The coast has long been a favored location for photographers with its changing landscapes, mood and light meaning you can return to familiar locations time and again and get new and exciting photos to add to you collection. There are a few key tips that you can follow to increase your chances of obtaining great seascape photographs.
Where are you going? The location is very important when planning your next adventure. If you live by the coast you can afford to be more spontaneous, whereas if you have to travel a bit more forward planning will ensure you give yourself the opportunity to capture some great shots.
If you’ve never been to the area check out google images and see where people are taking their photos. Chances are if it’s a popular location a quick search will give you a good idea of where exactly you’re heading. I say ‘where exactly’ as the coast can be relatively inaccessible in places and often the best shots are taken in remote places that take time to access. You’ll need to factor this in your planning.
Use apps like google maps satellite mode to check out the coast you’re looking to visit. Are there any rocky outcrops, pools, or interesting objects that can add depth to your image? You can also look at the location of popular photo spots to help determine access. Don’t underestimate accessibility as I know I’ve been unable to get to a location called Horsehead Rock on the NSW South Coast because of the difficulty of access. Horsehead Rock is one of the most popular photo locations in the area but clearly takes more planning than simply turning up at the location. We were fortunate that Camel Rock was relatively easily accessed with a short beach walk and rock hop.
Check the tides
Accessibility may also include how the tides influence the coast. The coast can be dangerous and before you head around rocky outcrops you want to make sure you can get back from your location after you’ve finished shooting. Also note king tides (larger high tides) and storm surges will increase the high tides above usual. If you’re not familiar with the coast line its best to head out on a outgoing tide (after high tide).
If safety is not an issue then you need to determine if there is a better tide to visit your location. Will the rocks be covered? Do you want to use the mirroring of the wet surface created by a low tide? If you’re location is not too far away you may want to visit at both high tide and low tide to determine if there is a more favorable tide.
The right light
Once you’ve determined the location you need to determine the best time of day to visit. The golden hour is going to be the best time of the day to visit as the light will not be too harsh, and you may also be able to capture a good sunrise or sunset. If you’re on the east coast then sunrise is going to have the sun setting over the waters horizon, whereas if you’re on the west coast it will be sunset. There may also be instances where the shape of the coast allows you to shoot back over the water to the beach / rocks with the sun rising / setting in your background.
Apps like PhotoPills and The Photographers Ephemeris allow you to see satellite images of the terrain, as well as overlay the path of the rising and setting sun. These can be fantastic tools for planning your seascape photography trips. If you’re in North America The Photographers Ephemeris also allows you to add the Skyfire add-on to look at the likelihood of a good sunrise or sunset.
Now that you’ve chosen your location, picked where exactly you want to shoot from, and worked out the date time that the position of the sun and tide coincide to give you the best looking scene, its time to keep an eye on the weather. Don’t just hang out for a bluebird day as 30-70% high / fluffy clouds do wonders to accentuate a sunrise or sunset. A good storm can also add drama to the photo but take care with higher tides than usual.
This may seem like a lot of planning but if you’re travelling to a new destination a little planning can go a long way. I know I’ve been caught driving / walking frantically from one location to the next during an amazing sunset trying to find a location for a great seascape photograph. I can assure you there is a lot less stress if you have a plan.