Long term blog or social media followers of mine will know that I love to photograph wildlife from a kayak because it gives you such a wonderful low perspective. One of the challenges with photography from a kayak, or any small boat for that matter, is keeping gear safe, but also readily available. All of my larger photographic gear goes into a set of SealLine Bulkhead View dry bags, but there’s a few smaller items that are just nice to have on you at all times.
Until very recently I wasn’t that sure how to accomplish this, but then I discovered the Chinook fishing PFD from NRS. Of course any sensible kayaker is going to wear a PFD but I used to use a pretty standard one that didn’t have any large pockets on it until I got the Chinook. This PFD has several large pockets that will hold my memory card wallet, a couple of spare batteries, both my 1.4x and 2x teleconverters (for use with my favourite lens, the Canon 400mm f/4 DO IS II), my Canon M50 mirrorless camera with a pancake lens, a lens cloth, my phone and my InReach satellite communicator.
The pockets are obviously designed for small fishing tackle boxes, but they work just great for my purposes too. With the 400mm DO II lens I’m often switching between teleconverters because it works with them like an absolute champ, but having them stashed away in the bottom of the boat isn’t a very efficient solution. Now I can keep them in my PFD and have them ready to go at a moment’s notice. One thing to note though is that none of the pockets on the Chinook PFD are waterproof, so all of this stuff is vulnerable if you take an unexpected dip. Keep that in mind! My solution is simply to stash things away into a dry bag if there’s any danger from rough seas or bad weather. Should I encounter something like that, I’m not going to be taking any photos anyway!
Aside from the excellent storage options, the Chinook PFD is just generally very comfortable to wear. It has a mesh back on it which is great for the tall seat back of my fishing kayak (that I also just use for photography), but also works great in a sea kayak too. I also like that it is available in a somewhat more subdued colour than normal PFDs, as this makes me a little less obvious to some of the wildlife that I’m trying photograph.