5 Tips for Shooting Seascapes

Weather

I think one of the most important things when it comes to shooting seascapes is the weather. The coastlines get smashed with all sorts of weather and it’s a good idea to keep a close watch on it. I love a moody or colorful scene when shooting, but you’re always taking a chance. Depending on what conditions you’re looking for, I suggest going out in all different types of weather. 

Partly cloudy conditions can reward you with lots of gaps on the horizon for the sun to light up the clouds with some colour and give you lots of dynamic range. 

Alternatively, you can chance it by going out when it’s raining or mostly cloudy and that’s when the sky absolutely blows up. The only downfall is it’s usually a rare occurrence. There will usually be less people too which can be a great relaxing experience!

Tripod 

Having a stable, well built tripod really makes a difference—especially when shooting anything in water or windy conditions. Having a sturdy tripod is important so you can reduce camera shake and prevent losing your camera to the elements. I recently purchased my first professional tripod from Sirui, and I can tell you now, it makes a huge difference. My experience so far is all positive and will have a proper in-depth review coming out at a later date. 

Filters

Filters are really important to get the right exposure dialled in. Before sunrise and after sunset you can get away without using them for long exposures, but when the light gets too strong, you’re going to need some! If you’re shooting anything with a reflective surface, I would use a CPL (polarising filter) to cut through the glare and reveal more detail while increasing the colours slightly. Neutral Density filters act like sunglasses and allow you to use a longer shutter speed. There are many different filters but I mostly use the 3, 6, and 10 stop ND filters. 

I’m a huge fan of NiSi Filters and have been using them for the last couple of years. I’ve tried a few different companies, but none of them come close to the build quality. I would highly recommend them to anyone who is in the market for them. 

Settings

Settings used for seascapes is left to the individuals needs and wants, so I’ll pick a few variations to break them down. 

Action shots: I would recommend anywhere from 1/500-1/1000 shutter speed to freeze the motion. This can be used for things like waves crashing into cliffs, or capturing unique shapes caused by back wash. 

Detail motion: This is probably one of my favourites and that’s where the shutter speed is considered a long exposure but you can still capture all the details. This usually ranges from about 1/5 of a second to 2 seconds long. This can be great when trying to get leading line shapes of receding water on rocks or the beach. 

Misty look: If you’re striving for this effect, you can do this before sunrise, after sunset, or throw on a 10 stop and leave the shutter open for a few seconds to 30 seconds plus. This will turn the water into a misty cloud like effect and can be really ethereal. 

Tide

Checking the tide chart could be an important factor when it comes to seascape photography, as the water level can completely change the scene. There could be an interesting rock as a foreground element that catches the waves as it flows back out to sea creating a visually pleasing pattern at low tide. At high tide, it could be completely submerged and not visible. This can also be important when shooting different locations that can be cut off and you could end up stranded on the other side with no way of getting back unless you had a dry bag for your camera gear! This could turn into a really dangerous shoot if you got the conditions wrong! 




I am now running private and group workshops along the South Coast of NSW where I can personally teach you how to take your seascape photography to the next level. I hope you enjoyed the blog and would love to see you out there in the near future! Thank you! 

Antelope Canyon (Upper)

Antelope Canyon is one of the most amazing natural wonders I’ve ever been to, let alone photographed. This place has been on my bucket list ever since I saw the first photo of it. It’s located just outside of Page, in Arizona.

Living in Utah, it wasn’t too far—about a 6.5 hour drive. I put off going there because I wanted light beams and had to do some research and plan around what months they were going to be active. I was meant to go in May/June 2018, but I had to cancel both tours because of adverse weather conditions. I re-booked for July and crossed my fingers! If you’re looking to go, I highly suggest booking in advance! I know too many people who have missed out because they didn’t book. I chose to do the photo tour and it was booked out 4 weeks in advance.

“Antelope’s Spirit”  ISO 64 I 21mm I f/11 I 1/13 sec

“Antelope’s Spirit”

ISO 64 I 21mm I f/11 I 1/13 sec

There are many different types of tours you can book, but the main two are the traditional tour or the photography tour. The traditional tour is more for people who want to explore the canyon and costs around $66. The photography tour costs a lot more ($158) and you have about 2 hours with your guide and a small group. Don’t let that time frame fool you, it’s a stressful and fast-paced couple of hours. There is a lot of waiting for groups to pass by and to be cleared out of each section before you get to take your photos.

