Photographing Waves

When setting up at the beach to capture your favorite seascape, there are some tips that may be helpful. Whether it be compositionally or technically. This weeks tip for photographing waves should bring you more success the next time you head out to the beach. First and foremost you will want a good sturdy tripod. To show the motion of the waves will require a longer shutter speed. Handholding will cause some unwanted blur in the image. When setting up your tripod make sure to keep one hand on it at all times. The waves and eroding sand could easily take down the best of tripods. This will always end badly for your camera, so to insure nothing bad happens, leave a hand on your tripod to catch it in the event it does fall.

Get low and close. You don't have to be so low the wave takes you out, but get a lower perspective than what most people see. This will make your image more interesting. Also get close. You may have to get your feet wet, and depending on the time of year this isn't a big deal. Getting close will fill your frame with the waves and the streaks of the waves.

To capture the streaking waves and to show movement, a slower shutter speed is a must. Using a shutter speed around 1/2 second or 1 second, is a good place to start. Adjust your shutter speed depending on how fast or slow the waves are moving.  If you want to freeze the action, say there is a big wave crashing on a lighthouse or a giant boulder, it's wise to stay around 250th of a second or higher. This will freeze the water in it's tracks.

Use a polarizing filter. Water will almost always have a glare. Using a polarizer will help reduce the glare and produce more pleasing results.

Using  these tips will help with your wave and beach photography, but like always experiment with settings and compositions. You might just capture something unexpected! The image below was photographed low and close to the shore. I was about 6 inches off the sand with my tripod legs spread out wide. I used a shutter speed of .4 seconds to capture the motion of the waves while still maintaining some detail in the rocks.

Using a shutter speed of .4 seconds captured the motion of the waves nicely. The low and close composition puts the viewer in the frame!