photography on the river
in different ways. I always bring a camera. Quite often I'll only shoot
rapids we are scouting or portaging. Even if there is no reason to get
out of the boat I keep my eyes open
for good light
or different angle. If something special is happening with the light
I'll ask to stop. Thankfully most of the people I paddle with are very
Daydreaming during dry spells I'll think of shots that might work on my
favorite rivers and write them down. This leads to
another mode getting
one or two
planned shots at locations
noted on previous trips. I like to warn people that I'll want to stop
for one or two shots during the run. For these shots I'll often bring a
specific lens I woudn't normally carry.
Kayak photography is about
telling a story through the photo. The story I like is suspense.
What's about to happen? Where is he going? I also love the beauty of
rivers and natural landscape. Because of this I often shoot from
behind. From behind we see the the kayaker first, then look at where
they're going. From the front it's generally the reverse and harder to
connect with the subject of the photo; the kayaker.
The best shot is
never from your
boat and rarely from river
level. Getting a good angle requires hiking.
There should be
some empty space in
the image. This gives the subject room to breath. That room to breath
should generally be in front of where the kayaker is going. By giving
room to move into you're
giving them the future to move into and creating a sense of drama with
the unknown. If there is space behind them it's obvious they already
made it through that
section - no drama.
Don't tilt the
camera to make a
drop look steeper than it is, this is
always obvious and looks tacky. Ditto fake tilt-shift effects in
If you have the
a lot. Try a different angle or zoom setting for every person that
runs the rapid. It's a quick way to learn a lot about what works.
To maximize the
height of a drop,
shoot from downstream but standing
at the same height as the lip of the rapid/falls. This tends angle
tends to be a little over used, but you can keep it creative by
avoiding the cliche of cropping to just the drop.
Level with the
lip shot of Craig Kleckner, but zoomed out enough to get some of the
environment on the McKenzie River in Oregon.
Nikon D700, Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 1/1000 f/4 ISO 800
distracted by just the
rapid. Take in some of the
scenery too, the beauty of river canyons is what first attracted me to
whitewater, and something that can be shared by all viewers.
The rule of thirds
is one of
the most well known. I'm really not a big fan of it. In general I just
try to keep the subject out of the very center of the image, but this
can be up to interpretation because in a whitewater photo, just what is
the subject, the scenery or the paddler?
Wide angle lenses
are not about
taking it all in. They are about getting close to your subject and
still capturing the environment.
I'm about seven
Thomas Moore while shooting this photo on South Silver in California.
Sony A99, Minolta
17-35mm f/2.8 @
24mm 1/800 f/5.6 ISO 400
I try to look for
a fairly even mix
light and medium tones in the composition.
Classical advice for
photography says to avoid objects in the
foreground, but photographs are a 2d rendition of a 3d subject. I like
foreground objects because they give depth, but try to avoid anything
busy like bushes or tree limbs.
doesn't have to be a big waterfall. Daniel Brasuell on Callaghan Creek,
If you repeat runs
often, go for quality over quantity. Try to visualize what a compelling
an image on that river might be. Plan to skip the shots you already
have and spend some extra time hiking for one unique shot, or leave
in your camera bag for an uncommon lens.
On Upper Cherry in
brought a rarely used super wide lens, and most of the shots from the
trip didn't work well, but this one of Garrett Brown did. Nikon D200, Sigma
10-20mm @ 10mm 1/750, F8, ISO 200
lines. The human eye
likes to follow lines
and there are different types of lines.
Here the obvious
seam of rock pulls
the eye to Yoshi Takahashi on Upper Cherry Creek.
Sony NEX-6, Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G @ 1/1000 f/1.8 ISO 100
Frame with the
surroundings. One of the keys to good photograph is not only a
compelling subject, but that a composition that doesn't
allow the eye to wander off the image.
framed by the
foliage in Japan. Yes I'm ignoring my own
guide with busy
Sony NEX-5N, Nikkor-S 5.8cm f/1.4 @ 1/1250 f/2.8 ISO 400
The best images
are a combination
of elements. While the whitewater in this shot has nothing in common
above image of Garrett Brown on Upper Cherry, photographically they are
strikingly similar. A wide path of water starts at the bottom of the
image and flows to the center, narrowing as it goes, drawing the eye
in. This is helped by the darker rock framing the whitewater.
Rok Sribar on the Rio Baker in Chile.
Nikon D600, Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 @ 1/640 f/5.6 ISO 400
Note how many of these images have water flowing up from the bottom and
winding into the distance. Like the classic road diminishing shots, it
pulls you in on the San Joaquin River in California.
Nikon D200, Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 @ 1/1000 f/5.6 ISO 100