When most people think of wild horses they think of the American West. Visions of canyons, buttes, and wde open spaces fill their minds. But there is a healthy population of wild mustangs living along the the East Coast and they’ve been there for almost 500 years! Undoubtedly the horses left behind by early explorers and from failed colonization attempts weren’t confined to the barrier islands along the coast. There were also horses living on the mainland. Those animals were pushed west as the country spread in that country, joining up with mustangs living in the west that were introduced by the Conquistadors in the 1500s.

Today a few isolated herds of of wild horses remain along the U.S. East Coast. Living on barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, Virgina and Georgia. Many of these animals feed on spartina grass found on the tidal falts areas of these islands. This lifestyle makes it possible to observe and photograph these magnificant animals from a kayak during high-tide periods. Photographing wild mustangs from a kayak lends a unique perspective to the photos. In a kayak the photographer virtually sits at water level, placing the camera below eye level. While not an entirely impossible point of view to achive on foot, it is going to require that the photographer gets pretty wet.

This morning I set out for some kayak photography along Town Marsh and Carrot Islands. I found serveral horse feeding on the flats and on an isolate shoal. Below are a few images from the trip.

A wild Stallion wades along a shoal in Back Sound.

This wild horse stands watch while his mares feed on Spartina grass. A handsome portrait of a wild mustang.

You can see the classic looks and Iberian heitage in this wild horse.

A mare feeds on the tidal flats along the Carolina coast.

This young colt will be a fine wild stallion one day.

A beautiful wild mustang of Spanish decent.

A handsome wild mustang of Spanish decent.

Two Black Bellie Plovers on the tidal flast with a wild mustang in the background.

Posted in Banker Horses, Kayaking, Natural History in the Carolinas, Nature Photography, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , |
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