7 Steps to Stunning Seascapes For Beginners


I am not an early bird but living in Sydney, Australia on the east coast leaves me no choice but to get up early once in a while for a dawn to sunrise shoot. The coffee and breakfast at a beach cafe make it worth getting up at the sparrow's fart (Australian slang for very early). I've been shooting seascapes for over 10 years and I have always found it to be one of the most rewarding and challenging of photographic subjects. No two seascapes are the same and once you add variable weather and sea conditions to the mix there are endless opportunities for photographers willing to get their feet wet, so to speak! I am still learning everyday how to stay dry and not get washed away.


It sounds obvious, but most beginners don’t bother with tripods; they should. Apart from giving you the freedom to choose a slower shutter speed, a tripod forces you to slow down and think about the image-making process. Where should you position the horizon? Should that rock be in the frame or would it be better left out? Should you use a slow shutter speed to blur the water, or would it look better sharp? Look for a sturdy tripod that can collapse down to provide a low shooting angle. Shooting low can create great drama in your images. I like to use Sirui Carbon Fibre tripods. Make sure to check your load capacity as it is worth spending the extra dollars to have a great tripod that will last for years. Always make sure to wash down your tripod after each shoot with fresh water. I have a friend who likes to shower with his tripod fully expanded. It sounds kinky but it's practical when water shortages are happening in some drought stricken areas of Australia. Even without droughts we still are careful with water usage.


Choose your camera’s lowest ISO setting (normally 50, 100 or 200 ISO). This will not only minimize the appearance of noise in your image, but also allow you to use a slower shutter speed, which can be useful if you are trying to achieve the ‘blurry water’ effect you see in many seascapes. My Canon 5d Mark III allows me to go down to ISO 50. 



If you want to create the 'milky water' effect you'll need to use a slow shutter speed – slower than half a second. With your camera on a tripod, switch your camera to Shutter Priority (S or TV) and choose a shutter speed between 1/2 and 10 seconds. If it is too bright you will get a warning message indicating that the image will be over-exposed at this shutter speed. At this point you have two options. First, wait until it gets darker. Second, and this is my preferred option, place a Neutral Density filter, which looks like a grey piece of glass, in front of the lens to artificially darken the scene. You can buy ND filters of varying densities, from light to dark grey. I use a +10 stop ND NISI filter for most of my seascapes and find it works very well. If there is abundant water movement then you might also be able to get some nice effects at 1/8th or 1/15th of second without the ten stop filter.


Even though you’re shooting in Shutter Priority you still need to be conscious of the camera’s aperture setting. Look for an aperture somewhere around f/11. While you'll get more depth of field as the aperture gets smaller (higher f-numbers) keep in mind that most lenses are sharpest at a setting of around f/11. Best to do some research in regard to the sweet spot of your lens as every lens has the perfect f-stop to produce optimally sharp images. I prefer to shoot in full manual mode and control ISO 50, F11 for aperture and then change my shutter speed accordingly depending on the effects I am trying to get. If needed, then I will add on my filter.



If you’re using long exposures a remote shutter release will help you keep camera shake to a minimum. Failing that, you can use your camera’s self timer to fire the shutter ‘hands free’. The best and cheapest option is to download an app for your smartphone to control from as a remote, but for that your camera will need Bluetooth capabilities.


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To add drama to your skies try using a graduated filter which are dark at the top and clear at the bottom. A graduated filter can be really useful for shooting high contrast landscape scenes where the sky is considerably brighter than the foreground. I use a 3 stop soft grad Nisi filter for sunrises.



I have been soaked with waves and sudden swells many times. I have even fallen a few times on slippery moss covered sandstone rocks. Be careful when photographing near the coast. Conditions can change quickly and it's easy to get caught out if you're not careful. Don't become so preoccupied with taking photos that you forget what's happening around you. Err on the side of safety – there are worse things in life than missing the shot! I often check my location's low tide the day before. It's best to decide where and how you will be shooting as it may still be dark when you arrive. It is best to stand back for a few minutes and observe the tides. The Great Australian surf has taken many rock fishermen by surprise. I use rock fishing boots with spikes now to give me ultimate grip on these slippery surfaces. A head lamp in the darkness also allows me to be hands free with my backpack. 

