Photography & Cruising

Taken with my Canon Rebel XSi body and EFS 15 – 85 lens

My blogger friend Kim aboard SV Laho is hosting a Monkey’s Fist topic on photography and cruising and I just had to give my two sense so readers can understand what equipment makes the magic happen aboard SV Chance. This blog does more than share our experiences with our readers, it documents our memories! The good, the bad and the beautiful. This may be a once in a lifetime trip for Jason and I so I want to make sure we have the stories AND the pictures to prove it. You know the saying, “If there isn’t a picture, it didn’t happen?” Well I am determined to make sure every amazing memory (and some not so amazing ones) we encounter is forever preserved in neatly labeled folders on my hard drive.

I’ve been interested in photography ever since I was gifted an awesome pink 110mm camera as a kid. Over the years I’ve tested my fair share of cameras and I can say with 100% certainty that I am a Canon girl. I have given other brands their chance, but they just do not perform as well or end up breaking way too early in their life cycle. I shoot with both a DSLR and various point-and-shoot cameras. Which one I end up using mostly depends on which is in arms reach. Below are the specifics on what equipment I use, and are my personal preferences.

Camera Body

Canon Rebel XSi Camera Body: Way back when I decided I wanted to explore my love for photography and get a DSLR I bought a Canon Rebel XSi kit. It came with the body and a lens. The lens was crap and I eventually updated it, but the I still use my original body. “But Kelley, shouldn’t you be using a newer body? Or a better body?” I know, I know. There have been several developments in this “entry level” Rebel DSLR body line as well as in some of the more advanced bodies. But you know what? I like my body. It’s much smaller and lighter than more advanced bodies in the Canon line. When you have to carry everything around town with you every ounce counts. While getting a new body in the Rebel line would be swell, I have chose to spend my money where it counts – on better lenses. So unless Canon wants to gift me with a new body (seriously, have your people call my people. Actually, email me. It can be challenging to reach me in the big blue sea), my Canon Rebel XSi has been treating me very well.


Lenses are seriously where it counts. If you want to upgrade your shooting ability put your money here. I carry three different lenses on board: EFS 15-85, EFS 55-250, and an EF 50mm.

The EFS 15-85 is my everyday lens. It offers me the most versatility while shooting in daylight and brightly lit locations. It can be a bit bulky and heavy, but that is because there is glass in the lens and not plastic which ultimately leads to better quality images.

See how “close” these Rams were?

For shots that I need to zoom in I use my EFS 55-250 lens. This baby offers me a great range to shoot with. It allows me to zoom in on the tiny wildflowers next to me or make the rams on the mountain side appear that they are about 50 feet from me instead of 50 yards. I may even use this sometimes when I’m too lazy to get out the binoculars.

My 50mm lens is a prime lens. That means that in order to zoom in our out I have to move myself. This lens is supposed to emulate what the eye sees (as opposed to wide angle and zoomed). It allows me to open up the aperture to 1.4 which is perfect for capturing those low light memories and creating that nice background blur. Prime lenses are great for working on your skills as a photographer as they require you to depend on your eye as opposed to the technology (zooming in and out). It is one of my new favorite lenses so it is a bonus that it is my lightest one!

Camera Bag – I told you about my recent thrift store find of a camera bag. For $3.50 I scored an old Kodak bag that has exactly enough space for all my equipment. Previously I had to shove it into two different bags and then limit the equipment I wanted to bring with me to one bag. This bag is awesome because it has a detachable side pocket so if I want to leave something on the boat, I can. But, I don’t have to. The bad news about my new camera bag is that it looks like a camera bag. Not so great if I am walking through third world villages. On my camera bag wishlist is this Lowepro PhotoSport 200 AW backpack. This bag is seriously cool. It has a camera pocket built in with access from the side. This way I only have to take off one strap to get access. It can be a serious pain in the butt when I’m hiking to get great shots. I have to stop, take off my pack, get out the camera and take the shot. Not exactly the best process for catching things that move! This pack also has extra room built in for other daily essentials that I want to take with me. It also has a bonus rain cover stored in it. I seriously have dreams about this backpack.

