4 Great Tips for Capturing Dramatic Images of the Sea

If you’re anything like most people, trips to the seaside are filled with anticipation and excitement – and usually, lots of random photographs. Many of us head to the beach with plans to capture exciting and dramatic images, yet all too often, our photos tend to fall short.

Still, there’s a reason that the ocean is one of the most exciting settings for landscape photographers. Unlike static landscape scenes, the ocean is constantly moving, presenting a number of exciting opportunities for dramatic photos.

1. Know When to Go

One key aspect of ocean photography is knowing when to go. While bright, sunny days may seem like the best time, the fact is that there are many times of day that are ideal for capturing dramatic images. For instance, on a clear day, early morning and evening – commonly known as golden hour, is one of the best times for ocean photography; the golden light found during this time casts a beautiful glow that can make for some beautiful and dramatic images.

2. Bring Enough Gear

Part of being able to capture amazing images, starts by being prepared with the right gear. While you won’t need much to get you started, it’s especially important to have some UV filters, if you’re planning to photograph on the beach, to help protect your lenses from the elements. Another great tool is a neutral density (ND) filter, or, better yet, a few different strengths of neutral density filters. These are especially helpful for situations where the foreground and sky require different exposures.

You’ll also want to bring a polarizer, if you have one, to help cut down on glare, and to darken the blues in the sky and water. Also, consider bringing a tripod, for low light conditions or times when you’ll need a longer exposure. Finally, depending on the type of photography that you’ll be doing, you may want to bring along an assortment of lenses, especially a wide angle, and telephoto lens.

3. Use the Right Shutter Speed

One of the best ways to capture the drama of the sea is learning how to control the motion of the waves. You can do this by using different shutter speeds for different outcomes. While a slow shutter speed will allow you to blur the motion of the waves and create soft, dreamlike images of the sea, a fast shutter speed enables you to freeze action and capture a split second in time.

4. A Slow Shutter Speed

Using a slow shutter speed is ideal for when you want to capture images with a soft, blurred quality. Using long exposures, and a tripod, allows you to blur the motion of the waves, and renders the clouds as soft streaks as well.

You can get away with using slow shutter speeds when the light is dim, or you can use a neutral density filter to help block out some of the light during the day.

Try experimenting with different shutter speeds for different outcomes, the slower the shutter speed, the more blurred the motion will be, and you may need to use shutter speeds of 30 seconds, or more, to achieve the effects that you’re after. Also, keep in mind that the farther away from the ocean you are, the slower your shutter speed will need to be.

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