Beachcombing With A Camera

The first beachcombers did so out of necessity. Driftwood became firewood, planking for shelters, and framing for canoes and kayaks. The beach was a resource highly utilized by those whose culture demanded nothing is wasted.

Few of us today rely on the beach for the necessities of life. Most of coastal beachcombing is a pleasant pastime. We are drawn to the ocean and beachcombing allows us to bring back physical evidence of that encounter. Unfortunately it is illegal in some areas to remove anything from the beach — unless you do it with a camera!

Many of the things we’d like to take home are either too big, too odiferous (or potentially so) or are better left to look at and enjoy for the moment.

If, however, you’ve replaced your collecting bucket with a camera, you not only increase your options, but you’ve collected something that can last a very long time — and there are no broken shells in your luggage when you get home!

Compose Your Photograph
Coming upon a beautifully composed collection of sea shells in the sand, seemingly sculpted by delicate hands within the tide, can offer lasting enjoyment and satisfaction — and shared with others if it is “collected” in a photograph.

Sometimes creations are done on a scale beyond the scope of normal beachcombing. With a camera even an old seaside shanty or shipwreck becomes a treasure trove you can carry home with you. A camera with an assortment of lenses can carefully pick up the treasure in parts or in its entirely and hold it indefinitely.

Nature’s arrangements are hard to beat. Sometimes there is no better way to “collect” a broad sampling from the beach than with a camera.

Often the things we see on the beach are living critters. Certainly the ambitious hermit crab marching across the sand with its home and protective armor on its back is a novel sight. While one’s first thought might be to pick it up and stick it in an aquarium, perhaps it’s best to capture a moment in its humble life on film.

Sometimes you can cheat a little bit — create your own camera treasures. The beach is full of curiously shaped fragments of wood, stone and shells that can be combined to create your own composition. A pile of discarded crab shell can fill your viewfinder with a colorful pattern that might never have occurred without your artistic intervention. Be creative; design a “collectibles” that others might enjoy, too.

Don’t forget to look above the tide lines beyond a beach. Wildflowers are usually bountiful up in the high grasses, and are equally worthy of making captured, colorful images.

Any Camera Will Do
Since anything that reminds you of the beach is good subject matter, almost any type of camera will work for capturing these images. Cameras with close-up focusing capabilities or those with variable lenses that can alter the depth of field, will allow you to get more concentrated shots than fixed lens cameras. With disc cameras you can send off the images the same day you record them!

The type of film you use is a personal choice — based on what you’re used to using. Most subjects are still or slow moving so slower speed films can be used. Overcast days or even deep shadows on bright days may call for faster film. Anticipate all conditions and bring suitable film to the beach. Sometimes the glare of the ocean or white sand can affect exposures so it may be prudent to “bracket” shots — that means to take exposures on each side of the normal exposure suggested by the metering system in your camera.

Close-up/macro lenses all the way up through mid-range telephoto lenses can be used on the beach. Once you develop general photographic skills, adapting them to beach shooting is easy.

There are some precautions to take within the sandy, gritty, and saltwater-wet environment of the beach. Care should be taken to keep the fine, airborne beach grit from getting into tiny openings in gear or creating scratches on lenses. All gear needs to be kept dry and wiped free of salt spray.

Remember to hang on to your camera strapped around your neck when you bend down over a tide pool. Your camera can swing out and down into a salty pool in seconds. There are camera harnesses that hold the camera securely close to your chest until you are ready to shoot — they are a good investment for a beachcombing camera bug.

Beachcombing with a camera is a low impact, highly personal hobby. It’s a great way to enjoy the wonders at the ocean’s edge.

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