Beaches and coastlines are very interesting landscape photography locations. Depending on which direction you are facing, the very dynamic and visually stimulating locations where the land and the sea meet are perfect spots to catch the appealing light of the golden hour.
As the sun rises or sets, the environment gives you amazing contrast and tones from tangential lighting. Anywhere in the world, any photographer would never run out of ways to photograph the beauty of a place especially when the light is right.
When choosing your locations for photographing seascapes, your choices of conditions differ greatly compared to when you want to relax by the sand or swim. Shooting seascapes involves dealing with very strong waves, rugged landscapes, and dynamic environmental conditions. When you want to relax and take a dip at the beach you prefer the fine white sand with relatively calm waters but for dynamic seascape photography, you want the exact opposite.
Elements to Look for in Shooting Seascapes
“Seascapes” are landscape photographs of the edges of the land that meet the rugged coastal waters. From any country, any island in the world, the edges of these land masses are bound to give you dynamic elements to work with.
Winds are unopposed at these locations giving you more chances of being able to capture beautiful waves to spice up your landscape photography. At the same time, sea stacks and rock formations are bound to give you an abundance of elements to play with and create meticulously planned compositions that would entice your viewers.
Landscape Photography Tips: How to Shoot Dynamic Seascapes
Seascape locations are very dynamic in themselves and often give you rapidly changing environments. Three main factors are important in creating visually appealing images from the diverse elements in the scene.
The first is composition. This is the key aspect in seascape photographs that determine whether the image will be significant or not. Working with a lot of visual elements, composition, and visual design is crucial in finding the right balance between visual order and chaos. Finding great visual paths to lead your viewers’ eyes through and across your frame is crucial in making sure that it does not leave your viewers confused or unimpressed.
A balanced exposure is crucial, especially when shooting during sunrise or sunset, and the sun could very well be part of your frame. During this time, depending on the direction you are facing, the dynamic range could be the widest, and part of the creative process is being able to manage that. If you successfully do that while also using a slow shutter and long exposure to render motion blur that will complement your composition.
Texture and Contrast
The dynamic movements in the coastal scene can be used to create a vast variety of textures depending on the speed of movement and your chosen exposure settings. Shooting very fast can freeze the movement of the crashing waves and create surreal images while using a slow shutter and long exposure can give smooth and silky textures that would enhance the contrast and emphasize the foreground elements.
Essential Gear for Photographing Seascapes
Any camera for instance Sony with a good enough sensor can be used to photograph seascapes. However, it is a given that a camera with higher resolution capabilities can give more impressive image quality and bigger physical prints. The more crucial aspect in shooting such rugged scenes would be its build and durability. Especially if you plan on shooting extremely harsh weather conditions, weather sealing of both the camera body and lens are crucial. There are, of course, additional precautions to take in undertaking such a shot.
Wide Angle Lens
Any lens with any focal length can virtually be used to photograph seascapes. However, wide-angle lenses and capturing the elements up close often lead to more immersive and consequently, more dynamic images.
Wide angle lenses can be used to virtually stretch out the scene and emphasize a certain rhythm in the placement of visual elements. Just like the requirements for the camera body, lenses should have a bit of moisture protection as shooting such harsh environments can expose your gear to harmful moisture and saltwater.
More than anything, your tripod should be able to withstand any of the strong forces in the location. Strong winds, forceful currents, and crashing waves not only create vibrations that could lead to blurred images from camera shake but even worse, they can knock your camera down and get your gear destroyed.
A sturdy and appropriately sized tripod should be able to securely hold your camera especially if you aim to take long exposures of seascapes. Some of the best seascape images involve getting your feet wet and that means both the photographer’s and the tripod's.
ND and GND Filters
Filters are obviously not essential to photographing seascapes. However, they definitely spice up and improve your images. GND filters aid in achieving the crucial balance of exposure between the sky and your foreground.
Especially during sunrise or sunset when the foreground might be overpowered by the bright sky, GND filters enable you to virtually narrow down the dynamic range into a level that can be perceived and recorded by your camera. Dynamic range is the spectrum of light that is visible in a scene. From the brightest white to the darkest black.
