Monday, September 19, 2011

Beach photography and other ramblings

The subject of beach photography pops up quite often and I can't recall what I've previously posted so let's discuss bringing your camera to the beach. Many have expressed concern with toting their DSLR to the beach because of the sand, water and salt. And some of us are watching a kid or three.

I don't own a point and shoot or an iPhone and quite honestly, if I'm going to take pictures I want my camera. I suppose I could use the old D50 for the beach but it wouldn't be the same to me which is why I probably haven't done so. Sometimes I don't bring a camera with me at all or I limit myself to just the lens on the camera and no additional equipment.

Yes, it can feel like you are caring for an additional child when you have your camera with you at the beach. You should keep it covered when you aren't using it. I suggest having a separate bag just for the camera. I usually throw a few hand towels in there for padding and protection.

It is extremely important to keep sand out of the camera so most people suggest that you do not change your lens while on the beach. Grammy and Papa's beach doesn't have much wind, if any, so I have changed my lens on the beach. I keep the camera strap around my neck, my back to the ocean and usually have another adult assist so that the camera is sans lens for very short period of time.

For our beach trip Labor Day weekend, I brought my camera bag with three lenses, including the one that was on the camera. My 85 mm lens was on the camera when we arrived at the private beach so I used it for those few photos. When we arrived at the public beach, I changed to my wide angle (11-16mm) lens while the girls and I waited for Rich to park the van. I was pleased with the amount of photos I managed to fire off during the first part of the afternoon and with the tide rushing in, decided that enough was enough.


Okay, take another look at the above photo from my post the other day. Emily is wearing the yellow bathing suit. If you look next to her, you will see my purple Jo Totes rose camera bag sitting on a beach chair. A low rise beach chair.

So there was a close call. A really close call. I THANKFULLY was stationed at the chairs when that larger than normal wave crashed and a wall of sea water came rushing towards me. The wave that caused Grammy to march the kids out of the water lest one should be swept out to sea. Grammy's camera was sitting on the same beach chair as my camera bag.

That wave reached our chairs and in the commotion, I managed to jump up and lift the chair with its precious contents to safety. (We did manage to recover all of our shoes too.)

In the rush to move our belongings up to dry sand, a sandy towel was thrown on top of my camera bag. {Insert screaming here.} And the bag was unzipped a tiny bit, which allowed sand into it. I almost lost it.

At that point, I was absolutely finished with taking photos for the day and itching to return to the beach house so that I could properly clean out my bag and equipment. And then Emily, who was pretending to swim in two inch water had a small sandy wave crash on top of her. In my mind, I could see the portrait I wanted to take of her. Her hair was all wet and disheveled. Sand particles were stuck to her face. It was the perfect image of what a little kid should look like at the beach.

But the wide angle lens was on my camera. I held out for a really long time and then I just couldn't stand it any longer. As carefully as possible, I changed out the wide angle lens for my 85 mm and this is the result.


It is exactly what I envisioned it to be. (I wanted to post the next size up but it is BIG. I might do that later.)

When we returned to the beach house, the girls were sprayed down with the hose in the yard to remove as much sand as possible before they reached the tub in the house. Anna was the last one in line and as I deposited her (au naturel and wrapped in a towel) onto the front porch, I found Allie and Em sitting in a chair together waiting for their turn in the tub.

As quiet as a mouse, I grabbed my camera with the 85 mm lens still attached and quickly took some pictures. Instead of just posting them to say, "Oh, look at how adorable they are," I thought that this would be a good example of aperture.


From reading photography message boards, it seems like most of us go from some sort of kit lens to a prime lens. Usually one with a wide open f stop of 1.8. A big mistake that I see (and experienced myself) is shooting at 1.8 with that lens. Especially for portraits. Everyone wants bokeh and they think that they need an f stop of 1.8 to achieve it. Not necessarily.

These were taken with an f stop of 5.0. Emily is on your left. Allie is on your right. Because they are not on the same plane, the focus on the other is soft, even with an f stop of 5.0.



Of course the chair back prevents you from seeing a background of bokeh but you can see my point. An f stop of 5.0 doesn't mean that all will be in focus.


I'll end with a serious Anna Banana Bugaboo. (Still using an f stop of 5.0 for this one too!)


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Alice said...

Nice post! Very helpful. I was going to comment on what you do when your camera visits the beach

Jamie said...

I'm impressed you change your lens as the beach-- I choose one and stick with it because I'm too scared! Cute pictures :) said...

Wow such great photography, I wish I was as good as you are...I didn't even know I could change the lens on my camera !! I will have a look. Great post btw

Anonymous said...

But the 85mm is a telephoto lens. You are going to have one kid out of focus because it's 85mm. If you set the aperture to 5 on the prime, you will not get that effect. Is that right?

Cute photos, especially the black and white one!

Sarah said...

Thanks, everyone!

GAMZu - my 85mm is a prime. Of course, depth of field plays a role but I wanted to post that b/c I see so many folks taking portraits (mostly with 50 or 85mm) and they think that they have to shoot as wide open as the lens will go, not realizing that this can make for soft pictures. - what camera do you have?