Like most people, I love the beach, I love shooting there and I always love great ocean and beach pictures. I grew up with the beach and have spent a lot of time in the water. Hours a day surfing on summer break or between semesters. It's safe to say I've learned a thing or two about the ocean and the way it acts. I hope in this post to share several photography tips I've picked up when shooting pictures of the ocean.
Beach Photography, Pictures of the Ocean and Photography Tips
Shooting beach photography is one of the more difficult types of landscapes to capture. It’s dirty, wet, hard on your gear, hard on your body and can be dangerous. Lately I've been doing a lot of High Dynamic Range (HDR) at the beach. HDR photography is even more challenging because timing is everything when trying to capture over three shots which can take up to a minute to expose during purple hour.
I'm posting this topic as a page that I will continue to update with new tricks, tips and pictures of the ocean . I will continue to showcase more samples as I further expand, develop and grow with my own style of beach photography. I hope to share what I learn so other photographers can learn to get amazing results as I finally have. . . Finally.
Below are a list of photography tips and samples of some of my beach pictures. All of which are capture using simple HDR photography techniques.
This beach picture is of Victoria Beach in Laguna Beach California. It's one of the better examples of what HDR photography can do for ocean landscapes.
Important Photography Tips For Shooting Beach Photography
Use Weather Sealed Gear
This of course comes with a price tag. It's just a recommendation and this is because I’m always getting soaked when shooting near waves. You never know when a big one will comes out of nowhere consuming you in white wash. If you're not shooting near really calm waters, the waves will throw up a constant mist that collects on everything including your camera gear. So if you don’t have weather sealed gear, you should bring extra rags to wipe your gear clean. If you're also out on a boat and shooting pictures of the ocean of even on a fishing trip, there is a constant mist that will build up a film on your gear so again I recommend weather sealed gear.
Use UV Filters
Not just one, but maybe a couple. It's a great photography tip for the beginner. Ditch the lens cap and just go with one of these.
At the beach they come in handy because the gentle mist the waves throw up will tend to bead up on the front of your lens. It will ruin your shots if you’re shooting at a high F stop. It’s very important to constantly check it and clean it, and that can be a task. Like mentioned above, the water that beads up on the UV filter is salt water, so when you try to wipe it off it leaves smears and streaks everywhere. I usually have to unscrew mine and use the inside of my shirt to really wipe it clean.
I personally have been using a lot of Hoya UV Filters. I like Hoya because they are cheap but not too cheap. A pretty decent mid range brand with a good reputation. When you're out taking pictures of the ocean you're going to wear down your gear a bit quicker than say going to Disney Land.
Shoot at Lower F-Stops
When I photo landscapes I often set my aperture somewhere around an f16. I typically want everything in focus or as much as possible in focus. Especially with ultra wide angle lenses where objects in the corners like the sand or rocks can be a lot closer to your than your subject. Lately I’ve been finding that an f8 is usually fine and better optically anyway. The biggest reason not to shoot at too high an f-stop is because of all the mist and water that collects on the your front piece of glass. At a high f -stop you see every piece of dust or water stuck to the front of your lens and you'll get a lot of it near waves.
Use a Tripod
This isn't a requirement for shooting better beach pictures, but it does open up your options. With a tripod you can shoot High Dynamic Range or HDR photos, Night Photography for just after the sunset, or Long Exposure photography to get that nice smooth looking water.
Subject Matter is Everything
You’ll notice a lot of my Beach Photography takes place near some sort of man made structure. Like a pier, a staircase or a jetty. It could even be a crab or a cool rock. But unless the clouds doing something truly amazing or you plan on making viral Internet inspiration posters, you’ll want to pay attention to your environment and find some sort of subject to focus on. For beach photography sunsets are nice, but they won’t tell any story that will capture a viewers imagination. The best photos have some sort of story or drama happening and even better if it's an amazing sunset.
Shoot HDR Photography
Not everyone has access to doing this as it's complicated and requires special software. But many cameras do now have an HDR mode built in. The trick is to use a tripod if you can or hold the camera as still as possible. If you're more serious with photography check out Photomatix Pro 4. It's around $100 bucks but is a staple for most HDR photos. Photoshop also has an High Dynamic Range feature but I've never been as successful with it. (I will have more photography tips regarding this very topic later on my site)
One of the more dangerous things when shooting pictures of the ocean are waves. You never know when that Big One will roll in and clean house. It happens a lot. Especially in places like Hawaii where the surf conditions can change in minutes sending a 15 foot wave in out of nowhere. The white wash of these waves can be so powerful it can knock you off your feet and even pull you into the surf. People die from this. So be careful and always pay attention to incoming swell on the horizon between each shot and don't get to caught up in your photography.
Watch the tide report. Don’t go hiking out next to cliff faces if there is a potential for a high tide to come in and pound the cliffs with you in between. Also don't stand on the edge of cliff faces or reefs that could break away or get splashed heavily with water.
Hope this helps. If you take any cool beach pictures please share with me on my Google+. Good luck!
Samples of Some of My High Dynamic Range Beach Photography
This beach picture is of three kids watching the sunset at the Oceanside Pier. It was a very interesting night and the tide was low.
This picture of the ocean is an HDR photo at the Hermosa Pier in Hermosa Beach California. It was a very colorful night despite there being no clouds.
This is a common style you'll see in lots of sea pictures. This is taken at Malibu. It's a three shot HDR.
This beach picture is of the Santa Monica Pier. It's an HDR photo taken with a rather long exposure at night. It's one of my more popular examples of HDR Photography.
Another beach picture taken at El Matador Beach in Malibu. Really an amazing location that a lot of people don't know about. This is one of my earlier HDR photos.
This is another ocean picture where me and my tripod are actually in about a foot of water taking a long exposure high dynamic range photo.
This is another HDR photo of Victoria Beach in Laguna Beach California. It's such a pretty place, I love shooting there.
Redondo Beach Pier. This is an HDR photo.
Be sure to check back for more photography trips and pictures of the ocean. This site is still fairly new so I'll have a newsletter to come very soon where I can more easily update you.
PHOTOS AVAILABLE AS PRINTS
If you're interested in purchasing any of my Beach Photography or HDR Photography, or just want to see more pictures of the ocean I will continue to update my blog's main page almost daily or you can find prints on my Smugmug.
If you have any questions about shooting pictures of the ocean feel free to leave a comment below.