Tag Archives: paddling

Photographing close-ups from a kayak

When shooting photographs from a kayak some best close-up shots are made if you approach the shore where there are more details to be found. You can get great pictures with a compact camera by just getting close to the subject and by slowing down.

Shoot upwards from waterline

From a kayak you will reach angles that is difficult to get to by other vessels. Aim to the sky and you might catch nice details of the shoreline rocks.

From below

Reach out at the waterline

Paddle as close to the shoreline and reach out. Use you zoom, keep it steady and shoot. Try not to flip over. These cup lichen were on the top of huge rock. Might get some scratches to your kayak, I usually do.

Cup lichen

See details

Try to see fine details on the surface of water. Slow down while kayaking. I passed these bubbles on the middle of the lake at dusk. Might have been Saimaa ringed seal hiding there underwater.


Find flora

Go amidst the flora at the water. You can get great pictures from different angles. You may have to wait for a while to get surrounding water still around your kayak to get clear reflections.


Take a selfie

To shoot a selfie in a close-up is quite tricky. Balancing your kayak, finding a proper direction of light, zooming and focusing is an interesting challenge on the lake.


Let subjects find you

If distances and kilometers are more important to you in kayaking you will not find settings in the nature. While having a break or just resting your eyes in your environment you might see fine details.

Birch leaf

All pictures on this blog post were taken at several kayaking trips in Linnansaari national park.


10 or more tips for taking photos from a kayak


I will share some points I have learned while taking both my camera and kayak out. I will not talk about the gear that much, or whether to use your DSLR or compact camera (in longer trips I might have DSLR to use while on land) or which kind of cameras are the best. Instead I will go through some hopefully useful practical issues I have encountered while kayaking on flat water in Finland.

Because kayaking itself requires some skills and certain stability, photographing from the kayak requires it even more. So get some basic training on kayaking first before adding photography to it. Raising your camera and trying to look for the best view might make you lose your balance even on still water. These tips can be applied to canoeing also while issues of stability are not as big.

Show your environment
The picture above is probably the most popular scene taken among paddlers when you want to mix two fine hobbies, kayaking and photographing. Put your kayak in the front and to let the rest of the picture tell about the environment you are paddling in. I take pictures like these almost every time I go kayaking, just to remind myself of the overall conditions, the weather, the route and the surroundings. These are the pictures non-paddlers do not often get it but who cares.

You can set the horizon to other point than in the middle depending which part you want to emphasize, the water or the sky. Try different sets and angles, sometimes there’s great light that brings out the sky and not so much the water, and vice versa.

Get some close-ups
It’s easy to just take fast snapshots while on your trip and later find that they are, well, snapshots of distant landscapes and islands. It takes time to stop and find good elements and moments for close-ups. It takes several pictures and usually some luck to have one fairly good picture to show the moment just the way you saw it. For the picture below I took about 10 pictures to capture the right moment against the diminishing light with my compact camera.

Water drop

Leash your paddle
Be sure to put some cord on your paddle and tie it to your kayak. Where ever you set your paddle while photographing, you do not want to see your paddle drifting away accidentally.

Paddle leash

Leash your camera
You do not want drop your camera either so tie it to the kayak or your life vest. I use a thin cord to tie it to my life vest and keep my camera in my vest’s pocket. The cord should be long enough to move your camera to different angles but not too long to get it tangled with everything on board. One way to keep your camera ready is to set it on a small tripod that is tied to the cords of the kayak. Especially handy if you shoot videos but the camera will be exposed to water while kayaking.

Leash your camera

Water droplets on the lense
Check your lenses every now and then since it is very common for moisture and water to stick on the lense while kayaking. Carry a microfiber cloth or tissue papers with you and keep them in a dry place. I carry them in my vest’s pocket which keeps them quite dry and extra ones in a dry pack. Nothing is more frustrating than afterwards discovering  all your pictures with smudges on them (see picture below).

Water drops on the lense

Try another angle
Sometimes setting your camera close to the water and shooting to the back can bring nice results. It takes a little practice to set the camera in the right position and shoot backwards without looking through a viewfinder or LCD screen of your camera. Shoot several pictures to include all elements you want and to get the horizon the way you want.

Try another angle

Shoot fellow paddlers
When kayaking with others be aware of opportunities for special moments. Be quick to paddle to the front and face your subjects. When paddling side by side, shooting from the side takes quick reactions but can produce nice shots.

Shoot fellow paddlers

Avoid midday pictures
Midday light flatten your pictures so try shooting at dusk or very early in the morning. The best moments I have had shooting and kayaking have not been in midday light. At midday you usually have to wear sunglasses that sometimes prevent you seeing LCD screens correctly.

Pictures at dusk

Go to the shoreline
One of the great advantages of paddling is the ability to get real close to the shore and to see things from a low perspective. Seize that opportunity and despite underwater rocks and some scratches to your kayak go and study some details for close-ups. Go where few other boaters can go.

Go to the shoreline

Underwater pictures
Use waterproof cameras while kayaking so you can occasionally set your camera below waterline to see what’s happening underwater. Visibility on Finnish lakes, rivers and sea varies a lot depending on the season and the place. You can also try to place the camera just on the waterline to get the view of both sides as on the picture below.

