on the Beach
What's a beach? To us, it's any sandy stretch
on the edge of a lake, a river bank, or the
ocean. It's a great place for fun and relaxation,
and we hasten to add, a great place to take
pictures -- anytime! While we have summer's
warm and sunny weather and long lazy days in
mind as we write this, photography on the beach
can give great results any time of the year,
in any weather, from sunrise to sunset.
Student David J. Ginther
you won't need lots of fancy gear when you go
to the beach. A point-and-shoot or SLR with
a normal range zoom lens is all you'll need,
along with some film, a small strobe and a tripod
for long exposures.
are two reasons to keep the gear simple when
headed to the beach. First and foremost, we're
going to have fun, and packing too much equipment
just gets in the way. Second, the sand, sun,
surf and salty air creates an environment that
can be rough on delicate equipment.
how we suggest you protect the gear that you
knows that salt water and surf are rough on
cameras. What most people don't realize is that
sand can be the worst enemy of all. Fine sand
particles can get inside camera bodies and lens
barrels and wreak havoc with your camera's mechanics
and optics. This is not just a problem when
you're taking some pictures down on the beach.
It was a major headache in the last major U.S.
military operation during Operation Desert
Storm in Saudi Arabia. Lots of members of
the photo press corps had problems with sand
in their gear. They should have protected their
gear better, but they didn't. Here's what they
should have known, and done!
are two principal ways that sand can get into
your equipment: Wind and stupidity.
particles blown by the wind cannot be avoided,
and in those conditions we suggest you work
only with "sealed" cameras, anything
from a waterproof disposable model, a point-and-shoot
such as the Minolta Weathermatic, or
an SLR that's in a special waterproof housing
or a model that's designed for use underwater.
may wonder about using "waterproof"
cameras out of the water, but they are very
good for this purpose. The cameras we're talking
about are the generally inexpensive "weatherproof"
models or "waterproof" models like
the Minolta Weathermatic shown here.
They're good for use on the beach and, in some
cases, on or near the surface of the water.
We're not talking about expensive gear designed
for deep scuba diving.
of: Minolta Corp.
(NYI Director Don Sheff, who we note with pride
is a Certified Underwater Photographer and veteran
diver, reminds us that pressure underwater increases
rapidly. Most "waterproof" point-and-shoot
cameras can't handle depths greater than 10
or 15 feet. If you want to go deeper, then you'll
need either an expensive scuba-housing for your
camera, or a specialty scuba camera like the
Student Donald Butler
back to the beach, blowing sand is an unavoidable
menace, and if you don't have a protected camera,
we suggest you stay away on a windy day. On
the other hand, if it's not windy, your regular
camera should do if you use it intelligently.
brings us to stupidity. Whether it's
windy or not, the other way that sand gets into
your camera is through carelessness. This includes
obvious no-no's like handling the camera with
sandy fingers, or loading film while your friends
are shaking sand out of a blanket, or similar
What should you do if, despite your best efforts,
some sand does get into your camera? First,
try removing it by using a blower. A rubber
bowl blower may suffice. If not, try a compressed
air blower. If this doesn't remove all the grains
of sand, try Step Two. Gently...GENTLY... use
a brush to remove them. A sable or mink brush
is best since you don't want to scratch your
delicate camera or lens. If brushing doesn't
handle the job completely, you're up to Step
Three. Even more gently, try to brush away the
grains using a microfiber cloth. If you still
can't get rid of all the grains of sand, STOP.
Bring your camera to a repair shop and let the
experts take over.
sand, heat is the second-most dangerous enemy
of your camera on the beach. Heat is hard on
cameras and murder on film. But excess heat
is easily avoided. Just keep your equipment
out of direct sun. Never let your camera or
film bake in direct sun -- keep them covered
and in the shade as much as possible.
Student David Nickerson
third gremlin on the beach is humid air.
In cold weather, the danger is that the
camera gets cold outside so that, when
it's brought back into the warm humid
air in a house, droplets condense on it.
In warm weather, surprisingly, the danger
is really just the same. Here's why. Often,
your camera is cool because it's been
stored in a cool air-conditioned car or
a cool air-conditioned cabin on a boat.
When that cool camera is brought out into
the hot humid air of the beach, it too
may have droplets condense on it. (And
when we say on it, we mean on all surfaces,
inside and out - including the surface
of the film!)
Solution? If your camera is cold, let it adjust
to the beach conditions gradually to minimize
condensation. In other words, give your camera
and film time after you take them from their
cool environment. Never start shooting immediately
when you move your camera and/or film from a
cool-and-dry place to a warm-and-humid place
like a beach.
course, worse than hot, humid air is hot, humid,
salty air - the type of air you'll find at an
ocean beach in summer. Watch out for salt condensing
on your camera - especially on the electronic
parts inside your camera. Salt can really damage
delicate electronics. What to do? Again, use
common sense. If you don't open your camera
too often - and you shield it from ocean spray
when you do - salt should not get inside. If
it does, treat it like sand. Try to blow it
out...brush it out...microfiber it out.
the most obvious gremlin. Keep water from striking
your camera directly. Do everything you can
to prevent water from splashing on your camera,
or moist air from blowing into the interior
of your camera.
