Horizontal or/and Vertical Format in Kayak Photography

This article was originally posted in May of 2009. Horizontal pictures usually work better on websites and on most of social media. There are exceptions, like Instagram where is better to post square or vertical images. Well, if you are shooting for a magazine cover is a different story.

There are a lot of books on composition in photography and the art of seeing. My favorites include books by Michael Freeman, Art Wolfe and Freeman Patterson:


Like most paddlers I have a tendency to shoot pictures in a horizontal (landscape) format. It is more tricky to shoot in a vertical format from my tippy kayaks, especially, when I have to use a paddle to stabilize my camera.

Some subjects simply require the vertical (portrait) format. Sometimes the choice is not so obvious. Of course, the best solution is to shoot several pictures in both formats.

I posted below a few couples of pictures shot from the same spot in both vertical and horizontal formats. In all situations the traditional horizontal format work pretty well. However, the vertical framing allows me to show better an interesting sky or something dramatic in a foreground. Older pictures (2007) were shot with Pentax Optio W10, while newer (2009) with Optio W30 camera.

Horizontal or vertical? Which image version do you prefer in each case?

Sunset over the South Platte River Sunset over the South Platte River

Sunset over the South Platte River at Wildcat Mound
below confluence with the St Vrain Creek. June 2007.

Horsetooth Reservoir sunset Horsetooth Reservoir sunset

Sunset over the Horsetooth Reservoir near Fort Collins shot from Thunderbolt-x kayak. June 2007.

Lonetree Reservoir Lonetree Reservoir

Calm evening with Sea Wind canoe on the Lonetree Reservoir near Loveland. May 2009.

Lonetree Reservoir Lonetree Reservoir, Colorado

The same location as above, but shot blind from over my head. I would prefer to place a horizon lower or higher in the vertical picture. The horizon exactly in the middle of the frame may work better in a more static horizontal composition. May 2009.

wildwater racing kayak wildwater racing kayak

Jeremy Rodgers in a wildwater racing kayak below the Plumb Ditch Dam on the South Platte River. March 2009.

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There is 1 comment so far

  • 8 years ago

    Hi Marek –

    As a veteran photographer and a paddling newbie (trying to merge both lately) I enjoy reading your blog. I too have found that there are times when a vertical composition works better than a horizontal composition (and vice versa). Nice demonstration of both in your blog entry. I’ve often thought that this is a good way to approach a variety of subjects in general with a camera, because you never know when you might capture images which can accommodate a magazine cover as well as a full page spread. Sometimes it takes a little self-training to tilt the camera sideways but it’s always good to have options.

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