Money well spent

smutphone image of sunrise and The Girlfriend on Jordan Lake
… or at least, so far. I doubt I’ll be regretting it.

The Girlfriend and I take the kayaks out every once in a while, so far only on Jordan Lake (though they’ve been out at both North Topsail Island, NC and Murrell’s Inlet, SC,) and the biggest frustration that I have with this – still admittedly minor – is that I have no decent way of capturing images or video of any of the things that we see out there. This has included bald eagles, herons, egrets, osprey, kingfishers, and even a surprisingly mellow green heron that appeared to be following my kayak from a minimal distance (like down to four meters.) I don’t trust the good camera equipment in a kayak, not to mention that the stowage would be difficult. So I was simply using the $25 smutphone in a waterproof case, and you know how I feel about smutphones; this impression did not improve in the slightest during my uses of it for these forays.

smutphone image of bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus in tree on Jordan Lake
So the question was, what to do about it? While I would love to carry the serious lenses along, that’s way too risky with a kayak that might overturn (or even that collects drips from the paddles within.) I started looking at the waterproof ‘skin-diving’ bags that are available, but they would at best allow only a shorter lens, and there was still the issue of where to put it in a single-person kayak. I finally decided to get a dedicated underwater camera, one with the longest focal length I could find, and had that narrowed down to three different models, weighing options against price and how often I might be using it. The deciding factor came when I found the best model available used for a decent price, so I picked up a Ricoh WG-60, which also has macro capability, should I find myself pursuing macro subjects underwater (instead of using the macro aquarium.)

likely pin oak tree in shallows of Jordan Lake
Its first real test came yesterday afternoon, when The Girlfriend and I did an outing on Jordan Lake – the tree seen here may appear from time to time later on, because I like it and may do more experiments other than the quick pass that we did.

But the real find wasn’t a tree. While watching a great blue heron on the banks, I saw a branch behind it bounce violently, way out of proportion to the wind or an average sized bird, and I suspected a green heron or something larger, so we kept our eyes on it as we drew closer. The video tells it better.

We’re pleased with that, for sure – The Girlfriend has been gushing, actually. And this is probably the second-largest specimen that I’ve seen, quite impressive.

The zoom range isn’t significant, topping out at 140mm equivalent – not ideal for the eagles and so on, and it doesn’t quite have the quality of my other cameras, though this may improve with some setting and focus tweaks. I was just noodling around with it yesterday.

osprey Pandion haliaetus perched in tree at Jordan Lake
We were so busy watching the beaver that we missed an osprey in a low branch almost directly overhead, until it gave an irritated alarm chirp and took off. I had watched it fly around the point, though, and was ready as we rounded the bend to get this photo, though I was a tad slow on switching to video to capture it taking off again.

Like my other attempts at video, I still need to work on some things like maintaining a steady and level camera, avoiding any handling of the body while recording, and so on. Some of that will be unavoidable when I’m shooting from a bobbing, rotating kayak – the kayak retains the momentum of the last paddle stroke and will keep gradually turning in that direction, having already made me twist around in the seat to maintain a subject in the viewfinder (both of the smutphone and now of the camera.) Finding the best way to carry it will also be a project; a belt pouch is out, and even my pocket was tricky, since the sides of the kayak are narrow, and in the well between my knees or in the next-to-unusable stowage bin behind the seat are too awkward. The wrist strap would just make it bang against the sides as I’m rowing, so it will likely be an armband on my left bicep. We’ll see.

But yeah, even though I always push technique over equipment, any day of the week, sometimes getting the right equipment is what’s needed.

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