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Fotospeed Photographers

Understanding the tide: Rachael Talibart shares her tips on capturing the perfect seascape

Posted: 17 Sep 2018

Rachael Talibart is a former lawyer turned professional photographer specialising in the coast. Her inspiration comes from a childhood spent at sea and she is most known for her Sirens portfolio, critically acclaimed photographs of stormy seas, named after creatures of myth and legend. She was described as one of 'the best outdoor photographers working in the UK today' by Outdoor Photography Magazine, June 2016. Rachael uses Fotospeed NST Bright White 315.

You can find out more about Rachael here.

The ocean is one of the most exciting subjects a photographer can choose as it’s so changeable and volatile. Even when you know your coast really well, you still can’t be sure of exactly what will greet you when the sea first hoves into view, and this is why I love it. 

Even though that element of chance is always there, it is still important to understand your chosen location, particularly how it tends to be affected by different weather conditions. For example, if it’s big waves you’re after, there’s little point in visiting a south-facing beach with cliffs behind when the wind’s coming from the North, as the sea will be in the lee of the cliffs. Equally, understanding the tides is essential. Some locations are only revealed at low tide and others work better if you have water rushing around them rather than when the tide has left them high and dry. Yearly tide tables are useful but they’re published in advance and all sorts of conditions can affect tides. I like the website www.tides4fishing.com.

Creating texture

The sea is in constant motion and this means your choice of shutter speed may have a profound effect on your photograph. Very fast speeds will allow you to freeze every droplet, creating a sculptural effect where the water starts to seem more like a solid. Alternatively, long exposures, often requiring filters, will smooth out texture to create a more ethereal mood. If the sea is foaming, long exposures may make the water seem to turn into mist. If you can find an interesting object and use a steady tripod so that the object remains perfectly sharp, the contrast between the water and the solid can be very powerful.

Taking in the details

It’s tempting to overlook some of the smaller details at the beach but these can often make the most interesting compositions. Shells, seaweed, worn textures on sea-defences, flotsam and jetsam, colourful rocks studded with barnacles – all of these can be really engaging subjects. If you capture them in an interesting light, or as the sea interacts with them, they’re still seascapes! A steady tripod, cable/remote shutter release or self-timer, and careful positioning of your camera are helpful to ensure maximum sharpness when working close to your subject.

Taking on the storm

It’s no secret that I like the coast during storms. Days on the shore in the teeth of a howling gale are exhilarating beyond belief. To increase your chances of getting some good photos, you must protect yourself and your gear. My camera and lenses are very well weather sealed but, if it’s really wet out, I also use a plastic rain-sleeve.  A lens hood is essential to keep spray off the lens. Most important of all, I never underestimate the sea on days like this. No shot is worth risking your life and possibly the lives of others who may try to help you.

Experimentation is key

As with all photography, the best creative advice I think I can give anyone wanting to make photographs of the sea is to try everything – be experimental, do crazy things with your camera and break the rules. If you’re stuck for ideas, try some ICM (intentional camera movement) or multiple exposures. And if you come away without any ‘keepers’, you still got to spend the day by the sea and that’s always a win.


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