Over the years I have spent climbing I learned that there are two ways of how to take good pictures. You can enjoy yourself, climb, have lots of fun and have camera somewhere handy all the time. With some luck sooner or later there would be an opportunity to take a nice shot. Another approach is to think about the picture in advance and then prepare everything according to your idea.

There are some disadvantages with both ways. In the first case you have to carry the camera all the time with you and some of them can be pretty heavy. More importantly you may miss lots of good opportunities just because you are not ready or camera you have is not good enough. I personally think that the second approach works much better. Of course there are some drawbacks, too. There is not much fun unless you consider taking photos as fun. More importantly it is often hard work and can take several hours to gain one image.

This time we decided that we needed some good images to promote our homeSEAhome project.

Our criteria for pictures’ content were quite clear: the us two with our kayaks and paddling gear, river Thames, and somewhere within Tower Hamlets. The final photos also had to be suitable for a poster, a postcard and blog header.

Once we knew what we were aiming for, it was time to do some research. From two obvious choices of a background: Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf, we decided on the second one. So one weekend we cycled around Isle of Dogs to find the best possible viewpoint of Canary Wharf, and found two nice places which would work really well during low tide. Since we chose time close to sunrise or sunset when sky is not too clouded, we were looking for weekends when low tides coincide with the sunrise/sunset and preferably with good weather forecast. Fortunately this was easy to work out with the help of world wide web.

It was last Saturday morning when finally all aspects worked together. Now we only had to pack the camera and our boats, get to our local beach and paddle to O2 Arena, where we had to be at 6:30 am.

The photo taking itself was the easiest part. I only had to put the camera on tripod on manual setting, set up the interval shooting for 20s and place the remote flash closer to our position. There was just one challenging decision to make: the length of the exposure. Longer exposure times make water surface look very nice and smooth, but we had to stay still for the whole time during the opening of the shutter. In the end 5 second seemed as the best compromise.

To stay still proved to be difficult.

That is it really. The rest was simple. We  had to move around and pose while the camera was doing all the work for us.


As members of the Tower Hamlets Canoe Club we regularly take part in the club’s Christmas paddle. A crazy affair when up to 50 boats (can’t have more, said the Harbour master) long and short are paddled by all, skilled or beginners, towards Tower Bridge. There everyone gets out on the beach, has mulled wine, mince pies and tries as best as they can to sing Christmas carols.

We have taken part in this for the last three years. Fun.

But being foreigners in this country gives us the great opportunity to celebrate Christmas differently to the norm. And so Czech Christmas being done and over with by the midnight of the 24th of December it leaves us with a day with nothing to do, no duties, no family obligations  and no public transport.

This year we did not go anywhere for Christmas and could spend Christmas day doing the true Christmas paddle. The tides run favourably and we set off from Isle of Dogs at noon. We had a very leisure paddle up the river towards Westminster and the MI5 beach, where we shared some mulled wide and yummy biscuits. Then we had a very pleasant paddle back to East London, with the setting sun reflecting in London’s best sights.

The river wasn’t quiet, it was flowing fast and bouncy with wind over tide, but there was no traffic. Bliss.


“Ok, the premiere has happened.” says Michal.

Over 30 people came to Cape to see our new film. If it was a success or not, we leave up to the crowd. For us it was very successful as we raised over £200 for young man called Joshua, who’s parents also came to see the film.

Thank you to all who came and all who donated.


We decided it would be shame that those, who could not come, would miss the opportunity to see it and so The Film is here.

Are we good enough to paddle safely on Thames?

I have spent the last two years paddling regularly onThames as a member of THCC.  I realised there are several myths widely shared between sea kayakers.

  • Paddling onThames is safe.
  • Nothing can happen to me while on river; I will not capsize/swim.
  • If I will be in trouble (swimming) other members of my group will safely deal with it.
  • If a member of our party gets in to trouble (swimming) other members of our group will deal with it.

The small exercise we undertook last Tuesday night,  a swimmer and rescue, left me unimpressed and thinking.

It’s Autumn and  we paddle mostly in the dark and will for the next six months at least.  Tides are quite strong in the autumn, therefore 4knots flow or stronger won’t  be unusual.

I don’t know how many of us regularly practise rescue but my impression is, that nobody really expects to perform a real one on the river.  I know chances are small but, as we could see last Tuesday, when it happens, everybody is caught by surprise (especially if swimmer is somebody who should roll without any problem). As a result everything then takes much longer than it should.

Does anybody remember how long it took them to do a rescue last time they done it? Two minutes or five  minutes? Was it in the safe environment of the basin or was it on moving water, in the light or  in the dark?

We all know  that at least half of the people going regularly on the river does not have a reliable, including some 4* trainees. Most of us can roll safely when ready to do so but not when capsizing unexpectedly. In that case  it is just a matter of time when there will be a swimmer in the busiest part of the river.

Here is a scenario of possible event. A group is trying to go against strong flow underneath of Blackfriars. It is quite choppy caused by wind against tide and a clipper has just pasted by a minute ago. This is a pretty normal situation and it wouldn’t be surprising if one of the kayaker capsizes.

Now, try to imagine it is you. It is dark, flow is strong, water choppy, confused and cold. Are you happy to roll? Would you even try to roll? Or would you just go straight out of your boat without trying?

I know; nobody wants to think this can happen to him/her and if they would roll. So let’s say it is me, and now I am swimming next to my kayak. Flow is just over 4 knots and it takes 10sec till somebody/you realises what is going on.  It takes another 20s to approach me. It took only half a minute but we are already swept 60m by the flow before we even have a chance to start with the rescue. As I manage to position myself on the bow of your kayak I can see Millennium Bridge passing above our heads while my boat is being emptied.  Suddenly we can hear others shouting and I can see how you are letting my kayak go while trying to grab a paddle. I quickly try to turn around and last thing I can is a big buoy only meter away. I raise my right arm to protect my head and…

If we are lucky, you will be able to tell me the rest of the story the next day during a  hospital visit.

And if we are not lucky you may try to explain to my wife what happened and why I couldn’t see that bloody buoy earlier.

Nice little story, isn’t it. Fortunately it hasn’t happen yet. The point is, the swimmer or the rescue party can be easily carried by a flow half a mile within 5 minutes. Do we have safe half a mile to swim close to Blackfriars? Actually does Thames offer half a mile of safe swim anywhere? I don’t think so.

So unless you are happy to helplessly watch how somebody is being swept under a barge we have to make our rescues more efficient. It is possible to have a swimmer back in the kayak in forty seconds.  One minute should be pretty much a standard for everyone. Also a towline, if used correctly, is very helpful to reduce the risk of being swept under something.

I am not the one who should be telling people what to do or not to do. But I find it  quite irresponsible (or naïve) from anyone to go paddle on Thames and believing one or more myths stated above.