Photographing the Beach in Summer: How to Take Pictures Of Sun, Sea and Sand
For most of the year Bridport is sleepy fishing village located on the north coast of Tasmania, Australia’s island state. The main beaches feature a series of small rocky promontories forming natural breakwaters, creating a number of beaches sheltered from the prevailing winds and waves. Combined with the gentle slope of the golden sand the result is a shallow and calm seashore, ideal for children and those wishing to just relax in the water.
This is not your typical Aussie surf beach with miles of uninterrupted sand and large waves. Bridport produces a different opportunity for photographers, with a variety of rock formations framing the clear water and golden sand, and the proportions constantly changing as the tide rises and falls. The local authorities’ long-term commitment to retaining vegetation on the foreshore keeps a soft natural setting rather than a strip of concrete and glass. The trees provide the natural framing photographers love, helping to reinforce the secluded feeling of the smaller beaches.
Privacy Rights and Ethics
While there may be no legal right of privacy operating on public beaches, one of the attractions of the beach is relaxing and informality of dress that does not apply in normal public places. Respect this difference before taking close up shots of people, and it is often prudent to ask the parents before photographing children.
This still leaves plenty of scope for capturing sweeping vistas of sand and sea and people are part of the vista so there are ethical dilemmas if you do not show people in detail.
Coping With the Sun
One of the key attractions of the beach is the intense summer sun. For photographers the resulting intense saturated colors can be marred by glare from reflections. The answer is the landscape photographer’s favorite tool, the polarizing filter. In the Mermaids pool picture the polarizing filter reduced the glare from the reflections allowing a good view of the sandy bottom and the underwater rocks. Polarizing filters reduce the amount of light entering the lens by up to two f stops; however, a summer sunny day there is enough light for handholding without sacrificing too much depth of field due to larger aperture settings.
The directional nature of polarizing filters makes the time of day and the angle and direction of the sun factors to consider. Polarizing filters work best when the sun is to the side rather than directly behind or straight in front of the camera.
Understand the Rules Before You Break Them
The example photos are part of a series taken just after the middle of the day, normally a time when landscape photographers put the camera away until later in the afternoon. The lower sun provides more side lighting and shadows, adding depth and bringing out the texture in the landscape. In this case, the harsh shadowless light is part of the story in the photographs. Instead of subtle textures, these landscapes offer bold sweeping strokes of intense color, punctuated by the smooth weathered rocks. Because everything is subject to the intense sun the normal midday problem of extreme contrast is nonexistent as there are no subtle shady areas, everything is bright.
Don’t Forget the Sunscreen
With so much intense sun, remember to take the normal precautions applying sunscreen, wearing a hat and shirt. Over exposure to harsh summer sun can lead to painful sunburn and possibly skin cancer, so take care in the sun.