The ocean, the beach, and waves can be tricky subjects to photograph. The fast-changing weather conditions near the sea make ocean photography quite challenging. Apart from this, there are many other factors to consider when framing your shot.
In this blog, we will cover tips and ideas that will help you take awe-inspiring photos of the ocean and the surrounding landscape. In addition, we’ll include vitall details of ocean photography such as the essential gear, lighting and shutter speeds so you can come home with stunning images of your ocean photography venture.
Adjust Shutter Speed for Subjects on the Move
The shutter speed has a significant impact on ocean images. Fast and slow shutter speeds have different effects. For instance, you can produce a splash effect at higher speeds but render a hazy mist from the waves at slower speeds.
Using A Slower Shutter Speed
You can create a blurred effect when photographing the water at slow shutter speeds. The size of the waves and the amount of water on the shore will also impact picture quality. Long exposures are best suited for capturing the beauty of receding waves. Use slow shutter speeds to capture white water trails on the edges of the beach.
For best results, set your shutter speed to 0.5 to two seconds, which produces long exposures. Since the patterns on the water change quickly, take multiple shots to improve your chances of capturing the best image.
Pay attention to the water that flows around free-standing rocks on the beach. Wait for the water to recede and wrap around them before taking photos. They may create unique shapes and curves as the water flows.
Using Faster Shutter Speeds
You can freeze the movement of the waves in your photos using shorter exposures. You can achieve that effect by selecting shutter speeds of 1/200 of a second or faster. However, if you want to create a blur effect on the waves, choose a shutter speed of around 1/100 of a second.
Photographing Incoming Waves
Incoming waves are a favorite subject in sea photography, but it’s pretty challenging. The waves are usually photographed as it rushes toward you, which means you’ll be standing in the water as they come rolling in. Incoming water can move twice as fast as receding waves, so set your shutter speed accordingly. Set your shutter speed to 0.2 to 1 second for best results.
The Magic of Ultra Long Exposures
The standard practice is to use long exposures for landscape and ocean photography. The technique doesn’t just smoothen the sky in your photographs, but it also brings the water to life.
Using longer exposures creates a fog-like effect when photographing restless waves. On the other hand, you generate a mirror effect by photographing the still water on the beach.
Set your shutter speed to 10 seconds or less if you find still waters during low tide. If you want to create smooth dynamic structures with some texture in your photographs, set them to five seconds or less. A neutral density (ND) filter comes in handy when using these exposure values.
Capturing Reflections on the Sand
This sea photography subject is one that beginner photographers can often miss. With the right weather conditions, the sand on the beach can produce jaw-dropping scenes as they reflect the sky and surrounding landscape.
You will need to wait until the tide turns and the waters on the beachside recede. The sand on the flatter parts of the beach will retain some water, which may create reflections.
Taking a lower linear perspective can help you capture the reflections on the sand. Make sure to find a balance between the number of reflections you see and the depth of the view. This technique allows you to include as much of the landscape as you desire in your shot.
Don’t Forget the Golden Hour
The golden hour is the best time of the day to do ocean photography. The hour after sunrise or sunset are optimal for sea photography because they offer favorable lighting conditions. Pictures are rarely overexposed, which is why sunrise and sunset photos are some of the best images.
Always Bring Polarizing Filters
If the sun is up and you’re getting too much glare, it’s time to bring out your polarizing filters. Aside from darkening shadows and enhancing blue colors, this filter suppresses any glare from reflective surfaces. Use it to cut off the glare from the water and prevent overexposure.
Keep Horizons Level
Taking sunset pictures often includes the horizon in your frame. Getting a crooked view of the horizon is a rookie mistake. Every serious photographer should learn how to keep a straight horizon.
Here are some useful tips to keep a level horizon:
- Always line up the horizon with the top or bottom of your frame. You can use your camera’s LCD screen or viewfinder to make this alignment.
- Use your camera’s digital spirit level if it’s available. Its marker will turn green if aligned with the gauge, which tells you that you’re perfectly level.
- You can also use your camera’s rule of thirds grid and align the horizon with the lines on the LCD screen.
- You can also use a spirit level, which works in tandem with a tripod. The level will sit on the camera’s hot shoe, which helps you align the horizon perfectly.
- If you’re still having trouble, you can level the horizon during post-production using Photoshop.
Use a Wide-Angle Lens
You can create a sense of depth using a wide-angle lens. Choose an object on the beach as your foreground and the expanse of the sea and sky as your background. This lens makes the foreground seem bigger and draws the viewer with its wide focal range, emphasizing the foreground.
Follow the low and close rule when using wide-angle lenses. According to this rule, the focal point of your image should be as low and as close as possible. You can create captivating pictures with scenic backgrounds using this technique.
Compensating for Underexposure
The changing lighting conditions can render your subject underexposed. Modern cameras can automatically reduce exposure if the sensors find the sand, sky and ocean too bright. There are two ways you can compensate for this.
You can activate your camera’s exposure compensation feature by adjusting the dial on the camera’s right side. Alternatively, you can also adjust the exposure value dial (EV) to override your camera’s settings. Moving the EV to +1 brightens images while dropping it down to -1 or -2 dims your photos.
Use a Telephoto Lens
A telephoto lens is a useful tool to bring during sea photography sessions. You can use it to zoom in on subjects that are far away and capture photos of wildlife that may be camera shy. Take captivating photos of sea stacks and other rock formations that may be too far away.
Mastering ocean photography can take a lot of practice, but don’t forget to have fun while you’re at it and enjoy the beautiful views of the ocean during your sea photography sessions.