My good friend Glenn Silvia recently invited me to kayak with him on the North River. We put in at the Hanover Canoe Launch on the Indian Head River and paddled more than twelve miles to the spit in Scituate. At the end of a fantastic journey, we took the kayak out at the Driftway Conservation Area on the Herring River.
Along the way we saw many different birds including a kestrel, a common goldeneye, great egrets, phoebes, yellow legs, osprey, red breasted mergansers, common mergansers, and numerous cormorants. In addition to the birds, we also saw a small colony of harbor seals that were sunning themselves on docks near Damon’s Point.
We passed under a number of interesting bridges and paddled by many parks. Traveling down the river offered many new and interesting perspectives. In many cases we were able to see scenes that we had passed by many times before in our cars. Being low on the river in some ways limited our view and in many ways enhanced it. We were able to get close to the birds and habitats that we usually would only see through a telescope or binoculars.
For more than two hundred years, the North River was the home to many shipbuilders. From the mid 1600’s to the 1900’s, the shipwrights along the North River built hundreds of sea worthy vessels. They ranged in size from 20 tons to more than 450 tons. One of the most famous vessels built on the North River was the Columbia, the first American ship to circumnavigate the globe! Today the town of Norwell maintains many plaques that mark the sites of the former shipyards.
Photographing from a kayak offers many opportunities and many challenges. The first challenge is to keep the camera equipment dry. Using a watertight stuff sack, I was able to keep my camera and lenses reasonably dry. After the trip, I made sure to clean all of my equipment with lens cleaner. The North River is a tidal river and the salt water is especially corrosive.
The second challenge is keeping the camera steady enough to make sharp shots! When possible, bring the kayak to a complete stop and hold it steady. Using a high ISO makes a big difference. ISO 400 in bright sunlight is a good starting point. Try to achieve a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second or faster to insure sharp images.
Kayaking and photographing the North River was a fantastic adventure. It was a trip that I had hoped to take for nearly a decade. Floating along the river was a great way to spend a warm day in April. Visiting seals eye to eye is an experience I will never forget!
This month’s tip: Try new perspectives. Photographing from especially low and high vantage points often makes for excellent photography. In this adventure, I took advantage of traveling on the North River to get a unique vantage point.
Greg Lessard is a professional photographer. You can join him at his next workshop “Photography on the Wing” at the North River Sanctuary of the Massachusetts Audubon Society. To sign up, call 781 837 9400.