A Day At The Beach: Photographing Seaside Landscapes

Photographing Seaside Landscapes

This shot was taken just after a January snow storm. The ice glistening on the dune grass made for an excellent foreground while the lighthouse towered in the background. A polarizer was used to help darken the sky. Taken with the EOS 5D Mark II and EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II. ISO 100, 1/250 at f/16.

Living on the east coast of the United States, I have easy access to any number of beaches to use as subjects for my photographic purposes. While many of these beaches may not be as dramatic as those on the west coast, they offer many photographic opportunities and shouldn’t be overlooked.  Most people think of the beach as being a summer destination, but I’ve found it to be an excellent location all year round for a variety of reasons.

Photographing Seaside Landscapes

Dramatic skies and rushing water can make even the simplest composition interesting. I used a low point of view and a slower shutter speed to capture the water rushing straight at the camera, ready to grab the tripod if the water knocked the tripod over. The clouds eliminated any bright sunlight and created an almost monochromatic image.  EOS 5D Mark III with EF 14mm f/2.8L II. Exposure was 8 seconds, f/20, ISO 100.

Photographing Seaside Landscapes poses a number of problems for the photographer. There’s wind, sand, and water to contend with, and keep out of your equipment.  There are some precautions you can take to minimize the chances of disaster striking. 

First, I usually spread a blanket out and put my camera bag down on that. It helps prevent sand from getting the seams of the bag, and it also lets the flap of my backpack rest somewhere other than sand.  I speak from experience when I say that resting that lid on the sand and then flipping it up to close it is a good way to get sand inside the bag.

The next issue is the water. Obviously, the most basic rule is to keep your bag as far away from the water as possible. Pay attention to the tides and watch that the waves aren’t coming closer to where you’ve stashed your gear. But that’s only half the issue. Generally when I’m at the beach, water is at the very least a major part of what I’m shooting.  I tend to take a few chances here.  I like low angles, and dramatic shots.  That tends to put my camera right in harm’s way.  If I’m not on a tripod, I ensure that the strap is always around my neck to keep it from falling.  If I’m on a tripod, I tend to keep my hand ready at all times to grab it and move if a big wave comes. If it helps you feel more secure, you can always use a rain cape to protect from splash, or if submersion may be possible, an underwater housing might be called for.  I don’t personally use any of these items and just use a lot of care when near the water, but I have heard many horror stories of cameras that went swimming.

Sunrise and sunset are my favorite times for the soft warm light they provide.  I use graduated neutral density  filters when they are called for, depending on the light, as well as standard neutral density filters to help control my shutter speed to determine how I render water.

I find myself going back to the same beaches over and over. By their nature, they change often, as weather erodes them, tides build them back up, and secrets beneath the sand are revealed.  Often after a storm is the best time, as the combination of wind and rain will create patterns in the sand and pools of water which create beautiful reflections.

Where do you find yourself visiting over and over to fulfill your photographic urges?

Photographing Seaside Landscapes

This shot is actually a west coast beach- Pelican Point in Laguna, California. A 4 stop ND grad was used to darken the sky. The foreground is a large rock with a beautiful pattern of cracks for interest. EOS 5D Mark III with EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II. 1 second at f/16, ISO 400.

Photographing Seaside Landscapes

This shot was taken at sunrise, as the tide was coming in. Water continually washed over the jetty, and the light playing on the water and rocks captured my interest. EOS-1D X with EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II. Exposure was .4 seconds at f/16, ISO 100. A 3 stop neutral density filter was also used.

Have you had any success with Photographing Seaside Landscapes? Share your images and tips in comments below.

A Day At The Beach: Photographing Seaside Landscapes
Article Name
A Day At The Beach: Photographing Seaside Landscapes
The beach can provide many opportunities for making great photographs, but also presents several potential pitfalls.

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Rick Berk is a photographer based in Freeport, Maine, shooting a variety of subjects including landscapes, sports, weddings, and portraits. Rick leads photo tours for World Wide Photo Tours and his work can be seen at RickBerk.com and you can follow him on his Facebook page and on Instagram at @rickberkphoto.

  • marius2die4

    Excellent photos.How lucky you are to have beach close to your house!

