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How To Take The Best Photos While Paddling

Paddling a SUP board, canoe, or kayak along the water allows a paddler the opportunity to see some absolutely breathtaking scenery and sweeping vista views. Best of all, these views are rarely obstructed by other people, as only open water and scenic landscapes are likely what lies ahead of you. In fact, almost all paddling trips involve one or more photo-worthy location. But capturing quality photos while paddling is easier said than done.

Taking photos when you paddle can be difficult and even dangerous if you aren’t careful. There is also the risk of getting your expensive electronic equipment wet, or even dropping it in the water. Then there is the vessel and paddle to consider, as it can be difficult to keep the boat on the course when you pause to take a photo. Then there is the photography to consider, as framing the perfect shot and getting it in focus is not easy when you are sitting on a constantly moving and unstable board or boat.

When taking photos while paddling, use a camera with stabilization and quality autofocus. Make sure your smartphone is in a waterproof case with a leash. Use a leash for your paddle. Consider paddling with a friend when taking photos, and get close up to the subject you are photographing. Take photos in calm waters, and bring along your selfie stick and GoPro to guarantee some iconic shots while paddling. If you are proud of your results, send it our way to qualify for Photo of the Week!

While there are some real challenges when it comes to taking great photos while paddling, it is definitely possible. With the right gear, a bit of training, and when you follow the tips on taking great paddling photos listed below, you should have no problem taking epic photos while paddling on your board or boat of choice.

12 Ways To Help You Take Amazing Photos While Paddling

1. Waterproof Phone Case With Leash

Phones these days take better photos than some cameras. They are also highly portable and easy to use. All these reasons contribute to why camera phones are one of the most widely used devices for those taking photos while paddling. This is great news because cameras are much easier and safer to use while paddling than a heavy digital camera with a giant telephoto lens.

Many modern smartphones are water resistant, and can even be dropped in the water. But a wet electronic device is not ideal - and can still damage the phone. Therefore, you should always have a waterproof phone case to keep your device safe. This phone case should have a leash that can fit around your head. A leash will allow you easy access to your phone while paddling. It also ensures you won’t lose the phone in the water. Make sure you get a case with a clear case that does not fog up, as this will allow for the clearest images.

Shop For Waterproof Phone Cases

2. Secure Your Paddle

Your camera is not the only object you need to worry about securing when taking photos. When you are using a camera what you aren’t doing is holding onto your paddle. Securing your paddle is essential, as without a paddle you are not going to be able to make it home - at least not without some help and prolonged periods of panic.

The best way to secure your paddle while taking photos is with a paddle leash. You can purchase and install a paddle leash for a canoe, kayak, or SUP board easily and for relatively cheap. This is a great investment for anyone who likes to not only take photos but do other activities while paddling. This includes yoga, fishing or even swimming. A paddle leash is a great way to be able to forget about paddling for a moment or two while you focus your energy and attention on capturing the perfect photo from your board or boat.

Learn More About Paddle Leash Options

3. Find Areas With Calm Waters

If you are going paddling specifically to capture some amazing photos, consider the route you take, as well as the weather. Sure, blue skies and sunshine make for nice shots, but it’s not only the sky you need to worry about. As a rule, you should try to choose calm days with few waves and low winds when taking photos.

Paddle on days with calm waters, and ideally in areas with calm waters. This might not always be possible, but even when you are somewhere with waves or wind there is usually a cove or protected area where you can take a moment to capture some stable and clear images. Don’t be afraid to anchor your board or boat for a moment either, as this can help keep the boat relatively stable.

4. Choose Times Of Day When Light Is Ideal

The right lighting conditions can turn a boring picture into a heavenly image. And while you might not be able to control the sun and the weather, you can certainly choose the times of day you venture out to take great photos while paddling.

In general, some of the best light is just after dawn and just before dusk. The latter is often referred to as “golden hour” as the angle and color of the late afternoon sunlight everything up in a stunning golden hue. These times are ideal for photos as they will light up any subject with great color. Just make sure you are facing away from the sun when taking the photo to avoid glare. One added bonus to these times is wildlife tends to be most active at dawn and dusk - so you might score some great wildlife shots without even trying too hard.

Another reason these are ideal times to take photos at this time is as the glare from the sun is usually worst on the water when it is high in the sky. So while the sun might be illuminating everything at noon, you might struggle to capture a perfect shot with so much glare on the water.