My experience here was two sided. You’re overwhelmed by the canyon’s beauty, but also stressed and filled with anxiety because you have a time limit and hordes of people going in and out. You must have a DSLR and a full size tripod for the photo tour. The bonus with the photo tour is that your guide will hold off the crowds while you have about 2 minutes to take your photo. When you’re bracketing about 7 shots, it’s not a lot of time especially when some images take up to 25 seconds in certain parts. This is not necessary but I wanted to make sure that I had a few photos from each composition to work with in post.

“Antelope’s Heart”  ISO 64 I 24mm I f/11 I 1.3 sec

“Antelope’s Heart”

ISO 64 I 24mm I f/11 I 1.3 sec

I booked the 11 AM - 1 PM photo tour in July, and with clear skies, you’ll get some incredible light beams and reflective light that bounces off the canyon walls. If you’re looking for similar conditions, I would highly recommend booking around these months and time of day for the best potential!

I would suggest bringing some water to keep hydrated, even though it’s a lot cooler inside the canyon. The guides will be throwing sand up into the air to create those amazing light beams, so if your camera isn’t weather sealed or you’re worried, maybe bring a cover for your camera. If you don’t want to spend any money on a cover, just grab a plastic shopping bag. If you’re sensitive to dust, wear a scarf or handkerchief that you can pull over your face while shooting.

“The Guardian”  ISO 64 I 14mm I f/11 I 0.4/0.5 sec

“The Guardian”

ISO 64 I 14mm I f/11 I 0.4/0.5 sec

This place can be quite difficult to shoot, especially with the time pressure and the amount of people. I would highly recommend bracketing your exposures, so you can exposure blend them later in post or have multiple images to choose from! I had only been doing photography for about 18 months when I visited, so hopefully some of these tips will help. I have also put the camera settings in the photo captions to give you an idea of what I used. If you got anything out of this little blog, please feel free to let me know! Happy shooting!

Winter In Southern Utah

Day One

On a spontaneous decision, I decided to go down to southern Utah for a photography trip. There was reports of a snow storm that hit the day before and another coming while I was down there. This trip was a little different to most because of the unique weather.

I arrived to a location that I had been wanting to visit for a long time and I was finally there. I got that burst of excitement as I pulled up in my car, got out and started looking around for comps prior to sunset. The weather forecast was to be clear that night and I was pleased because I wanted to shoot a part of the Milky Way that is only visible for a few months of the year. Shooting in these conditions is very difficult but also unique which is why I had the motivation for the trip. As the sun dipped below the horizon, the sky blew up with the light catching the high clouds. I frantically tried to get myself a few different images while the color lasted. By the end of the sunset shoot, I could not feel my hands and could hardly take anymore photos because it was so cold. As I waited for complete darkness, I warmed up in the car and made dinner. I set up my tripod, aligned my tracker to Polaris and was all set for some astro photography in some of the darkest skies in America.

I got a few photos of Pleiades (the Seven Sisters) as I was waiting for Orion to pop up and get into alignment for a shot I had in mind. After getting all my tracked shots, I made my way down to the cliff face where there was a platform I could stand on to take my self-portrait. I set my camera timer and ran down and out to the platform where I stood still for thirty seconds (it felt like a lifetime). As I was standing there I think I got some vertigo, started to feel light headed and that I was dreaming because it was so surreal. After my camera had finished, I return to it to take a series of images to stack for noise reduction. Jumping into my car for a good nights sleep was amazing, minus the cold.

Day Two

I woke up extremely cold and checked the temperature in my car and it said 9F/-13C. There was some incredible ice formations that covered the inside of the car windows. I was so cold I couldn’t stand sticking around for sunrise so I started the car and drove off looking for somewhere to shoot while I got warm. I came across this unique butte and had to pull over. I took a few shots and different compositions until the sun rose enough for me to get the drone out for some potentially cool photos.

Was lucky enough to get some amazing color for sunrise.

Was lucky enough to get some amazing color for sunrise.

Here's a little video of me getting my drone out for the second time. Took some photos of this spot and did some video. I always forget to use my drone when I'm out taking photos but I want to start doing some more!

I headed to Moab to check-in to a hotel because it was just too cold without the appropriate gear. I can tell you now, that shower was bliss! I later caught up with a good friend Joshua Snow (j.snow_photo) where we went and shot the Delicate Arch. Got some nice golden light for sunset. In the morning we shot Dead Horse but we got skunked, so returned for sunset where the clouds broke up enough for the sun and light to come through.

Incredible conditions for an extremely well-known location.

Incredible conditions for an extremely well-known location.

The next day, I returned home to go back to work and get ready for school - reality sucks sometimes. It was an eventful trip and one that I won’t ever forget. If you’ve made it to this point, thank you very much for reading and I hope you enjoyed the blog!