SHOOT! Water Sport

Words, Photos & Video: Jacques Marais |


Water sports are wet, wild and in-your-face, and it is one of the surest ways of ruining your equipment if you’re not careful. Here are some tips to get those shots when you head out onto the oceans, kloofs and rivers.

There are a number of ways to grab your slice of aqua action without crying all the way back to the camera shop. Bottom line is that it all hinges on the kind of image you want to capture, the specific water sport discipline you’re shooting and how close to the action you can get.

If getting up close is not a requirement, a long lens and tripod on terra firma will keep you and your equipment dry. You will, however, be limited by the available light and limitations of your lens, but great results can be had nonetheless.

Getting in close means you either have to trust your reflexes to make sure your equipment does not get splashed, or invest in a waterproof housing. Soft housings are cheaper and will suffice for most applications other than scuba diving and pounding surf, but the downside is that they are a bit cumbersome and you’re shooting through an extra piece of glass.

A final option is to go wild with your Go-Pro. Although the stills capability of these nearly indestructible, go-anywhere cameras will never match that of a professional DSLR, they offer an excellent alternative if you’re shooting for the web, newspapers or small print usage. It’s your call how you do it, now just go and get wet!

Image 1: Storm Runners

The Action: The African OTTER Trail Run remains one of South Africa’s most exhilarating trail races, and when the conditions suck, they actually rock the most for dramatic photography.
The Shot: It was bucketing down during the 2012 Challenge event, with me lying in wait in a shallow pool to grab shots of the runners as they passed the last waterfall.
The Technique: I had my camera inside a DigiPac waterproof housing, while the flash was in a Zip-Loc bag to protect it from the rain (it was set to Commander Mode).
The Specifications: 1/60th sec @ f4; Nikon D600 + 20mm lens; ISO 250; WB Setting (Auto); AE Setting (-1 EV); Process filter added in Adobe Lightroom.

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Image 2: Oppan! Go-Pro Style!

The Action: Ecobound’s Hell & Back remains one of my favourite mountain bike rides, with the dramatic Swartberg ranges adding bucket loads of backdrop to this exhilarating racing.
The Shot: Day two saw racers passing through one of the water crossings with the sun at just the right angle, and I set up my Hero 2 in the water to offer an additional angle.
The Technique: The new wrist remote allows you to trigger your Go-Pro from a distance, making it much easier to control your shots on this little go-anywhere cam.
The Specifications: Set it to Interval Shooting @ 0.5 sec and the Hero 2 will do the rest!

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Image 3: Fluid Action

The Action: Day three of the annual MERRELL Gravity Adventure Festival sees most of the river action going down (literally!) on the pumping Palmiet River.
The Shot: Sometimes you need to take the big boy out of the bag, and in this case I set up my super zoom for a close-cropped shot from the river bank.
The Technique: Focus tracking on the new Nikons is fantastically fast, allowing you ample time to compose your shot and capture that key moment.
The Specifications: 1/2,000th sec @ f5.6; Nikon D800 + 80-400 mm zoom; ISO 400; WB Setting (Auto); AE Setting (0 EV); no flash.

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Image 4: Rocket Man

The Action: This is one of my older shots, but still a firm favourite after many years. It was taken at the RED BULL Big Wave event, and won me a Silver Award in the Sport Category of the Sony Profoto Awards.
The Shot: Sometimes Lady Luck shows her hand to help create a classic shot, and it was a combo of fluke and motor-drive that delivered this time around.
The Technique: Shooting from a yawing and diving boat with a 300 mm lens is no easy task, and the only way was to up the IS, pre-focus and shoot fast.
The Specifications: 1/1,200th sec @ f5.6; Canon 5D MkI + 300 mm telephoto; ISO 400; WB Setting (Auto); AE Setting (0 EV); no flash.

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