“Getting your Best Beach Shots…Photo tips and Opportunities”

Our Guest Blogger this week is Karen Messick


Capturing images by the sea and of the sea requires little more than a good steady tripod, a cable or shutter release, a polarizing filter, a zoom lens, a lens cloth to keep the sea spay off and some beautiful light (thats the tough part at least to get it when you want it!)….but when the light is beautiful there is no other light like it!


I usually get my students to the beach a good 50 minutes before sunrise. This gives us time to get everyone familiar with the bulb setting on their camera, and get exposures adjusted.  The best light is always just before the sunrise. One challenge is focusing in the dark but as the light begins to brighten autofocus works fine. Usually we start with very slow exposure creating dream like images as the waves and light blend together while the shutter is open…ISO varies but usually starting at 100 can give you up to 4 minute exposures given your aperture choice.


I also look for patches on the shore where the surf is leaving a fair amount of draw back into the ocean so when the sun does come up we can catch reflected light in the surf on the shore.  Exposure is pretty simple shooting in manual mode and using a spot meter to meter on the brightest part of the sky before sunrise, just add a little exposure over middle tone and that should be a good starting point. (this does not work if you are using matrix metering, or aperture priority shooting mode)  Watching for interesting wave action is also good seeing where the breakers are coming in..but it is hard to time a surf break so I suggest to KEEP shooting! (bring back up memory cards you can easily crack off 400 shots this way) Every wave, every minute is different and the light at the edge of dawn is rapidly changing so find a spot set your exposure and start making compositions, while checking your histogram frequently as the light is changing. Keep in mind the rule of thirds~ two thirds sea one third sky or vice versa depending on what is happening in the sky.

Bringing along a great seashell prop is super for when the sun breaches the horizon, it will graze the shore and light up the shell as water draws around  it.  When the sun does rise the surf becomes the main subject as well as the landscape behind us which lights up golden for a short while.  I never change lens while on the beach the wind and sea spray can be deadly to the internal parts of your camera.  I always suggest that students select a lens that will give them some flexibility.


I love to make images by the sea and encourage you to give it a try….


Karen L Messick is a freelance photographer, lecturer and workshop leader. She works with Capital Photography Center in Washington, DC., instructs at Johns Hopkins University in the Odyssey Program and offers courses from Intro to Digital Photography to “iPhoneography” She also instructs for Horizon Photography Workshops in Chesapeake City, MD.  Karen has written instructional articles for Nature Photographer Magazine and iPhone Life Magazine. In addition, Karen leads her own workshops in New Mexico, Baltimore, Washington and at the beach in Delaware.  She has been creating images for 16 years, and served as the President of the Baltimore Camera Club for four years.  She writes two photography blogs, one exclusive to “iPhoneography.”  Check out more of Karen’s work here:  http://www.karenlmessickphotography.com
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