Respect for the sea

16th February 2014
I have read a few items lately about how people get wet when making seascapes. This is normally considered to be some sort of badge of honour, as well as hilariously funny.

Mostly, these stories fill me with horror. Having spent years sailing, fishing and generally living close to the sea, I have developed a strong respect and love for it. One thing that I have learned is to never assume what the sea will do. I have been wet a few times over the years but only when I have misjudged the situation, not when I have put myself where I obviously should not be.

I have a few rules that I follow when making seascapes. I always:

1. Have a good idea of what’s happening with the tide. I prefer a falling tide as it ensures that there are no footprints to bother about, and you are less likely to get an unexpected big wave rushing at you.

2. Ensure that I never turn my back to the sea for very long. Stuff happens and your chances are much better when you see it coming.

3. Leave the gear I’m carrying well beyond the highest point where waves can’t reach. The point of safety is normally pretty easy to see. Rocks look different when they don’t get wet regularly and if plants are growing then I know that they don’t get any salt water.

4. Spend a minute or two just watching what is happening. This has two advantages. First, I get an idea of what is worth my initial attention, and, second, I can see what is happening with the sea. Waves always come in sets. Knowing what is likely to be the biggest is a good starting point.

5. Wear boots, never normal shoes or sandals. I should probably wear cleated shoes like the rock fisherman but they are just too cumbersome. Around Sydney, there are times when there is seaweed on rocks. This can make the rocks very slippery. Having to make the decision whether I or my gear will suffer as I slip is not fun. Rocks can be slippery. Whether there is weed or not, it’s always a good idea to tread warily.

6. Avoid lens changes on beaches. I normally use a single zoom lens at the beach. With my D800E, I use an adapted Leica 28-90 which is an excellent zoom range for my style. There can be sand and spray in the air, and I have been known to drop things. Sand on a lens is ugly, and even worse when it gets into the camera.


The bottom line is that safety and good images are not mutually exclusive. The sea is unforgiving and ever-changing. This is what makes it so beautiful and seascapes so rewarding. Following these simple rules has worked for me for many years

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