Searching for birds at Long Key State Park
Photography from a kayak is something I always wanted to do and Long Key State Park is an excellent area for kayaking. The park is located on mile marker #67 in the Florida Keys. The park ranger advised not to go into the inside lagoon because low tide was about to drain out most of the water in that area. The wind was calm early that morning but the weather forecast called for winds to increase out of the east. The wind always blows whenever I decide to go down to the Keys. A small friendly shark’s dorsal fin broke the surface of the shallow water while preparing to head out into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. I decided to head east along the southern shore of Long Key. The water clarity was incredible and soon found more sharks and stingrays cruising the flats.
Keep the camera gear protected and tied down
I wrapped the camera and lens in a towel and stuffed it inside a dry bag. I also brought a tripod with a gimbal head. Everything was tied to a safety strap in case I accidentally rolled over. The outgoing tide was exposing a nice shallow grassy flat with birds searching for food. Every time I spotted a bird I wanted to shoot, I had to secure the tripod in place and attach the camera to the gimbal head. Paddling in a kayak requires that I have nothing in front of me so I could not keep the tripod in the right position. I managed to move it forward so I could paddle. If paddling for a short distance without risk of too much splashing, I would keep the camera wrapped in the towel in my lap. If paddling hard for longer distances, the camera had to go back on the dry bag. Getting the camera in and out of the bag and securing it to the tripod’s gimbal head became a bit of a project. A couple of times I spotted ospreys flying around and I wanted to capture an image of them in flight. As soon as I removed the camera from the tripod and lifted it up to my eye level, my center of gravity was raised and I felt the kayak become unstable. I tried to keep control but lifting and swinging around those almost 7 pounds of camera gear in order to follow a flying bird kept throwing my balance off. I could not do it. The camera had to stay on the tripod. The wind increased later that morning and the sun was too high so it was time to get out of the water. I now understand that all weight must be minimized so I will use a lighter tripod with a smaller ball head. A larger dry bag or a Pelican hard case could make it easier to get the camera in and out.