Friday, January 1, 2010

On the Water

Greetings to all and a Happy New Year,

Do you live in an area where you just can't get close to wildlife or birds. If you are like me the answer is yes. I get really annoyed when I see all these cool bird images that are taken in Florida. If you have ever been to Florida to photograph birds then you would know that there are many, many locations where you can walk right up to birds. I really do mean walk right up to them. I'm not saying it's easy photography but it sure makes it a heck of a lot simpler to do.

Here in Northern California usually the closest I can approach a great blue heron is about a hundred feet. Much closer if I use my car as a blind. But there is another way that you can typically get a lot closer and that is by using a small boat such as a kayak, canoe or small electric boat. A floating blind works really well too . But that is a topic I have covered in a previous blog.
For some reason most birds and wildlife don't typically view things approaching them from the water as a threat. last time I was out in my little electric photo boat I was able to get less that 20 feet away from some otters. Turtles were unafraid of my boat and I was able to get so close that I had to back up the boat as I couldn't focus that close. Western Grebes would nervously swim away when I got to less thirty feet or so. In summary I could get fairly close camera range to most of the wildlife i encountered while out on the water.

The simplest approach is get upwind or up current and slowly float into your subject. Keep in mind the lighting direction and keeping all movements to a minimum. Additionally you want to keep your profile low in the boat so as to not skyline yourself and movement seen by your subject. Also since you are photographing on the water it is usually best to keep you camera angle as low to the water as possible. This means bracing yourself on the gunwales of the boat or using a bean bag. Sometimes I use a tripod but for the most part I usually use a bean bag.

When photographing from a boat special care must be used with your valuable camera equipment. I always carry a dry towel to wipe off any paddle splatters or stray water. I never put my camera on the bottom of the boat. Instead I keep it in a small cooler if I am in my photo boat. It is readily available at my feet at a moments notice. If I am in a kayak or a canoe I prefer to use a dry bag or a waterproof case. Personally I prefer a waterproof case over a dry bag just because for me they are easier to access and open as well as keep organized.

Today my wife and I picked up a new kayak. We purchased a Native Watercraft Ultimate 14.5 Tandem. They are one of the most stable kayaks out there and they are great for photographing from. It will be nice over the next year to get out and photograph from it. Previously I have been using a Mendocino Kayak that is very stable. But it is a sit on top and every time i used it I could hardly walk as my back hurt so bad from the seat position. i really wanted a Slo Mo Kayak but I have the needs of my family to consider so a tandem it was. Below are links to both of their sites.

Good luck out there creating images and God bless,



Cate said...

I stumbled upon your blog and love your "On the Water" photos. Where did you take the turtle photos?


J. Chris Hansen said...

I'm glad you stumbled upon my little blog. The turtle images were taken on Clearlake in Northern California
They are Western Pond turtles just in case you didn't know .

God bless,