Understand the tides
Be aware of the changing tide and its impact on your scene
Tides probably have more impact on seascapes than any other factor – a location can look like a completely different place at different times. So how do they work and which tides suit which types of location?
Put simply, the tide is the rise and fall of the sea level, caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun. Fortunately, it’s not necessary to understand the theory in order to be able to work with the tides – you simply need to be able to read tide tables (see ‘Useful Apps’ box). It’s worth remembering that tide predictions, while accurate in terms of timing, assume an average air pressure (1,013 millibars) and any variation will affect the tide height. For example, a high pressure of 1,040 millibars could result in a tide level 30cm lower than predicted. Wind speed and direction will also have an influence.
Sandy beaches often have maximum impact at low tide, with a wide beach stretching out in front of the camera, encouraging minimalistic compositions. Falling tides are preferable, as there is a greater chance that the sand will be clean and free of footprints. With rocky beaches and bays, the trick is to shoot them when the tide is low enough to reveal some interest, but high enough to cover distractions.
Right Hide clutter
Rocky shorelines generally suit mid or high tides, as distracting clutter is hidden but there is enough interest above the waterline
the rock stack makes a strong focal point in the composition a falling tide means the sand is clean and free of footprints the sand is wet after a wave has retreated, so it reflects the colourful sky the low tide reveals other rocks which provide excellent foreground and mid-ground interest