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Top Tips for better paddling photos

This week’s blog article has been written by guest author Tom Clare. Tom is a well known photographer and kayaker in UK kayaking circles. If you have attended a UK kayaking event in recent years or even just paddle at HPP regularly you have more than likely had your photo taken by Tom. Tom is a professional photographer but his real passion for photos lies in extreme sports. So I have asked Tom to write a guest article about his top tips for getting better paddling photos. Enjoy!

Hi, Tom here! Taking photos is my thing and taking photos of paddling is what makes me happy. I wanted to share a few simple things you can do to improve your photos so here are my ‘top tips’.

Composition

  • Think about what you are trying to show with the photo. Do you want to focus on the paddler themselves, or the paddler in their environment? We often kayak in truly spectacular places, so it often pays to show them off.
  • Try to fill the frame with interest. This could be the paddler, or their environment.
  • Give the paddler room to move into in the photo. This means that often they won’t be dead center in the image.
  • Think about lines that draw you into the image, as well as other shapes that work well with the subject and background
The lines made by the rocks perfectly frame the paddler and the drop // River Nevis
  • Get the face! It’s easier to connect with a photo that shows someone’s face. Often people pull silly faces as well, which can be rewarding in its own right!
  • Experiment with angles. Try getting low to make drops look bigger, or look for unique points of view that would be hard for non-paddlers to get to.
  • Think about the framing. This is everything that surrounds your ‘subject’, in this case, the paddler!
I love the angle in this photo, also that Lewis played up for the camera! // River Tees

Lighting

Think about how the light (normally the Sun) affects your photos. Try to have the photo lit up without any shadows. If you’re taking photos on a phone, try experimenting with its auto-HDR features, as that can help deal with big differences in brightness.

The light coming through the mist gives this photo an ethereal look // River Mellte

Predict the paddling

One of the most important things to do is to try to think ahead about what will happen. Things in kayaking happen super quickly, so you can often only have one attempt to get a photo. It pays off to think ahead about what paddlers might do, as that means you can be in the right place at the right time to get the shot

Predicting paddlers is crucial for freestyle photos, as the moves are over in a second // HPP

Technique

  • Try to hold the camera steady!
  • If your camera has a sports mode, try turning it on. This will normally force it to use a faster shutter speed, making for a sharper photo
A different view of an often photographed drop on the Etive, with a very dynamic paddler!
  • Watch out for water on the lens, the spray from rapids and drops can quickly fog it up
  • If you are taking a camera on the water, look after it. For a larger camera, I’d recommend a watershed, they are expensive but fantastic. For a phone, a waterproof case is a good idea.

The key thing above all else is to practice. As you take more photos you’ll improve on your timing and knowing what to expect. A lot of these tips also apply to video, which is something that people often forget. Remember that a good photo comes from the photographer, not the equipment!

Del here – just to say thanks for the top tips Tom! Above is a rare photo I got of Tom on the water and not behind the camera last year on the Erme. Following Tom’s tips – I was quite pleased with this one!

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