Monday, May 20, 2013

Kayak Camera: Trip 1

I was not alone on my solo kayaking excursion today.  You're never alone in the outdoors around here.  Mosquitoes and flies are constantly battling your swatting arms, birds are whizzing by, and snakes are hiding among the thousands of species of flora and fauna that may be within a few hundred yards of you.

To get away from the fast water, I hit this calm stretch of a creek for a few minutes.
Today's kayaking was to relax and to get some pictures of, well, basically anything I could find, including animals and the scene.

A kayak is not the best place to have electronics, so I left my camera at home. If kayaking has taught me one thing, it is limit the amount of items on board, because I will spill from time to time.  If being in the outdoors has taught me one thing, it is that a camera is almost a necessity.  I have had so many missed opportunities while being outside without a camera, so I bought a waterproof plastic case last year that houses my cell phone (and of course, its built in camera) while on a boat.  The goals here are to protect my camera from the water, to capture as many great shots as possible with it, and to not miss anything.

I missed a lot today though with it.  It's tough to whip out a phone in a case, that is in your pocket, while you are sitting in the tiny cockpit of a kayak, while your body struggles to keep balance in the dips the ripples that make up the Potomac River.  It's a hard task

I heard a great blue heron's mad call from about 30 yards ahead.  It flew away quickly without giving me a chance to fish my pockets for the phone's case for a photo opportunity.  I paddled upstream farther, seeing a large cormorant on a rock.  I got close to it, really close.  There was time to get the phone out of the case that was now sitting in between my knees in the cockpit.

The kayak moved downstream about 5 feet in the time it took me to balance my body, balance the paddle, get in my pocket, grab the case, open the case, and turn the phone's camera setting to the "on" position.  I put the camera down, now exposing it to the air (and possibly water, if I capsized), grabbed the paddles again, and worked fast to gain the 5 feet that I lost when the kayak became a subject of the swift current a few seconds earlier.

I couldn't believe how close to this bird I was, and just as soon as I thought that, it flew away.  I was maybe 2 seconds away from taking its picture, and it was gone.  On to the next subjects!

By this time, a friend of mine was on the water as well.  He came up to me and we shared stories of the river, work, and animals.   We came up to a large slab of stone.  It was composed mostly of metagraywacke (if you even care to know about that sort of thing).  A large northern water snake was basking the stone's silvery surface.  We saw one more on it, then another, then another!  There were 4 snakes on it in total, 1 moved off and glided into the water.  Another snake got spooked as well, and moved towards our kayaks that were now touching the rock.  The beast went right on my friend's kayak, but didn't go near the cockpit or his body, and eventually went into the water when the kayak made menacingly wicked turns and clunked along another rock.

Northern water snake on the top, left of this rock.
Another snake on the rock heard the commotion and slid into the water as well.  I took a few pictures of the remaining water snake, and it too, slid off the rock and into the quick waters of the Potomac.

We passed by turtles, more cormorants, and about a half-dozen or so squawking, great blue herons. The biggest disappointment of the day came from missing a picture of a bald eagle that flew right above us.

If that is the biggest disappointment of the day, then I still call the day a success.  It was a nice day kayaking with the thousands of species of animals that call this area home.

A small, serene tributary of the Potomac River.

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