Thursday, January 28, 2010

Top 3 Tips for Whitewater Photography

Surf's up on the River.
Photo by Tysun McMullan.

Nothing pushes the post-vacation blues away better than flipping through stellar photos of your trip. And nothing revives the memory like some action-packed shots of you and your friends or family pounding through big rapids.

The most exciting part of a river trip is getting downstream. Running the rapids - big waves, holes, and missing rocks. At the bottom of most rapids there are big pools where we pull over to watch the upstream boats come through. This is enjoyable - watching your friends drop into wave after wave while hooting and hollering.

Hooting and hollering all the way downstream.
Photo by Tysun McMullan.

And, of course, this is where we see a lot of cameras come out of the dry bag. Photo after photo is blurry, too dark, too much light, accidental flash, no flash... You name it, we've all done it.

I caught up with professional whitewater photographer Tysun McMullan to learn what it takes to produce, not just good shots, but great shots. I asked him what he thought the "Top-3 Tips" would be for someone trying to capture the perfect whitewater photograph. Here's what he had to say...

Charging down Sock-em-dog on the Upper Kern River.
Photo by Tysun McMullan.

The Top 3 Tips for Whitewater Photography

1. Shoot in Aperture Priority Mode. Set your Aperture to 8. (this is in order to keep at least the entire raft, kayak or swimmer in focus. An aperture of 8 will give you about 10 to 12 feet of focus range from your center focus point.

2. Set your focus mode to continuous and keep your subject in the center of the frame. If you want to recompose you can crop it later. You are only worried about the focus sensor being somewhat near the center of your boat. In continuous mode the focus will keep changing as the boat moves toward or away from you.

3. Lastly adjust the ISO according to the particular light situation you are in. I.E. In the shade you would use a higher ISO in order to keep your shutter speed at least at 500. This is all while keeping your aperture fixed at 8. and your focus in continuous mode. The only thing you should be messing with is the ISO.

Remember to keep the boat in the center of the frame -
you can always crop in post-production. Photo by Tysun McMullan.

About the Photographer

During the summer Tysun McMullan photographs for Kern River Outfitters on their Lower, Upper, and Forks of the Kern rafting trips. After 10 years as an editor at MTV Networks he decided to break off and pursue some of his own passions. Now he produces, directs and edits fly fishing films and take photographs for various travel and outdoor sports magazines. Check out his website at: http//

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