SAVVY TRAVEL

Florida Photo Adventures from a Kayak

You can jump-start your love of both photography and the outdoors on a minimal budget. Kayaking with a camera combines natural glamour and healthy exercise when you take pictures in Florida's Intercoastal Waterway.

Equipment: A $300-$400 plastic kayak works fine for inland water recreation. I got my first one off "Craig's List". Sporting goods stores often discount last year's models. If asked, a sales person may tell you if/when a particular boat is going on-sale. However, a kayak shorter than 10ft. long won't track - stay in a straight line, very well. You'll enjoy your kayak better if it has foot pegs, a paddle clip and cup holder. Also, make sure your kayak has a drain plug and a waterproof, sealable storage compartment.

Because you handle camera equipment, drip cups attached onto your double-blade paddle are a "must". To prepare for any possible splashing when you're on the water, make sure your waterproof camera bag can be quickly-closed. A soft insulated cooler with zip-close top works well, for around $10. You'll definitely have to do some walking in the water, so beware of (sharp) oyster beds. Wear water shoes, not flip-flops.

Handling: Kayakers learn to respect all boat wakes. As a wake approaches you, navigate through it with your boat's bow at a 45 degree angle. Keep your body weight inside your kayak. Leaning far out from the cockpit to reach for something can be a sudden, rolling experience. (My wife taught me that, as part of a highly-visual demonstration.)

Camera accessories: A 75mm to 300mm zoom lens can pull in birds, passing boats, and shorelines easily from 100 ft. away. If there are vibration reduction and autofocus controls on the sides of your lens, routinely check to make sure these features haven't been accidentally bumped/switched-off when you quickly stashed your camera. Also, add a polarizer to control intense glare from the water.

Subjects: My favorite photo-ops are agitated large birds and expensive large boats. A picture of a stationary osprey has a certain limited appeal. But continue to paddle and then drift towards the bird and it may flap its wings and pace nervously. Now you've got a more-interesting photograph. Find a pelican rookery on a sandbar and let the current carry you towards it, with your camera in the ready-to-shoot position. As the birds get alarmed, they'll display some great ballet-like movements, while you crank out six or seven frames of exciting images. Don't forget the world of super-close-ups, where a macro lens can turn a floating egret feather into a giant, fluffy multi-plumed spectacle of nature.

I love to photograph large cruisers and motor-sailers. Spring on the Halifax River brings out the "RYHNs". ("Rich Yankees Heading North") You can catch up with these envied ships where the channel directs them under a bridge. Drift alongside and your big lens can practically crawl into their wheelhouse. (It's fun to spot an occasional "trophy wife"!)

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