Beautiful Photos of Paddle Boarders at Night

For National Geographic's latest Your Shot assignment, titled “Spontaneous Adventure,” photographer Julia Cumes submitted a beautifully surreal photo of stand up paddle boarding at night (see above). As a stand up paddle boarder herself, Cumes was intrigued to learn about the nighttime version of the sport and was equally intrigued to photograph it. “What I love so much about stand up paddle boarding is its ability to transport one, surrounded by nature, to a quiet, meditative state,” she writes on her blog. “So what could be more magical than having that experience on a moonlit evening? I also knew it could be visually beautiful although I wasn't sure how well it would photograph because of the low light conditions.”

Specially-made, waterproof LED lights are attached to the base of the boards which illuminate the water below. This allows the paddler to see all types of fish otherwise not visible in the darkness.

And so, on a warm September night, at around sunset, Cumes went out to Sesuit Harbor in Dennis, Massachusetts, stood on a jetty overlooking the water and photographed the scene below. “What I saw was even more beautiful and surreal than I was expecting,” she states. “I thought I'd share a few photographs from this extraordinary night.”

She calls this set of photos Paddling Dreams.

We asked Cumes if she would give us some tips as both a photographer and and as a paddle boarder at night.

“As for advice on shooting a low light scene like this, the first thing I'd say is that a photographer should avoid using strobes,” she tells us. “Because one wants to capture the ambient light-the magic of the LED lights, the sunset colors and contrast between the paddle boarders and ocean-it's important to only shoot with available light. This means photographing using a very high ISO (4000, in this case) and slow shutter speed (1/30th of a second).

“While a tripod would have made sense for this shot, I was actually not able to use a tripod because I had to navigate my way over some uneven rocks on the jetty and knew the tripod would just be too cumbersome. I hand held my camera and used my elbows to brace it against my body to keep it as still as possible and to avoid camera shake. I personally love photographing in low light conditions, despite the technical challenges, because of the extraordinary colors one can pick up from ambient light.”

“As for paddle boarding at night, I'd say the most important thing is to have little or no wind. This will make for a smoother journey and prevent one from being blown too far offshore. Significant moonlight is important too so that you can see where you're going since there won't be any light source besides the LED lights underneath your board. I also think it's vital that you're an experienced paddle boarder and are familiar with the area you're paddle boarding in since it's much easier to get disoriented at night. Lastly, I'd suggest going with a group and staying close together so that you've got support if need be as well as staying relatively close to shore. Otherwise, just enjoy the magic of it!”

Julia Cumes' blog

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