It’s summer time in Europe and you may find you are taking more photos of water landscapes: vast oceans, calm bays, lazy rivers or maybe busy harbours. Water can look brilliant in photos, but it can also be tricky to shoot, with each scenario presenting its own challenges. With that in mind, here we have some great tips from Lindsay Silverman of Nikon USA on how to get some varied and different kinds of water images.
Boats, with their many interesting angles, shapes and accessories, make great subjects. With boats bobbing gently in their slips, capturing beautiful shots is easy. Just be sure to time it right. As with any photograph you take, the better the light, the better the image. Take advantage of the reflective quality of water. Try shooting in more than one direction, paying particular attention to the position of the sun. When you shoot early in the morning or late in the day, long shadows cast by boats and other objects can add to the interest in your photographs. You can also use the lighting to your advantage to get great reflections, as well as silhouettes.
This lake and trees with its reflection make for a great photograph. It is also an example of breaking a rule. Most of the time you don’t want to place the horizon line in the centre of the photo, but it works well in this instance, since it is not in the exact centre of the frame.
You can use the light as a tool to make a photograph that appears monochromatic. Monochrome usually refers to black and white but it can also refer to an image that features only one colour. For example, if you shoot a silhouette of a lone sailboat in the middle of the water and both the sky and water are shades of blue, you’ve made a monochromatic image with blue tones. Photographing at sunset can offer up warm monochromes with shades of only oranges, yellows or reds.
You can make great photographs any time of day or night. This image of a sailboat at sunset shows how colour images can sometimes seem almost monochrome.
And don’t forget about black and white. Changing your image from colour to black and white can really highlight the subject and give your photograph a more artistic feel. You can set your camera to the B&W or monochromatic setting, or convert your colour image to B&W with software once you’re back at your computer.
Zoom in on details…
The waterfront is a great place to make some attention-grabbing close-ups. See how close your lens can focus. If you have one, use a Micro-NIKKOR (macro) lens to fill the frame with your subject. Some of the things that make for great macro photos are buildings or boats with chipped or peeling paint; the texture of aged wood or rusted metal; brightly coloured objects such as buoys and floats, and unique signage.
A visit to a busy harbour filled with boats may seem chaotic at first, but when you take a closer look, you’ll see there is actually some organisation. Boats lined up in their slips or moored off-shore can provide you with repeating patterns that can be captured with a wide-angle lens. Don’t just shoot the obvious or the first thing that catches your eye. Look for patterns in the ropes or other gear that may be laid out on a dock or boat’s deck. If the tide is low enough and there is a safe area of beach beneath a pier, you can make great photographs using the shape of the pilings and shadows falling on the sand. You can also make interesting photos of the texture and shapes of shells, seaweed, driftwood, rocky shorelines or sand dunes.
Different angles can make your photos more interesting. Try shooting down from the pier or dock, capturing small boats with only the water as a background. Use a wide-angle lens to capture fishing gear or lobster traps for example, and the harbour, all in one view. Some of the boats you might encounter when shooting on the water include commercial fishing trollers, speedboats, sailboats, multi-sail vessels, kayaks, rowboats, and even cruise ships.
Seaside towns offer an abundance of wonderful subjects to photograph. Here a fishing boat passes an old building on the waterfront as it returns from a day at sea. Note the juxtaposition of the new boat and peeling paint of the building.
The Rule of Thirds is a photography technique that says you should place your main subject in one of four intersecting areas that occur if you were to view a scene with a grid of two horizontal lines and two vertical lines (like a tic-tac-toe board) over the scene. The main subject should be placed where the lines intersect. Remember too, that if the subject is facing to one side, you will want to have it facing into the photograph—otherwise it may add tension to the picture, because it will seem like it’s going to fall out of the frame.
It may seem like a vertical subject should be photographed vertically, but here’s a great horizontal view of a lighthouse. By composing the photo so the lighthouse is off-centre, with a lot of open, airy space, it gives the viewer a more interesting photograph to see.
Photograph the people and wildlife too…
And while there are plenty of good shots to be made of all the gear that goes into boating, don’t forget the people there, too. A human figure, silhouetted against the water or sky, adds a personal touch. Take pictures of your kids or other family members walking along the shoreline. Ask them to not look directly at the camera, but to act naturally. These candid photos are likely to be your favourites of the day. A weather worn fisherman hard at work fixing or organising gear might make an interesting photograph. Ask first, if he wouldn’t mind if you take his photo. Most folks will gladly let you take their picture, and some might even pose for the camera.
This photo is a great example of how you can utilise special effects modes, or Perspective Control (PC-E) lenses to create a unique image, with the perspective of a miniature scene. The Miniature Effect is available in select Nikon cameras as a shooting mode and in others in the retouch menu.
Don’t forget to look for wildlife! Depending upon where you are, you might see seagulls and other birds such as puffins, ospreys, herons, sandpipers or even eagles. Many areas along the ocean coastline will be teeming with such creatures as dolphins, whales, sea lions or turtles. If you’re shooting with a Nikon D-SLR, use a telephoto lens – if you’re using a COOLPIX, zoom in – and you should be able to capture these animals in their own environments. Try zooming in and isolating one animal, or zoom out for a picture that shows multiple animals at play.
Hopefully you’ll find these tips helpful – thanks to Lindsay for supplying them. We’d love to see your photographs of water so feel free to upload them to our Flickr page. If you’re still on the lookout for some more inspiration you can see some more of Lindsay’s great water shots on our Flickr Photostream.