The shoreline is a magical place for a photographer. Whether you are visiting the beaches of an ocean or the shoreline of an inland lake, stunning photos can be had by anyone with a few simple techniques. In this article I will discuss my approach to shooting the shoreline at sunrise,sunset, and even the middle of the day in ways that will help you create compelling shoreline images.



Camera: While I prefer to shoot with members of the OM-D line of cameras, primarily the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, you can use most of these techniques with ANY of your Olympus cameras. 
Tripod: I suggest that you use a tripod for the sunrise and sunset photos, however, if you can rest your camera on something that offers stability or hold very still, you might be able to work without one as the image stabilization in Olympus cameras is excellent! 

Lenses: I prefer to shoot my shorelines as wide as possible to add a lot of drama to the scene. For me that means using the M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm F2.8 PRO or the new M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm F4.0 IS PRO at it’s widest setting of 12mm.  If you are using another model of camera like a Tough TG-5 or TG-870, just make sure to zoom out as wide as you can go.



Oceanfront: When scouting ocean front locations I look for places with as few people as possible because I prefer a serene landscape when if I can find one. If you can’t find an empty beach, you can always use the people as a silhouetted feature in the scene. I also enjoy looking for palm trees, lifeguard huts, or items washed ashore like coconuts, shells, sea grasses or any items washed ashore to use in my foreground as points of interest. 

Lakeshore: As with the ocean I try to seek out places of solitude. This can often be difficult as so many lakes are now lined with homes. If this is the case don’t worry, I have some tips to lessen their intrusion on your photo. And again, like the ocean, I always look for items washed ashore for points of interest.  Driftwood, large rocks, etc. all add to the scene.



Mode: I like to work in one of two modes. The first is for sunrise and sunsets and that is using the SCENE MODE, and having it set to sunset if that is an option on your camera. This scene mode works so well I often feel no need to do any processing to the image. It just works, so I don’t have to! The other mode I use is Aperture Priority. When in aperture priority I can control my depth of field which is important when you have objects in the foreground of your shot.

ISO:  I stay at the base ISO of 200, but will sometimes use the LOW ISO setting to give me a longer exposure which help create that “smoky water” look.

Focal Length: WIDE! 7mm with the 7-14mm, 12mm with the 12-100mm, and another great lens option is the mZuiko 9-18mm! At 9mm of course!

Aperture: I like to shoot stopped down (larger f/ number) so I can get as much in focus as possible. Especially since I like having things in the foreground of the shot. If the exposure starts going too long you can always “open up” the aperture (smaller f/ number) or raise ISO.

One More Setting: One last thing I do is use the O.I Share app to trigger the shutter.  I don’t carry a cable release so I trigger the camera this way, or you can set your camera to a 2 second timer.



This is the fun part!! We have our gear, picked out the perfect location, and all our settings are dialed in…Now we craft the image!

When photographing bodies of water I prefer to shoot one of two ways. The first is pointing straight out into the water. For this type of shot you need something prominent in the foreground to balance out the wide open emptiness of the body of water ahead.

This is a great time to use a passerby as a part of the scene. If you use the O.I Share app or the timer function, YOU can be that human element in the photo!

The other way I like to compose is to have the shoreline running obliquely through the scene. I feel that if you compose at an angle this way it provides a more unique perspective. And to make it even more engaging, try getting the camera low. And to take it to the next level? Put something in the foreground close to the camera. Even something as simple as washed up driftwood or beach grass can add that extra something to the composition.



Once you have mastered the steps above you can now start experimenting with filters for your lenses. The types of filters I use are graduated neutral density filters, neutral density filters, and polarizing filters. Graduated neutral density filters are dark on one half, and fade into clear on the other. These allow you to “tone down” the exposure of the sky, while maintaining a proper exposure on your foreground. Neutral density filters are dark all the way up the filter and allow for longer exposures. It is these long exposures that give the “smoky” look to water you sometimes see. And lastly, polarizers can do two things, one is that they will help make your skies a deeper blue than they may otherwise be, and they can also reduce glare and reflections on the surface of water. I suggest experimenting with them all to find a look that suits your style!

Bio - Jamie MacDonald


Twitter: @MacDonald_Photo
Instagram: @MacDonald_Photo

Jamie MacDonald is a nature and stock photographer and social influencer living in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. A husband and the father of two boys who are widely featured in his work, he describes his love of photography as one that is “rooted in the desire to move people to see the world around them in new ways.