24 Apr 2008

Photography on the beach - part 1

Do you find sunbathing a bore? Well, why not use your time on the beach to gather lots of pictures during your summer holidays this year?

People on the beach are usually there to enjoy themselves – and it’s always easier, and more fun, to photograph people when they are relaxed. But it’s not just people that should be catching your eye – what about all that wonderfully tacky stuff outside the gift shops. Kitsch is everywhere in these seaside shops and everything is deliberately colourful: naughty postcards, silly hats and sun specs; its all there for close-up pictures. Sea walls, beach huts – and the people who use them - promenades and piers have lots of visual possibilities to offer.

No matter if the beach is crowded or nearly deserted, often the best way to start is with a general picture showing the whole beach. If the beach is packed with sunbathers, try using a long telephoto lens to foreshorten and squash up the perspective. This will make the beach appear even more crowded by giving the illusion that the distance between each sunbather is much less than it really is.

Try to find one particular person who will make a good focal point and ensure that he or she is nicely in focus. Then wait for them to do something interesting – throwing a ball for their dog, or setting up their deckchair, for instance. This will help bring vitality to your composition. If you are photographing on a sunny day there will be plenty of light and you will be able to use a fast shutter speed; so freezing the action and avoiding shake with that long lens should not be a problem.

Top photograph
This picture, taken in Bermuda, was very easy to capture, it was just a matter of anticipation. There was no need to disturb the man; he could not see me behind him. Neither could he see the little bird running across the sand. I simply pre-focused on the man and waited for the bird to dart across behind his chair

Middle photograph
Don’t be nervous about moving in close to photograph people. If these two sunbathers had opened their eyes and spotted me taking their picture I would first have pressed the button again to capture their expressions then given them a great big smile and told them what a wonderful photograph they had helped to make

Bottom photograph
There’s no reason why a photograph of the general scene should be just a straight, boring view. Pick out a particular subject, focus on them and wait until they do something interesting before pressing the button. In this case, it was very easy because the lady was throwing sticks into the surf for her dogs

More about beach photograph next…

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