Freeze the waves in your pictures of the sea
Whether through the necessity of shooting in the low light levels at dusk and dawn, or simply an aesthetic preference, blurred ‘smoky’ water effects have become commonly used in landscape photography.
You can capture waves in more detail in two ways: by using a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the motion, and by using flash. To freeze breaking waves you’ll need to use a shutter speed of 1/1000 sec or faster.
Even in bright conditions you’ll find it easier to achieve fast shutter speeds if you set an ISO of 400, although you’ll have to use higher ISO settings in dull conditions.
How to use flash to freeze waves
When shooting at sunrise or sunset, the light levels will mean that you have to set the ISO so high that the image quality will suffer, so you’ll need to use flash to freeze the motion of the waves, rather than fast shutter speeds.
You’ll also need to use a tripod (as you’ll be using slow shutter speeds) and to fire the shutter with a cable release to prevent camera shake. As you can’t get close to the water without ruining either your camera or flash, you’ll need a powerful flashgun to produce enough light to illuminate the waves effectively.
You’ll also have more options for positioning the flash if you can fire the flash off-camera using a wireless trigger, and although you can put the flash on a lighting stand or tripod, it’s safer and easier if you have an assistant to hold the flash for you.
1 Expose manually
When setting the exposure, use Manual exposure mode and select a low ISO such as 200. Set an aperture of f/8 and adjust the shutter speed to correctly expose the background using the exposure level indicator.
2 Set the flash power
You can now set the flash power according to the distance between the flash and the waves that are breaking on the shore. You’ll find that most flashguns have a guide on either the LCD screen or on a dial to work this out.