As the blue of night began to win the war over the warm tones of the golden hour, the air became still as I looked out from Connel across the southern shore of Loch Etive with my son. I love this part of the evening; the silence of the world around is tangible as it settles into the night.
A transition into the night
I like how the colour in the sky is still quite strong in the scene of the image, and how the darkness is enveloping the rest of the surroundings. This is a very calm scene, far from the drama that had been present not long before. I used the jetty as a leading line, and think it adds balance to the image, which without the cold would be totally different. I think the story in the image is that of contrast. On one side there is a vivid but fading sky, and the other there is the peace of night.
If you visit North Devon, watching the sun set from Westward Ho! should definitely be on your list. From the ridge of large pebbles, the view is amazing, as you look out towards Lundy Island and beyond. The energy of the waves rolling in from the Atlantic are beautiful.
The cooler tones of twilight
Often, sunset is often perceived as being orange, and warm. Sometimes however, they can be much subtler, especially as the sun gets lower towards the horizon. On this occasion, the wind had been howling and the warm light had already passed, and was transitioning to the cooler tones of twilight.
As I followed the ebbing tide while taking my photos, the smooth boulders look amazing, with their wet sheen giving them extra dimension. I love the sky in this image; while still dynamic, it has an air of calm to it. Because the warm light had passed, any other spectator had made their way home, leaving me to enjoy the approaching calm, and savour the view, all to myself.
The UK coastline is particularly rugged in North Devon and Cornwall. Looking west along the coastline away from Blackchurch Rock, I saw a stunning scene before me. The coastline wise adorned with beautiful rock formations, stunning cliffs, and the finishing touch, was a waterfall, cascading onto the beach. The light made moody images the goal for the day and I’m happy with the results.
I balanced the composition by using the waterfall and the foreground rocks as they key elements in the image. The leading lines of the cliffs, and the water’s edge work really well. I used subtle colour, rather than black and white to emphasises the mood.
Rugged Cliffs and Rock Layers
The cliffs are rugged, all along the coastline. I particularly love how you can clear see the different layers in the rock that forms them. I think this gives the cliffs an even stronger presence, and they really are imposing, as they loom over the beach.
I have been creating photos during rainy days as part of a project, and this composition of a viaduct surrounded by the Scottish mountains works well. I was driving along the A82 in the Scotland looking for scenes to capture in the rain, when I saw this viaduct in the distance come into view. I instantly knew that this was a scene I needed to capture. I love how the viaduct is partially obscured by the torrential rain, and how it is framed by the mountains. The mountains in view are Beinn Dorain, Beinn Nam Fuaran, Beinn a’ Chaisteil and Beinn Odhar.
Anyone who is familiar with Scotland knows that the A82 is a busy road, especially in the summer. This meant that I had to find a lay by to stop in as it wasn’t safe to stop at the road side. Luckily there was one close by so I pulled in and found a good composition just along from where I stopped that fitted with what I envisioned. I must have looked a sight to passers-by, stood in torrential rain crouched under my golf umbrella with my Canon EOS 5D Mark 3 on my tripod taking pictures while my family waited in the car.
Stob a’Ghlais Choire was impressive when looking from Glen Etive below, especially as the cloud drifted across the peak. I focused on the intimate landscape for this photo and loved how the small streams of water were feeding into the much larger stream, which was then entering the River Etive. This was further complimented by the lower reaches of Fionn Ghleann, as it leads into the foreground. With the scene’s ambient light and the muted greens, it is still quite easy to imagine yourself there, feeling the Scottish weather.
When viewed larger it is possible to see loads of tiny details that aren’t immediately obvious, like the tree next to the stream. In some ways, I wish there was a recognisable element to give a true sense of scale. Maybe I need to set a timer and run as fast I can into the distance!
Witnessing Nature at Work
Witnessing how much water the mountains can generate in the rain is awe inspiring. The beauty of nature in action is almost hypnotic, especially when trying to comprehend just how much water is being generated from finite points at the mountain tops around you. It would be good to do a nature photography project at some point that centres around this.
Glen Coe is one of my favourite places to go to in Scotland, with or without my camera. The entire length of the glen offers amazing scenery to absorb or capture in any weather, at any time of the year. I didn’t spend as much time there this time, opting to explore the quieter Glen Etive instead.
This is a shot of Buachaille Etive Mor. This Scottish mountain is attractive from all angles. I like this one, because the view of the pass up to towards the peak on the right adds another dimension to the often shot, perfect shape of the mountain. I opted to process this photo in black and white. I think monochrome really suits the mood of the day, and simplifies the image. I really like the tones in this rendition.
