Taking Pictures of the Sea

Taking pictures of the sea

Chances are that if you take a picture of the beach you’ll have some of the wide open sea in the picture. Learning how to photograph the sea (or any water) is all about knowing what feel you want to convey with your photo.

Freezing the Water
One of the most common methods for photographing the sae is to freeze the movement of the water. This method shows detail in the water and waves such as water droplets frozen in mid-air. Like most fast moving things you want photograph, freezing the water requires a high shutter speed. The shutter speed you need will change depending on the speed of the water, While you may need shutter speeds of upto 1/4000 of a second or faster to freeze droplets of water, water splashing from waves has many speeds and tends to go in all directions generally your distance from the waves will let you shoot with a more moderate shutter speed of 1/2000 of a second. If lighting conditions allow for the faster speed always aim on for a quicker shutter when trying to freeze the movement of water.

As in our first look at beach photography don’t forget to try and protect your camera, try to avoid windy days when surf and sand are flying, although this is often when the most dramatic waves and water splashes occur!

Capturing the Water’s Motion
the complete opposite to when we are trying to freeze water is when weare trying to take photos of creamy streaks of water to create a sense of movement in a still image. To capture the sea (or river/waterfall) motion, use a slow shutter speed. As before the exact shutter speed will vary based on the speed of the water but start around 1/5 of a second and increase or decrease until you find the best shutter speed that you like. To get these very slow speeds in bright light you’ll need to use a low ISO (100-200), narrow aperture (f16-f22), and ideally a neutral density filter (ND filter). Think of a ND filter as a pair of sunglasses for your camera. It reduces the amount of light entering the lens but is designed to not affect the colour of the light. Remember you’ll need a tripod, monopod, or other sturdy surface to balance your camera when shooting with low shutter speeds.

Catching the Blue
imagine a beach scene, it has a wide range of colours and brightness levels, from dark rocks to light sand and even brighter sea, to help your camera deal with this you will often need to help your camera capture the blue of the water instead of a washed out overexposed image. The easiest way to do this is to use a polarizing filter. These filters help cut through the haze and tend to deepen the blue of water and sky.

Reflections on the Water
Don’t forget reflections, these can often make a picture, If the sea water is smooth with no waves you can often capture reflections of piers, boats. If you are using a polarizing filter, like we discussed earlier, you will need to remove this as this filter tends to reduce the reflective effect.

Illuminating the Water
Don’t forget to think about where the light is coming from often the same part of the coast & sea can look completely different at different times of the day dependant on where the sun is. Capturing waves and splashes with the sun behind the water can create stunning effects as well. Remember that with this type of shot you’ll want to plan your exposure for the darker part of the water so that the sun illumination is very bright.

In our final part of beach photography we will be looking at Creative beach photography.

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