Try This The Next Time You Are at a Beach 

Ever get stuck looking for photographic ideas when the conditions or timing of your shoot aren't right, or perhaps you are at a location for a day and need to find things to do and photograph after sunrise and before sunset? Try this technique to not only challenge your photographic eye, but to also help you learn something new should the situation arise again anytime soon.

The Copper Coast, with its rugged beauty and geological significance, stands as a picturesque canvas for any photographer. My recent expedition to this stunning locale was not just about capturing the grandeur of sea stacks and crashing waves; it was a journey to uncover the hidden intricacies concealed in the sand and multi-colored rocks that grace the coastline. Guiding me through this creative exploration was Michael Shainblum, a celebrated photographer renowned for his unique perspective and keen eye for revealing hidden beauty, so I had to take the opportunity to dive into his mind and learn how he approaches a scene just like this one.

Observing the Unseen

Upon arriving at the Copper Coast, the temptation to immediately focus on the dramatic sea stacks and mesmerizing waves was strong. However, Michael encouraged us to take a step back and appreciate the finer details of our surroundings. The sea had intricately carved patterns in the sand, while the rocks, shaped by the relentless forces of time and tide, presented a captivating kaleidoscope of colors and textures.

Michael's emphasis on observation became a central theme of our shoot. He stressed the importance of slowing down, immersing oneself in the environment, and paying attention to the often-overlooked details. The play of light and shadow, the interplay of colors, and the natural textures within the sand and rocks all held untapped photographic potential. Now for me, this was easier said than done, as I would always be looking out at the waves that were rolling in towards us. However, I forced myself to think differently, and I was glad that I did.

The first thing that struck me was the number of textures and shapes that lay at my feet. These are subjects that ordinarily I would step over, just like many have before me and no doubt many will after. However, now that my eyes were tuning into these subjects more, I found myself being drawn to many potential subjects, framing up my shot and taking a test shot to see how it looked on the back of the camera. Once I was happy, I then set about making minor changes to my feet position, allowing me to turn if needed or even remove or position something in the frame that complemented or distracted me from the shot. Looking for recurring patterns was key here and also edge patrol where I would ensure that there wasn't a subject jutting into the frame or even being cut off by my positioning. I took all these shots handheld, as the light was bright enough that I didn't need a tripod.

A Conversation with a Master

In a quiet spot along the coast, I seized the opportunity to have a conversation with Michael about his approach to scenes like the Copper Coast. His process, he shared, revolves around patient observation. By taking the time to soak in the environment, he allows the beauty of the landscape to reveal itself, capturing moments that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Michael's ability to uncover hidden beauty lies in his keen awareness of the subtle nuances in the landscape. It's a testament to the fact that true artistry in photography often requires a deep connection with the subject and a willingness to explore beyond the obvious.

The Polarizing Question

As we delved into the technical aspects of capturing abstract details, the polarizing question emerged. Polarizing filters are often employed in landscape and seascape photography to reduce reflections, enhance colors, and improve overall image quality. However, Michael's insight challenged the conventional wisdom.

While acknowledging the value of polarizers, Michael emphasized their contextual use. In the case of the Copper Coast, where rocks reveal vibrant colors when slightly wet, the unnecessary use of a polarizer might diminish the natural brilliance of the scene. He urged photographers to consider the individual scene and creative objectives before reaching for a polarizing filter.

There are instances, Michael pointed out, where a polarizer can be beneficial—particularly when dealing with glare on the water's surface or controlling reflections in tide pools. The key takeaway is that the decision to use a polarizer should align with the specific conditions and creative intentions of the photographer. If you like the glisten, then use it, and if not, then don't. Taking two shots, one with and one without the polarizer, is the key takeaway for me.

Creative Opportunities Abound

Our adventure along the Copper Coast uncovered a world of creative possibilities within seascape photography. Beyond the grand landscapes and iconic sea stacks, the beauty of the details in the sand and the colorful rocks proved to be a revelation.

Michael Shainblum's guidance added depth to our experience, reinforcing the idea that even in the smallest grains of sand and the most unassuming rocks, a world of wonder awaits discovery. The lesson learned: slow down, observe, and let the beauty of the coast reveal itself through the lens.

To witness our creative exploration along the Copper Coast and view some of the captivating images captured during this day, follow the link above. It's a journey that highlights the importance of embracing the unseen and discovering the hidden treasures within our natural landscapes.

My personal take on this was that while I had taken shots like this before, like many of you I assume, it was the very action of slowing down and not forcing the shot that helped me get into the mindset even more. The old saying that the image finds me was one that I kind of understood; however, on this day it became a reality.

The shots I managed to capture, in my own eye, aren't my greatest work. However, that's the thing; you aren't going to create bangers on your first attempt in reality, but now that I have these nuggets of wisdom, I am sure that the next time I will improve slightly and continue to improve each time I give it a go.

Have you photographed intimate abstract seascapes before? If so, how have you found the experience, and what additional tips can you share?

Have you photographed intimate abstract seascape before? if so how have you fond the experience and what additional tips can you share ?

Darren Spoonley's picture

Darren J. Spoonley, is an Ireland-based outdoor photographer, Podcaster, Videographer & Educator with a passion for capturing the beauty of our world.

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