Continued from Previous Blot Post
So now you know some tips for timing waves, ideal shutter speeds, and scouting out your location. The next step is of course shooting the photos. In order to do this, you will need to consider the use of graduated neutral density filters. These have for a very long time been the solution to difficult to photograph scenes. My favorite grad filter for seascapes is the Daryl Benson Reverse Neutral Density Graduated Filter from Singh-Ray. This filter is clear on the bottom, then abruptly transitions to 3 stops of darkness. It then gradually fades back to 2 stops near the top of the filter. This is because a horizon is usually brighter than the sky above it. My preference is to use this filter with the Lee Filter Holder System. I think the design of the Lee filter holder is much better than the Cokin one.
I find that a 3 stop filter is most useful when the sun is still above the horizon. This will give you a natural looking foreground so long as you are shooting more or less in the direction of the sun. As soon as the sun drops below the horizon, you will be back to a 2 stop filter again. I have found that I use mostly my 2 stop hard edge grad, my 3 stop reverse grad, and a 2 stop soft edge grad.
One of the things I love about seascape photography is because it provides for a very dynamic subject during the time of day when the color is fantastic. The first image in this post was taken while the sun was still up. The color is great, but once the sun sets, there is a completely different pallet of color to work with. If you resist the temptation of shooting right after sunset, you will be rewarded with better color 5 to 10 minutes after sunset. It will start to get quite dark, but so long as you use a very long expousre, you camera will be able to pick up all sorts of color.
On another note, it is very important to never turn your back to the ocean. Whenever you are shooting, keep a keen eye on the approaching waves. It is not uncommon for a rogue wave to break over the rocks and smother you and your camera in saltwater. As soon as I am done shooting, I will pick up my camera, and move it higher up on the beach before I start breaking things down.
When shooting along the coast, I prefer to be as comfortable as possible. This way, I will not be tempted to leave early and miss the good color. I will typically wear some waterproof pants, as well as hiking boots with neoprene socks. This way, if I am standing up to my knees in water, I stay quite warm and dry. When that is one less thing to worry about, it makes the shooting a lot more enjoyable! This is especially true since the best sky conditions we get here in San Diego are typically in the winter when the water is a bit chilly.