Picture Perfect Day

I have yet to master the art of capturing photos from a kayak. When I come back from a paddle, I’m often disappointed by how few of the photos meet my expectations. Invariably the photos are out of focus, blurry or have the wrong exposure. It’s a challenge to hold the camera steady with one hand while bobbing around in a tippy boat and holding onto the paddle with my free hand. And then the composition is always changing. I’ll see a potential opportunity forming and by the time I can get the camera in position the scene changes. Then while I’m trying to snap photos my paddling buddies are continuing on their journey. Time to put the paddle back in the water and catch up. And I’m always trying to position myself within the pod to take advantage of the light and composition. Glare on on the viewfinder is another issue, which means I’m more likely to just point and shoot and hope I get something. I like to capture candid moments on the water, water dripping off the paddle blades and the play of light and reflections and clouds. And then there’s the risk of getting water drops on the lens, or worse yet, a smudge of sunblock.

So this past week I decided it was time to master the art of kayaking photography. I use an Olympus TG-5 and on Thursday, November 4, I was determined to see if I couldn’t improve on the quality of the images.

Our launch site was Point Isabel on the east side of San Francisco Bay. One of my paddling buddies suggested this put-in since it is a short drive and I can just sort of fall out of bed and be there. I pulled out of my driveway at 9:02 and parked at the launch site at 9:13. A welcome change from the previous week when I spent two ours getting to our launch site. Our paddle took us to the north end of the jetty on Brooks Island. We had calm water, no wind, and dramatic clouds against a blue sky. Great conditions for photography, with the water offering nice patterns and reflections.

We could see the skyline of San Francisco peeking through the clouds in the distance. We kept our distance going past Bird Rock so as not to disturb the birds.

We were paddling on a high tide, 6.8 feet at 11:40, and as we paddled along we noticed that there appeared to be gaps in the jetty. The tide was so high that it was flooding over the jetty with enough clearance to float our boats. You can see David, riding a little bit of a tide rip over the rocks. We paddled over the jetty and back and continued on to Ferry Point where we stopped for lunch. Then it was back on the water for the return trip. We paddled across the shipping channel and along the inside of the jetty to avoid any shipping traffic. We were back on the beach at Point Isabel at 2:00 having logged 8.5 miles. You can take a closer look at our track here or on the map below. On uploading the photos to my computer, I found that that I had some 424 images! Quite a chore to sort through. But I discovered that the habits I had developed for land-based landscape and architectural photography were hindering my ability to capture photos from a kayak. On land I tend to use a small aperture to maintain a good depth of field. On the water a wider aperture and a high shutter speed seem to work best. I was quite happy with a number of the images. Of the 424 images I captured, I marked 44 as keepers. You can view those photos here. Overall it was a picture perfect day.

Gray Day on the Bay

Gray day on the bay

There were three of us on the April 4 BASK Thursday Lunch paddle. Smaller than our usual paddle. Rain was forecast. We launched under gray skies at 11:00 am from Ferry Point and paddled across the Richmond shipping channel pausing to let a tugboat go by. We then crossed the channel, rounded the end of the jetty and headed east around Brooks Island. We had calm waters for the most part with one foot wind waves and a bit of wind on the South side of Brooks Island with the wind from the Southwest. We saw a few rain squalls on the bay, but we kept dry. We ducked behind Bird Rock at one point thinking we were going to be hit by a squall, but the squall never hit us.

Once around Brooks Island we headed for a little beach inside the jetty at Barbara and Jay Vincent Park where we broke out our lunches.

Once back in our boats we paddled along the Richmond waterfront, past a car transport ship, the Glovis, and then along the waterfront past the Red Oak Victory, a World War II Victory Ship, and on to the Brickyard Cove where we stopped to chat with a friend that has a house on the water. Wildlife on the paddle included several Osprey, numerous shore birds and harbor seals. Our paddle covered 6.7 miles bringing us back to our original launch site. You can see more photos here and view a track of our here.

New Boat on the Water

Saturday, November 11, we managed to get our new boat on the water. The new boat, a Ronan from Pygmy Boats measures in at 14′ 3″ weighing 32 pounds. It’s been in the works since May. The bigger boat is a Pygmy Coho, 17′ 6″, which I have been paddling for 18 years. Joann gave the new boats a hearty thumbs up, saying it felt more stable and tracked better than the Golden Eye she’s been paddling for quite some time.

For our sea trial we launched from Ferry Point in Richmond, paddled out around Brooks Island, where we dallied a bit at Bird Rock to watch the birds and the seals. Then on to a little beach at Barbara and Jay Vincent Park in Richmond where we had lunch. After lunch we paddled along the Richmond Waterfront, where we had a close look at the Red Oak Victory, and then back to our launching point.  Our journey covered just under seven miles. You can view the track of our paddle here. You can also view more photos of our trip here.

Aside from this being Joann’s first paddle in the new boat it was also the first time we had both boats on top or our Fourwheel camper.

Wind in the Rigging

Being a sea kayak, my boat doesn’t have much rigging, just a few deck lines. And today as we rounded Brooks Island a gust of wind hit, creating a howling sound as it raced over the deck. Earlier, at our appointed time of 10:30 the five of us were contemplating the weather. Small craft warnings (isn’t a kayak a small craft?), steady wind of 17 knots with gusts to 25. We decided we’d launch at Ferry Point and paddle along the Richmond waterfront, protected from the northwest wind. With the wind at our backs we paddled up the shipping channel, and across to Brooks Island where we followed the shore. We rounded brooks Island, and it became clear that we had two options, paddle back to the Richmond waterfront against a strong wind, or paddle along the south side of Brooks Island and the breakwater hoping to find a little protection from the wind. Paddling along Brooks Island was a chore, but not too intimidating. We eyed several beaches hoping for a place to stop for lunch, but Brooks Island being a nature reserve, is off limits to visitors, so we continued paddling. After rounding the jetty we headed for fellow kayaker’s house in Brickyard cove, having lunch on Gordon’s new deck, overlooking the yacht harbor.  As we were finishing lunch we noticed that one of our boats had taken off on adventure of it’s own, so we promptly jumped back in our boats, rounded up the rogue boat and paddled back to our launch point. Overall we paddled seven miles, starting out with a wind which eased up a bit as the day went on. More photos here and you can view a track of our paddle here.