Making Photographing at the Beach Fun!

Beautiful SunRises happen when clouds are around.

Beautiful SunRises happen when clouds are around.


           For the first time I have taken pictures on a beach was when we went to Carolina Beach and historic Fort Fisher this May (2016) on a barrier island on North Carolina’s southern coast. I was so glad we got to go as part of a trip that included picking up a framed photograph I was privileged to display at an art exhibition at the Ellington – White Art Gallery in Fayetteville, North Carolina. After a six hour trip and a short night stay at a Double Tree Hotel, and picking up the  framed  photograph of  a close-up of a Sun Patient flower with a water droplet on one of the pedals. I used more extreme settings when editing in Adobe Lightroom to create a painted look to the flower and water droplet. It felt like a real privilege to have a photograph exhibited in another state, and at an actual art gallery. While in Fayetteville I even got to take a couple photographs. 


I took a picture of an interesting building in the middle of downtown Fayetteville, in a circle or turn-about as some people call them. A little quick note on taking pictures of buildings, especially tall ones, is to use a fairly high shutter speed, say at least 2 stops over what the focal length of the lens you are using is (probably at least 250th of a second or more) , and lift the camera straight above your head keeping the camera as level as possible and pointed at the subject (building) so the camera is level in both the horizontal and vertical planes. Take several shots checking to see if that you are holding the camera level on the LCD screen after the images download to your memory card. The other trick is to line-up your shot through the viewfinder before raising it above your head. If your camera has a foldout, tilting viewfinder you can use the live shot LCD screen mode so you can partially see how straight you are holding the camera while you are shooting from the raised position.Cameras like the Nikon D5300, Canon EOS Rebel T5 and Sony Alpha A330L cameras have the fully articulating or tilt screens. The images can also be edited for horizontal, vertical and a couple other image plane settings to get the picture straight if and when the subject isn’t completely straight.                                                                    , 

I do a lot of looking at pictures in magazines such as Outdoor Photographer in paper hard copy and on line, and I am entering, viewing and voting on a lot of photographic contests, challenges, and sharing photographs on the photographic sharing site ViewBug. and the photographic talents are immense. So many of the photographic scenes are from places far from where I live in the eastern part of the United States. Fayetteville.Orig-0255-2


They include beautiful mountain scenes with streams or a lake as an essential part of the photograph. When I see images like those beautiful mountain scenes, they always cause me to wish I could go to those places, enjoy, have fun and photograph those same type places; jagged peaks, and rock formations of all sorts of different colors and shades caused by an ever changing sun as it rises, or sets to create all the variety we can imagine. A lot of photographs that tends to make up nature and photographic magazines seem to come from the western parts of the country, and often times come from National Parks, and Refuges, which some day I hope to get to travel to and see in the near future.  I almost get envious, but this time it was turn to have the chance to capture some terrific and interesting pictures of a couple of the fine places North Carolina has to offer. Beaches are a real fine place to get some dramatic images too. You just have to be willing to do the work, and have an eye for creating great photographs from what nature hands you.  


(Link to photographs of  National Parks by Philip Hyde)        

Beaches are usually relatively easy to access to take photographs. There are many public beaches, and state and national parks with beaches that have roads and trails leading to overlooks of the water or the ocean along with the beaches which have many types of subject matter that just have a different quality to them than other scenes. I am not saying saying mountain, or forest scenes are not as good as beaches just that they also have their own quality to them. It just seems the overwhelming majority of outdoor nature and landscape photographs resonate from mountain and forest scenes. No doubt everyone isn’t fond of the beach, but I bet everyone can agree they like seeing very nice pictures of the beach; both of the natural world and people having fun at the beach. Nice sunrises and sunsets accenting subjects of interest, enjoying the early morning start of the day; or fading into the night at dusk make for some interesting scenes, that captivate the viewers eyes, and cause some thought provoking images to stimulate the senses and the mind.    

