7 Essential Tips For Taking Great Photos From A Kayak

7 Essential tips for taking great photos from a kayak

How to get and keep your paddling adventures in focus

No doubt about it, kayak trips are made for making memories. But trying to document those memories with photos can be a challenge.

Wind, waves and water currents are just some of the things that can play havoc with efforts to capture your trip on film (or memory card, as the case may be). However, with some practice and a little practical advice, taking good pictures from a sea kayak doesn’t have to be a lesson in frustration.


Were not saying were photography experts, but . . .

Tofino Expeditions has been around for 30 years now, and one of the things that’s been a constant since our inception is our ability to document our fabulous trips with some great photography. It’s a major reason that our clients looked forward to receiving our catalogs. And it was a key factor in deciding to move the catalog online, in that it allowed us to greatly expand our visual offerings.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m no Ansel Adams, but over the years I’ve learned a thing or two about how to click some good pics from the cockpit. So here are my top tips when it comes to photography from a kayak:


#1 Leashes, straps and bungees exist for a reason use them!

My number one tip is to leash things up. Leash your paddle, clip in your camera, strap on your case. If you can secure any of your equipment, take the time to do so. It only takes a split second for something to go awry, and you really don’t want to be kicking yourself if it happens.


#2 Know your camera

This may seem silly, but it’s often an overlooked aspect of getting ready for a trip. Lighting conditions can change quickly on the water, so if you don’t know how to change your aperture or manually override things, it can lead to frustration. That surprise appearance by a whale can be nicely captured by a burst of shots, provided you know how to work that feature!

And speaking of cameras, I think it’s worthwhile to use one, rather than an iPad or phone. You can get a relatively inexpensive, small point-and-shoot camera that’s waterproof and fits in your PFD pocket. It will still have features like spot-meters, exposure compensation and custom modes that can be turned on quickly.


#3 Dont forget a dry cloth

There is nothing worse than seeing your photos after they have been printed or posted and noticing there are little dots and smudges on them. Some of our trips, such as those around Haida Gwaii, are in an environment that can be damper than others, so keeping a dry microfiber cloth at hand and periodically checking your lens for water droplets or moisture is a must.

But keep in mind that dried droplets of saltwater can scratch a lens, so give a spritz with fresh water (or even a little lick with the tip of your tongue) to keep from scratching things when you wipe. You may want to think about protecting lenses with a UV or polarizing filter.


#4 Keep your accessories close at hand

Extra batteries, high-speed memory cards, lens cloths, waterproof bag, etc., should all be within arm’s reach. If your PDF has pockets, all the better.

Over the years I’ve tried several options to provide both protection and access. The absolute best solution I’ve found is to have my cameras in a Pelican® case lashed to the kayak deck in front to my cockpit. The trick is to drill a quarter-inch hole in the flanges that support the box hinges to provide tie-down points; and the case handle comes with holes to secure the end. Of course, we have cord and are happy to assist with the rigging on the trips and/or answer questions about specific cases and sizes.


#5 Change your perspective

The great thing about being in a kayak is that you’re part of the water, but it also means that your photos are often taken from one perspective, so remember to change it up from time to time. Put your hand down at (or in!) the water’s surface and angle things up. Raise your hand over your head and shoot down. Go for closeups and wide angles. Don’t forget to take some pics of your paddling partners. Get the nose of your craft in the frame and take some without. Keep things interesting!


#6 Pay attention to your surroundings

I get it, in the excitement of trying to capture that bird diving down to grab its dinner, you may not have the chance to check for the location of the sun. But, when time permits, take a moment to notice the things on the periphery of the frame. Is your hat brim sneaking into the picture? Is the sun’s glare interfering with your light meter? Is the deck of your boat cluttered with open cases or hatch covers? Is the horizon on an angle? That last one is a biggy – unless you’re trying to give the impression of paddling down a hill, keep the background level.


#7 Have fun and learn to delete

The most important thing is to just try your best and have fun doing it. It’s about the experience. And if you can capture some of it with a batch of interesting and focused photos, all the better. The nice part of travelling in a group is that you can exchange and share pictures at the end of the trip. And with digital cameras, there is no need to worry about taking huge quantities. But I would suggest deleting the bad ones every day or two, so that you aren’t overwhelmed when you get back home.


Now, take a moment to visit our online catalog and enjoy a bevy of bright and beautiful images from our various paddling trips around the globe. You’ll be inspired, we promise! And if you should have any questions about any of our sea kayak tours, please feel free to get in touch through our website, call (800) 677-0877 or email info@tofino.com.

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