I'm on a boat! With a camera!

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Taking Action Photos from a Boat

When taking action photos from a boat, chances are that not only is your subject moving, but you are also moving -- even if it's just with the current. This movement so close to potentially camera-damaging water calls for some specific techniques and the protection of both your camera and yourself.

First, use your camera settings and stability methods to get your shots off quickly and creatively. For example, to freeze action, compensate with a faster shutter speed and ISO of 300 or faster. Play with your settings and use the reflection of the water for visual interest. Provide a moving subject with lead time while it travels across the frame, and watch the direction of the sun to avoid shadowing your subject.

Second, to steady your camera while taking photos from a boat, try these tips:

  • If you're sitting (maybe when in a canoe), place your elbows on your knees for added stabilization.
  • While rafting or in other freshwater boats, find a spot to take photos while in still water.
  • If you're on a large boat and can use a tripod, go for it. However, a monopod can be a better option. Having just one leg cuts down on how much engine vibrations affect the monopod, and you can set it low in smaller boats.

Keep in mind that the above is worthwhile only if you and your equipment are safe. Watch the weather conditions and take appropriate action. In a canoe, raft or similar boat, use a wrist strap, not a neck strap. Should you capsize, having anything around your neck is dangerous.

To protect your camera, purchase a waterproof case or bag. Since salt is corrosive, clean your camera thoroughly after a saltwater shoot. If your camera falls in fresh water, dry it out and get it to a repair shop as soon as possible. If it falls in saltwater, immerse it in fresh water and get to that repair shop.

With what you've read so far, you might be thinking it's time to head out on an adventure photography trip. First, though, you should also pick up some tips on how to take action photos in low light -- whether it's in the dusk of the day while on your snow shoot, as the sun goes down on the open water or even inside. Swing by the next section to learn more before you grab your gear and jet.