  • BumPhil

    Love this one.

  • BumPhil

    Near Big Sur, looking south towards the Bixby bridge. Taken 10/10/13.

  • BumPhil

    Very nice. Like a watercolor.

  • tony

    ‘Sunny’ suffolk, UK

  • Rick Berk

    Nice, Tony. I’m in Suffolk, NY!

  • tony

    I never knew there was a Suffolk in NY, i do now!. thank you.

  • Elsinore

    Thanks for the article. I was late opening it because I was at the seaside taking photos! Could have used the tips. Anyway…here is one of the pics I took at Newcastle Beach, Australia. Again thanks for the article and I will incorporate your tips next trip.

  • Elsinore

    Sorry…new at this!!

  • Guest

    Hurghada, Egypt
    Skyline missing :”D

  • Hatem G. Kotb

    Hurghada, Egypt
    No awesome skylines though 🙁

  • Frank

    My try. 2sec IOS80. CanonS95.

  • Frank

    The photo was missing…
    2sec. Canon S95

  • Cristal Toon Moore

    NagsHead morning, between the storms – Irene passed and Katia threatening

  • Cristal Toon Moore

    Between the storms Irene and Katia, sunrise at Nags Head

  • David Proesmans

    For once, instead of going low I decided to go as high as possible to take shots from a cliff located in Mona Vale (north of Sydney, AUS). More of them can be viewed on my webiste: http://www.ProVidaPhotography.com. Hope you will enjoy them! cheers

  • Sumanth Jagarlamudi

    HI Holger, its very interesting shot..can i know how did you taken this pitcher.

  • Billie Runningbear

    Hi All, I took this while visiting Cook Town, Cape York, Queensland Australia during the winter. Thought the sunlight over the mountain and the ocean gave a nice touch.

  • Billie Runningbear

    This is an early morning shot of a sunrise in Cairns coming through the clouds. I thought it looked amazing. Can view other photographs through my facebook page.

  • Holger Konarski

    Thank You Sumanth. This was taken during incoming tide on as low of an angle as i could possibly get, as I was on a small rock with my tripod, almost sitting IN the water (I did get wet, though 🙂 ). Shot in manual: F22, 1/5 sec, ISO 100. hope this helps.

  • Bob Nagy

    Taken off Perkins Beach in Cleveland (I know, a real beach hotspot!), Ohio.

  • Alex Ringer, Israel

    Haifa seashores are famous in Israel, The city rests on the Carmel mountain and the seascape from the western shoulder of the mountain, Stella Maris, is one of the most breathtaking

  • Jacqui B

    My first attempt at a sunrise seascape. Tallebuggera (Gold Coast), Qld, Australia. The colours that morning were so intense.

  • Mukta

    Beach from India

  • jeff wardell

    hi what lens did you use to take you shot of the in coming tide

  • Rick Berk

    Hi Jeff… was never sure if you meant me or one of the other pictures posted in the comments. My captions should all include lens and camera info. The one of the jetty with the wave washing over was a 16-35. The one with the clouds was with a 14mm f/2.8.

  • penni

    Panama City Beach, FL

  • dantefrizzoli

    This is beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

  • mtphill

    One November evening at Sullivan Island SC the sky just lit up with color that mirrored nicely to a tidal pool. Right place right time with bracketed exposures and custome WB.

  • Sylvania

    Not the sea, but close enough…

  • Sylvania

    Not the sea but close enough…

  • Pierre

    Burgas, Central Beach, Bulgaria …one of my favorite places I’ve been coming back to again and again

  • Pierre

  • maria martins

    This wasTake whith my mobile.

  • Llaup Ecraep

    as much as ime loving the articals ime wondering why theres nobody else comenting on them from over a year agoo or 6 months time too loose dps me thinks as just the same stuff being thrown at me

  • Brian James Bugge

    A shot I took with a long lens, from high up on a cliff. I wanted to compress the image to show more detail in the mountains and the waves. On the Oregon Coast, near Florence. More of my photos are on my website: http://www.blakelyphotographystudio.com

  • Gourish PN

    Aksa beach
    Mumbai India

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