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Thread: Camera tips - photgraphary from the canoe

  1. #1

    Default Camera tips - photgraphary from the canoe

    Hi - I'm looking for some help again!

    To date I've just been using my phone for taking pics while canoeing (more focused on staying dry rather than photography) but I intend breaking out the DSLR for the bigger summer trips I'm planning.There's obviously some pretty decent photographers amongst the SOTP collective so I wondered if there are any photography tips peculiar to taking pics from a canoe?

    I'm a reasonably experienced amateur photographer so I know my way round a camera but any pointers would be welcomed. We'll be paddling tandem so there should be some semblance of control while snapping pics which takes care of one of the big challenges.Thanks,phil
    Last edited by son goku; 13th-June-2018 at 03:31 PM.

  2. #2
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    A Peli Case is a must. I've just acquired one and it is the business.
    Big Al.

    Only when the last tree has died
    and the last river been poisoned
    and the last fish been caught
    will we realise we cannot eat money.
    ~Cree Indian Proverb

  3. #3
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    As above, Peli StormCase allows the camera to be protected, at the same time as being quickly available.

    In a canoe, you're rarely still. I therefore try to keep the shutter speed at least 1/250th (Tv for Shutter priority on a Canon). This sometimes means having the ISO a bit higher than ideal, but modern cameras cope well and I rarely go above ISO800.

    A quick wrap of the shoulder strap around a wrist as you get it out the box helps security!

    The lens I use is an 18-135mm zoom. This instantly covers most requirements, though I'd like a longer focal length lens for wildlife one day.

    Understanding depth of field is very useful, especially as the fast shutter speed I mentioned tends to reduce this. This can be used to advantage often, but may be annoying in low light situations.

  4. #4
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    Basically apart from protecting the camera from harm I don't think there is much different to taking a picture on land, though don't spend too much time looking through the viewfinder as wind and/or current can take you where you hadn't intended to go.

    You just hope for the best conditions... the picture below was from a while ago shot as a jpeg with a Canon 350D at 1/80th sec F 6.3 ISO200 18mm on the not very good kit lens they supplied with that model. If the conditions aren't as smooth as below I use the multi shot setting and up the shutter speed and take 2 or 3 images at a time.

    I now only shoot RAW files so I have the maximum data and therefore flexibility for later processing in Lightroom and sometimes final tweaks in Photoshop Elements. It's surprising what can be recovered from a RAW file compared to a jpeg file when one gets it a little wrong in camera.(or sometimes in my case quite a bit wrong)

    I'm still reluctant to take my latest upgrades in bodies and lenses in the canoe. Maybe if I bought a Pelicase I might, but for what I need I think the old one will do.



  5. #5
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    I was going to mention Storm Cases but looks like they may be part of Peli Cases now.

    http://www.songofthepaddle.co.uk/for...M2075-a-review

  6. #6
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    This splits into two issues gear protection and camera technique.
    Gear protection - My feeling is that the camera is a tool to be used, so I need to be able to access it easily. Unless I am going on bouncy water, the cameras live in belt bags clipped into the lacing on the gunnels. The bags are good enough to guard against splashes. If I think there is a big risk of significant water exposure then I use a waterproof Stanley toolbox - not as bombproof as a Peli case but I have tested in by standing on it in 1m deep water for 5minutes and it didn't leak.
    My main dslr body is a Canon 1ds3, which is weather-sealed and very robust. I also use a Canon 7d, which is not weather-sealed, so in bad weather this one stays in its bag.
    I will often take both bodies, one with a wide angle zoom and the other a telephoto zoom, so I don't have to juggle lenses while afloat.
    All my camera kit is insured new for old against accidental damage, loss and theft, so if/when something goes over the side, it is merely annoying rather than a major financial blow.
    As regards techique: you are on a moving platform, so slow arty exposures are unlikely to go as planned unless you want that panning motion blur effect. On land I normally shoot manually but use the depth of field (f stop or aperture setting) as a creative tool. On the water I shoot semi-auto in aperture priority so I can still control the apeture and let the camera work out the shutter speed. If this seems too slow (say slower than 1/100th) I increase the ISO. I sometimes use auto-bracketing but more often exposure compensation.
    Auto focus makes life much easier, and I will often use motion-tracking auto focus (servo AF). Having selectable focus points helps when using a shallow depth of field. Get used to using the camera adjustments one handed with your eye to the viewfinder so you can alter exposure settings on the fly.
    I tend to leave a bit of space around the subject so I can crop in and correct wonky horizons etc in post-processing, and always shoot RAW as it does let you recover more highlight and shadow detail if the exposure is a little off.
    There is actually a third thing, which is boat control. Slow down early to give yourself time. If I want smooth water and clean reflections I make sure the hull shields my paddle strokes. I find it much easier to shoot from kneeling than sitting - I feel more connected to the boat and so can keep it balanced better. I will often line the boat up with my subject then drift in with the camera to my eye, so I can take the shot when everything is just so.
    With practice you can even track birds in flight.
    Last edited by Gordon G; 13th-June-2018 at 10:30 PM.

