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Important Considerations for Great Coastal Photography

great-coastal-photography

There are few places more exciting to take photos than at the coast. The joy of being by the sea is truly spectacular and an opportunity to capture the ever-changing conditions. Surrounded by rolling waves, soft powdered sands, rugged cliffs, and the truly hypnotic sound of the ocean, great coastal photography can be achieved in any season throughout the year.

There are several important factors you need to consider when capturing images by the coast.

Great Coastal Photography

Antigua, Caribbean. Canon 5DSr, 24-70mm f2.8L II, 24mm, 1/125 sec, f/11, ISO 100, Aperture Priority.

Potential risks: saltwater/corrosion and large, unpredictable rogue waves

The coastline can be dangerous as well as beautiful and commands an element of respect. There are inherent risks to yourself and your kit from the sea. Saltwater from sea spray can harm your lenses and filters and can cause corrosion to your camera, potentially making it irreparable. I suggest bringing a cleaning cloth to wipe away any unwanted saltwater and consider using a rain cover to protect your camera and lenses.

One of the major draws for people when photographing the sea is the waves. It can be very enticing to go and photograph the sea in stormy weather with dramatic light or when large waves occur. 

However, lives have been lost where people have come into difficulty with strong currents or large, unpredictable rogue waves and have even been swept out to sea. 

Be aware of these potential risks, and put safety first when going to photograph the coast. Moreover, never underestimate the sea.

Time of day

Great coastal photography can be achieved at any time of day that you visit the sea and in all weathers. Sunrise or sunset are the best times of day for taking photos along the coast. The light that appears at these times can be magical. You can capture the afterglow of the sun or the coastline as the rays of the setting sun light it.

If you shoot the coast during the day, look for interesting scenes and elements that can make your images more striking.

Image: Cornwall, England. Canon 5DSr, 24-70mm f2.8L II, 24mm, 1/90 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800, Aperture Pri...

Cornwall, England. Canon 5DSr, 24-70mm f2.8L II, 24mm, 1/90 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800, Aperture Priority.

What to shoot

There is always an opportunity to capture interesting coastal scenes. It offers a huge variety of subjects to shoot from views of the seashore and crashing waves to shells, different rock formations, and architecture. This includes lighthouses, piers, and beach huts.

You can use a wide-angle lens to capture a broader view and include several of these elements in your shots or zoom in for pictures of isolated details such as patterns on a rock or shell.

Other interesting subjects you can photograph at the coast include the motion of the sea as it swirls around some rocks, the tide moving in and out and dramatic weather.

Great coastal photography can even include a boat or person in the frame – for example, a person swimming in the sea or walking along the beach.

Great Coastal Photography

Antigua, Caribbean. Canon 5DSr, 16-35mm f2.8L III, 35mm, 1/125 sec, f/11, ISO 100, Aperture Priority.

Atmosphere

Don’t be put off visiting the coast if the forecast isn’t sunny. You can make great coastal photography in almost any weather.

Make the most of overcast conditions by capturing cloudy and moody skies, which can be great for adding atmosphere.

Alternatively, visit the coast in the winter and capture something different such as mist, fog, and seaspray. These conditions can create more drama in your shots and provide a unique look and feel.

Image: Wales. Canon 5DSr, 70-200mm f2.8L III, 70mm, 1/90 sec, f/8, ISO 200, Aperture Priority.

Wales. Canon 5DSr, 70-200mm f2.8L III, 70mm, 1/90 sec, f/8, ISO 200, Aperture Priority.

Mood of your image

One way to capture great coastal photography is to convey a sense of mood in your images. Think about what mood you are trying to demonstrate and how you can add more ambiance to your pictures.

You can create a mood with light or add drama by capturing fast-moving water and crashing waves using a quick shutter speed. The fast shutter will freeze the action.

You can also develop a feeling of tranquility with longer exposures. The blur of the water and subsequent movement can look great.

Great Coastal Photography

Wales. Canon 5DSr, 16-35mm f2.8L III, 26mm, 1/90 sec, f/11, ISO 200, Aperture Priority.

Tide times

Check the tide times and time your visit accordingly. Visit the coast when the tide is low if you want to photograph the sea coming in or at high tide when the sea is out and the beach is more exposed. Be sure to know the tides of the area you are visiting so that you don’t get stranded if the tide comes in.

You can use apps such as Tides Near Me, to keep up-to-date on the tides of the area you are visiting.

Leaving things as you found them

One thing worth mentioning for coastal photography is to leave things as you found them. Remember to keep beaches clean and take all rubbish with you. Also, be careful not to cause any damage to the landscape if you go venturing onto fragile rocks or cliffs so nature can be enjoyed by everyone who visits after you too.

Conclusion

In summary, many photographers are enticed by the sea and return to it time and time again.

For great coastal photography, consider the importance of its risks, the time of day, what you want to shoot, tide times and how to add atmosphere and mood. Now it’s your turn to capture some coastal scenes and share your images with us below.

 

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Jeremy Flint
Jeremy Flint

is a UK based award winning travel and landscape photographer, known for documenting images of beautiful destinations, cultures and communities from around the world. He recently won the Association of Photographers Discovery Award 2017 and the Grand Prize in the 2016 National Geographic Traveller and F11 Your Vision competitions. His pictures are represented by 4Corners images and have been featured in National Geographic Traveller, Outdoor Photography, Digital SLR Photography and national newspapers.