Underwater pictures

Slow down
Maybe the most important thing I suggest is to slow down once in a while. When you cut the speed, take breaks and let your kayak just float for a while you can observe your environment better and start to see more wildlife. You might encounter rare species like I did on lake Saimaa when I spotted the Saimaa ringed seal on the picture below.


September kayaking in Linnansaari national park

September kayaking is great. Linnansaari national park on lake Saimaa is quite empty. During the days I was kayaking there I spotted only a few boats and two fellow kayakers. At least it was not because of the weather, which was quite warm for the season, still some summer left in it. Not much “ruska” colors yet, some birch trees had already started to turn golden.

Did some nice day trips to the park with barely no wind at all. On some days felt like I had the national park all to myself. I called it real luxury.

Linnansaari island in the distance.

Passing Linnansaari island

Past cliff shores

Water level on lake Haukivesi is quite low at the moment.

Water level in September


Fine sunny September day

Great view to the park from the fire site on Kirvessaari island.

Great view to the national park

Plenty of wood available for campers.

Plenty of fire wood at the fire site

Tent site art.

Tent site art

No wind at all

September evening moisture.

September evening moisture

Still moment

Breathtaking colors

See my other blog posts on Linnansaari national park.

Late evening kayaking in Linnansaari national park

Summer nights are getting shorter but the days are still quite long in mid-July, over 19 hours. I went for a short late evening kayaking, just around the sunset. From the summer cottage it was a short trip to Linnansaari national park.

This is taken at 22:20. Spotted only two boats.

At 22:20 in the evening

At 22:50 there was no one at sight on the other side of the island.

At 22:50

At 23:00 tried to spot a Saimaa Ringed Seal – Saimaannorppa, but this time no luck.

At 23:00

Linnansaari island on the right. At 23:08 it was still quite much of light. Over 4,5 hours to the sunrise at 3:39.

Linnansaari island

See my other blog posts on Linnansaari national park.

Kayaking and polo

Last weekend I was kayking by the shores of Helsinki and happended to spot a kayak polo tournament by the local kayak club of Merimelojat (Seakayakers). Watching the game outside the pitch from my kayak was fun. Though I did not learn all the detailed rules of the game, I noticed that they have two referees and they give penalties. Later I learned that “A player in possession of the ball can be hand tackled by being pushed over on the shoulder or back”.

Kayak polo game seemed to be a very fast team sport where you need to know how to do eskimo rolls, throw and catch the ball and paddle well.

He has it!
Great defence
What a hassle

Kayaking and fauna in Linnansaari national park

Every kayaker knows how easy it is to get close to local animals while kayaking. In areas where you do not visit daily, it is great to observe not so familiar species or even make first encounters with some.

In this summer while kayaking in Linnansaari national park on lake Saimaa in Eastern Finland, I met variety of animals. The king of the water birds, the Black-throated Diver or Arctic Loon (Gavia Arctica), kuikka in Finnish, is a familiar sight on clear waters of Saimaa. At the beginning of August, some of them were already gathering in groups, preparing for migration. For those interested more in arctic loons, check the new, magnificient book with great photos “KUIKKA alkulintu” (in Finnish) by Mauri Leivo.


Another huge bird I observed from quite close while kayaking was an osprey (Pandion haliaetus), sääksi or kalasääski in Finnish. This one had built its nest on the top of a big rock in the middle of the lake and was observing passer-bys from afar while its baby was in the nest.

Osprey’s nest

While trying to avoid disturbing the osprey, 5o meters from osprey’s nest I observed first a beaver swimming by the shore and then its nest.

The highlight of these encounters still was when I saw a Saimaa Ringed Seal (Phoca hispida saimensis), saimaannorppa in Finnish, while kayaking one afternoon. I observed it for a while from my kayak. There are only under 300 individuals left, so it is among the most endagered species.

This individual carried a radiotransmitter on its back. At the local “Fish Day” at the village of Oravi, I met researchers from the University of Eastern Finland, who told that of their research and that 9 seals are “under surveillance” in the area.

This little radiotransmitter is used on baby seals.

Saimaa ringed seal tracker

The seal I met was an older one and was probably quite used to humans because it did not dive away but remained quite close to my kayak. I managed to get some video though I was pretty excited to spot it. Did not want to disturbe it more so I somewhat reluctantly kayaked away.

Fishing from the kayak

Fishing from a kayak can be fun even for a casual angler. I was a fellow kayaker when a brown trout got caught by trolling on lake Haukivesi.

Trying to get the fish out of water is not the easiest part, especially if you have an average kayak, not one designed for fishing. The front hatch was used to transfer the fish to the shore because we were close to it.

Can’t really use this storing technique if angling alone

When you are not angling but paddling, you should fasten your equipment well to your kayak. Under one strap on the deck is not enough while one is busy doing something else like trying to reach chanterelles from the shore without having to leave your boat.

The rod just after being rescued from the bottom of the lake

Another angle to fishing is trying to catch fish with your camera. While I was close to the shore, I noticed this curious perch swimming under my kayak. I put my camera on a monopod and into the water and tried to catch him swimming. How elegant moves.