  7. #7
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    Pelicase(s) for 'spare' gear (lenses, bodies, batteries etc), Ortileb Aqua Zoom for the camera I want to hand (note: not the aqua zoom + which doesn't seem to have a waterproof closure, which I would count as a - not a +!).

    As mentioned the boat is in constant motion, so either shutter priority and set it fairly fast, or select sports mode (which does much the same thing).
    To be able to use fast shutter in low light you should look for 'fast' lenses, that is to say lenses with a wide aperture (small number f-stop). Most kit lenses go down about f4 or f4.5, but if you have more to spend an f2 or bigger lens will give you much more scope in low light conditions - zoom lenses don't usually have very low f-stops so you may end up using prime lenses for low light, although in reality I get by with a couple of zooms that are just a bit faster than kit ones and cover 18-300mm between them, I have a prime 50mm f1.8 but I rarely actually use it.

    Finally, if you are at all nervous about taking a new(ish) DSLR and lenses into a hostile environment (I have only ever completely killed one, but another has a cracked screen and doesn't autofocus any more), buy some second hand kit. People wonder why I still hump a D80 around most of the time - it's because I'm used to it, and if I kill it WEX usually have SH ones for £140 or less, in fact this one is a SH one, because it was a D80 I killed. You can get stuff from ebay, but shops like WEX rate the condition and provide some kind of warranty (I had one SH body arrive missing a battery door, which they took back and replaced without fuss). You can get much more capable bodies SH for not much these days.

    How hard can it be?

  8. #8
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    +1 for secondhand kit - all of mine is bought secondhand. I tend to buy from MPB photographic - always a good service, and only once had a lens arrive in other than the stated condition. They replaced it with no quibbles. You can find professional quality bodies that are a coupe of generations old in excellent condition for much the same cost as a new entry level dslr kit - for most casual photographers a 1Ds2 will be more than enough camera for what they need, but it is weatherproof, robust, with excellent metering and autofocus systems. Mine lasted through 12 years of heavy use in pretty hostile conditions, and I only got rid of it this year when the shutter started to pack up (reparable, but not economically so)
    On fast zooms, you can get f2.8 zoom lenses - most of mine are. Positives are a nice bright view through the view finder, a really shallow depth of field if I want one, and the ability to open the aperture right up in low light to give a useable shutter speed, and quite often faster autofocus than f4 lenses. Negatives - cost, and weight. To be honest, I'd get away with f4 lenses for most shoots, which are smaller, lighter and cheaper.
    Good quality lenses make much more difference to image quality than the body does, so if you intend to upgrade, by good secondhand glass first.

  9. #9
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    Good point re secondhand!

    I killed one once, before getting the PeliStorm Case. Taking pictures of folk shooting a weir, one came straight at me, shoved camera in bottom of canoe quickly to move out of the way, forgetting that I'd also just come down the weir, taking on water...which promptly flowed back and forth through the camera, and that's all it took to kill it. (it was old and beaten up anyway).



    Another thought prompted by Jim's mention of Sport mode. I use this often. On my Canon 700D its a quick and easy way to take action shots of paddlers of course (I love the way it freezes the waves/droplets, and the fact you get a sequence of rapid shots), but it also works extremely well for wildlife shots, such as birds etc, which tend to be at a distance and not wanting to stay still. The shortened depth of field really helps them stand out, and the clever focus to get them sharp when they're moving. I've got some great images this way. I also know, by doing it so often, exactly how many clicks of the settings knob it needs to go from my normal mode to Sport, so can pretty much do it without looking and in an instant.


    Examples of both uses of Sport:


    Sue (MangyMut) on the Usk. Well, above it really! Then nearly under it....but recovered.








    Swan, Wey Navigation






    Grey Heron, Basingstoke canal



  10. #10

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    Thanks for all the good advice guys - I'm using F4 lenses (18-55mm & 75-300mm). From the canoe I'd assumed I'll largely be using the 18-55mm. I've done a fair bit of motorcycle racing photography and used sports mode plus multi-shot to good effect in circumstances where my skills & reactions just aren't upto setting the camera fully manually.

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