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What's your favorite seascape tip? Share it in the comments section below.

A Photographer's Guide To Exploring Tasmania's Wilderness

For the last 10 years I have been regularly visiting this remote and pristine island state. Tasmania is about a 1.5 hour flight from Sydney to the city of Launceston. The diverse choice of landscapes and close proximity by car make this a unique and accessible environment still largely untouched. Around 40 percent of Tasmania is protected National Parks and Reserves. If you are looking to get off the grid and discover a magical wilderness, this place is filled with adventure and convict history. Here are some of my favorite spots to photograph in spring or autumn. I have also added a few other locations as side trips that are also worth a look.


For the last 10 years I have been regularly visiting this remote and pristine island state. Tasmania is about a 1.5 hour flight from Sydney to the city of Launceston. The diverse choice of landscapes and close proximity by car make this a unique and accessible environment still largely untouched. Around 40 percent of Tasmania is protected National Parks and Reserves. If you are looking to get off the grid and discover a magical wilderness, this place is filled with adventure and convict history. Here are some of my favorite spots to photograph in spring or autumn. I have also added a few other locations as side trips that are also worth a look.

2. Bicheno

Bicheno is located 176 kilometers (109 miles) southeast of Launceston. It used to be a whaling town in the early 1800s. Today it is a charming seaside resort town and the local fishing industry's catch includes substantial quantities of abalone, crayfish, scallops, and trevally. In the photo below you can see the famous Rocking Rock (80 ton piece of granite). There are a number of interesting access points onto the rocks which have a distinctive red color as a result of deposits of red lichen; All perfect for a slow shutter and a 10-stop filter if you choose to shoot in the middle of the day. There is also a blowhole nearby that shoots out water up to 10 feet high. Many of these rocks resemble sea creatures such as whales and sea lions. At night along the coastal beaches you might spot some fairy penguins coming in after sunset.



3. Sleepy Bay, Freycinet National Park

Just a 30 minute drive from Bicheno is Coles Bay. Famous features of the park include its red and pink granite formations and a series of jagged granite peaks in a line called "The Hazards." If you are lucky you might spot some Bennet's wallabies, brushtail possums, eastern quoll, echidnas, and wombats. Out in the ocean you might spot some humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins.



Up in the sky or perched on trees are white-bellied eagle, black-browed albatross, brown falcon, and fairy wren to name a few. Banksia and Eucalyptus Gum trees dominate the area. There are various walks but the most common would have to be Wineglass Bay which has been voted in as one of the top 10 beaches in Australia.


4. Tessellated Pavement

The Tessellated Pavement State Reserve is on the Tasman Peninsula near Eaglehawk Neck. The region is popular with a short drive from here to Port Arthur Convict Settlement. Also known for a massacre in 1996 of 35 who were killed by a mad gunman. It is the deadliest mass shooting in Australia's history. Since then, our gun laws restrict the private ownership of high-capacity semi automatic rifles and shotguns as well as introducing uniform firearms licensing. The area has a melancholic feel. The best time of year to photograph the chess board like pavement is in May when moss on the rocks is more abundant. 


5. Horseshoe Falls

Only an hour and a half drive out of Hobart is Mt. Field National Park where you will find Russell And Horseshoe Falls. Nestled in a moss forest are towering swamp gums, the tallest flowering plant on earth, and species typical of wet forests and cool temperate rainforests, such as dogwood, musk, and myrtle. Towards the falls, the track is framed by stunning tall tree ferns. The falls themselves are impossibly picturesque.


Other Points of Interest

Liffey is an area where many farms have abandoned houses and sheds. Rumored to have paranormal activity, this wool shed stands on its last legs. Liffey is also known for its cascading waterfalls.


Derwent River Poplars in May is when autumn and all its colors come to life in the Derwent Valley only an hours drive from Hobart.


