Long exposure coastal landscapes are very effective long exposures because they often have moving waves and stationary objects, like rocks and ice bergs. This gives the photograph a strong contrast between the temporary and the permanent. The sea has always conjured our imagination as both provider and take-th away-er, of both home and voyages. Coastal Landscapes (Sea-scapes) capture the interaction at the sea-side… at the edge of the ocean.
Generally I advise half to two second exposures for Coastal Landscapes. The purpose is to show some movement of the waves as they interact with the edge of the shore. The incoming or receding wave paints a white trail of blur during a long exposure, so timing is essential to capture a desirable movement. Observation is required to see where the interaction is most interesting. Pebbles scattered in sand create beautiful interactions with receding waves, so ideally the Coastal Landscape photographer would begin the exposure as soon as the wave starts to recede.
Magic Cloth Technique
The long exposures during a Magic Cloth photograph can be too long to capture delicate interactions, but with care it is possible to use the long exposure to your advantage. Sand, pebbles or stones photograph beautifully when they are wet because there is more reflected light and some polarisation.
Neutral Density Filter
The shots above show the difference of a 6 stop Neutral Density Filter on the sea. Although the shutter speed on the right shows 25 seconds, the sea would have had half of this exposure.
The beach at Vestrahorn Mountain where a 5 second long exposure shows a beautiful wave run-off with the pebbles on the sand. Timing and composition are essential for the success of this photograph.
The position of the tide is critical for the foreground. If you arrive when the tide is too low, you might have very few foreground objects to compose with. If you arrive when the tide is too high you might not even be able to parts of the shoreline. If you are at an unfamiliar location it is important not to ignore any tide warning signs. The wrong decision could be your last.
If you catch the glacier ice beach at the right time, you can photograph the incredible colours of a sunset or sunrise.
This night photograph, from Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon in Iceland, captured Northern Lights and a comet disappearing into the North sky over Iceland.