Walking the Beach in Search of Seashells

Walking the Beach in Search of Seashells


Now we can get to the main reason of this article, to give you as readers, an understanding of some of the tricky lighting, and natural hazards of the beaches that can possibly make a photograph not seem as good as planned, or your equipment being slightly or even majorly damaged from the elements. The waves, wind, and sand can cause some serious damage to a camera, or your lenses, so being a little extra cautious and taking certain precautions can keep all your expensive, or not so expensive, equipment from harm.

First off, why and how the waves can play havoc to your shooting session. Since the best times of the day to take photographs are right before, during, and right after the sun goes down, or comes up in the morning long exposures are needed to capture these more vibrant moments and using a tripod will most likely be needed. The best way to get images of the waves and the beach it may be necessary to set up your tripod somewhat close to the level of the surf during these early morning hours or late evening times. This will get the camera closer to waves, and if you set the camera up close and low to the wave it will appear higher which may be necessary at some beaches since the waves tend to be smaller than areas in the south, like Florida, or places like California or Hawaii. When storms are moving close to a beach location the waves tend to get much bigger, and makes a great time for interesting beach and wave photographs. When being that close to to the waves your best plan of action is to watch how far the waves push up onto the beach after the waves crash, and set up a few feet back from that point since the intensity of the waves can change or the when tides are coming in, the water can flow high enough so to be ankle high, and can knock over a camera sitting on a tripod. Most professional photographers use fairly heavy tripods to keep things such as the wind or waves from shaking them or knocking the tripod and camera over.

Some good and reasonable ones are: Manfrotto 393 Aluminum Tripod with Photo/and video head , and

Zomei Z818 heavy duty tripod (at 33pounds it should be good and stable on a beach).

Crashing  White Surf

Crashing White Surf




In my attempts to try my hand at taking pictures of the waves, at Carolina Beach, this almost happened a few times, where the waves flowed real far past where my tripod was set up. I was right on top of it though, I watched the waves crest, crash, and splash on the beach and then watched how far the push was extending onto the beach; set up appropriately and when the wave started extending that close to touch the legs of the tripod I would snatch the tripod and camera up and avoid the possibility of my equipment being knocked down or possibly swallowed up by the wave and taken into the surf to be smashed and water damaged with salt water. Salt tends to corrode or accelerate corrosion, which would be h – e  double hockey sticks on a camera.   We sure don’t need corrosion, and another real issue is the sand which can be blown around by the wind, or we can get sand in our cameras in many ways when at the beach. A good air blown cleaning can help keep things clean. After a trip to the beach is a perfect time to do a thorough cleaning or have a reputable camera repair store do it for you. After our trip to North Carolina, I did a fair cleaning of my D3200 Nikon, and have had no issues with it from sand or anything else. I was real careful not to set it in sand, and do some quick cleans at the beach. Taking care of our expensive equipment is paramount if we are to have a camera at the ready when we need it.



Rolling of the Waves

Rolling of the Waves

          One good thing to have is a UV filter or a polarizing filter on your lens to protect the glass or front optic from getting scratched. It may not be totally necessary, although I would rather be safe than sorry. Using a polarizing filter is also a good idea to use since it puts some pop to the colors in your photos, accentuating the blue sky and water, and giving clouds more dimension. Polarizers, also reduce the glare from the water too.  Give yourself room for error, so as not to have a catastrophe happen to your equipment. We should go the extra mile to get those awe inspiring images and push ourselves, and sometimes take chances to capture the harder to get images because it my payoff down the road. In life hard work pays off, and is usually acknowledged and we can always take pride in what we work hard to accomplish. I was getting up every morning before the sun came up and going out photographing until the sun went down all the days we were at the beach, which is how I got the sun setting behind this tree to the right.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 



Sunsetting behind a tree at Fort Fisher NC, USA.