The Glen Coe area is a particularly difficult area to shoot, without comparing your images to others taken there, or for others to do the same. The important thing to remember, is that there are so many images of the place, because it is just that beautiful. Enjoy your images, and more importantly, the memories that go along with them.
The rain had been consistent for most of the day but had lightened. It was still really cloudy out but I headed out with my son to look for a viewpoint just in case the cloud broke for sunset. The weather wasn’t looking promising at all so we photographed some trees near Ben Cruachan, on the shore of Loch Awe.
I thought it was worth heading towards Oban to scout out potential images and we headed west we caught the tiniest glimmer of light just on the visible horizon. I knew that the shore of Loch Etive was where I wanted to be to get a good composition of the water with a backdrop of mountains so rushed towards Oban. I spotted this location in Connel that looked ideal. The yacht in the bay looked perfect for the scene and the light was magical. It was as if someone had magically opened a zip along the cloud in the perfect spot to reveal the sky at just the right time. We shot right through the blue hour until the sky had finished its colour show for the night. This is one of the images that I captured. I love how the clouds are still hitting the mountains across the Ardmucknish Bay, and how the clouds were almost parallel with the horizon.
A few hours after we arrived in Dalmally; our base for this visit to Scotland, the sky looked like it was on fire as the sun began to set beyond the mountains. I watched the light develop into a fiery display, and seeing the band of orange light begin to shine across Bienn Eunaich from behind Stob Daimh prompted me to rush to get my camera gear out to capture it. The sky was ethereal, like nothing I have seen in a long, long time. I photographed a few different compositions and then the light faded as quick as it came. I was starting my week in Scotland on a high, knowing that I had already seen my first magical moment.
The sky looked like it was on fire over Stob Daimh nr Dalmally, Argyll & Bute, Scotland.
The ridge of Stob Daimh looked amazing; almost silhouetted against the sky that looked like it was ablaze. Little did I know that Scotland was to deny me golden hour shooting for most of the week. The weather was very wet, although that did open up the opportunity for some moody images of the mountains. I will post more images in the coming days.
I am a real fan of photographing seascapes. Seascape photography is popular among photographers and viewers, and is often an area that photographers embrace. If you are a newer photographer or this is something that you haven’t tried before, here are some tips to help you improve your seascape photography.
Be aware of the tide and sea conditions
The first thing is that it is important to be aware of the sea conditions and the tides. Not only can these directly impact your safety, they can also dramatically affect your composition and final images. It is vital that you are aware of sea conditions before you set off. Make sure you know whether the tide is coming in or going out, and watch the sea, and how it acts before you decide on settling for a shooting position. It is important to plan an escape route for when that inevitable longer reaching wave comes much further up the beach/rocks. I like to try to stand next to some rocks that I can escape on to if needed, but if I am on a flat sandy beach this isn’t an option, so you must be prepared to run or get wet feet. Because of the mobile nature of photographing by the sea, I always keep my camera bag on my back while shooting, and if changing lenses, I retreat further away from the sea to do so.
Find a focal point to compliment your seascape photo
While you can get some great, simple seascapes it is often good to find a complimentary feature or focal point. If you are shooting around rocks this could be a nice formation that has a good leading line into the image, and if you are shooting on a beach this can be anything from a boat, patterns in the sand, a path, a bit of seaweed, or anything that fits with the scene and catches your eye.
I tried to capture the movement of the water on this moody evening, without the water becoming just a blur. I love the mood of this in black and white.
Use the right lens and position yourself
Your choice of lens can really affect the perspective of your photographs, and it is no different when shooting seascapes. If you want waves to appear really high and be a strong feature, it is good to get low down and to use a slightly longer focal length. This can be where a good articulated screen on a camera can be helpful. I prefer to shoot wider images a lot of the time, as I like to convey the openness of the ocean and the scenes that I capture. This means that waves often look smaller, and are part of a wider scene. Try to ensure that your horizon is straight, it is obvious on seascapes when the horizon is not level. Try to consider where to place the horizon. you can use the rule of thirds to do this, the first fifth, or even dead centre for the right composition.
Don’t be afraid to get your feet wet
It is almost inevitable that you are going to get your feet wet at some point. If you are prepared to get them wet, it can be liberating. If it is safe I like to get a bit closer to the water in my wellies, as it allows you to capture a more immersive image, especially at a wide angle. I like to do this so that you can almost imagine the waves washing over your feet when you look back at the images later. I always take a towel and spare change of clothes with me in case I get too wet.
