How to Capture Wildlife on Camera While Sailing
How to Capture Wildlife on Camera While Sailing

Discover how to capture stunning photos and videos of wildlife while sailing, and preserve your memories of the incredible creatures you encounter on your journey.

How to Capture Wildlife on Camera While Sailing

Sailing the open seas with your family is an adventure like no other. One of the most rewarding aspects of this lifestyle is the opportunity to witness and capture the beauty of wildlife in their natural habitat. Whether you’re sailing through crystal-clear waters teeming with marine life or navigating coastal regions inhabited by diverse bird species, photography and videography can help you preserve these precious memories for years to come.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the art of capturing wildlife on camera while sailing. We’ll cover essential gear, techniques, and tips to help you take stunning photos and videos of the creatures you encounter on your journey.

Table of Contents

  1. Essential Gear for Wildlife Photography and Videography
  2. Understanding Your Camera Settings
  3. Framing and Composition Techniques
  4. Capturing Birds in Flight
  5. Underwater Photography and Videography
  6. Tips for Capturing Wildlife Responsibly

1. Essential Gear for Wildlife Photography and Videography

Before you set sail, it’s crucial to invest in the right gear to capture wildlife effectively. Here’s a list of essential equipment for wildlife photography and videography:


A DSLR or mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses is ideal for wildlife photography. These cameras offer superior image quality, fast autofocus, and the ability to change lenses to suit different shooting scenarios.


A telephoto lens (200mm or longer) is essential for capturing wildlife from a distance. This will allow you to fill the frame with your subject without disturbing their natural behavior. A wide-angle lens (16-35mm) is also useful for capturing scenic shots and underwater photography.


A sturdy tripod is essential for stabilizing your camera, especially when using a telephoto lens. Look for a lightweight, compact tripod that’s easy to carry on your boat.

Camera Bag

A waterproof camera bag will protect your gear from the elements and keep it organized. Look for a bag with padded compartments and easy access to your equipment.

Extra Batteries and Memory Cards

Always carry spare batteries and memory cards to ensure you don’t miss any crucial shots.

Cleaning Supplies

A microfiber cloth, lens cleaning solution, and air blower will help you keep your camera and lenses clean and free of dust and saltwater residue.

2. Understanding Your Camera Settings

To capture stunning wildlife images and videos, it’s essential to understand your camera’s settings and how they affect your final result. Here are some key settings to master:


Aperture controls the amount of light entering your camera and affects the depth of field in your images. A wide aperture (low f-number) lets in more light and creates a shallow depth of field, while a narrow aperture (high f-number) lets in less light and creates a deeper depth of field. For wildlife photography, a wide aperture is often preferred to isolate your subject from the background.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed determines how long your camera’s sensor is exposed to light. Fast shutter speeds (1/1000s or faster) are essential for freezing motion and capturing sharp images of moving wildlife. Slower shutter speeds can be used for creative effects, such as blurring the motion of water or clouds.


ISO controls your camera’s sensitivity to light. A higher ISO allows you to shoot in lower light conditions but may introduce noise (graininess) into your images. For wildlife photography, it’s best to use the lowest ISO possible while still achieving a fast shutter speed.


Your camera’s autofocus system is crucial for capturing sharp images of moving wildlife. Use continuous autofocus (AI Servo or AF-C) to track your subject as it moves. Experiment with different autofocus points and modes to find what works best for your specific camera and subject.

3. Framing and Composition Techniques

Capturing compelling wildlife images and videos requires more than just technical skills. Here are some framing and composition techniques to help you create visually appealing shots:

Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is a basic composition guideline that suggests dividing your frame into nine equal parts using two equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines. Place your subject along these lines or at their intersections to create a balanced and visually appealing image.

Leading Lines

Use natural lines in your environment, such as waves, shorelines, or branches, to guide the viewer’s eye towards your subject.

Negative Space

Incorporate negative space (empty areas) in your composition to emphasize your subject and create a sense of scale.

Fill the Frame

Get close to your subject or use a telephoto lens to fill the frame and eliminate distracting background elements.

Capture Action and Behavior

Look for opportunities to capture wildlife engaging in interesting behaviors, such as feeding, grooming, or interacting with each other.

4. Capturing Birds in Flight

Photographing birds in flight can be challenging but rewarding. Here are some tips to help you capture stunning images of these agile creatures:

  1. Use a fast shutter speed (1/1000s or faster) to freeze motion.
  2. Set your camera to continuous autofocus (AI Servo or AF-C) to track the bird as it moves.
  3. Use burst mode to capture multiple frames per second, increasing your chances of getting a sharp shot.
  4. Pre-focus on a spot where you expect the bird to fly, then wait for it to enter your frame.
  5. Practice panning your camera smoothly to follow the bird’s movement.

5. Underwater Photography and Videography

Capturing the beauty of marine life beneath the surface adds a whole new dimension to your sailing adventure. Here are some tips for underwater photography and videography:

  1. Use a waterproof housing to protect your camera and lenses.
  2. Choose a wide-angle lens to capture more of the underwater environment.
  3. Use natural light when possible, but consider investing in an underwater strobe or video light for better color and detail.
  4. Get close to your subject to minimize the amount of water between your camera and the subject, which can reduce clarity and color.
  5. Experiment with different angles and perspectives to create unique and interesting shots.

6. Tips for Capturing Wildlife Responsibly

As wildlife photographers and videographers, it’s essential to prioritize the well-being of the animals we encounter. Here are some tips for capturing wildlife responsibly:

  1. Keep a safe distance from your subject to avoid disturbing their natural behavior.
  2. Never feed or bait wildlife to get a better shot.
  3. Be patient and wait for the right moment, rather than trying to force a situation.
  4. Educate yourself about the wildlife you’re photographing, including their habits, needs, and any specific threats they may face.
  5. Share your images and videos to raise awareness and inspire others to appreciate and protect the natural world.

By following these tips and techniques, you’ll be well on your way to capturing stunning wildlife images and videos during your sailing adventures. Remember to practice, experiment, and most importantly, enjoy the incredible experiences that come with living a life at sea.