Certain environments lend themselves as better photographic subjects than others. The waterfront is one such environment, whether it's the vast oceans, calm bays, lazy rivers or busy harbors. So the next time you find yourself and your camera on the waterfront—at a marina, pier or shoreline, follow a few simple tips to get great photographs.
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.
You can use the light as a tool to make a photograph that appears monochromatic. Monochrome usually refers to B&W but it can also refer to an image that features only one color. 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.
And don't forget about black and white. Changing your image from color 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 color image to B&W with software once you're back at your computer.
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.
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-center, with a lot of open, airy space, it gives the viewer a more interesting photograph to see.
This is example of how you can take a common subject and create a unique photograph simply by choosing a non-traditional viewpoint.
You may not be close to the action, but you can still make great photographs. This is a great shot of wind and kite surfers, taken with a wide-angle lens. By being able to see more of the surroundings, you can appreciate their athleticism.
Using a slow shutter speed allows you to capture the water seemingly still as a sheet of ice. For photos where you want to use a very slow shutter speed, remember to stabilize the camera on a tripod or other sturdy platform.
When taking pictures, look for new angles and viewpoints that let you create unique images. Here the dock is in the forefront and the cruise ship, which is tied to it seems far away. Using a very wide lens allows you to create images like this.
A wide-angle makes a great overview shot when taken under dramatic lighting, as is the case with this nautical landscape.
Using the High Dynamic Range (HDR) technique (which is available as a special effect mode on select Nikon digital cameras) lets you give a unique look to your photographs. Here it enhances the photo of old, rusting ferry boats.
This wide-angle view of ocean waves breaking on a rocky shoreline show the power of the waves crashing.
The water doesn't always have to be the "star" of the photograph. Here the coastline is the main subject with the sea in the background.
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 colored objects, such as buoys and floats, and unique signage.
A visit to a busy harbor filled with boats may seem chaotic at first, but when you take a closer look, you'll see there is actually some organization. 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 harbor, 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.
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 its going to fall out of the frame.
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 favorites of the day. A weather worn fisherman hard at work fixing or organizing 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.
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.
Photographing just a section of an object or objects, in this case, a bunch of small boats piled atop one another makes a nice photo. The fact that each boat is brightly colored is an added bonus.
A great detail close-up can be made of any small subject, such as these wooden buoy markers that are used to identify that lobster traps have been dropped underwater.
You don't always have to look far to find a photographic subject. Zooming in on these fishing reels, complete with colorful fishing line, makes a great subject.
Not all images have to be of "pretty subjects". These rusted chains, which attach to a large anchor, feature lots of color, texture and shapes.
Reflections make great photographs. Here the majority of the photograph is the reflection of the boat in the water, with just a little portion of the actual boat in view.
You can make great photographs any time of day or night. This image of a sailboat at sunset shows how color images can sometimes seem almost monochrome.
When you're taking pictures, look for the following photographic elements. You can add drama to the feeling of your images, by adding one or more of these elements into your photographic compositions:
• The Rule of Thirds
• Leading Lines
• Repeating Patterns
• Light and Shadow
• Textures, Shapes and Colors
• An added Human or Wildlife Element
© Lindsay Silverman