I was once asked what aspect or genre of photography I most enjoy. I answered quickly with seascape photography. This of course did not come over easy to the person asking the question. Seascape? Whats that? Why would you want to do that? Well its simple actually, living in the Bahamas especially on a small island like New Providence I’m surrounded by water hence the first thing that came to my mind was to photograph the coastline. Most new photographers go about capturing flowers and birds I on the other hand started that same way but quickly strayed toward the beaches. Its just beautiful to me and it changes throughout the day which means the same location at different times of the day will always be different.
Seascape photography is primarily pictures taken at the coastline. It can be of a beautiful sandy beach with blue waters or it can be on a rocky beach with jagged sharp, dark and dangerous rocks. Either way its all considered seascape. There are so many small niches when it comes to seascape but to keep it simple any image taken above water but of the coastline or the sea itself is considered seascape. In other words a river or a pond does not count as seascape.
Many person tend to take for granted the beauty of the coastlines especially here in the Bahamas. The Caribbean on a whole has some of the most beautiful and diverse coastlines in the world, as far as the tropics may be concerned. As I mentioned if you stay and watch a particular area all day, the diversity of colors, brightness and the ever changing tides will yield a photographic subject that shows its self for short periods of time. Its this fleeting time that makes seascape photography so amazing. If you don’t catch that moment right then you miss it for ever.
With the rotation of the earth and the ebb and flow of the tides or even throughout the year the various phenomenons that may occur, a photographer can set up and shoot the same location month after month and each image from day to day will be totally different from the one before and so unique that no other image will ever match it.
How do you capture a seascape?
Taking photos of the coast line may seem easy enough however there is some skill involved in creating awesome photos. Its like a non photographer once said, all you have to do is press the button. Unfortunately there are few things you have to do before that point. Having the right gear is essential to getting good seascape photos. Without the right gear you make your job much harder and would most likely give up on the art. There are some things you will need, here is a basic list of items you need and I do mean basic.
- Camera backpack
- wide angle lens
- Remote trigger or use of the built in timer (optional)
That’s about it, the basic tools of a seascape photographer. Once you have your tools at your disposal you go out to your nearest beach, scout the area for great compositions and start shooting. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Well yeah but it can get a bit more complicated but that’s a story for another time.
Showing the coastline
To show the coastline you have to find the best angle, the best height and the best direction with foreground and background interest. This is where it starts to get a bit difficult. Many newbies do not have their photographers eye fully or even half way developed. So they may be in an amazing place but have no idea how to capture images that tell an amazing story. What time of day is the best time? Do you want or need some sort of foreground interest? How to simplify your image to show what you want your viewer to see. What type of clouds are in the sky or at least what color is the sky? is it overcast, cloudy, windy, colorful. Is it sunset or sunrise maybe its noon. All these things make a difference on deciding how to show the coastline.
Showing the sky
The sky is the bane of newbie seascape photographers. The problem is you have to decide which will take weight in your image. The sky or the sea. When the sky is just magnificent you want to capture the sky over the sea. Again this is easier said than done. The problem is the sky is always way brighter than the sea so even the best cameras have a hard time exposing properly for the massive difference in light. It becomes even more noticeable when you decide to show the sky the sea or ground area becomes much darker than you would like. This is where you need ND filters to help you out and not just any type of ND filter but something called a graduated ND filter, its like a magic glass/plastic that makes everything a okay.
Draw them in
The next hardest part about seascapes is a question you have to ask yourself before you decide on your location. Will this image be compelling enough to draw in the viewer and how can I draw them into this image to feel as if they were here or its something so magical that they just cant stop looking at it. This is where the rules of composition comes into play. Ok I know the long debate about the ‘RULES’ of composition, like who wrote these rules and who says they are actual rules. Well without getting into art class 101 let just say there are guidelines that you can follow to help you understand how to capture an compelling image. I’ve often heard that rules are meant to be broken however my reply is yes but you have to know the rules first.
If you practice the ‘guidelines’ to composition you will find that you improve your overall images by 50% overnight. This is the one thing that many new photographers and even a few professional photographers seem to not understand. Following certain guidelines will help and go a long way in creating an image that will draw your viewer into the image like a siren calls a sailor to the sea.
I’m not talking about a fairy tale I’m talking about creating images that will cause persons to stare at your image for at least 10 seconds. Ok yeah 10 seconds isn’t that long to be enchanted but in a world saturated with images if a person stops to look deeper into you images at all you have succeeded in drawing them in and anything close or over 10 seconds you definitely have enchanted them. Seascape photography when done right can turn heads in the direction of your images, its not just an image its a feeling that can stir emotions and memories withing a viewer, this is the basis of seascape photography.