5 Reasons to Love Coastal Photography

Updated: Sep 5



Coastal photography has always been a popular form of landscape photography, particularly among those with easy access to stunning coastlines.


This form of photography can offer dramatic scenes of crashing waves, with majestic cliff tops overlooking magnificent sea spray or it can yield quiet, tranquil images of gently rolling seas, colourful seaweed and interesting sand patterns.





Some photographers specialise in coastal photography and photographing seascapes while others see it as a part of their overall landscape photography work.


Equally, there are some landscape photographers who rarely do coastal photography.


Some may not have easy access to a coastline from where they live while others are just not motivated to do this type of photography.


While I can’t say that I find coastal photography easy, it has always been one of my favourite types of photography, mainly because I love to go to the coast for any reason and to take my camera with me is a bonus.


However, for those who find coastal photography difficult or who lack the motivation to do coastal photography, here are 5 reasons why I think it is worth giving this type of photography a try.


1. It provides lots of opportunities to grow and develop as a photographer


No two photography outings will be the same at the coast. Conditions are constantly changing, sometimes by the minute.


Different seasons will obviously yield different results and each of these will need a particular approach. For example, storm conditions will require careful attention to camera settings but even on relatively calm days there will be constant movement in the water which makes for more difficult shooting conditions than might be required for a serene inland landscape scene.


Conditions like these stretch our photography skills and force us to learn and develop new skills to help us handle challenging conditions.



Being able to do a long exposure would have improved this image but mastering that skill is something I haven't achieved yet.


2. It offers a challenge


Many photographers might suggest that seascapes can be boring, that they have just sea and sand and not much else, but this is far from the truth.


Apart from the ever-changing nature of a seascape there are also the peripheral subjects that exist near the coast. There are varieties of rock shapes and sizes, coastal vegetation and seaweeds, possibly a pier or marina with interesting boats, even a coastal village to explore with our camera. In fact, a coastal landscape often has more variables than other landscapes so some planning in terms of equipment might be necessary as well as numerous decisions to be made.





Far from being boring, coastal landscapes present a variety of welcome photography challenges.


3. It encourages the use of different lenses and filters


It is often the case that we can go out to our regular landscape locations and confine ourselves to using one or two lenses. With coastal photography, to make the most of the experience, a variety of lenses and filters is often necessary.


Neutral Density filters are required for long exposures of moving waves, while polarising filters serve to reduce reflections on water or boost colour saturation in bright sunlight if you are shooting during the day.


An all-purpose wide-angle lens might be the go-to lens while a standard telephoto lens is useful for shooting down from a clifftop or other height or picking out a distant object.


A phone camera also offers variety in that we can use its available lenses to full advantage to gain different perspectives, use live photos to focus on a foreground image and blur the background or use an app to slow shutter speed and experiment with different effects.



4. It gives us an opportunity to experiment


Coastal landscapes are great for providing opportunities to experiment.


We can discover the effect of shooting in different light conditions, play around with different shutter speeds, look for unique compositions, including the use of leading lines or adding interesting foregrounds.


We can explore shapes, textures and colours, we can look for abstract images or experiment with the effect of intentional camera movement (ICM).



We can shoot from the coastline or get into the sea and immerse ourselves more fully in the experience.


Coastal landscapes can provide interesting angles and perspectives from which to shoot; they can encourage us to shoot close-up images rather than big vistas, drawing us to capture more intimate images using shape, form, colour and texture.



The opportunities for exploration and experimentation are endless and no matter how many times we visit, the coastline always has something new to offer.


5. It gives us the chance to capture some dramatic and dynamic images which may not always be possible in other settings


The coast is a constantly changing environment as the basic coastal elements of sea, land, sky and weather come together to produce dynamic conditions for photography.


Although we do get opportunities to make dramatic images inland, the combination of these elements make spectacular images almost inevitable at the coast.


An incoming storm at sea, a foreboding sky, crashing waves or sea spray lashing against a sea wall can present us with drama and excitement in our images.



All we need is the skill to take full advantage of what nature has to offer.


Conclusion


I like all types of landscape photography but there is something special about being by the sea that makes a coastal landscape one of my favourite photography locations.


Coastal landscapes offer space and conditions that help us to grow as photographers; they offer a place to feel challenged, a place to explore and discover, a place to create unique and powerful images.

When I am in a coastal location I feel compelled to observe, to explore, to experiment, to connect with my environment and to take many kinds of photographs.


When I am in a coastal location I also feel compelled to sit still, to breathe in the fresh sea air, to marvel at the power of nature and to enjoy my surroundings whatever the weather.


Coastal photography offers me the excuse to get away to the coast often to soak in the wonders to be found there.