How to: Photography from a Kayak, tips and tricks from accomplished amateurs and pros

October 14, 2022

Insider tips on photography from the cockpit of your kayak.

How to: Photography from a kayak, tips and tricks from accomplished amateurs and pros

By: K.M. Collins


For suggestions and ideas on photography from the cockpit of a kayak, we turned to Seth West (who shoots professionally in the paddle sports industry) and Deborah Cricket Blick (a longtime Eddyline superfan and budding photographer). For the full 411 on her tips for taking pictures while on the water, check out Deborah’s personal blog post - 5 start Yak Pak - Kayak Photography. For more media from Seth, check out his Instagram account and see his work on the Headwaters Kayak Youtube channel where he is the resident videographer. Also, check out Seth’s submission for Kayak Session Short Film of the Year: Riverbound (Entry #12 Short Film of the Year 2022) - YouTube. Here are some of their top suggestions… 
What Eddyline kayaks do you like shooting from?
Seth: “The Sandpiper 130 and the Caribbean 12FS as they’re both great platforms for photo and video work.”
 Caribbean SOT Kayak
Q: How do you safeguard the camera system while kayaking?
Deborah: “Always leash your camera to your kayak.  Remember, many good cameras and lenses are ‘weather sealed’, meaning they can take some splash and rain, but are not water-PROOF which means they cannot handle water under pressure.  Nor do they float.  Without a tether it could end up on the bottom of the river and be lost even if the water is shallow.  Also, having it on a short leash means that if it does end up in the water it will be near the surface and encounter little water pressure and should survive after a thorough drying out and cleaning. Adding a split ring to your camera’s strap eyelets is an option for creating a tether.” 
Q: Give us some insight into action and movement photography… 
Seth: “Bursts! The difference between the split second that the paddle is in the water vs. when it's a few inches out of the water with water dripping off of the blade are photos that are worlds apart. I'm almost always shooting in bursts to make sure I get the exact moment I'm chasing. Make sure you're shooting at a high frame rate - I rarely shoot paddling under 1000. 
Also, get close to the water. I know, it's scary, but light, reflections, texture, the whole mood changes when you get your camera a little closer to the water. Bonus points if you buy a housing and get subsurface shots!
 Caribbean SOT Kayak
Lastly, use a wrist strap. I started out with a traditional strap around my neck and hated it. I stopped using it but was terrified of dropping my camera in the water which distracted me from shooting. Adding a simple small wrist strap takes a lot of the stress of using the camera on the water off my mind and allows me to focus on the shot.”
Techniques, tips and thoughts a la Deborah:
“If at all possible (when taking still photos), bring your kayak to a stop before clicking the shutter. Especially when photographing wildlife, when you are moving AND your subject is moving or may move, even working with a high shutter speed you’re liable to miss nailing the focus.  If using auto focus it may be too slow to capture the subject without blurring and if manually focusing your hand on the barrel of the lens and your eye against the viewfinder may introduce shake from the motion of the kayak. In all but the slowest current I try to stick the nose of my kayak into a mass of vegetation or up against the bank before shooting.”
Extra advice from Eddyline photographers via the Eddyline Kayak Owners' Facebook page
“The first how-to with photography from a kayak is lessons learned through trial and error. After you drop your first phone (camera) into the water and watch it sink out of sight, you learn a better way to hold it. This was a hard lesson I had to learn.” 
  • Art Filek
“Keep your phone (camera) on the floor of your kayak (if it is waterproof). It isn’t as handy to have to pick it up, but it is mostly secure there. I am searching out an easy access pocket to keep it in.” 
  • Bobbie Mayer
“Get a life jacket with lots of pockets.... Floating cases are also an option if you can find the right size to fit your phone.” 
  • Jeanna Harris
 Get out there and start shooting your own photos from your kayak! You never know what beauty you might be able to capture. And while you're at it, make sure to join the Eddyline Kayak Owners' Facebook page so that you can share your photos and videos with all of the other enthusiastic Eddyline paddlers there. You might learn a thing or two while you're at it or find some new paddling friends!