My two favorite things in life don’t mix. It’s like having two best friends who hate each other. It seems that I’m always forced to choose and then I’m constantly second-guessing my choice. Kayaks + cameras = cata$trophe.
It has to stop. There must be a way for everyone to get along and be happy, and by everyone, I mean me.
After weeks of repairing
a dumb-ass mistake some damage to my kayak, I finally got to take her out for a test-paddle. My camera sneered at me as I grabbed my paddling gear and headed out the door. I put in at the canoe launch here at the Riverside Park in Sebastian and headed north up the Indian River to check out some of the spoils islands.
The boat felt great! No seeps, the skeg was free (for once), and she’s still squirrelly as hell without a load. It was a beautiful warm day with a light breeze. I was back in my happy place! But secretly, deep inside, I was yearning for my camera.
The spoils islands were surprisingly active with bird life considering how close they are to the mainland here in town. I found that many of the spoils islands have developed lagoons within them that can be quite deep and seem to be favorite fishing spots for any boat that can manage to slip in. One of the islands is a rookery with White Pelicans, Brown Pelicans, Great Blue Herons, Osprey, Double Crested Cormorants, Ibis, and Great Egrets all either feeding or nesting. None seemed perturbed at having a kayak enter their lagoon so long as I didn’t move too quickly. Then I saw them. Four Magnificent Frigate Birds in all their beautiful breeding plumage! It looks like they’re preparing to nest, and I will get photos even if I have to get eaten alive by no-see-ums to get them.
Then the sky started looking kind of ominous and the rain began to fall. Meh, no big deal, I headed for my sister’s house for a friendly beach and a bit of a visit.
With visit done and dinner beckoning, I got back on the water. There was still a light shower, but the sun was coming out and a beautiful rainbow formed right over the Sebastian Inlet Bridge. I was kind of wishing I had my camera, but there will be other rainbows, I guess. Then suddenly it came. Torrential downpour! And out there in the river I sat, basking in the incredible beauty. The wind had died and the water had gone glassy just before the downpour. From my vantage point, just a few inches off the water, it was the visual equivalent to the angels singing on high. The evening light illuminated the pattern of the rain drops on the slate-gray surface with dark clouds and a rainbow behind. I needed my camera. This was the image that I wanted to print 40×60 for my living room wall! I’ve been searching for an imaged that moved me enough to want it larger than life and staring at me every day and this was that image and I couldn’t get it! So there I sat. I sat in the middle of the river and tried to be there. To not think, but to simply feel every drop, and smell the salt-rain, and hear the water, and burn it all into the negative of my mind to look at it again and again. Sometimes it’s better to not have a camera.
LOL Right! It’s killing me that I didn’t get that shot! So the rest of the way back to the put-in, all I could think about is how to safely bring my camera with me. You see, it can definitely be done if you have the budget. Or if you’re willing to seriously compromise image quality. A good underwater housing for most DSLR cameras and lenses will cost close to $1500. The other option is a soft-sided waterproof bag made by someone like Aquapac which will probably protect your gear most of the time but is nearly impossible to use for it’s awkwardness and poor image quality. I have one. Have you seen the photos from it? Didn’t think so. Point & shoot underwater cameras have such a limited zoom that I can’t bring myself to even bother. I’m considering getting a sub $200 “bridge” camera (long zooms but no interchangeable lenses) and just risking not using any kind of housing with it. But I’d rather not part with money for a compromise that I won’t be happy with. Yet.
Then as I was nearing the put-in, I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. A pair of dolphins! Yay! I’m always happy to see dolphins. The next time they surfaced, about 75 feet away, I realized that there were actually 5 of them. So there I sat again watching them wander around without any real destination. Then I saw another pod on the other side of me! The next thing I knew, there were somewhere between 15-20 dolphins in the area in 4 separate groups. I took a couple paddle strokes in their direction then just stowed my paddle and sat back and watched. I love it when they zoom across the surface chasing a school of fish, I swear I can see a grin on their face. Sometimes they seem curious about the kayak, it’s long and narrow and quiet and they will often come in for a closer inspection. But not this time. I thanked them for not sneaking up behind me and blowing (I’ve nearly dumped it before when they’ve startled me like that), left them to their dinner, and headed home for mine.