Coastal landscapes are some of the most popular subjects to shoot at any time of the year, thanks to their enormous creative potential. Bad weather means added drama, and the endless push of the tide means plenty of opportunity to hone your skills at long exposures.
Below, top landscape photographer Guy Edwardes shares his ten landscape photography tips for shooting watery scenes.
Tip 1: Check the tides
It’s very important to be aware of tidal conditions from a safety point of view, but they’ll also have an impact on your photos. One of the best times to photograph coastal landscapes is during a receding tide, when sandy beaches will be free from footprints and boulders, and pebbles will still be wet and shiny.
Tip 2: Get yourself a tripod and remote release
A good tripod and head are essential when you’re working at the coast. You’ll need one sturdy enough that it won’t be shifted by incoming waves. Shoot via a remote release when using long exposure times, but don’t let it dangle in the water!
Tip 3: Sea Spray
Spray from seawater will cause corrosion to photographic equipment. Protect your camera with a waterproof cover, such as an Op/Tech Rainsleeve, and wash your tripod in fresh water after each shoot. Regularly check the front element of your lens for spray, and clean it using lens fluid and a microfibre cloth.
Tip 4: Explore harbours
Small harbours and fi shing villages provide endless sources of inspiration. Use a telephoto zoom to compose interesting patterns, such as stacks of lobster pots or the refl ections of colourful fishing boats. High tide tends to provide the best opportunities.
Tip 5: Use a wide-angle lens
An extreme wide-angle lens is ideal for capturing sweeping coastal vistas. Try something in the range of 10-24mm with an APS-C sensor or 16-35mm with a full frame sensor. Set your tripod low and use a narrow aperture for best results.
Tip 6: Look for foreground interest
Include foreground interest to provide your shot with a feeling of depth. A nice arrangement of rocks, coastal wildflowers or patterns in the sand can all be used to good effect. Flowing water can also be used to lead the eye into the scene.
Tip 7: Shoot early and late
Make use of low-angled sunlight to enhance the texture of foreground features. The reflected colour of a spectacular sunrise or sunset will add atmosphere and impact to your images, and as light levels drop the resulting long exposures create additional mood.
Tip 8: Use Live View
Zoom in to 10x magnification in Live View and use manual focus to place your point of focus exactly where it needs to be. Hold down the depth of field preview button to view the image at the actual shooting aperture and scroll around using the multi-controller to check for foreground to background sharpness.
Tip 9: Use a neutral density filter
A strong, 3-stop neutral density filter (ND8 or 0.9) will allow you to set long exposure times all day long. Aim for around ½ sec for capturing the movement of waves, and up to 30 seconds to blur the motion of the sea. Shoot when the waves are receding in order to create subtle lines that draw the viewer’s eye into the shot.
Tip 10: Shoot in stormy conditions
Stormy conditions help to create some of the most dramatic images of the coast. Use a telephoto lens to compose crashing waves battering the shoreline from a safe distance. A lens hood will help to prevent too much sea spray from coating your lens. Remain vigilant, as one large wave can easily ruin your day!
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