7 Ways To Unlock Your Creativity


Let's be honest, regardless how creative you may be we all have our highs and lows. In the field of photography, creativity should be an essential part of why we started. Our passion needs to be unleashed. Here are some ways to help you unlock your creativity.

Start a Project

Create regular projects for yourself until a series or cohesive body of work emerges. If you had to put together six to ten of your best images, what would they be about? Is there a narrative that you wish to express? What genre of photography are you looking to utilize? Keep a journal of your drawings or written ideas. I still have journals from years ago that I reference. The concept needs to be thought about properly. Merge your hobbies with your project. For example, I have combined my love of art, history, and culture. Why not try some new equipment or techniques for your project. You will choose between found pictures (e.g., photojournalism) and created pictures (e.g., conceptual). If you are lucky you might even be able to combine found with created pictures. Adding a composite of images in editing might lead to a series. A large part of the process is the wandering mind and experimenting.


Be Ready

Sometimes the best images are completely spontaneous. Half the skill is recognizing the special moments when they arise. Even if you don't see anything that particularly inspires you, try to get in the habit of shooting every day to improve your creative and technical skills. It takes hard work and discipline to get in the mood. Find out if you are more creative early in the morning or late at night. Set yourself some creative challenges to explore for certain elements and principles in composition (i.e., look for texture and repetition of shapes). Here is a link to download my free ebooks about composition. Dreams, if you can remember them, are also a source of ideas. Salvador Dali, the surrealist painter, used to have an afternoon siesta with a paintbrush in his hand ready to paint.



What do you have to do to turn your idea into reality? What are the challenges and how can you solve them? Collect reference material. I enjoy using Pinterest to create my own mood boards for possible projects. I love to explore different styles of painting and periods of art. For example, I enjoy dark and moody landscapes that have a melancholic feel. English Painter Sidney Richard Percy depicts what I am drawn to. Also, I often use three books to check on photography and art: "The Art Book" by Phaidon Press, "The 20th Century Art Book," and "The Photography Book." Even though some of you may not have an interest in art, you have to admire a painter's ability to capture light and master composition.


Change Your Perspective

I am glad I have not deleted some old photos to edit them again differently. Travel is a great way to stimulate your creativity. Visiting a new country, eating something bizarre, or learning a new language are all simple steps to re-wire new pathways. Experiencing a new culture and interacting with locals will surely give you a fresh perspective on life. In Claire Rosen's book "Imaginarium" she talks about divergent thinking and concepts that can come from a place, a person, an object, or an event to name a few. Be playful with your ideas and try not to think too literal. Comedian Robin Williams showed how this works best at 3:10 in this video.


Shoot Less, Shoot Better

Shoot without looking at the preview, this will force you to be in the moment. This will also force you to concentrate more on your idea and not on technical data. Also, try to imagine that each shot is precious. If you slow down and think about what you're doing, the number of images you shoot might go down, but the quality of your images will almost certainly go up. Turn off your preview mode while you are shooting a short 10-20 minute challenge. If you still have a film camera why not shoot a roll or two. Set yourself a timeline to work through this exercise to brainstorm ideas. When editing your best shots look at them once to avoid being indecisive and being too self-critical. Go with your gut feeling and intuition to make quick choice.



The only person you need to please is yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you how or what to shoot. Once you have an idea, follow it though to its conclusion. If there is someone else you trust and value their opinion, why not bounce your ideas off them? Collaborate with other artists who understand what you are trying to visually communicate. De-construct your ideas for time and budget. Sometimes I feel a need to gain more skills in Photoshop as a digital artist. Other times, I may need more experience lighting subjects to convey an emotion I am not achieving. The whole journey of discovery takes time, patience, and perseverance.


Understand Yourself

This seems like a logical step but it is one that is often overlooked. To get a basic understanding of psychology I often read from experts like Jeremy Dean who focuses many of his articles on creativity. Over the last 20 years of using photography as a medium of my self-expression, it has been very gratifying to tap into my past as a source of inspiration. I think of photography like a window to my subconscious memories. The end goal is to grow as a photographer and develop your skills and style to express yourself. Regardless of the outcomes, I always find it a very healthy experience. Have you got other ways to get you ready for creativity?