Choose the right time of day and make the most of lighting conditions
You can photograph a seascape at any time of the day, however if it is not raining I like to shoot around the golden hours and the blue hours. Both times of day have their own merits. I love the mood of the golden warmth that you get during the golden hours, and the sun can make a fantastic addition to an image. During the golden hours, I love to capture surfers etc which are often great as a focal point, or to provide a sense of scale in large waves, or to give a sense of space. I love the blue hours, which are more peaceful and still. This is a time missed by a lot of photographers who haven’t got out of bed early enough, or stayed out after the sun as dipped below the horizon. If it is raining, it can be great to head to the coast to capture moody images of the sea at any time of the day.
The colour of sunset could barely penetrate this stormy seascape at Westward Ho!
Choose the right shutter speed
Your choice of shutter speed can drastically change the mood of your image when photographing the sea. If you use a fast shutter speed you can freeze the water, which is great for capturing the wave as it begins to crest. You can also reveal fantastic shapes in the water with a quick shutter speed. I generally use a fast shutter speed if I want to show the structure of waves in a composition, or if I am capturing water crashing over a wave or structure. A slower shutter speed can show movement in the water, or even smooth it out completely when shooting long exposures. A long exposure that smooths out the water is great for images that have a strong focal point to contrast against the sea, such as a pier or groyne. I often like to shoot slightly slower shutter speeds to show the motion of the sea, while the water still has structure. I feel that often this level of blur feels much more dynamic when I am trying to show the energy of the ocean.
Choosing the right filters for seascape photography
It is not essential to use filters when photographing seascapes, however they can be handy when the sky is bright, especially during the golden hours. The sea is generally quite dark in the UK in comparison to the sky which most cameras do not have the dynamic range capability to capture in one shot. You can of course use multiple exposures and blend the sky. I don’t recommend HDR in general for seascapes, because the sea is so dynamic unless it is a long exposure. This can make it difficult to merge the images. If there is no strong feature on the horizon, I recommend a hard edge ND graduated filter for seascapes because the horizon is so sharp. If there are cliffs, piers or other features I tend to use a soft edge ND graduated filter instead. A good polarising filter can sometimes be useful for taking the glare off of rocks.
Keep your lens and filters clean – A problem often encountered when photographing the sea is the spray hitting your equipment. I take a lot of lens cloths with me to clean my filters or lens while shooting. In a headwind, this can be a really frustrating task! It is important to clean your equipment once you return home to prevent any long term damage due to the salt.
The spring tide was finally beginning to ebb, leaving some beautiful colours and patterns in the freshly exposed sand.
Know when to use a tripod
It is key that you know when you need to use a tripod, and when it can become a burden. In great light when you are trying to capture the energy of the sea, or the crest of a wave, using a tripod can become a disadvantage, and it can be much harder to compose your shot in time. If the level of light is low, or you are trying to photograph long exposures a tripod is much more essential. It is important for hard edges of structures or rocks to be sharp so that they can contrast against the water.
Be safe around the sea
I have already spoken about staying aware of sea conditions and the tides. I cannot reiterate enough; just how dangerous the sea can be when not respected. Please stay safe, and do not take unnecessary risks; a picture isn’t worth your life, and if you need to be rescued, you could end up feeling embarrassed. Make sure that someone knows where you are and when you expect to return, and always allow yourself plenty of time to get back from your viewpoint before it gets dark or the tide comes in. Here are some tips from a lifeguard about staying safe around the sea.
I hope you find these tips on how to improve your seascape photography useful. Do you have any seascape photography tips? Let me know in the comments below for everyone to read.
Find seascape photography inspiration
Get more inspiration from these seascape photographers:
I wasn’t sure what to expect as I headed to the beach at Westward Ho! The webcam was looking favourable with large spring tides, yet the weather forecast cloud. I’m glad I went though, on arrival it was clear that there was some potential for a vivid display in the sky due to the clear bad of sky visible below the clouds. With the high tides, I knew that I wanted to get a good seascape photograph of the iconic walkway towards the headland of the beach. I got set up and ready to go, and it was instantly clear that the energy of the sea combined with the southerly winds was going to keep a constant supply of sea spray heading my way. Trying to keep my Lee Filter clear of it was a nightmare between shots. I managed to get a few shots that I was happy with. I really like this image, and how the dropping sunlight is reflected off the path and boulders. I also like how the dramatic cloud balances the composition.