Stunning Seascape Photographs in Six Steps

Seascape pictures are one of the classic works of art produced by painters over the centuries. It’s no surprise that photographers are also attracted to the beauty of the sea, and most photographers will tackle the subject at some time. Many of the techniques of landscape photography are relevant to taking seascape pictures, but a few special techniques are also needed. The following six steps will turn your seascape photographs into stunning pictures you will be proud of.

1) Use filters.
Photographic filters are essential pieces of equipment when photographing the sea. A UV filter will remove the haze from a seascape photograph by filtering out ultra-violet light. This can make a real difference to a picture, and everything as far as the horizon will be crystal clear if you use a UV filter. A polarizing filter is another great tool, and will turn skies deep blue and remove reflections from the sea. A polarizing filter can enrich the color of water, and create impact by showing the depth of the sea. Neutral Density (ND) filters reduce the amount of light entering through your lens. On a bright day, this can allow you to shoot at slower shutter speeds to give flowing water as smooth, velvety look. ND filters also allow you to shoot at larger apertures so that you can get a narrower depth of field and creamier bokeh.

Alternately, you can wait until the sun is setting, then use a slower shutter speed.

Velvety Water at Crystal Cove

Velvety Water at Crystal Cove

2) Include foreground interest.
Foreground interest in a seascape picture adds a sense of scale and depth. Rocks or seaweed are fantastic as foreground interest, but buildings and man-made objects can also be effective. Of course, people can add interest to seascapes (and landscapes). If possible, look for foreground features which can lead the eye into a picture, as this creates a powerful composition.

People Often Add Interest to Photos

Including People Often Adds Interest to a Photograph

3) Experiment with lenses.
Wide-angle lenses are the obvious choice for landscape and seascape photographs. They are perfect for capturing the scale of a sweeping vista, and offer the photographer a depth of field which ensures everything from foreground to horizon is in focus. Telephoto lenses are also good for seascapes, and can be used to pick out details and magnify points of interest in a scene. For example, a seagull resting on a boat would make a powerful seascape picture.

4) Consider the light.
The great artists brought their landscapes and seascapes to life by attention to the angles, color and quality of light. The photographer needs patience to do this, but the effort is always worthwhile. Shooting early in the morning or at sunset are usually the best times, and the light brings richer colors and deeper shadows which create stunning pictures. There are generally less people around at these times of the day, and this also helps in creating a sense of atmosphere.

5) Experiment with exposure.
Shooting seascapes can involve bright lighting conditions and high ranges of contrast. The metering systems of some cameras may struggle to expose photographs correctly, and it’s always worth taking shots at different exposures. Over-exposed images will have washed out colors and a lack of detail in areas of highlight. Deliberately under-exposing seascapes can create a strong sense of mystery, and photographs can appear as if taken by moonlight.

Underexposed to Give Appearance of Moonlight

Underexposed to Give Appearance of Moonlight

6) Use a tripod.
A tripod is a fantastic tool for landscape and seascape photographers. Having the camera securely mounted means that the photographer can work in low-light conditions without fear of camera shake. Selecting slow shutter speeds means you can capture the motion of the waves and sea, and a range of creative options are opened up. Mounting the camera on a tripod generally means that a photographer takes more time over composition and framing of a shot, and this leads to more effective pictures. When shooting on a tripod, consider using the self-times, or a remote shutter release, to further reduce vibrations.

Effective seascape photographs are timeless, and if you make the effort to master this area of photography the rewards are great.

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