3 Must-Know Tips for Capturing Beautiful Seascapes

In the last six weeks I have photographed more sunsets than I can count along the coast. As someone who primarily shoots on land, I had a lot to learn about shooting at sea and I’ve put together some of the most important lessons I learned for your next seascape location.

Whether you’re new to the hobby or a passionate professional, there are always things to learn and I couldn’t have been more excited to venture into new territory. I’ve shot a few marines over the years, but they’ve been rare. Living in my SUV and having the freedom to literally sleep on the coast gave me a crash course in new photography territory for me. Some of the lessons were simple, while others were definitely a bit eye-opening, including falling into the water, but luckily I was just soaking myself and not my gear.

In this part of the series, I’ll cover opening up your world to new shots without getting too wet, answering the importance of weather forecasts along the coast, and finally lessons for planning compositions with coins. mobiles.

Get in the water!

We’ll start with the tip that will give you the best ratio of better images to less effort. While there are plenty of places where you won’t even find yourself near water, the times you do, you’ll want to be able to get into the water. I spent a lot of time without being able to comfortably enter the water. In a pinch, you can roll up your pants and go barefoot, but I wouldn’t recommend it for regular water visits. Sometimes all I walk through is not soft sand. Or in a place like Iceland, the water can be unbearably cold and you can’t stay in the water for very long.

Flip flops or sandals aren’t great either, as you’ll end up losing them in the tide and they don’t solve the temperature problem. Boots are a good place to start, but I decided to go all out and bought some chest-high waders. Although I don’t win any fashion contests, I’m not as worried about getting wet. This was crucial for me because I don’t have the freedom to go back to a house or a hotel and dry off. The ability to put on waders over what I would normally wear, get in the water, and then get back to my vehicle at dusk. Being completely dry after taking them off was a game changer. It allowed me to get in the water every night without a second thought or worry about getting wet.

Regardless of which you choose is best for your situation, being able to comfortably enter the water for long periods of time will make you feel like a different photographer. Seriously, I would compare it to only owning a telephoto lens and adding a wide-angle lens to your kit. Entering the water will open many other unique compositions. I spent too much time running away from waves and water in other places which caused more stress than necessary. The first time you walk in the water without worrying about the cold and wet, it will change your enjoyment and perspective of seascapes. If you end up in the water, you will need to be more careful depending on the ocean conditions.

Predict weather and surf conditions

As a landscape photographer, I have a potentially controversial opinion that weather forecasting carries very little weight when it comes to getting good results. There’s a time and place to assess conditions like fog, cloud inversions, and clear skies for astrophotography, of course. I also recognize that I am blessed with the ability to stay in one area until I get the conditions I want. The majority of people (including me not too long ago) should try to plan for preferable weather conditions, especially when planning weekend trips. I can say with confidence that trying to use weather forecasts along the coast is a waste of time for the most part.

The image above was taken on an absolutely miserable day of overcast skies and rain. I remember paying to park and thinking there was absolutely no way to see a sunset that night, let alone capture anything worthwhile. I was definitely wrong and captured some of the most intense natural colors I have ever seen in photography. That was over four years ago.

Days where it rained all day gave me some of the best conditions I could have hoped for, while seemingly ideal weather conditions kept me from pulling my camera out of the bag. One of the biggest culprits you’ll find along the coast is the sea layer, which killed off a good chunk of the sunsets I tried to capture. In my experience, days with rain that cleared a lot of particles in the atmosphere while providing cloud cover usually had excellent conditions as long as the rain cleared enough during the golden hour. My ultimate advice is just to be there, whatever the conditions.

There are conditions you should always check if you are going to be near water and that is tide, swell and swell period. The tide indicates when the sea will be highest and lowest relative to the land you are standing on. The swell indicates the height of these waves on average. The swell period is the time between the waves. It is important to know that the longer the swell period, the more powerful the waves will be. So a 5 foot swell at an 8 second interval is not the same as a 5 foot swell at 15 seconds. To track this, I highly recommend the very popular Windy app. It tells you everything you could want to know about weather, surf and wind. Also, it has forecast and model data from many sources. Magicseaweed is an excellent application dedicated to tide, swell and surf data. This will overlap Windy, but it’s always good to have multiple apps in case something goes wrong with one of them.

Predict compositions

Unlike many other areas of landscape photography, some seascapes require you to plan ahead and imagine what an image might be like if everything lines up perfectly. It’s not like planning something like a Milky Way map or aligning certain elements, because you can predict those conditions very accurately with modern technology. When it comes to waves and their interactions on shore, there’s no telling you exactly where they’ll be, whether they’ll be interesting enough, or even whether they’ll work in the composition you’re trying to capture.

I could write endlessly about the different comps you can find along the coast, but for that I’m going to focus specifically on practice and learning how to find shots that aren’t quite there until let the right moment happen. Take the moment above, for example. There are a lot of great elements that we look for as landscape photographers: color in the atmosphere, a decent amount of sunlight, foreground elements to help the viewer through the image, nice reflections colorful on the wet rock surfaces, and we even got a little movement in the waves. Even with all that, it’s sorely lacking in emotion. A boring moment in a beautiful scene. But that’s what you’d see when walking along the coastline, just a few rocks hit by the waves. You could easily go through this area without a second thought.

However, if you pause and take a few minutes to soak in your surroundings, you might notice this composition come to life in all the right waves (I love puns). Those crashing tides on the lower rock add a choppy moment, and if the swell gets just big enough, they add so much energy to that empty part of the frame. You are now capturing a moving moment in a beautiful scene, which makes the photo much more interesting. It’s something that will never happen the same way again, and that’s what’s absolutely beautiful about seascapes. They’re constantly changing, which means you can go back to a place you’ve photographed 100 times and get something new.

What that means for your first, tenth, or even thousandth time taking seascapes is to slow down. Visit places where the light isn’t great and see how the tide interacts with your location. Start looking at spots for what their potential might be rather than what they are at any given time.

We’ll talk about that in part two of this series, where I’m visiting the same place for almost a week trying to capture the same image I have in mind and I just can’t get the conditions I need need. We’ll also cover how to slow down your shutter speed so you can capture all those beautiful moments in a much more interesting way, and cover any accessories or other handy you’ll need when shooting along the coast.

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