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Reflections: An Endless Seascape at Sunset

Seascape photographer Minefuyu Yamashita spotted the perfect chance for a reflection shot during golden hour one evening, when the tide was low and huge clouds decorated the sky. He shares the story and decisions behind the shot. (Reported by: Minefuyu Yamashita, Digital Camera Magazine)

Seascape with reflection during golden hour

EOS 5D Mark IV/ EF16-35mm f/2.8L III USM/ FL: 16mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/11, 1/250 sec, EV -0.3)/ ISO 250/ WB: Shade 
Season: Summer/Time of day: Evening 
Location: Nagura Bay, Ishigaki Islands, Okinawa


Key shooting decisions 

- Ultra-wide-angle at 16mm: To enhance perspective
- Symmetrical composition: To bring out the sense of vastness
- Evening, paying attention to the tide: For stiller waters and a clearer reflection

(Click on the links for more details on each decision. Scroll till the end for a bonus tip!)

Other settings: 

- White balance: ‘Shade’ to enhance the colours of sunset


Ultra-wide-angle at 16mm: To enhance perspective

27mm: Clouds look bigger but not as vast

Seascape reflection at 27mm

Shooting slightly narrower at 27mm makes the clouds in both the sky and reflection look bigger and their details more visible. Drawing attention to one element in this way works if the clouds look ordinary, but the clouds in this scene are unique. The stronger wide-angle perspective exaggeration effect at 16mm helped to “stretch” the clouds and make the entire landscape look more impressive.


Composition: Horizontally and vertically symmetrical

I couldn’t help but notice how the large clouds to the left and right of the bay were similar in shape, which created symmetry along a vertical axis. I placed the horizon in the centre to create horizontal symmetry between the sky at the top and the reflection below. The composition worked with the ultra-wide-angle perspective effect to create the illusion of an endless sea and sky.

- A water reflection will be slightly darker than the actual landscape being reflected. If you expose for the reflection, the actual sky might become overexposed.

Also see:
Decisions in Landscape Photography: Whether or Not to Include the Sun in the Frame


Timing: Evening + Pay attention to the tide

Time of the day: Affects your shooting position

The position of the sun in the sky affects the clarity of the reflection, and you will have to adjust your angle or camera height accordingly.

For this particular location, when the sun was high up in the sky, I found it quite challenging to find the perfect shooting position to capture a clear reflection. It was easier to get a clearer reflection when shooting in the evening. Not having to worry about the quality of the reflection lets you focus on other things like composing the shot and checking for movements on the water surface.

Seascape reflection with blue sky

The same location, shot in the daytime.

Remember: Remove your CPL filter! This is one case where you don't want clear-looking waters.

Tidal movement means water movement

When shooting seascapes, always check the tide. The colours of the sky are always changing at sunset, which lets you capture different faces of the same place. But the tide could start to rise as you shoot, which will result in a rougher water surface.

Seascape with red sunset

This was shot only 30 minutes later at the same spot as the topmost image (slightly to the right).  The tide has already started to rise, causing movement in the water surface. 


Bonus tip: Assessing the location

Geographical features affect the impact of wind and waves

The geographical features of a body of water can give clues to how still you can expect the waters to be. Bays like Nagura Bay are recessed into land, which makes them less affected by wind and waves. They therefore tend to have calmer waters compared to an open sea.

Also take note of where the mouth of the bay is. For Nagura Bay, this is in the west, which means that shooting reflections will be especially challenging on days that there is wind blowing from the west.


For more tips on photographing reflections, check out:
Reflections: A Steam Train Rides Off into the Dramatic Sunset
Tips for Water Reflection Photography: Fun with Puddles!

For more tips on photographing seascapes and waves, see:
Landscape Photography: Shooting Seascape
Wave Photography: Capturing a Silky, Slow Shutter Shot with Beautiful Colours
Step-by-step Guide to Capturing Splashing Waves at Fast Shutter Speed Settings
Wave Photography: Which Shutter Speed to Use to Depict Power and Dynamism?


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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.