Beach Photography and Capturing Images That are ‘Shore’ to Please
There are many places that I can never get tired of photographing. The beach is one of those places. The sound of the crashing waves. The feel of the sand. The presence of seagulls. Time at the beach soothes the soul.
Every Summer and Autumn, I vacation in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Even with all the tempting opportunities to spend money—gambling, shopping, treating myself to a spa day—I find that none of those can truly satisfy me like being on the beach does. I can spend hours on the beach, both basking in the sun and photographing the natural wonders found there. I have found that no matter what time of the day it is, there is always something to photograph at the beach.
An early morning walk on the beach can find you surrounded by hungry seagulls. It is not uncommon to watch seagulls sweep into the ocean and grab an unfortunate crab. This makes for a great shot! Seagulls and other beach birds, such as the American Oystercatcher, are also seen taking advantage of the empty spaces on the beach, soaking in the morning sun. It is during this time that you can get some great shots of seagulls at play, as well as at rest. I have found that my best beach bird shots are captured during the morning.
Early morning hours also result in great shots of seafoam and seaweed. Not usually the desired subject, but the various shades of green found within the seaweed are fascinating and seafoam itself is fascinating in general. If you are lucky, you may also see a few washed-up moon jellyfish. Don’t worry too much, they aren’t very harmful to humans.
During the afternoon hours, the beach is typically packed. Getting shots without people in them is almost impossible. However, these shots can still be awesome. Capturing beach umbrellas or distant shots of the ocean filled with people can be pretty amazing. Now, of course, this changes once the Autumn weather arrives. Nevertheless, you will still find some people walking on the beach during the afternoon. Occasionally, you may see a sailboat on the horizon—a shot you cannot miss taking.
I never pass up an opportunity to photograph the beach once golden hour hits—typically an hour before sunset. Capturing the waves with a vivid background of oranges and reds make for those ‘feel good’ pictures— the ones that give you an amazing feeling when you look at them. Watching the Sun set and go below the horizon is, in my opinion, definitely worth the wait!
So, if you’re headed to the beach anytime soon, here are some of my tips for getting those ’shore’ to please images:
(*) Photograph the beach during the morning, afternoon, and evening: It’s amazing to see how different the beach looks when the Sun hits it a certain way.
(*) Bring a macro lens: The sand is a great subject for macrophotography. On the surface, sand is just blah. However, using a macro lens helps to bring out all of the details and colors that make up sand. Shells are another great subject for macrophotography. So much of the shell’s detail can be captured through a macro lens.
(*) Venture under the pier: I love walking under the pier and photographing the waves as they crash on the poles. Being under the pier is like being in another realm, especially if you are under the pier in Atlantic City (check out the blog: “Under the Boardwalk, Out of the Sun”). I also captured one of my award-winning photos while under a pier. I just kept shooting the ocean, framed between two poles of the pier. Not realizing it, I captured a seagull perfectly between those poles. A once-in-a-lifetime shot!
(*) Draw in the sand; It sounds weird, but drawing or writing your name in the sand makes for some great shots. I recommend going closer to the shoreline where the sand is moist and flat, it makes it easier to draw. Decorate your drawing or writing with a few seashells and you have yourself a fancy, creative photograph.
(*) Follow a seagull or other beach bird: This is easier to do in the morning when they are catching their breakfast. I once photographed a seagull devouring a crab. In the course of five minutes, he caught the crab, broke off its legs, ate it, and flew away. For these shots, I recommend using a zoom lens, just so you don’t scare or aggravate the bird.
(*) Use a lens ball: I love using the lens ball and I recommend it for any type of photography. You can’t go wrong when you photograph something from a different angle.
(*) Bring a fake starfish: I love starfish, but they can be hard to find on the beach. My tip- purchase one in the Michael’s or the craft section of Wal*Mart, and bring it to the beach. Place it in the sand, on the shoreline, or even hold it in your hand.
(*) Bring a tripod and do long exposure shots: For these shots, I recommend standing about 3 to 5 from the shoreline. Start by setting your camera’s shutter speed to 1/2; you may need to go up to 2 depending on your desired outcome.
(*) Always protect your gear: Your camera and lenses are expensive. Make sure they are protected at all times. Some of my best shots, surprisingly, were taken when I was waist-high in the ocean and using a cheap point-and-shoot camera. Now, I have also been waist-high in the ocean with my DSLR and mirrorless, but not too often and I don’t highly recommend it. I once blew out my entire sound system in my iPhone from one tiny grain of sand; I can only imagine what it can do to a camera.
A beach is a tranquil place and as the saying goes, it is the best escape anyone can have!
Thanks for reading!