Using the foreground
Once upon a time, I lost a rather expensive camera and lens to the Pacific Ocean's brine. One would think that experience would temper future efforts at seascape photography. Quite the contrary, however, my desire to make seascape images has only increased over time. It's a challenge to get setup close enough to the surf so as to get everything into the viewfinder, level the camera and compose fast enough to make a decent frame without a wave hitting the leg of your tripod or causing it to sink slightly in the sand, etc. I find that challenge very fun, if a bit nerve-wracking.
An ultra wide-angle affords the opportunity to use the surf and create texture, but the trick is finding just the right exposure time. Where the exposure sweet spot is depends on your distance from the water, its speed, etc, but I find myself setting the camera to about 1 - 2 seconds for the best results. The series of images on this post were taken on the southern coast of the San Francisco Bay Peninsula north of Santa Cruz. I believe this place is called Davenport Beach. Each of these images was taken with a shutter speed of 2 seconds at ISO 100 using a Nikon D700 and a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 set at f/16 and 14mm. The beautiful, heavy blue cast is a result of leaving my white balance set to "Daylight" (about 5000 K) during the period of about an hour or so after the sun has set. I set up very close to the surf (scary close) to capture the movement in the water. The beach has an S-curve that follows a rather large outcropping and, when the tide is up, the waves come in from two different directions at a point near the end of that large rock formation you can see on the right of the frame. Where I made these photographs, the water was sloshing over a veneer of sand covering a mound of polished rocks. I would wait for the surf to come along and wash over in one direction and trip the shutter so the sea foam would catch the light of a waning twilight and leave beautiful trails.
You can see in these four simple photographs that the patterns from the surf make the image. Finding a contour of the beach where waves come from different angles and have different paths makes for more interesting photographs. Wait for a wave to lap your feet (or tripod) and then trip the shutter to record its slide back into the drink and get long leading lines that bring the eye right into the frame. Wait instead to capture the lip of a wave sweeping across the beach from the left to get long, horizontal patterns in the foreground that, in conjunction with the horizon, are only broken by the rocks of the California coast.
I mentioned in my last post that I'll be hosting some photography workshops later this and next month and there's still space available. Click the link or send me an email to get information or to register. We are going to do some shooting along a beautiful sea-side spot in San Francisco on Saturday 6/25 and Saturday 7/30 at sunset and there will be ample opportunity to do a bit of seascape photography!