TopKayaker.Net's Guide To Nature Issues For Kayakers

Loon Wildlife Viewing & Photography Tips For Kayakers
by Andrew Thompson of Wild Light Images
Some photos were modified for this article. All can be viewed in their original artistic display at: Wildlight Images

Photographing nature begins with a soulful appreciation and respect for the subject, which in turn comes from hours of observation. I hope the insights shared here will contribute to everyone's ability to observe, if not also capture on film, wildlife's most engaging behaviors.

A Love For Remote Places

MooseI can't remember a time in my life when I wasn't fascinated by the beauty and magic of the natural world. Over the years I have found that my love for very remote places has become inseparable from the pleasure of capturing nature's private moments on film.

There is always great anticipation when I venture into places where wild living things are present, and although getting close to them is an exhilarating experience with or without a camera, sometimes the reward is very special.

One day it might be noticing how vivid a blue jay's feathers look against the stark whiteness of snow on an overcast day. Another day it might be the surprise of hearing the breathing sounds of a large moose as it passes by, unaware of my presence.

Drifting Into The Scene

Great Blue HeronAs is true on land, when using my kayak I have found that it is important to approach from upwind and from a distance, working closer and closer, slowly...taking moments to pause...letting myself drift into my subject, ready to observe and hopefully capture the best pose.

I may not take a single photograph, but I am always rewarded with a feeling of freedom and well being to have witnessed the world as a place so in accord with itself.

At first, the birds fly away, the wood frogs stop peeping, and the wood ducks swim to the opposite end of the pond.

But before very long, the drama resumes as though I was invisible, and I find myself totally absorbed in the simple act of observation. These are the kinds of moments that I try to document on film. It is the flavor of wildness that I seek to experience on a personal level, and what I hope to convey and share through my images.

The Best Images

Wood ducksTo get good photographs, I have to act quickly and just can't be stingy on film. Very early in the morning or around dusk is the best time. The light is right and the wildlife are about their routines. I find guide books to be valuable preparation for these efforts in observation. Knowing something about the habitat I will be in and the behavior patterns of the wildlife I may encounter there, truly enhance the experience.

I use a Nikon 35mm with slide film, 100ASA. Telephoto lens attachments are fine, but for me the only really good close ups come from being close: 15 to 20 feet. I love it when I have eye contact. Those make the best pictures.

Sometimes I do use camouflage with my kayak, backed up against some reeds in a wetland, for instance. A large piece of camouflage burlap from an Army Navy store has provided a good cover on many occasions.

To be present and alert when subject, aesthetic appointment, and sunlight come together is the ultimate compensation for the effort. Occasionally this results in an image where the trappings of the process become transparent, leaving the natural world to be glimpsed in a revealing and most satisfying way.

Andrew ThompsonPhotographing the landscapes and life forms of the quiet wild places near my home in Wonalancet, New Hampshire has increasingly become a source of meaningful expression for me.

- Andrew Thompson

Andy's love of photogrphing nature has become a full-time career. He offers photographic prints for sale - matted, or matted and framed, and as greeting card selections. The photos shown here have been modified from the originals.

See the full line of Andy's inspiring photographs on his website at WildLightImages.com.

Related Reading:

Rules Of The Wild by Tom Holtey - How to be mindful of the wildlife we encounter as kayakers and not cause a disturbance that can have detrimental effects on them.

Best Of Our Forum - for a lively helpful discussion of on-water camera protection.

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