The secrets of taking seascapes

With over 1 million kilometres of coastline across the world, it’s no wonder that as a photographic subject it is well documented.

However with such a huge area and wide range of environmental conditions, shooting coastlines always delivers a varied and dramatic location for landscape photographers.

Light fantastic - The single thing that separates serious landscape photographers from day-trippers with a camera is the appreciation and understanding of light. Choosing the best time of day to take your seascape is hugely important as the light varies by intensity, direction and colour throughout the day.

There isn't necessarily a "right time" but early morning and late evening during the 'golden hours' and either side of these at blue hour will produce interesting colour.

Viks Trolle, Christian Träger

Christian Träger has used colour really well in this shot, capturing this scene during the golden hour. The light in the sky and in the sea creates an amazing atmosphere around the rocks.

Weather dependent - Shooting seascapes will invariably be influenced about what is happening in the sky as well as the sea. Weather can add real interest to a seascape shot be it smooth wispy golden clouds or storm ravaged dark foreboding ones. Again, there is no best weather to shoot in but learning to see interesting weather patterns and knowing how to make the best of them photographically is a great skill to learn.

Northern Ireland-Stroove, Lukaz Konieczny

The clouds in this shot by Lukaz Konieczny make for a more interesting sky than if it were overcast or even crystal clear. Adding texture to the sky as well as the foreground kept the image well balanced.

Capturing Movement - Creating a sense of movement to a seascape can add interest to an otherwise average scene. Two key areas to focus on are the, relatively slow moving, sea and sky. Capturing their movement requires a slow shutter speed and a camera support, typically a tripod.

Keeping your ISO low and aperture small (large f/ number) will allow for longer shutter speeds, use a remote shutter for captures over 30 seconds. See how moving clouds and water running up the beach blur into silky smooth wash of colour.

Inverno na Praia, Carla Brito

Alternatively raise your shutter speed to super-fast speeds to capture the individual droplets of breaking waves.

Olas y Vientos, Ludo Tarraga

This is a great shot by Ludo Tarraga. We love the layers of texture produced by shooting straight out to sea. Shooting with a fast shutter speed adds detail to the waves and spray and gives that sense of movement and power. Dark clouds at the top of the picture frame this shot nicely.

Adding interest - Sometimes simply photographing the sea and horizon doesn't make the most engaging image, we as viewers need something that holds our eye to the image and provides a bit of visual interest. 

Look around for ways to compose your seascapes that make use of foreground objects. Man-made objects such as beach groins, boats, piers and lighthouses add contract to the natural environment, whereas natural features such as arches, pillars, rock stacks, pebbles add interest if you wish to focus on natural elements.  

Rügen am Morgen, Mr Martin Gerk

This shot by Mr Gerk combines a number of techniques to produce a very impactful image. Using a man-made structure to add interest, rule of thirds, symmetry and slow shutter have all been put to good effect in this image.

Rock to Rock, Rafael Diez Corcuera

This shot by Rafael shows that even on cloudy days it's possible to produce really interesting images. This seascape makes use of the natural rock formations as foreground detail, and converting to black and white makes the best use of the conditions and brings out the texture and detail in the rock.

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