I’m extremely fortunate to only live a short 30 or 40 minute drive from the beautiful Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland. A photographer’s paradise, the northern section of coastline in particular is full of stunning sandy beaches, rugged cliffs and secluded bays waiting to be explored.
I seem to spend most of my time shooting by the sea. There’s something exciting yet fulfilling that keeps drawing me back. One of the things I love doing when shooting seascapes is shooting long exposures, as I love the effect this has on the movement of the water and the clouds. In this blog, I’m going to share a few tips to help you get the best from your seascapes. My preferred kit for my landscape photography is currently the FUJIFILM XT2 and the XF10-24mmF4 lens.
1. It’s All About The Light
Yes, yes, yes! Knowing where the light is going to be and when it is going to be there is key to good landscape photography. Because I shoot a lot of seascape images along a northern coastline, I have to carefully plan when to shoot certain locations based around a time of year when I know the light will actually be hitting the beach or cliff line that I’m shooting. There are some spots near the Causeway for example that you can only shoot in late evening during the summer months as they remain in shadow for most of the rest of the year. A useful app I use to help plan this is called The Photographer’s Ephemeris.
2. It’s All About The Light AGAIN!
Following on from my last point, the quality and warmth of light is also another important factor when planning when to go out shooting. You normally find the best light can be found during the ‘Golden Hour’ which is typically an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset. This is when the sun is extremely low in the sky and provides a beautiful soft warm light which gives off some beautiful long shadows. One of the things I love about shooting on the Fujifilm X system is the colours, and shooting during these golden hours make them look even more impressive! Shooting during this time will also dramatically improve your photography.
3. Use Long Exposures
I reckon 90% of my seascape photography involves using long exposures. This could be anything ranging from 3 or 4 seconds right up to 5 or 6 minutes. When shooting a sunrise or sunset, light levels are very low so it is pretty straight forward to get a long exposure. However, when it isn’t as dark, I will add in a Neutral Density filter which blocks out the amount of light that gets into the camera, enabling me to use a longer exposure time to ensure a perfectly exposed image. These ND filters come in varying strengths, usually measured in ‘stops of light’, and which one you use will depend on the effect you want. Using long exposures at the coast helps produce the milky water look on the sea and will also introduce streaks in the clouds.
4. Fine Tune Your Composition
Don’t neglect composition. Even if you have gorgeous light, you need to spend time thinking about what you want to include in the frame. If a certain element doesn’t add anything to an image then try not to include it. Composition techniques I like to use regularly are leading lines, rule of thirds & diagonals.
5. Use Filters
I always try and get everything right in camera, so using a selection of high quality filters is key to helping me achieve this. As well as using ND filters, I also use a circular polariser which helps cut out glare from the water and helps give a little boost to the colours. I also use ND Grad filters which help me balance the exposure between the foreground (usually darker) and the sky (usually brighter).
6. Don’t Forget Your Shower Cap!
I can’t take credit for this as I got the idea from Fujifilm X Photographer Elia Locardi. Protecting your lens and filters from unwanted sea spray can often be difficult, but pulling a clear disposable shower cap over the front of your lens and filters allows you to not only keep them clean and dry, but also to compose your shot and have everything ready so that you can quickly remove the cap and take your shot at the decisive moment!
More from Steven Hanna
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