if your camera gets accidentally soaked? If
it gets soaked with plain water, let it dry,
and take it to a repair shop. But if it falls
into salt water and gets thoroughly immersed,
don't let it dry. Transfer the camera into plain
water and keep it wet until you contact a repair
shop and follow their instructions. (If a camera
that's been doused with salt water is allowed
to dry, the salt residue will destroy the camera.)
final word about protecting your equipment:
We've given you all sorts of warnings, but don't
get discouraged. If you use ordinary common
sense, you won't be bothered by any of these
gremlins and you'll be ready to take great shots
at the beach.
you may wonder why we included a strobe
in our suggested gear. After all, the sunny
beach has too much light, if anything. It usually
has direct sunlight. That's why many people
go to the beach - to sun themselves. Why would
we need a strobe? Because of that direct sun,
that's why! The bright sun casts dark shadows.
We need the strobe to add light to those shadows.
To open them up. To fill them. That's
the purpose of the strobe. To act as a fill
fill flash (such as the small built-in flash
on your point-and-shoot) to fill in shadows
as in these two shots above.
that we've covered equipment, let's turn to
with all photographs, we suggest you keep NYI's
three guidelines uppermost in your mind when
One: What's my subject?
Guideline Two: How
can I give emphasis to my subject?
Guideline Three: How can I simplify
the Number One subject on a beach is people.
People at rest. People at play. People swimming.
People sunning. People sleeping
beach is a powerful backdrop, filled with activity
and distraction. To avoid distracting from your
subject(s), keep your subject large and up front
in your frame. In the NYI Course we have an
entire lesson on techniques for drawing attention
to your subject.
Student Maria Teresa Henderson
you're photographing people on the beach,
the biggest danger is squinting.
You follow the old Kodak "rule":
You set up with the bright sun streaming
into the face of your subject from over
your shoulder. Forgetting for the moment
the problem this creates with dark shadows
(which you open up with your fill flash),
we think the biggest problem is that your
subject has to squint. And most people don't
look their best when squinting. In fact,
most people look terrible squinting. How
can you avoid this? Try moving your subject
into the shade - for example, the shade
of an umbrella. Perhaps, wait till a cloud
obscures the direct sun. Or turn your subject
so that the sun is behind him or her, and
use fill flash to light the face. In other
words, watch out for squinting and take
steps to avoid it!
In beach scenes of people, the second biggest
danger is distraction. Here's where simplification
comes in. Pay close attention to the background.
It's easy to overlook distracting things when
you're surrounded by so many interesting sights.
Look carefully. If you see distracting elements
- trash cans, coolers, misplaced towels, etc.
- try to either remove them or change your angle
to eliminate them from view.
last picture of the girl with the sea gulls
is an example of one that could benefit from
a little more simplification. We find those
two out-of-focus figures sitting at the water's
edge are distracting. The photographer might
have eliminated them by finding a slightly better
at play are among the best subjects on the beach.
Something about the beach seems to promote kids
getting lost in fantasy projects. Don't forget
to document the results.
a photo where we would crop the top edge.
Another common type of beach photo is the scenic
shot where you show an entire stretch of beach.
It's unusual to get a shot without people so don't
even try. In fact, people give a sense of scale
to these shots. Their activity may even tell a
story. Shooting from a high angle may help to
capture the sweep of the beach.
Lighting can play a key role in beach photographs.
We've reminded you to use fill flash to avoid
heavy dark shadows in foreground subjects.
On the other hand, don't rule out using backlighting
for dramatic silhouettes including sunset shots
© NYI Student Cheryl Robinson
Student June Hedges
Speaking of sunsets, how do you expose for sunsets?
There are a number of possibilities. Best is
to take an incident reading of the light or
a gray-card reading. Either of these should
give you right-on exposure since they read the
light regardless of the subject and color. (We've
previously discussed these methods in Tips on
this site.) For more information about sunsets,
read our article, How
to Photograph Sunsets.
you don't have an incident light-meter or a
gray card, then take a reading with your built-in
about with a point-and-shoot that's "automatic
everything"? Use the exposure-lock button
on your point-and-shoot, and take two readings.
First, tip the camera down so it "reads"
more dark water and less bright sky in the frame.
Press down the exposure-lock button so the camera
is fooled into giving more exposure because
it thinks the subject is darker than it really
is. Shoot the scene using this exposure reading.
Second, tilt the camera up toward the sky and
lock exposure on that brighter scene. This time,
we've fooled the meter into thinking the scene
is brighter than it actually is, so there will
be less exposure. Shoot this way. When you get
back the prints, pick the photo you like best
and tell everyone that's exactly the way it
that you'll get warmer light and long, dramatic
shadows when the sun is low in the sky But overcast
days and open shadows can make interesting photos
as well. Let your imagination run wild.
So, toss your favorite camera into your beach
bag, add a few rolls of film and a strobe, and
let's go to work. Don't forget the "he-man"
subject but watch out for nasty shadows like
this one on the right. It's easy to fix, just
yell: "Yo, Tarzan, stop straining and lift
your fat head and look into the camera!"
And get ready to run fast before he has a chance
to come over and kick sand in your face.