My Top 10 Photography and Paddling Game Changers

Being an Expedition Photographer and Videographer is an awesome gig but sadly I am not doing it full time. When I'm not out shooting or just enjoying the outdoors, I work at an Outdoor Retailer called Wilderness Supply in Winnipeg Manitoba. Often people will ask me what's your favourite piece of gear? What should I get that will improve my photography? Any paddle gear that will help me along?

At the end of the day, just getting behind your camera and shooting will be beneficial. No matter what people say the camera doesn't make the photographer, the video camera doesn't make the film, and the paddle doesn't make the canoeist.

That being said, the advancements in technology being made as we speak, allows us to push our creativity even further. We are now able to use media to our advantage in ways we could not before, and get to locations previously inaccessible.

So I have put together 10 things that changed the game for me. 5 media and 5 paddle. What are your game changers? Let me know!

Aerial Photography has taken the industry by storm. Drones are so accessible now it has become odd for a camera store not to have at least one on their shelves. As a reminder, make sure to look into the drone regulations in the areas you’re looking to fly in. A $10,000 fine is not ideal!

Variable ND Filter
I’m a big fan of long exposures of moving water. That blur of the water adds such a calming mood to the photo. Neutral Density Filters and Variable Neutral Density Filters are like putting sunglasses on your camera, they darken the shot. This allowing you to get that slow shutter even during a sunny day. The Variable part means you can adjust how many stops of light the filter blocks.

Mirrorless Cameras
I recently have been shooting with a Sony A7S ii and have fallen in love with it. Being able to get such low-light sensitivity, internal 4K video, and full frame in such a small body has re-invented the expedition camera. The amount of R&D put into the Mirrorless cameras is incredible, and it shows with how much they have taken over the industry. The biggest pro  for me is USB charging. This allows me to bring 2 or 3 batteries and charge them with my solar charger, as compared to needing a DC current for my DSLR batteries.

*Photo Alex Matrin*

The Gnarbox is a portable, wireless weatherproof hard drive. It’s hard to explain how it works so here’s their website ( It’s allowed me to not worry about filling my memory cards out in the field. I can fill a card, dump it onto the Gnarbox, and clear the card to keep shooting. I highly recommend this product if you’re doing extended remote trips  or capturing a lot of media.

Pelican Cases
I will never go on a trip without them. I carry two 1450’s and one 1100 Pelican Case for camera gear as well as a large Nanuk 945 for my Drone. I have dumped at the top of a rapid and had thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment remain safe due to the quality of Pelican cases. A waterproof, shock proof, dust proof case is the most vital part of any media expedition in my eyes.

Bent Shaft Paddle
I always understood the biomechanics behind a bent-shaft paddle’s efficiency but I never really bought into it until I finally tried one. I brought a bent shaft on a 6-week canoe trip and used the paddle on Lake Superior. After about five paddle strokes, my mind honestly was blown. It is SO MUCH BETTER. It is hard to explain just how much better a bent shaft paddle is for flat water so I encourage you to go out and try one, because they really are amazing. I have recently fallen deeply in love with the Black Pearl II. How could you not love it? It weighs essentially nothing, is efficient as all heck, and that black carbon is a sexy looking blade!

Spooned Blade Paddle
Much like the bent shaft paddle on flat water, the spooned blade has changed how I shoot rapids, both Tandem and Solo. That extra pull, greater acceleration, and strength of a carbon spoon are great for rapids. It really can be the difference between nailing that high brace in some frothy water and dumping.

*Photo Eli Dzik*

Paddling PFD
Have you ever paddled with a life jacket? You know, the ones that have flotation from your hips up to your chin and stick out about a foot from your chest? Not fun right? Those have their place. I am not disputing their practicality, but a paddle specific PFD is the way to go. A Personal Flotation Device is different from a Lifejacket in that PFD’s spread the flotation around your ribs/core leaving you room for un-inhibited trunk rotation, abrasion free paddle movement for your arms, and a much less obtrusive jacket. From a basic paddle jacket to a full on Class VI Rescue jacket, they are the best. I’m currently running an Astral Green Jacket LE8 if you’re curious! You can see it in an older article of mine with my old rescue kit.

*Photo Alex Martin*

Rescue Kit in my PFD
As I just hinted at, I keep a rescue kit in my PFD. I got my White Water Rescue Level II in 2016 then upgraded to the Level 3 Technician the following year. Disclaimer: if you don’t know what you’re doing with rescue gear such as Pigtails for Live Bait or carrying a throw bag on your back then I strongly advise to not carry this equipment. Moving water kills, and if you don’t know what you’re doing in a rescue situation then please leave it to people who are trained. You don’t want to become a victim too. That stuff aside, having an entire 4321 on me at all times is the best for quickly and efficiently getting a rescue underway.

*Photo Eli Dzik*

Just getting out there
This one is a total cliché, but seriously nobody is going to complain about too much time paddling. Every year I spend more time on the water and every year I notice a gain in my paddle skills as well as my water confidence. From paddling up North to just a night solo at my cabin, every paddle stroke gets me one step closer to that expert “ten thousand hours”.

And as always, hit the biggest waves you can as fast as you can

Sugar Falls, Nelson River