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Best time of day to shoot the Pacific Ocean?


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#1 George Ebersole

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Posted 08 July 2016 - 07:50 PM

So on my way back from Santa Cruz I caught some beautiful scenery off of highway 1.  But it got me to thinking about what is the best time of day to shoo the ocean, and are there any effects or artifacts that you want to avoid?

 

Any insights?


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#2 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 08 July 2016 - 08:24 PM

Depends on exactly where you are and whether you want sunset light or not. Also, specific to Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, but fog is a huge factor.

Here in Pacifica, the state beach is fogged in at the moment. Staring out my window everyday, I've found the prettiest light is 2hr before sunset to an hour after. Of course, sometimes you don't want pretty light - a foggy beach at dusk can be rather dramatic.

One technical thing to watch out for would be aliasing on backlit waves in wide shots. That kind of high frequency detail can be tough on digital sensors.

In general, good tools to have for shooting landscapes at the beach are a heavy duty tripod to combat high winds, ND filters, ND and colored grad filters, and a polarizer.
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#3 George Ebersole

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Posted 09 July 2016 - 04:23 AM

 

 

One technical thing to watch out for would be aliasing on backlit waves in wide shots. That kind of high frequency detail can be tough on digital sensors.

 

Yeah, you know I was really wondering about that.  I stopped off at a couple of spots north of Santa Cruz where it was clear and sunny (fog bank way off on the horizon), and I couldn't help but wonder if that detail would play havoc on a digital camera. 

 

In the past whenever I've seen footage of ocean that's off in the distance, it tends to get blurred or all funky.  

 

Won't an ND filter cut down on detail?


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#4 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 09 July 2016 - 04:40 PM

Won't an ND filter cut down on detail?


Not really in this case because you'll be focusing the lens to infinity to capture wide shots of the ocean, so the waves will be in focus regardless.

It also depends on what camera you're using. I've noticed aliasing on high frequency detail like waves mostly with DSLRs and similar cheaper cameras that do line-skipping or pixel-binning in their processing. A better camera, especially one with an agressive low-pass filter would have less of a problem with that kind of detail.
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#5 John E Clark

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Posted 11 July 2016 - 11:48 AM

So on my way back from Santa Cruz I caught some beautiful scenery off of highway 1.  But it got me to thinking about what is the best time of day to shoo the ocean, and are there any effects or artifacts that you want to avoid?

 

Any insights?

 

I've shot along CA Hwy 1/US Hwy 101 from Santa Monica to Crescent City and beyond at one time or another... (Now that I think of it... all the way up the coast to Port Angeles and on to Victoria...

 

Almost exclusively stills, and almost exclusively 'what ever condition is present', rather than having the luxury to hangout for a few days to get 'good light/conditions'.

 

In a word one has to pretty much take up the Zen attitude of 'be in the moment', and see what could be taken.

 

The worst of course is totally overcast flat days, with no surf, and a non-existant horizon line... well, unless one is looking for those days...

 

I also tend to want near to infinity focus on shots that have large ocean expanses, which for motion pictures requires perhaps a smaller f-stop than what many like to use.

 

Anyway, for shooting on bright sunny days, between say 10 am - 4 pm, the biggest problem is contrast. While an ND filter will knock down the values, they will not change the contrast. If a bit of sun gets on the lens, one also has reflections/flare to deal with... unless one is going for that sort of look.

 

If people are in the shot, the 'best' time for people + beach/ocean is about 1 hour or less before sunset. At this point most people can have their eyes wide open, there's enough scatter to fill shadows, etc, and the light is 'warmer'. (of course there's an early morning version of this... but who gets up that early... and in fact depending, the early morning won't be as 'warm'.)

 

In some cases, either too flat a light due to overcast, or even scorching sun, I've often shot 'details', perhaps this is more a 'stills' approach, but say for example tide pools or other 'little' elements of the beach.

 

The other aspect is where to shoot... for those big panoramas... need to have some height. In that case CA Hwy 1 has some tremendous views, since often it follows the cliffs with the breakers below.


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#6 George Ebersole

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Posted 12 July 2016 - 05:44 PM

Thanks John; the Santa Cruz - San Mateo stretch of highway 1 is a bit different from the LA area.  The fog tends to bunch up around the Golden Gate as off shore air is funneled into the Bay Area, which means south of Half Moon Bay tends to be relatively sunny (relatively).  

 

To me it seems like most DPs want to catch that very high detail on a low wind day that can create small chop, but whether it's the technology or camera angle or time of day (or I guess a need to focus on the talent) it seems like few people are able to catch that mid range ocean with all of its high detail.  

 

Windy days create a lot of unmanageable chop on the ocean.  LA low-wind beaches always have that calm placid (almost lake like) quality to the water.  Mid CA all the way up to Alaska has that nice etch quality to it.

 

I'll see what I can do.  :)


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#7 Patrick Anton Saefkow Seaman_64263

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Posted 12 July 2016 - 09:50 PM

In my opinion it's best to shoot in the early morning; as that's when everyone's sleeping in, and you get shots that people won't at magic hour sunset.


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#8 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 12 July 2016 - 10:37 PM

What most DPs want to capture is a bit of a tricky subject because unless you are strictly a wildlife or stock footage shooter, the images you capture have to fit into a scene or story context. The important question is usually, 'does it match' or 'will it cut', not necessarily whether the shot conforms to an ideal image of perfection.

On the other hand, landscape photographers do concentrate on capturing a single ideal image so it might be worth studying the work of people like Joe Cornish, Galen Rowell, and others of their ilk. The usual technique is to use a wide lens and ND grad, find interesting foreground and stop down as much as possible for maximum depth of field. Then use lots of ND to get a long exposure time and render the water glassy smooth.
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#9 George Ebersole

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Posted 04 August 2016 - 11:37 PM

Stupid question; does ocean salt mist damage lenses?  On a windy day I'm guessing sand might get in there, and that has a chance to scratch the glass, but is there any other danger from ocean mist that I should know about?


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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 01:46 AM

Yes, the salty mist is both corrosive and can scratch the front elements, so use a protective filter.


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