A guide to seascape photography (Part two)
This is part two of a two part series on seascape photography. You can see part one, from last week, here.
5. Let the creativity flow
While combining multiple images in Photoshop is perfect for those high-quality low light results, you don’t have to stop there. Combining different exposure times can yield creative and unique results.
If you’ve ever taken a super long exposure of moving clouds and like the streaky, surreal effect it gives, but don’t like how it turns the water into flat mist, you can take a shorter exposure of the water and combine these two in editing to create a beautiful avant-garde scene.
A new thing I’ve been dabbling in is what I like to call “twilight blending”. This is combining a shot from twilight/blue hour where the stars are still shining with a shot from sunrise/sunset to add a little bit of magic to those clear sky photoshoots. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
6. Make or break the scene
When I approach a location, I like to take the time to observe the ocean and how the water responds to the land. Some places have water gently flowing around the shore, while others will have waves so powerful you can almost feel them smashing into the rocks. Taking the time to do study the environment will pave the way for the ultimate creative crossroad: do you want to make or break the scene?
What do I mean by this? It’s simple: do you want to capture the true energy of the location, or do you want to completely flip it on its head? Here’s an example. Camel Rock on the New South Wales south coast is one of my favourite locations. Usually, the swell and tides are quite high here, which makes for quite a dynamic and active scene.
However, an exposure time of five seconds or longer turns everything into a misty dreamland, which is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Camel Rock.
The reason I say ‘make or break’ is because I find giving myself a creative restriction often results in unexpected and unique images. It’s easy to watch a huge swell and think ’this is the image, and this is the way to capture it’, but taking the obscure route and using a long exposure on the extreme end, such as 30s, can ‘challenge’ the scene. You could also end up walking away with a photo that’s one of a kind. Of course, feel free to take this advice with a grain of (sea) salt.
7. Be safe
Finally, it’s worth remembering that as meditative as seascape photography can be, it’s also dangerous. When it comes to being around quickly changing swells, sharp wet rocks and an activity often done in isolation, it would be irresponsible of me to not mention a few safety considerations.
Appropriate footwear is one of the most important things. I know it sounds un-Australian, but thongs are not suitable seascape footwear. Aqua shoes that grip well to wet surfaces, or at the bare minimum enclosed shoes, can be the difference between standing and swimming.
A decent amount of the popular seascape locations in Australia requires scrambling across wet, small, and unbalanced rocks. Please – and I can’t stress this enough – take your time when walking across ground like this. Make sure you arrive with plenty of time to reach your compositions, so you don’t have to rush across dangerous terrain.
Considering the safety of the environment is also extremely important. It’s your responsibility as a photographer to leave no trace and preserve the places you visit for future generations. Be mindful of stepping in rock pools and causing damage to marine life. Don’t physically disturb or break anything for the sake of getting a shot. And, of course, any rubbish you bring in must leave with you.
Lastly, always adopt the following mindset: if at any time you feel unsafe or uneasy, get out of that situation and find somewhere you feel comfortable. No photo is worth risking your gear, or your life. ❂
About the author: Jake Traynor is a seascape and landscape photographer based in Canberra. You can follow his work on Instagram @traynorjake.