MISTY OCEAN EFFECTS
Have you ever wondered how people get those ethereal, misty looking photos at the beach? Experienced photographers know all the tricks but for new photographer this is a subject that is often high on the wish-list. In theory it’s not so different to slow shutter speed waterfall effects, but it can be a bit trickier due to the very bright conditions at the beach. So here’s a bit of a guide to help you get started.
FOR ALL OF THE FOLLOWING, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A TRIPOD, AND USE EITHER A REMOTE-RELEASE OR THE TWO-SECOND DELAY FUNCTION ON YOUR CAMERA
IF YOU ARE SHOOTING IN MANUAL MODE (M). Make sure your ISO is low (200 at the very least but even lower if your camera allows). Close your aperture down to its smallest size (largest f-stop number). Check your lightmeter and then slow the shutter speed down until the lightmeter is in the middle. This finds you the slowest shutter speed possible in the conditions.
IF YOU ARE SHOOTING IN APERTURE PRIORITY (AV). Set your lowest ISO as mentioned above. Close your aperture down to its smallest size and the camera should automatically re-set the shutter speed to find you the slowest speed available.
WHAT IF THE SHUTTER SPEED IS NOT SLOW ENOUGH? In bright daylight, you may find the slowest shutter speed you can use (with the ISO down and aperture at minimum) is around 1/30th sec. Slow enough so that the water isn’t perfectly sharp, but not slow enough to create the misty effect we are looking for.
- You can use a Polarising Filter (CPL). These filters take the glare off wet surfaces and may give you deeper colours in your ocean shots. The glass on a polariser is a bit dark so it will also cut your shutter speed down by a couple of stops. This is an easy solution for people who already have a CPL filter.
- You could invest in a Neutral Density (ND) filter. These are darker filters designed to reduce light and enable slower shutter speeds. You can buy 3-stop, 5-stop, 10 stop filters…the darker the filter, the slower the speed. A 10-stop ND filter can turn a 30th/sec into a 30 second exposure.
- Wait until the sun goes down. This is the simple low-tech solution…you don’t need to have anything but camera, lens and tripod. The darker it gets, the slower you can go with your shutter speed. The example photos on this page were taken without filters, after sunset. The bonus benefit is that the colours are often much more interesting at these times of day.