Photo Tip of the Week: 7 Steps To Stunning Seascapes
Want to shoot beautiful seascapes? Alfonso Calero has seven tips to help you on your way.
I've been shooting seascapes for over 10 years and I have always found it to be one of the most rewarding and challenging of photographic subjects. No two seascapes are the same and once you add variable weather and sea conditions to the mix there are endless opportunities for photographers willing to get their feet wet, so to speak!
01 USE A TRIPOD
It sounds obvious, but most beginners don’t bother with tripods. They should. Apart from giving you the freedom to choose a slower shutter speed, a tripod forces you to slow down and think about the image-making process. Where should you position the horizon? Should that rock be in the frame or would it be better left out? Should you use a slow shutter speed to blur the water, or would it look better sharp? Look for a sturdy tripod that can collapse down to provide a low shooting angle. Shooting low can create great drama in your images.
A low shooting angle can add a sense of drama to your seascapes. Photo by Alfonso Calero.
02 LOW ISO
Choose your camera’s lowest ISO setting (normally 50, 100 or 200 ISO). This will not only minimise the appearance of noise in your image, but also allow you to use a slower shutter speed, which can be useful if you are trying to achieve the ‘blurry water’ effect you see in many seascapes.
Choose a low ISO to keep noise to a minimum. Photo by Alfonso Calero.
03 SLOW SHUTTER SPEED
If you want to create the 'milky water' effect you'll need to use a slow shutter speed – slower than half a second. With your camera on a tripod, switch your camera to Shutter Priority (S or Tv) and choose a shutter speed between 1/2 and 10 seconds. If it is too bright you will get a warning message indicating that the image will be over-exposed at this shutter speed. At this point you have two options. First, wait until it gets darker. Second, and this is my preferred option, place a Neutral Density filter, which looks like a grey piece of glass, in front of the lens to artificially darken the scene. You can buy ND filters of varying densities, from light to dark grey. I use a +10 ND filter for most of my seascapes and find it works very well.
With a neutral density you can artificially darken the scene and use a slower shutter speed. Photo by Alfonso Calero.
Even though you’re shooting in Shutter Priority you still need to be conscious of the camera’s aperture setting. Look for an aperture somewhere around f/8. While you'll get more depth of field as the aperture gets smaller (higher f-numbers) keep in mind that most lenses are sharpest at a setting of around f/8.
Don't forget about aperture. The smaller the aperture the deeper the depth of field. Photo by Alfonso Calero.
If you’re using long exposures a remote shutter release will help you keep camera shake to a minimum. You should be able to pick one up at your local camera store for around $40 or $50. Failing that, you can use your camera’s self timer to fire the shutter ‘hands free’.
06 GRADUATED FILTER
To add drama to your skies try using a graduated filter. Dark at the top and clear at the bottom, a graduated filter can be really useful for shooting high contrast landscape scenes where the sky is considerably brighter than the foreground.
A graduated filter can be used to add drama to a sky or balance out a high-contrast scene. Photo by Alfonso Calero.
Be careful when photographing near the coast. Conditions can change quickly and it's easy to get caught out if you're not careful. Don't become so preoccupied with taking photos that you forget what's happening around you. Err on the side of safety – there are worse things in life than missing the shot!
The coast can be a dangerous place – for people and cameras. Photo by Alfonso Calero.
Born and raised in the Philippines, Alfonso Calero moved to Australia at the age of 15. He graduated from the Sydney Institute of Technology with an Associate Diploma in Photography in 2001 and has been professionally photographing food, portraits, landscapes and travel subjects ever since. He started travel education and tours company four years ago delivering workshops every Saturday morning in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Fremantle. He also takes four people to Japan, the Philippines, Spain and Tasmania once a year for 10-14 day photography workshops.
For more information about his tours and workshops go to www.alfonso.com.au or www.photographytravel.net.au