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!
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 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 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.
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!