Dry Bag: We live on a boat in the water. When we go to shore we have to jump in our dinghy and take a sometimes wet ride to shore. The level on wetness is in direct relation to the choppiness of the water. Sometimes we are blessed with a glassy surface to ride and other times it can be quite a roller coaster with splash zone at the bottom of every wave. In order to keep my camera safe and dry I always stuff it into a dry bag for the ride. You never can be too careful here.

Point and Shoots

Jason jumping off the top of the Rocky Mountains, shot with my Canon Digital Elph

While I try to use my DSLR as often as possible sometimes it is just easier to grab a smaller point and shoot. We have a variety of point and shoot cameras on SV Chance, primarily because we tend to have bad luck with handheld electronics. We started this journey with a Samsung camera that I got when I was lucky enough to get sent to Paris to shoot street style fashion. The camera took great video, but unfortunately it was left outside in the dew and now it needs to be taken to the shop. We’re not giving up on this guy. Another point and shoot we have is an old Canon Digital Elph. This little guy is awesome. It takes great pictures, so-so video and is incredibly compact. I’m sure newer models have better video quality as well. Bonus that this guy is incredibly affordable. I saw a version at Sams Club the other week for about $100! Not too shabby!

Shot with our Canon Powershot D20

Taking the advice of Behan of SV Totem I opted to get the Canon Powershot D20 to capture our underwater adventures. Before I made the purchase I did a lot of research on what was out there. One of the most popular waterproof choice is for the GoPro. After soliciting some feedback from some of my facebook friends it seemed the GoPro was great for video, but not amazing for it’s photos. It also lacked a view finder (unless I bought a very  expensive accessory). Being able to tell exactly what I am taking a photo of is very important to me so I knew the GoPro wasn’t going to cut it. We ended up settling on the Canon Powershot D20. It is bigger than most point and shoots making it perfect to handle when you are in the water and may be wearing diving gloves. It has extra large buttons so that turning it on and off are a snap and is water proof up to 33 feet. While I haven’t taken it on any underwater diving adventures just yet I have used it plenty above ground. It takes excellent pictures and video and the best is that I don’t have to worry about it getting splashed if we’re sailing in rough weather. I also bought this floating wrist strap so that if it accidentally goes overboard I can easily retrieve it. When I am actually diving down I’ll have to switch it out for the regular strap. One thing that we may end up doing to the camera is covering it in black tape or painting it. Jason was diving with a guy who lost a finger because a barracuda went after the shiny camera in his hand!

What camera do you use on board?

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  1. Awesome post! Such great info on all your gear. I might need an addition to my epiphanie camera bag to carry my gear… something waterproof or more solid for our cruising adventures. I’ll have to check out that backpack you linked. And PS – that manatee photo is so cute! -Kim, s/v LAHO

  2. Sheesh, am I the only person who just uses a simple point and shoot camera? 😉 Haha, maybe I’m the only one still in the dark ages! I use my cannon SD1100 for everyday use and pop it into the underwater housing for diving/beach use. It’s a great size and takes great pictures…well, not compared to you and Kim…but overall I’m pretty pleased! Sometimes looking at your pics makes me think I need to upgrade though! 🙂

  3. Point and Shoot: Olympus TG-1 (the 2 just came out). It is only water proof to 40′ so I don’t take it diving, but for everything else it has proven to be a reliable camera.

    DSLR: Speaking of old bodies, I still shoot a 10D. Though I did just buy the wife a T3-i. I do hope to spend the dough on another body for meself before I take off. I got a few years and am currently spending my monies on the boat refit! hahah. ;(
    I really want the 5D. I prefer full frame, mostly because that is what I grew up with. The 1.6 multiplier of the other sensors can be annoying as hell when trying to shoot wide.

    I agree glass is everything in a camera. Biggest impact one can make is using good glass!

  4. We chose the Panasonic Lumix T55. Reasons are Leica optics (Ger.) 28 – 105mm, well-proven battery – 370 shots/charge,good above-water design, i.e. no fogging among other good things.

    I wouldn’t dive to any depth with a point & shoot because they are not designed for it. Research beyond the puffery and you may agree with me.

    Nice blog; Fair Winds Tholepin

    • I agree with you tholepin about the depth aspect. I’m just hoping to catch a few good snorkeling depth (and slightly deeper) shots 🙂 Nothing crazy.