Coastlines are the best bet for some great water photography. Call it coastline photography, if you will. What makes it more enticing are the accompaniments that come with coastlines: sand dunes, sea grasses, rugged rocks, cliff faces and faces in the crowd. However, just like any other sphere of activity, there are rules to the game. Here are a few. You can add more to it as you go along and make the most of coastline photography.

Double image

One image is good, but two images are better. That’s what water can do to pictures. They can turn a single image into a double image and enhance the look and feel of your pictures. Which means, always try to capture reflections of people, places and things.

Timing is as important

Now that you know that double images make a significant impact, the next thing you need is good timing. And nothing beats early mornings and late evenings. The pinks and oranges in water can add that extra element to the watery reflection. And if you are into photographing wildlife, check to see what the tide is doing before venturing out with your camera. An ocean’s shoreline comes alive with birds when the tide is low or on the way out. So step out during low tide and you could capture shots of a mink foraging for starfish, clams and mussels, for example. But be very aware of windblown fine sand particles and spray. Your pride and joy loves neither.

Practicality helps
And yes, since you are shooting around salt water, buy a carbon fiber tripod, because the salt water will corrode and destroy aluminium tripods. Zoom lens seems particularly at risk as they suck in a lot of air due to the zoom action. Fine particles of sand can get inside the camera equipment.

Long exposure
Slow things down to get interesting pictures. How? By forcing a long exposure with an ND 400 filter for example. Ofcourse, you can take the picture without the filter at sundown, but if you are short of time, you could capture the coastline with a 30-second exposure using an ND 400 filter.

Small is big

You might be overwhelmed by the awe inspiring landscape complete with mountains and endless water, but don’t miss the smaller details. It could be your own shadow, footprints, sea shells, water’s edge, row of beach chairs, wild flowers growing in the sand or the moss-covered rocks and mountains. Whenever you are near the coastline, always take a deep breath and inhale in the sights and sounds of the place before you point your camera at something. Such measured pace will surely let you see the bigness in all things small.

Go macro

Agreed, small can be big, but it would not make a big impact if you go to the coastline without the right gear. And one important gear is a macro lens. Why? Because only a macro lens can make all small things truly big.


Forget the half sky and half sand pictures, and go for some 3D imaging. You can achieve this by keeping something in the foreground and shooting through it or using the one-third rule. Another way is to keep the foreground subject on extreme right or left and capturing the background effortlessly. For example, you could place your finger ring and capture the sunset on the water through it. Or you could have the rock on one end of the frame and the sunset on the other. And yes, if you have to keep the foreground and background in focus, you will need a DSLR camera where you can shoot with a smaller aperture. And this means, setting high ‘f’ numbers.

Shutter speed

Coming back to technicalities, another important thing is to add some motion blur into the image-making. And how? By slowing down the shutter speed. This way, you could capture a surfer riding a blurry wave or a fleet of ships with their blurry masts, giving them a painterly effect. But yes, a slower shutter speed means you need to either use a tripod to steady your shot or keep your camera on any other steady platform like a rock or boat.

Composition matters

Think coastline, think horizon and here is where you need to keep a few things in mind. Some photographers like to keep the horizon horizontal to the framing of the image. Next, avoid placing your horizon in the middle of your frame. You could use the one-third rule here, but a better way to compose is to position it in accordance with background or foreground of the shot. Of course, you could always experiment and break all rules of the game and go your own way. But if you want to play safe, you could try using a 10-20mm lens to capture the details as well as keeping the horizon in view. And yes, use a tripod and lock up the mirror when you are shooting HDR.

~Zahid H Javali