Getting great photos and video from your kayak

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Get some action, not just a grip and grin

As Printed in Pacific Coast Sportfishing.

For the past 6 years I have had the pleasure of working with some of the best videographers and photographers in the industry to make our show. Making a show about kayak fishing would seem to be no harder than making any other fishing show, but let me tell you, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

We have a few unique challenges that we face: We travel to a variety of countries and places, and each one has its own set of rules, power supplies (or lack of), and weather conditions. Kayaks are by nature always wet, which makes it almost impossible to keep gear dry, and finally, unlike on a big boat where the videographer can hover over the anglers shoulder to get the perfect shot. On a kayak, everyone gets spread out, and the person to hook up is always the guy farthest away from the camera.

This month, I thought (with the help of our videographer and photographer Will Richardson) I would give you some tips to get great photos and video from your kayak, and in fact, a lot of these tricks will work from any boat.

The biggest issue you are going to face is waterproofing your gear. In 4 years we have lost a total of 3 cameras to salt water. Water and cameras just don’t mix. For most people it is best to simply invest in a good waterproof point and shoot camera. These days the cost has really come down, and they will give you the freedom to stop worrying about keeping your camera in a watertight box, and just have it ready to take a shot. I personally always keep my Canon Poweshot D20 camera in my PFD with a float attached. Our pro photographers need better cameras, and as of yet they don’t make DSLR cameras in waterproof, though they are getting pretty close. Several of the photographers we have employed an amazing dry bag from Watershed Dry Bags. The lining is padded to protect your camera from banging around in the kayak, and even after being flushed down a serious set of rapids and rolled in the surf, not a drop of water has gotten inside. If you are on a big boat and have the room, a waterproof and padded case from Pelican is a great way to go, but very impractical on a Kayak. The Watershed bag can easily stow away in the bow of the Kayak, or the Rod Pod in our Ocean Kayak Tridents.

If you have a few bucks to invest in gear, another handy piece of gear is a EWA Marine underwater soft plastic housing. They make them for almost any camera, and will allow you to take shallow underwater shots, as well as keep taking photos or video in very rough conditions with your high end cameras.

Most people don’t have to travel as much as I do, so this is not as large an issue. But if you are taking a trip to somewhere exotic to fish, you will want to take a lot of shots, and nothing is worse than catching the big fish, only to find you are out of power and can’t take home the proof. Sounds simple, but always remember to bring a spare battery and memory card, and always, research the type of power/plugs you are going to encounter in the host country.

If there will be no power on your trip, such as a back country or long distance camping trip, there are a few great power solutions. Huge leaps in the quality of solar power have allowed us to charge up big production cameras and even laptops while we are away from the juice for more than 6 days at a time. Goal Zero has ended most of our power issues when at remote locations with a variety of solar panel and backup battery options.

Last issue is how to capture the moment when the moment hits. One thing I know is that it can be very tough to predict when a fish is going to bite. It is almost impossible to be there to get the cool hook up shot, or to snap a pick of that topwater explosion. The only solution is to have a camera running all the time. I have talked about a few options in the past, but this year we started using the new VIO POV HD helmet cam. This bad boy is compact, lightweight and super high quality HD. It comes with a tethered control and view screen which means that unlike its competitors, I can actually see what I am shooting! Huge bonus; it has a very good waterproof mic, which isn’t muffled by a housing like the one on the GoPro’s we were used to using over the last few years. In the words of the people at VIO “The other guys cameras are great and appeal to the point and shoot crowd, our cameras appeal to the guy that wants more control of the image and shot layout”

Another option for great stills and decent video on the water is your run of the mill iPhone…Now is when you say “But Jim! You are talking madness, I am not gonna bring my iPhone on my kayak!” Well I have great news for you, Lifeproof has a fully functioning waterproof case for the iPhone 4. I have seen it, I have tested it, and it works. You can still use the whole phone, including the camera, in or out of the water. They also have a floating Lifejacket, which protects your phone when dropped and makes sure the iPhone will float if you drop it off your yak.

As far as how to get the best looking shot of your fish… well here are a few secrets I can pass along from my photographer friends.

1) Shots of you holding a limp fish and smiling are never as cool as one of you fighting, landing or dealing with a fish. Hand your camera off to a friend and get him to shoot the action, not just the result (Thanks Kendal Larson) 2) Fill the frame! People want to see the fish, not a ton of water, fill the picture with you, the fish, the kayak and get as close to the action as possible (Thanks Paul Lebowitz.) 3) Prepare for the action! The ultimate fighting shot has both the angler and the fish in it. Either shoot over the anglers shoulder, get in front of the fight so you can hopefully get a shot of the fish jumping in front of the angler, or shoot very wide so that the angler and the potential fish are both in your frame. (Thanks Will) 4) Shoot lots! With modern digital cards, you can just delete the junk later, the more shots you take the better chance you have at a winner. With video, never stop shooting, and keep your focus on the fishing (best jump shots are always lost because the camera man gets distracted and looks away) 5) When you do have jumping fish or good topwater action put your camera on rapid fire, this eliminates some of the digital lag and ensure you get the shot of the fish in the air not just the splash.

To finish off, a bit of light editing on your video and your pictures will go a long way to making the best impact when you show them off. You want to keep those YouTube videos short. (unless it is a big marlin with nonstop action) Chop em down and focus on the best action from the fight YouTube viewers don’t seem to stick around for the long videos. I love watching fishing videos but a ten minute video of you just pumping and winding gets boring real quick. If you can get the hook up, some of the fighting and then the landing, unless the fish is a real jumper or thrashing on the surface all of this should make for a video of three minutes or less. For Photos, delete any and all shots that are out of focus, or badly framed right off top. It will make it easier to pull out the best shot later. I usually do very little editing after the fact, just find one that is in great focus that shows the fishing action the best, then maybe pump up the saturation and brighten up the shadows a little if it was a really sunny day.

I hope this helps you get the next cover shot or million view YouTube video. I would love to see them. You can always post your catches at our Facebook page for the Kayak Fishing Show. You can view some of our videos on our YouTube Channel Kayak Fishing Tales

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2 comments

  1. Great article Jim. I guess you really don’t have 6 camera men and 3 support boats. Iknow you work your a$$ off out there for us. I thank you for what you do and how extremely well you do it. I have to tell you that you’re the top man in a kayak as far as I’m concerned. I’ve learned a lot in my two years of kayak fishing and 70% was from you. The rest was trial and error. I knew how to fish from a boat. But, OMG I only fish from a boat when there’s no other choice. I’m retired early and kayak fishing is my life now. Kentucky has more navigable waters than any other state in the nation. I’m having the time if my life getting into places where no man has gone before. You give me boldness. Even your video with waders in the swimming pool changed my way of thinking. Thanks Jim! Stay safe and never forget your PFD. For us. We want you around a long time.

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