Use coastal architecture
Include man-made structures to add an extra dimension
The influence of man on the landscape is obvious and no more so than on the coast, where man-made structures abound: lighthouses to guide ships to safety, piers for entertainment, jetties and slipways for launching boats, and groynes for protecting the shoreline against the effects of erosion. All of these structures can play important roles in composition: as foreground interest, background focal points or as subjects in their own right.
If you like more structured images, piers are excellent subjects. Working piers have a more industrial look and make great choices for bold, graphic compositions, especially if you are considering monochrome conversions. Pleasure piers are generally Victorian structures, often featuring ornate architectural details, which can be included in wider compositions or make superb detail studies.
There are a number of ruined piers around the UK. Some of the more famous ones are the Old Pier in Swanage, Brighton’s West Pier and Birnbeck Pier near Weston-super-Mare. Structures such as these are prime candidates for minimalist seascapes and are particularly suited to the ethereal atmosphere created by long exposures.
Lighthouses offer wonderful potential for showing the power of nature. Often standing near cliff edges, with dangerous rocks below, it is not uncommon to see enormous waves crashing near them. Long exposures are not the best approach here – although it won’t be necessary to freeze every droplet of water, you’ll want to keep the shape of the wave as it breaks onto the rocks. Experiment with timing, too – releasing the shutter just a fraction of a second before or after the wave hits can make a huge difference.
Groynes can provide a natural foreground or lead-in for a wide-angle shot of the beach, or again can be the main subject of a composition. It’s probably fair to say that wooden groynes are the most photogenic and the more weathered the better. One option is to go for symmetry, with the groyne cutting straight through the middle of the composition. Alternatively, get in close and create an acute angle with the groyne pointing out into an empty sea.
Right Tin minesthe tin mines on the cliffs provide a sense of scale and the waves crashing on the rocks below tell the classic story of man versus the elements
the simple composition has just two elements – the groyne and the sun the weathered groyne has lots of character and the appearance of being reclaimed by nature the groyne enters the frame at a dynamic angle and is a strong leading line the 15-second exposure smooths the sea’s texture and simplifies the composition