I love photography, I love the outdoors and I love kayaking. What do you get when you put all three together in one place? Amazing photos, fun kayaking and life changing adventures. I’ve always heard when you are doing something you love it will never feel like work. I experienced that for ten years as a naturalist/kayak guide in the Florida Everglades and Coastal Rhode Island. During this time I fell in love with photography from a kayak in those awesome places. Every time I went out with my camera I was always rewarded with both flora and fauna opportunities to grace my viewfinder.
When you are in a kayak you can get to places that others will never have the opportunity to reach. The wildlife seem to tolerate me much more from a quiet slow moving boat. Mainly because you can be as noninvasive as you want to be. I recall one experience when two young Spoonbills flew by me in the opposite direction. My first thought was to react to my excitement, and follow the birds. I delayed just long enough to be rewarded as they returned to land just beyond me. Slowly gliding towards them, they allowed me to get very close and stabilize my kayak to begin photographing. Their fluffy white feathers were downy with a slight pink sheen as they preened themselves on a branch just above the water. I was so involved snapping off shots before I knew it fifteen minutes had slipped away as I slowly drifted down stream leaving them undisturbed. This experience was most likely one of a kind and never repeated.
Alligators are one of my favorite subjects to photograph from a kayak. It is such a privilege to experience them up close and personal. Observing an alligator swimming in an area not much wider than your kayak is so exciting you can never forget this experience. When you’re in their backyard, being slow and easy they will behave the same way they would without you. Their reflections on the beautiful black water can create mesmerizing photos. My favorite gator pictures are when I see the hatchlings sleeping on their mom’s back in the warm sunlight. Sometimes you get lucky and catch a gator yawning so big, you're shocked to realize you are looking at eighty teeth through your camera lens. One of my best photos was during mating season when I saw my favorite female, Big Momma, cuddling with Bull, her much larger male mate. If you didn’t know better it almost looks like they are smiling.
While in Rhode Island I almost always got pictures of fantastic sunrises, sunsets and full moon rises. These were always very special times to be out on the water. There were always plenty of good birding pictures along the Narrow River. Bald Eagles and hawks, gulls and terns, cardinals and sparrows, snowy egrets, green heron’s and the fish eating machine, double crested cormorant. The most memorable times were when the Osprey would be hovering over the water fifty feet above you. Diving straight down slamming into the water talons first, going completely under the water. Then coming up suddenly, wings immediately flapping as the water pours off with a fish struggling to free itself. Be ready to photograph as your kayak sinks lower than the surrounding cordgrass during low tide. As you round the marsh creek bend, you may find yourself eye level with a squawking great blue heron scolding you for your intrusion.
In Big Cypress National Preserve when the wildlife was not plentiful the flora was magnificent. There was always something in bloom no matter the time of year. Of course everyone always raves over the wild orchids. They are unusual and fun to see in their natural habitat, but there’s plenty of other cool looking flowering plants. The water lilies and swamp lilies are always stunning on the river. When the bromeliads are blooming, the multiple colors are beautifully strewn through the mangrove tunnels where the epiphytes cling to the tree branches with their hair like roots. The old man's beard, (Spanish Moss), scattered around with the resurrection fern complement the flowering plants with their unique shapes and texture.
Are you starting to get the picture now, why photographs from a kayak in the wilderness are so appealing. The rewards are endless, because the peace, calm and serenity will melt your stress away. These life changing events will extend your existence more than you know. Now grab a camera and paddleon.