Michael Breitung Photography

Photographing Seascapes – Part 3

In part 1 and part 2 of this article series I talked about the preparation, the equipment and the techinques I use during a seascape shoot. In this installment I’ll focus on a very certain aspect of seascape photography, the capturing of the waves’s motion and energy as they break at the shore.

While it’s possible to create very mystic looking photos of the sea by applying long exposures of 10 seconds up to several minutes, what those photos often don’t capture is the raw energy of the water as it rushes up the coast.

So, if my goal is to capture this energy, I use shorter exposure times, often of less than one second. I usually want to introduce just a bit of motion blur in the water to show the movement but I try to preserve the structures. A good rule of thumb is to start experimenting with exposure times between 1/8s and 0.7s and depending on the intended results maybe extend the exposure time a bit or use an even shorter exposure, if the waves are very powerfull.

A man standing on the rocks of the Noosa coast, surrounded by waves

To give some more examples I have recorded a video tutorial on this topic, in which I go a bit deeper into the different phases the waves go through when rolling towards the shore and how to best capture those.

I also show you how I blend multiple photos of the same scene to create an even more dynamic image by combining waves from different frames.

After you watched the video you already heard my words of caution at the end. But I want to repeat them here once more. You should always be prepared to quickly retreat to a safe position, if you photograph close to the shore. Even if the sea appears calm, all of a sudden a larger wave might roll in and you really don’t want to get washed out into the ocean by such a rogue wave. Here’s the mentioned link to Brent Pearson’s video, which shows some of the dangers.

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