Another thing I do when taking most photographs is shoot in the manual mode. To create the featured picture of the piling I set the shutter speed low enough to cause the milky, cloud like looking water as it moved back and forth from the extension of the wave onto the beach. Using the full manual mode on your camera gives you lots of control towards how a picture is going to look; giving it the right exposure, or causing some types of special affects. One other situation that it is good to use the manual mode for, is when a subject is backlit by the sun being generally behind the subject, so you need to open up the shutter to get the correct amount of light reflecting off the subject into the camera. What happens is the camera is sensing the amount of sun bouncing off everything in the back ground while your subject (in the case of a human) is being shadowed by their own body. There are plenty of situations like this and more where it pays off to use one of the manual, or priority settings. Learning how a camera works and how it sees and records light, and learning about light and how it reacts can help make you a much better photographer. By Learning more about your camera, and how to control it, will help you create the pictures and photographs you want, and capture them the way you see them. We, and I in particular, will always be learning new stuff about photography.

The last big issue of the beach, or even dry desert type areas, is sand and dust blowing around and getting inside your camera, or lenses. Sand inside the mechanisms and electronics inside the camera can cause them to malfunction, or not work at all. Having your camera professionally cleaned after a trip to any type sandy or overly dusty location is a great idea. Learning to clean your own camera is an option, if you get the proper information or take a class that teaches you how to do this without causing some type of damage to the sensitive sensors and mechanical parts in your camera.  Several parts can only be cleaned with air, or special solutions, so don’t make the mistake of cleaning it yourself until you are very well educated about camera cleaning; or better yet, leave the job to professionals who have the train to successfully clean a camera, and make sure it is top operating condition. You might say this is a camera tune-up, and some photo camera shops will even call it that, since they can check and make adjustments to few other things to get your camera in top working condition while they have it.

I have to say, we had a real fun and good trip to Fayetteville and Carolina Beach, North Carolina. We took some of our own food along with us, like crackers, pop-tarts, peanut butter and jelly, and some bread, and drinks among other things to help fray some of  the cost.  We met many nice people and ate out at some inexpensive places too, like



Sanderlings chasing the waves after their lunch.

Sanderlings chasing the waves after their lunch.

                    The last thing I will leave you with is the fun I had chasing Sanderlings and Sandpipers around trying and successfully getting pictures of them, as they ran back and forth up and down the beach getting mollusks and shrimp out of the sand as the water covered and receded over them leaving a breathing hole in the sand for the birds to find them. It was a sight to see.

Sandpipers looking for their food in the after push of the surf and waves onto the beach.

Sandpipers looking for their food in the after push of the surf and waves onto the beach.

 I used a fairly high shutter speed, to stop the motion of the little scamper’ers , along with a medium f-stop so to offset focus error, while panning to keep good framing for the images. A real challenge, but if you go out during a little later hours after daylight you can get an antiquate shutter speed to stop the little birds in motion. You must try getting some real great pictures, and enjoying some time at the beach the next chance you can, now that you may have some new tricks to try while you’re there.

Taken during a sunrise as a Sandpiper or Sanderling looks for it's meal in the sand.

Taken during a sunrise as a Sandpiper or Sanderling looks for it’s meal in the sand.

Canon Link    EOS Rebel T5                                       Sony Link                  D3300 Nikon                        Nikon Link

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2 Responses to “Making Photographing at the Beach Fun!”

  1. Wow, wonderful weblog format! How lengthy have you been blogging for?
    you make blogging look easy. The total glance of your site is great, let alone the content material!

    • mballas says:

      I have had this blog for about 2 years, maybe even three. I am still very green at it. I have been adding affiliate ads to generate a little cash flow, but with little success. Part of my problem is getting the links set up right so they are even visible to the reader. Thanks for the kind comments about the content material. I do a little extra research in magazines I read and base some extra knowledge to my articles to help give a little credibility to what I write and to other writers and photographers. Would really like to get some guest bloggers to do some posts along with me, to give the site more interest and depth. Thanks Again! Respectfully @Tony

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