5. Take Photos With Other Paddlers For Scale

If you find that the photos you take while paddling never capture the enormity and grandeur of your location, consider adding a paddler and a boat to your photos. Not only does this add a subject to your photo (which often improves the composition of the photo), but it allows for a frame of reference. When you add a paddler in your shot you can show exactly how vast and impressive the background is. So when in doubt, try to get another boat involved in the shot for scale.

6. Bring Along A Selfie Stick

Selfie sticks get a bad reputation due to the boatloads of tourists who obnoxiously use them at every popular destination. But there is a reason these handy devices are so popular - they take great photos when there is no one around to take a picture of you.

Selfie sticks work exceptionally well when you are on a kayak or paddle board as they capture you on the boat, as well as in the background. These are often the photos paddlers are looking for. Just make sure you get a selfie stick with a leash and one that securely holds your phone or GoPro.

7. Use Wide Angle To Get The Board In The Shot

If a selfie stick isn’t your style, or if you are looking to take images of what’s in front of you, rather than of your face and what’s behind you - then you have a different option. Use a wide-angle lens, or the wide-angle option on your phone in order to capture more of what is in front of you.

A quality camera for paddling should have a wide-angle option. Wide-angle lenses are a great way to get those fantastic shots of the front half of your boat at the bottom of the shot with the water and stunning natural landscape in the rest of the frame. For best results, practice taking these photos a bit before you get out on the water. Remember that focus matters, and ideally, you want to get both the boat and the background in focus for the best photo.

8. Install A Camera Mount For Easy Access And Stability

If you want to take photos on your board or boat on a regular basis then you should consider installing a camera mount. These are affordable and fairly discrete devices that can make paddling photography significantly easier than without one.

Camera mounts provide safety for your device. They lock in the camera to a spot so you can even let go of it when you need your hand free. Another benefit of camera mounts is they provide great stability. Sure you can’t control the motion of the ocean, but with a camera mount on your board or boat you can make sure the camera itself will remain still and free of your shakiness.

9. Paddle With A Partner

If you plan on paddling out to a particularly stunning location on a picture-perfect day, then you might want to call up a friend to come along. If you have a board or boat with tandem capabilities, then bringing a friend makes taking great photos while paddling easy.

When you paddle with a partner then one person can paddle while the other is taking photos. This allows for incredible action shots of you and your partner paddling. It also makes it much easier to sneak up on wildlife or handle rougher conditions while still capturing high-quality images.

10. Auto Focus Is Your Friend

When you are taking pictures while paddling you should try and have a camera that has a great autofocus and the ability to take “action” shots. Autofocus is available on most devices, but not everyone understands how to use it to its full potential. Make sure you take the time to learn how to use autofocus quickly and easily to capture the best possible clear images. There is a lot of movement when you paddle, so focusing on the subject is often the biggest challenge.

Another feature you want from your camera is the ability to take action shots. This means a very rapid aperture, where the photo is taken almost instantly. This is a great mode to use to avoid blurry photos when capturing wildlife or any time you are moving quickly through the water.

11. Practice Gliding And Stealth Maneuvers For Great Wildlife Shots

Some of the best photos you can take while paddling are of nature and surrounding wildlife. There are unique photograph opportunities that you can only capture on a discrete boat or board while on the water. But capturing these images isn’t always easy.

One great way to get better at taking wildlife photos is by practicing positioning and gliding your board or boat closer to wildlife without startling it. A good glide is super helpful as it allows you to get closer to the subject slowly without causing alarm. Also, while the vessel glides you can prepare the camera and begin snapping photos without having to worry about paddling.

12. Paddle As Close As Possible To The Subject

One of the benefits of taking photos on a SUP board, canoe, or kayak is that you can move closer to the subject you want to capture, or at least position yourself at an ideal angle. Taking photos while paddling comes with its challenges, but you should take advantage of the mobility you have on the water. You can literally paddle to the perfect spot, where this is rarely the case while on land - as there are often obstructions or people in the way.

The key is maintaining a level of patience and calm. It might take a bit of extra effort to get the perfect shot while paddling, but with some planning and the right angle, you can capture some pretty incredible images. Just remember to review your photos every so often, as this will indicate whether the images are coming out as perfect as you had hoped.


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