Friday, April 26, 2019

Canoes & Cameras

Why canoes and cameras? This week I sold one of my canoes, a 14.5' tandem that we haven't used in years. Diane can't get in and out of it because of knee problems and it is too much canoe for just me. I have 3 (yes, three) solo canoes. More on that in a bit.

The camera part comes in because I was reading Kirk Tuck's* posts about his fond memories of a Canon G10 that he used to own and had just gotten another one that he was using yesterday. I owned a G10 for several years and a lot of the early posts to this blog were shot with it. Although it was prone to noise at ISOs above 400 it was a great little camera that would fit in a jacket pocket or a small waist pouch for hiking. That's where mine was when I fell into Indian Pass Brook several years back and the waist pouch wasn't waterproof. I sent the camera off to Canon and they offered to swap for a G11 in lieu of repair which I agreed to but the photo above was shot with the G10 while canoeing some time prior to its watery demise.

When canoeing with cameras I keep the camera(s) in a Pelikan box except when I am actually shooting and use a wrist strap as insurance against dropping the camera. Like Kirk, I have a fondness for the early G series Canons. I was disappointed when they stopped putting the articulating screen on them. The optical viewfinder is next to useless. I often shoot from odd angles and found the articulated screen helpful even in bright sun at eye level because I could turn it slightly downward to cut reflections. The G11 also has that style screen but my G11 needs repair and I have been debating whether it is worth the expense. I have looked at the Olympus Tough series, in particular, the TG-5, since they support RAW which was the main attraction of the G10/G11 for me. The TG-5 doesn't have an articulated screen which is understandable since it is waterproof to 15 meters. I don't think there is any way they could seal the swivels on an articulated screen but waterproof would be nice for canoeing (no further falls in the brook are planned) and it has 4K video which brings me to my latest notion that I 'might' try my hand at vlogging on my hiking/canoeing/photography outings. That is still very much in the formative idea stage. Among other things, I'd need to learn video editing before diving in, figuratively speaking.

About those 3 solo canoes; I have a 12' Native watercraft, an Old Town Pack canoe and a Hornbeck. Each has its good points. The Native Watercraft is stable. The aluminium framed mesh seat (very comfortable) is on the floor. You sit with your legs out in front of you kayak style. Because there is no deck, you can get awesome leg sunburns if you are foolish enough to wear shorts. BTDT. It has a tunnel hull that was designed with fishermen in mind. They advertise that you can stand up and cast from it and I have been assured by a couple of people much younger and more agile than I that it can be done. I have had the canoe for 12 years and have had neither the occasion or the nerve to try standing in it, but the stability makes it great for photography on the water. The hull itself is extremely tough plastic. I have shot over beaver dams in it going downstream. It is the heaviest of the three at around 50#.

The Old Town Pack canoe is one I lusted after for years and I finally bought the last one that Mountain Man in Old Forge had when Old Town discontinued that model because they couldn't get the hull material anymore. It is a traditional style canoe with a seat hung several inches off the floor of the hull and you sit up on the seat with your legs in front of you or tucked (one or both) under the seat or kneel with your butt against the seat. That (for me) is its main attraction, the ability to vary my position. As my doctors occasionally remind me, I'm old and if I sit, stand, whatever in one position too long I stiffen up painfully. I have literally rolled or crawled out of canoes after 2 or more hours on the water because I wasn't able to shift my position in the boat. In spite of that, as I thin out my belongings the Pack canoe will likely be the next to go in the thinning out process.

I won the Hornbeck in a raffle. Its main attraction is weight. It weighs all of 18#. The seat is nothing more than a slab of foam glued to the bottom and a pad for your back on the thwart. I may enlarge that back pad. It's a bit small. I wasn't at all sure I would be able to get in/out of it but Peter Hornbeck has some videos online showing how to get in and out of his boats from either the shore or a dock and his method works. It isn't as stable as the Native Watercraft and is less spacious for my camera box but it is a delight otherwise and beautiful to look at.

In the end, if you want a recommendation of a boat for photography I'd have to say the Native Watercraft is the clear winner. The other two are great in their own ways and the Hornbeck is much prettier, but the stability, durability and space make the Native Watercraft (IMO) the best for photography on the water.


  1. I enjoyed reading this, Jim. You are a much more serious (and better) photog than I, and I appreciate your wonderful work. Both of my water mishaps happened on land, but I do chance taking my Pentax out in the canoe, an 18' Wenonah that requires two paddlers. We don't do anything daring, mostly because of my phobia of setting foot in murky waters. Going over a beaver dam would give me the willies! That said, I greatly admire and appreciate what you do. Thanks for this post.

  2. Thank you for the compliment. When I shot over the beaverdam I was with a friend who was in a plastic kayak but he didn't dare try to shoot over the dam so he went to shore and got out to carry around it. He was wearing "Wellies" (rubber chore boots) so that he could step out in the water close to shore but he misjudged and got his boots full of water. He had to take them off and pour the water out. Sadly, I wasn't quick enough to get a photo of that. I'm sure he was pleased that I didn't.