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Ocean Photography

Ocean Photography

Everyone knows how great it is to travel to the ocean. And everyone wants to preserve their memories from there with ocean photography. As photographers, though, we want to create something beyond extraordinary, to impress others. The ocean and its beautiful waves are fantastic subjects, but you need that wow-factor to translate into your photos of ocean waves, right? No need to worry. We’re going to show you essential techniques for ocean wave photography and your knowledge will skyrocket.

Ocean Photography

Ocean Wave Photography

Ocean wave photography is almost like any other genre of photography. It’s about the ocean water, yes, but it works differently. If you’re shooting from the beach, you must have a telephoto lens. The longer, the better. If you want to shoot close-up, you’ll need a standard zoom or a wide-angle lens and a camera housing. The trick here is to choose the right shutter speed. The more you zoom, the faster the shutter speed should be. The absolute minimum is 1/250 sec, but you should go at least 1/800 or even faster. Try to photograph the waves when the sun is behind or above them. Otherwise, the colors become dull and boring with unnecessary shadows from the rolling crest. Sometimes blurring is the desired effect and you want with ocean wave photography to show the power of the wave burst. In this case, the maximum shutter speed you can go is 0.5 seconds, and that’s only with wide-angle lenses.

  Ocean Photography

Receding Wave Ocean Photography

Nearly every technique in ocean wave photography is related to the shutter speed. But they have different approaches. Receding wave is by far the most popular ocean wave photography technique to master. It produces the modern classic look of your ocean wave photography with white water trails going from the edges towards the sea. For this technique, you need to be standing in the water and you need a shutter speed of 0.5–2 seconds. Dip your tripod into the sand so that an incoming wave doesn’t move or shake it. Make a series of shots rather than a single one. The pattern changes every split second, so you never know which picture works best. Look for free-standing rocks because water goes around them forming exciting shapes and curves, and sometimes even circles. Also, pay attention to the direction of the flow and pre-visualize the composition with them in your frame.

Incoming Waves Ocean Photography

Similar rules apply to incoming waves. There is a difference, however. The incoming wave moves at least twice as fast, so take this into account when calculating your shutter speed. These waves give you even more opportunities as they can wrap around rocks or cliffs and produce small temporary waterfalls. Capture these impressive incoming waves with a sunset sky using shutter speed of 0.2 - 1 seconds max.

Play around with different angles

Most people start out taking photos of ocean waves from the shore pointing their Nikon COOLPIX straight out to the waves. While this can create some great shots, images taken from this angle can look a little flat and 2D as there isn't the sense of depth in the image and the shape of the wave tends to be somewhat lost. Walking around to the one end of the beach and shooting side-on to the swell generally creates more pleasing results. When taking the photo side on, the sense of depth and shape comes back into the shot and it might even be possible to see down the 'tube' of water as the wave breaks.

Ocean Photography

Aerial Ocean Photography

Changing the height that the photo is taken from can also make for some creative options. Rather than taking every photo from the shoreline, try wandering up to a headland and taking the shot looking down. This angle brings a different perspective to the wave and often makes it possible to see the pattern and refraction of the sets as they roll into the shore and bend around the beach. Aerial ocean photography allows you the chance to see the coastline from such a unique perspective.

Ocean Photography

Ocean photography isn’t an easy one to master but extremely rewarding. Once you learn the key techniques and master your camera, every sunrise becomes a joy, a new story, a whole new world.  

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