A seascape is defined as a combination of adjacent land, coastline and sea within an area, defined by a mix of land-sea inter-visibility and coastal landscape character assessment, with major headlands forming division points between one seascape area and the next.
Like all landscapes, including some foreground interest is important in order to produce an interesting photo. One way to do this at a beach is to look for interesting rocks or rock formations and use those as your foreground interest. Sometimes it’s best to keep things simple. Wet sand can offer gorgeous reflections and this is best with an outgoing tide as there are fewer footprints to worry about. That being said, monochrome most often works very well with seascapes.
One of the main reasons I love seascapes is just the variety you can get from different beaches. Or even the same beach at different tides. Never be afraid to get your feet or tripod wet. Sometimes the best compositions are those taken from in the water! Make sure your gear is well protected from the elements.
Another important factor to consider with seascapes, or any photos containing water, is shutter speed, as this often has a significant impact on the overall look of your photo.
A faster shutter speed will freeze the action and will therefore show the water without any motion blur. Depending on how fast the water is moving, this is typically anything from 1/20 sec and faster. This is the most realistic way to capture water and would be what non-photographers would expect to see.
But we know photography isn’t always about realism! Slower shutter speeds will blur the water to varying degrees. Again it depends on how fast the water is moving,or the level of light, but I find that shutter speeds of around 1/2 sec will show some motion blur while still retaining a reasonable amount of detail of the water. A taken at 1/3 sec can capture the splash of the water against the rocks while still getting some motion blur. Once the shutter speed goes above 1 second the water starts to give the foggy or milky effect that is quite popular; using a Lee Big Stopper with or without a Lee Hard or Soft Grad is a sure way of achieving this. Although some people dislike this effect, I love using it in my photos.
The shutter speed you choose is usually down to personal preference. Sometimes it’s dictated by the light (e.g. before sunrise or after sunset the light is too low to use a fast shutter speed) but often it depends on how you want the photo to look. I find it’s also a case of trial and error, so don’t be afraid to mix it up a little and experiment.
When capturing seascapes, weather is always an important composition factor. Stormy seas can produce so much mood and drama, whereas calmer seas, a sense of serenity under a pastel pink hued sky, be that either sunrise or sunset. Waves add impact and drama, the dreamy look is created when long exposures are used, and really work well if there is a static object in your scene. Obviously, a fast shutter speed will capture the power of the ocean waves crashing on a breakwater pier, freezing the motion of water droplet spray.
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