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A floating hide can be bough or home-made. It should be at the same time light, to carry it around, and stable for your equipmen's safety. Some are created by covering a small boat where you can lie or even sit. Serge Deboffle gives you his tips for using the one he likes best, the very light, very mobile, small ones which hide the photographer and equipment while he/she walks on the bottom of the pond,  like to the one he has built for himself. 

This way of taking pictures requires following a few rules, if you don't want to come back home with more bitter regrets than glorious pictures. Attention and concentration are the keys to success.



Keep safety in mind

Remember that safety comes first. It is the most important thing to take in account when doing this type of photography. Do not set your hide on a pond without the owner's permission. You have to know the place from a to z before setting up to take picture from the hide and the owner will often volunteer important information. You must have a good knowledge the pond itself, its depth and all the dangerous spots to avoid. If the pond is deep and you still want to venture, you should better be a good swimmer! A neoprene wet-suit is really a must. There is nothing worst than being cold and it will keep you warm during the hours you are to spend immersed in water. If you don't want to run the risk of having water sipping down into it when you bend forward to shoot, it should cover you up to the neck. Wadders are definitely not a good idea.

Protect your equipement

Your camera equipment must be protected and safe too, resting on something fixed, stable and strong. As far as I am concerned, I like to improve on equipment security by extending a small fishing net above the water, right under the lens, just in case… Avoid doing floating hide photography in a strong wind, otherwise you will have to fight against your hide pushed by the wind and waves might put your equipment at risk.

Be a keen observer

To observe birds on water you should enter the hide very early in the morning. Enter it later and the birds will be the ones observing you. Coming out of the night, the birds are numerous, more active and less shy.


Approach them slowly, stopping whenever they seem to worry. Make sure you don't make waves pushing your hide too fast, it makes them worry and generates anxiety.

... To create your very own image

Keeping horizontal when shooting is very important. Surprisingly, water pictures with a slanted skyline are incredibly common. Solving this on the computer is a possibility but it will take away part of the beautiful scene you had chosen to record. A floating hide is designed not only to be as close as possible to your subjects, but also to allow different points of view. Being able to move and choose your distance to the scene is an undeniable advantage compared to a land hide. The optical surface created by the water adds another dimension to your shots, too. Look at your watch and decide how you want the light to contribute to your image, and do just as you wish. It would be such a shame to miss the opportunity of a superb contre-jour shot against the subtle light of spring morning !


Keeping all this in mind, after some time on your favorite pond the birds will not pay attention to your hide anymore and then, perhaps, you will have the opportunity of taking a glorious wide angle pictures. I wish you all good lights and great shots.



Author : Serge Deboffle, ASCPF, France

All photographs © Serge Deboffle