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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

Wave Photography: Capturing a Silky, Slow Shutter Shot with Beautiful Colours

Here are some tips on how you, too, can capture waves in an artistic way that depicts the beautiful colours and mellow movements made by the gentle waves in the evening golden hour. (Reported by: Minefuyu Yamashita)

EOS 5D Mark II/ EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM/ FL: 70mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/6.3, 0.4 sec, EV-0.3)/ ISO 200/ WB: Auto

Panning the camera at the small waves in the soft light from the sunset enabled me to bring out their delicate colours and gentle movements, which were not visible with the naked eye.


Tip 1: Pan the waves at a shutter speed of 0.4 sec

By using panning technique to capture the waves, you achieve an effect where the focus captures and maintains the ‘core shape’ of the waves while still reflecting movement in the picture. Set the shutter speed according to how fast the waves surge back and forth, and how you want to depict them, i.e., do you want the waves to appear forceful, or soft and fluid? In this example, I chose the latter, intentionally setting the shutter speed to 0.4 sec so as to bring out the gentle movement of the waves.

EOS 5D Mark II/ EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM/ FL: 200mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/4, 1/10 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

Shot without panning
If you shoot at a slow shutter speed without panning, the parts of the shot that are frozen in action will retain substantial detail, which makes the waves look more jagged as a result.


Tip 2: Shoot during the golden hour, 20 mins after the sun sets

I proceeded to shoot approximately 20 mins after the sun had set, when the sky was tinged in a reddish purple. Panning resulted in a mélange of red from the sun and the blue cast from the sky reflected onto the waves, which created a delicate appearance that resembled a weave of pale purple threads. For this picture, the key is in the colours. I closely followed the movements of the waves while constantly keeping an eye out for the moment the ideal colour would appear.

For a different way to photograph waves, check out this article:
Step-by-step Guide to Capturing Splashing Waves at Fast Shutter Speed Settings


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Digital Camera Magazine

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Minefuyu Yamashita

Minefuyu Yamashita

Born in 1979 in Aichi. After gaining experience in jobs such as interior and graphic designing, Yamashita became an independent photographer in 2011. His works have been used in many calendars.