Almost all cameras are able to perceive a range of light less than what our eyes can and it is important to be able to manage this by using GND filters or by shooting multiple exposures through exposure bracketing and later combining their best parts into a single image.
ND filters allow you to slow down your exposure. At any time during daylight, it is virtually impossible to do long enough exposures without ND filters. Especially not if you want to get your setting right. ND filters reduce the amount of light that goes into your camera’s sensor during the duration of the exposure time.
By choosing an appropriate variant, you can control how long your exposure will take depending on what kind of effect and texture you want to achieve. Using very dark or heavily tinted ND filters (ND 1000 or darker) can allow you to do very long exposures from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes to achieve a very smooth and silky surface in the water. This can help you achieve isolation of your main subject and give more emphasis and contrast to your foreground elements.
On the other hand, using mildly tinted ND filters (ND 8 or 16) can allow you to extend your exposure to about half a second to 4 seconds depending on the intensity of sunlight. Doing this can allow you to capture the crashing and washing out of singular waves and their smooth and seemingly brushed texture can give quite an impressive improvement to your images.
A rain cover is very important for photographing seascapes. Whether or not your camera and lens are weather-sealed, additional protection is always necessary. You never know when a huge wave might come and soak your gear enough to penetrate the seals.
This occurrence doesn’t only put your shot at risk but also endangers your gear altogether. This also protects other accessories that you may have attached to your camera that may not be as weather-sealed as others. This includes remote camera shutters, intervalometers, or triggers, and the ports to which they are connected to.
Remote camera triggers can definitely make your shooting process more efficient. If you are shooting long exposures or slow shutter shots to capture the movement of the waves, it is very important to avoid inducing any camera shake which is most often caused by physically pressing the shutter button. This camera shake can make or break your image because the slightest movement can give you an entirely blurred and consequently ruined shot.
Remote triggers allow you to start your exposures without having to touch your camera. Timer camera remotes do the same and also allow you to comfortably do very long exposures especially if your camera has certain limits to this (many cameras can only do up to 30 seconds without a timer remote.)
If you are shooting from a stable and safe location, having a remote trigger can also enable you to momentarily leave your camera on the tripod as you continue to shoot especially when taking multiple minutes of long exposure, or multiple consecutive exposures for timelapse photography.
The MIOPS Smart+ is an extremely capable remote camera trigger for landscape photography, timelapse, and a whole lot more. The Smart+’s basic remote and timer function is perfect for triggering the camera to shoot using a smartphone, eliminating the need for pressing the button and inducing camera shake.
The bulb timer function allows for maximally long exposures beyond what any landscape photographer would ever need. An in-app ND filter exposure calculator is also available to help you determine your target exposure time when using any variety of ND filters to help you execute your long exposure photography ideas without having to take test shots. The calculator is also integrated into the bulb timer function for a more efficient workflow.
When shooting consecutive exposures for timelapse sequences, the MIOPS Smart+ is a reliable device on which you can leave everything to. With a wide range of customizable functions, the Timelapse mode can control everything for you as you enjoy the moment and savor the scene. Rest assured that the 1020 mAh camera trigger battery has got you covered for multiple days of shooting with a single charge.
For extreme light conditions, the Smart also has a customizable HDR mode that executes multiple exposure bracketing. This mode allows you to set the exposure value (EV) intervals, the number of bracketed exposures to take, and even set time intervals for a more controlled shooting process.
Photographing seascapes can be both relaxing and thrilling. Capturing the beauty of nature at the edges of the land, especially during dynamic transitions of light can give you some of your most dynamic and visually compelling nature photography images. Having the right gear, the right protection, and the right tools can definitely allow you to bring out the best in every scene.
Blog Credit: Nicco Valenzuela
Nicco started his photographic journey in 2007 practicing the craft as a hobby. Currently, he shoots for various local and international architectural firms and construction companies. Out of his love for sharing his knowledge, Nicco began writing about photography and various pieces of gear.