Where the water meets the land brings to mind picturesque beaches, sunsets over the sea, crashing surf, and other images synonymous with the ocean. But the literal take of these words should not restrict your thinking to these locales. Land and water mesh around lakes, rivers flow across the land, ponds, swamps, estuaries and streams are all bordered by earth. Every one of these settings give photographers plenty with which to work to produce great images. Although the focus of the images in this article depicts larger bodies of water, much of the information found below can pertain to any of the settings.
Time of day is important to the success of the capture. If dramatic warm light is the goal, be out at sunrise or sunset. With the sun low to the horizon, colors are warm as the sun penetrates the particulates that hover near this point. Clouds reflect this color and add drama to the scene. A clear horizon with clouds above it tends to produce dramatic sunrises or sunsets especially when reflected in the water. If you want to capture crashing waves where every drop is frozen, you’ll need to wait for the light to brighten to attain a fast enough shutter speed. If you use neutral density filters, you have the option of blurring the action even if the light level is high. When at all possible, shoot every scene at both low and high shutter speeds to exhaust all motion possibilities.
As gorgeous as the grand scenic image can be, don’t overlook smaller details as the light or wave action changes. Glints of light from the setting or rising sun reflect off the water and make nice focal points. If there is foreground detail, include it to make the glint wrap around a point of interest. Sand pattern images made in warm light are very powerful. Look for curving or leading lines.
Even better if they lead out to the point where the water and land marry. Shells, rocks, and other naturally- found elements that inhabit the shoreline also lend themselves to wonderful imagery. Be sure you look down, to your left, and right rather than just straight ahead. There’s a lot to be seen along the shore and you need to know where to look.
The images that accompany this article were all made along the Oregon coast. Each contains both land and water in varying degrees and moods. The amount of material that awaits the eager photographer who chooses to capture where land meets water is endless. From telephoto details to panoramic vistas, memory card after card can be filled. Work during different seasons, at different times of day, and different qualities of light to capture all the moods.