Taking Dreamy, Misty Ocean Photos at the Beach

The beach is one of those idyllic, picturesque settings that begs to have its photo taken. No matter what kind of camera you have or how you take pictures at the beach, you almost can't go wrong when you're standing on the sand and shooting the ocean. But while most people tend to take pictures midday to capture a gorgeous blue sky with fluffy white clouds above the sand and sea, I'd like to suggest another way to shoot the ocean: Use a slow shutter speed to turn the water into a moody, foggy blur. This isn't the first time I've explained how to capture the essence of water motion with a slow shutter speed (check out ""), but this week let's look at how to apply this technique at the beach.

Cheating With Shutter Speed

People often see and try to guess how it was done. "Was it really misty there?" people ask. "Was there a fog rising off the ocean in the early morning?" And the answer, of course, is no and no. There's no fog, and the scene didn't look like this in real life. Instead, what you see is the effect you get when you slow down the shutter speed and capture a lot of wave movement in the same exposure.

Do I feel bad that I'm cheating to create a scene that didn't actually exist when I shot the picture? Not at all. Art is always about interpreting reality, and keep in mind you can get this effect entirely within a single exposure on your camera, with no photo editing necessary. It's no more "fake" than if I underexposed a photo to or changed the aperture to .

Setting Up

To take a photo like this, you should have a camera that lets you choose a long shutter speed, so a digital SLR or a point-and-shoot camera with a shutter priority mode is ideal.