The most asked question I receive from you guys would be about the images I take of the ocean. You guys seem to really like them and have asked me on multiple occasions how it is I create these images. So, I have decided to create a (hopefully) comprehensive guide that will help you to create images of your own that are just like mine. Well, hopefully you create something a bit different that my work but either way…I hope this helps!
There are two methods to this madness: No Protection versus Protection
When I first began shooting images of the ocean in this fashion – rather than shooting long-exposure images of the scenery – I was very inspired by Ray Collins and Lloyd Meudell, two photographers much better than I. These two photographers have shown me just how powerful yet beautiful the ocean waves can be when captured just right. And I wanted to be just like them, shooting the same subjects, but in my own way, with my own style. My biggest issue I faced was that I did not have the money to spend on a water-housing for my camera. With this in mind, there was no way I could get out in the middle of the ocean to capture these waves. Furthermore, the east coast of the United States absolutely blows when it comes to waves of large sizes – the best New Jersey seems to get are some small swells. This in itself makes it tough – but not at all impossible – to capture the sort of imagery that Ray and Lloyd do. But if I would have given up, stopping at this thought, I would have never gathered the images for this series.
Method One: No Protection
As I mentioned, I did not have money to spend on a water-housing for my camera equipment and therefore could not safely dive into the water with my camera to capture these waves. I had to think of a different way. Whilst scrolling through Instagram’s explore page, I ended up finding a couple of more intimate images of the waves, such as this one I had taken in February of 2017.
Having recently begun falling in love with the more intimate scenes in nature, I figured that this would be my way of creating beautiful images of the waves. One thing that you must keep in mind is that determination is key; unless you are willing to take (calculated) risks with your work, there is no way to know whether it will stand on its own two feet once online.
The No Protection method I am about to describe to you is not at all recommended. There is a very large probability of your equipment being damaged, if not completely destroyed, and you will regret it. This is simply an account of what I had done the first few months of shooting this series until I could get a water-housing. If you follow my lead with this method, and your gear is destroyed, I cannot be held responsible.
Onto the process
Before you are truly ready to shoot these scenes, you must take a handful of precautions. First of all, make sure that the area you are in is not crowded with people; the last thing that you want to have happen is be running backwards only to bump into someone, tripping, and having your camera go flying. Despite the cold, I have found the winter months to be the best time to do this. A secluded beach will work just as well, regardless of the time.
Next, be sure to have your settings predetermined. The nicest aspect of this first method is that you can quickly look at your LCD screen and change your settings based on what you see. Keep your camera in Manual mode and check your histogram every so often. Or, you can get low to the ground, look through your viewfinder, and expose that scene how you would like. Essentially, that is your exposure for at least an hour.
Alright, now you get to take the images. Make sure that you are carrying strictly your camera in your hand – the lighter you are, the better. If you have one, I highly recommend putting on a wrist strap for your camera, just in case you lose your grip on it. Otherwise, it is time to get to work creating some beauty. Get as low as you can with your camera while also being on your feet so you can quickly move out of the way. If you choose to sit or lie down, make sure that you can get the camera above the waves so it does not get drenched. Yes, it will get wet; yes, this is where it gets dangerous.
Essentially, keep the camera low and “run and gun.” Just keep firing off shots of those waves and you will eventually get a handful of images that you like. Be sure to stay quick and keep your camera out of the water. You will regret it otherwise. Trust me.
Method Two: Water-Housing
For anyone who has come to me asking about this process, I highly recommend you buy a water-housing if you plan on creating images like mine. While they are not cheap, they will save you so much time and money in the long-run. Or you can simply use it for twenty-some days and return it to get your money back and spend it on something else.
One of the top brands for water-housings today is Aquatech. For a little while I had a housing from them which was used to create over half of my series. If it was not for film photography interesting me more, then I would still be using it. Regardless, if you are looking for a housing, get one from Aquatech. Don’t skimp out by buying something cheaper: there is a reason so many professionals use their gear.
In a sense, the process is the same as what I had described earlier. However, since you have protection for your gear, there are so many new benefits. For one, you are able to get into the water and shoot the entirety of the wave from its formation to its collapse. This also allows you to get different angles of the waves, creating an endless possibility of compositions. Another awesome thing you can try is shooting scenes underwater, whether they include sea-life or just the bubbles themselves.
The only downside of this is that – unless you spend a few hundred dollars more – you cannot control your settings. Therefore, I simply set my camera to Aperture Priority mode, jump into the ocean, and start shooting.
Other than that, it is beyond worth it if shooting wave photography is something that really intrigues you.
I started off shooting these sorts of photographs in a very risky way. It led me to having to foot a $300 repair for my camera, although I was lucky enough that I could shoot almost a full year before it stopped working due to the salt water damage. When I got the Aquatech housing, it changed the way I shot the series, but it also made me realize that it was not something that – while living on the east coast – I could pursue as well as I had wished.
All-in-all, I hope this has helped you better understand my process and how I created these images. If not, I hope it at least entertained you for a few minutes.