Floating hides are one of the best ways to go about photographing water birds, waders, otters and a host of other species. I have been using mine for years and always look forward to doing it again. There is nothing better then floating along the broads or on the coast photographing wildlife. It does take a bit of motivation to don the wetsuit on a cold winters morning and swim around photographing the wildlife but once you get in, you remember why you go to the effect.
You can now buy floating hide for various place but they cost a fair bit. I made mine myself and cost me about £10 and is one of my favourite pieces of kit. It's simple but extremely effective and in the last 5 years I have not damaged myself or any equipment, so pretty safe. Below are a few images of me and the hide.
It's very simply two polystyrene sheets, one large and one small. The small sheet is underneath the large positioned at the end where I'm resting to counteract my weight. They have been cut to hold my weight and that of my camera, making me able to float balanced at water lever just 10cm off the water. My front half is lying on the sheets and my legs and in the water propelling and turning the hide. I throw over a piece of camo netting to help conceal my upper body. This does an amazing job and had kingfishers hovering and hunting right next to me. I have also encased the two polystyrene sheets in some material to prevent any polystyrene balls from getting in the water. No point doing this if I'm polluting the water / ocean with plastic or polystyrene where my subjects all live and rely on.
The whole point of a floating hide is to get as low as possible, eye level with the subject matter. I have seen a number of designs where you are half a meter off the water level, which just isn't low enough, you might as well shoot from a kayak. Kayaks can be great for wildlife photography though and was how I first photographed water birds. Although I quickly realised I just wasn't low enough to the water to create the images I wanted. Another bonus of the hide, is the manoeuvrability, I can move around the subject getting different angles and lighting conditions without disturbing the species.
Below are a collection of images showing what sort of images I have been creating. I have used it on a large amount of species, all who were approached and left as they were, these include: Otters, kingfishers, snipe, grebes, fulmars, waders, ducks and seabirds.
Do be careful if you do try and do this yourself; currents, tides, weather and underwater hazards can all cause you serious harm. Some more floating hide images can be seen in my portfolio pages.
Thanks for reading!