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Sea Kayaking Photography: How to Shoot on the Water

Posted on Mar 17, 2015 by Erin Bastian

Who knew you could combine cameras with the ocean and get a fantastic outcome rather than drowning a very expensive piece of technology?


Sea Kayaking Photography; How to Shoot on the Water

Spot the paddler. Huge sea stacks on the coast of Papa Stoer, Shetland.

After losing my first two cameras to a surprise attack from a freak wave and then a devastating slip of the hands resulting in a slowly sinking birthday present, I thought that photography and sea kayaking were not to be friends. Today it doesn’t have to be this way.

Wilderness Guide and paddling guru, Erin Bastian shares her top tips to Sea Kayaking Photography; How to Shoot on the Water.

Some of my best and most magical pictures I have taken from my kayak. In this article I hope to give you some top tips on how to capture great images from your kayak, where on the Scottish coastline I recommend for capturing stunning pictures and what camera will stand up to the test of the sea.

Magic Moments to Capture

When sea kayaking around the coast of Scotland, exploring the islands and lochs that create one of the best sea kayaking locations in the world, I never fail to find new things to photograph. The Scottish coastline can provide an avid photographer with atmospheric landscapes, dramatic lighting and dominating scenery. Yet for those just wanting to capture their best holiday moments it can also provide incredible wildlife encounters, fun filled action shots and a wild and beautiful landscape you can remember forever.


Sea Kayaking Photography; How to Shoot on the Water (5)

Minke whale surfacing near a paddler, Small Isles.

Scotland is an amazingly rich environment for wildlife. The sea kayak is a very nature-friendly craft that silently glides through the water, giving you an unlimited pass to hidden coves and islands. This makes sea kayaking a great way to capture wildlife up close.

You can regularly come off the water with a close up image of a hunting otter or sunbathing seal. I love capturing a soaring eagle or filming a gymnastic dolphin display. No other sport has allowed me to get so close to nature whilst being in such a diverse environment.

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Sea Kayaking Photography; How to Shoot on the WaterI have traveled all over the world with my kayak, and yet Scottish scenery is a winner for me. On a sea kayaking trip it’s possible to access dramatic coastlines riddled with towering sea arches and never ending caves. Kayakers get to view the world from a completely different perspective, on a calm day paddling close to steep cliffs allows you to look straight up the 50m of vertical rock face.

The light of Scotland can be subtle and soft, the colours continually changing with the seasons. Pure white sandy beaches with only your footsteps and crystal clear waters make photos easily good enough to frame and put up on your wall.


Sea kayaking is a sport and the opportunity for snapping moments of excitement and adrenaline are two a penny. Have your camera ready and you will get a perfect profile picture or a ‘check me out’ selfie to take home and make your friends and family green with envy of your adventurous holiday. Capture your island adventures, your kayak handling skills and have evidence of those waves you mastered. I know as a guide I love looking back at the huge grins of my clients as they feel the real buzz you get from being on the sea.

Where is best to go?

With 11,800km of coastline and over 800 islands, Scotland has so much wilderness to offer any adventurer or photographer its hard to say where would be best to go. I will however give you my own personal top three spots for photogenic opportunities.


Sea Kayaking Photography; How to Shoot on the Water

White sands and turquoise sea of Arisaig.

A little village on the west coast with a hidden gem sitting just off its coast. If you paddle out from Arisaig village through Loch Nan Ceal towards the Small Isles you will soon discover a world which could be found in the tropics. At low tide you will be greeted by crystal clear waters full of underwater life ranging from rare pink corals, star fish and sea urchins to elusive otters fishing and playful young seals happily following your boat. Landing on your own deserted island with sand banks that connect you to a dozen others during a very low tide is an explorers dream. Not only are these little islands and skerries teaming with wildlife and underwater gems but they have a dramatic backdrop consisting of the Isles of Rum, Eigg and Muck. On a clear day you can even look over to the Isle of Skye and see the whole of the impressive Cuilin ridge. (Click here to see detials of our Arisaig Sea Kayaking trip).


Sea Kayaking Photography; How to Shoot on the Water

Cavernous sea stacks of Shetland

An Island that sits at the very top corner of the UK which is almost closer to Norway than Scotland. A rugged land that is exposed to the North Seas and a small refuge that often sits in the centre of raging storms. This amazing place is one of the locations I would love to explore more. The dramatic cliffs dominate the coastline. Caves and zawns create endless nooks and crannies to explore and for a island so out there, it is home to an incredible range of wildlife. Birds take over the cliffs during breeding season making these towering rocky faces into a city of bustling new life. The exposure of the islands can make it difficult to catch the right weather to navigate the coast by kayak, but if you catch those special days then you will hardly want to put your camera down. (Click here to see details of our Shetland kayaking adventure).

The Summer Isles

Sea Kayaking Photography; How to Shoot on the Water

A small collection of Islands which sit off the North West coast in the impressive Assynt region of the highlands. These islands are a haven for wildlife creating a natural harbour which can be explored no matter what the weather. Cathedral cave which sits on the south western corner is big enough to house a dozen kayakers all at once. These islands look out over the North Minch and on a clear day you can look out to the isles of Lewis and Harris. A world class sunset can be captured as the sun drops over the group of little islands directly into the sea. After living here for a summer I can say that no sunset ever looks the same and I have spent many unbelievable evenings wild camping on the islands, watching the sun sinking into the sea and seeing the incredible colours that stretch across the sky. (Click here to see details of our Summer Isles kayaking adventure).

So I hope this has given you some inspiration and ideas on capturing some stunning shots while out on the water. Stay tuned to the blog as I will be sharing my thoughts on the best camera for Sea Kayaking Photography in my next article.

Do you have any other tips or shots of your own you can share? Feel free to share them on our social media channels!

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