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Late last summer I was asked by Hudson Valley Magazine, a major national publication, if I was interested in taking an assignment to shoot photos of people paddleboarding on the Hudson for an upcoming issue on “summer fun.” They would be used in an article and possibly for the cover. I agreed and started planning the shoot before the summer ended as the creative director wanted them as soon as possible.

I don’t always accept commercial assignments – not because I don’t need the money, but rather because I want to make sure I can provide exactly what the client needs. In general if it’s an outdoor shoot and involves sports or recreational activities, I may consider if I think I’m right for the job. Otherwise I’m more than happy to refer a very short list of other photographers I’m confident can get the job done.

For this assignment, they wanted closeups of someone on a paddleboard in the Hudson River. I was free to shoot it any way I wanted, and had no limitations aside from the color of clothing for the model, and that the photos provide plenty of space for text. They suggested using someone I actually knew locally, since they had seen previous photos of her I had shot for fun and thought they would work for their purposes. Katy Bell and husband Leonard own Mountain Tops Outfitters here in Beacon, and are good friends, so I knew the shoot would be fun.

I decided the waterfront in Beacon would provide a great backdrop for the shots with the Hudson Highlands in the background, so all I needed were clear skies for text and great light. Luckily we got both on our first attempt, and I spent about 2 hours shooting in total. They also used a second image for the actual story inside the magazine.


While I experimented a bit with different angles, in general I wanted a very low perspective along the water to really highlight Katy and the mountains in the distance. I used my 70–200mm lens with an f/2.8 aperture to blur the foreground and the background. This creates a very distraction free image that really focuses on Katy and her great expression. I shot hand held with image stabilization on at ISO 200.

Post processing was done in Lightroom 4, then exported as a hi-res tiff file to Photoshop for CMYK conversion. And that’s pretty much it. I had lots of fun and am really grateful to the creative team at Hudson Valley Magazine for the opportunity.


Any questions, comments, or feedback, let me know!

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Canoe, kayak, paddleboard, or boat?

    Were you on any of these while shooting, Robert, and if so, what challenges did they or did they not provide?

    1. Hi Michael, Great to hear from you…thanks for the great question, I inadvertently forgot to mention that small detail 🙂
      I was on shore in a partial bay on the Hudson that has a very smooth rocky beach, so I was able to get very close to the water and achieve a low perspective. Having a very calm day also helped and I tried to pick a day where the tide would be low around sunrise.

      Otherwise I would have definitely used a canoe which would have been a little more difficult. Canoe’s can have a mind of their own when in the water, so keeping them steady and pointed in the right direction is a challenge, but I have shot from a a canoe many times and it’s a blast. I use a dry bag to keep my gear dry.


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