Barcelona's 5 Best Photo Locations

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In the lead image above George Lucas Storm Troopers in Star Wars was inspired by Gaudi. For first time travellers to Barcelona these are my five favourites photo spots. I am expecting many readers to add their best spots that are not on this list. Please make sure to Google pin your exact locations in your comments. Much like my recent post on Tokyo I would love to see lots of sharing especially less popular locations.

The point of this article and many to follow is to expand on everyone's travel experiences and narrow down each location depending on the genre of travel photography they would like to focus. For this article I will focus on architecture and street portraits. I would encourage all other comments to also talk about other genres of travel photography such as abstract, conceptual, food...

For those who are hard pressed for time, here is a slow three hour walk to take you to must see destinations. Best seen in the late afternoon or early in the morning depending when you are more creative and relaxed. The loop walk can start and end wherever you would like to visit first. Here is my  Goggle Map.

The five spots listed below are general areas with some specific stops to look into. A self guided photo walk allows you to explore other paths and alleyways. 


1. Plaça de Catalunya

In Plaça Catalunya you will find the meeting point for free walking tours of the city which usually run in most cities around the world. It's a free tour! That means that at the end of the tour, you can pay whatever you think the tour was worth. Their locations are what you would expect to see. It also serves as a great starting point to map your walking route and then change it to suit your photography needs. If you have time to spare and are feeling energetic then perhaps a walk with them first and then a second walk on your own next. The plaza has a nice ambience of street performers. 

Barcelona and Madrid are notorious for bag snatchers and pick pockets. I always carry a dirty old bag and only travel with one camera and one lens. Your rubber neck as a tourist should not be too obvious. Only take your camera out of the bag when shooting. Always have your bag clenched tightly to the front of your chest. No jewelry, expensive watches, or anything that looks flashy. You want to look and act local. These guys are very good at distracting you so whenever anyone gets too close to you watch your back. Avoid walking into very crowded and dark areas where they target tourists. In the comments section I would like to hear of any experiences you may have heard or encountered.

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2. Universitat

Universitat is a Barcelona Metro station named after Plaça de la Universitat, split between Eixample and Ciutat Vella districts of Barcelona, where the station is located in. The area is close to Universitat De Barcelona, therefore adding to an ambience of youth. For street portraits I prefer to shoot with and without permission depending on the time, place, and person. Most people don't mind you taking photos, but take the time to read the situation, particularly if you are traveling or in an unfamiliar culture. Be friendly and only bring the camera up to your eye when you are taking the shot. Explain yourself if asked and be genuine about your intentions. 


3. Gothic Quarter

This area is riddled with side alleys. Bohemian and eclectic vibe. It's a suburb with a blend of working class people and boutique shops or hotels. Every street corner is a potential street portrait. Try to blend into the crowd as much as possible. Darker clothing works well. Bright jackets and white runners don't! Finally, observe, relax, and be very patient. You will be amazed what might reveal itself. Photographing a street portrait without permission can sometimes be hard to do. To avoid confrontation and still get a spontaneous photo, I would suggest you pick a street corner with some nice architecture. Wait for your subject to come into frame and snap a few quick ones. Most people will feel as though they have entered your shot by mistake. I know it's a sneaky move but the results can sometimes be rewarding. I often shoot with a Canon 85mm F1.2. This type of a lens gives me the distance I need for these alleyways. A longer lens might attract more attention. Blending architecture with the occasional street portrait can be a fun exercise. If there is a person I would like to speak with then I ask for permission. Your camera is a great excuse to make friends with the locals.


Points of Interest in area: Pablo Picasso Museum, Jewish Quarter, Roman Ruins, Plaza De Sant Felip Neri, Plaza Del Re, Mercat del Born, Ciutadella Park & Barcelona Cathedral. 

4. Sagrada De Familia

Standing in front and looking up I can't help but think of Gaudi the architect doing the same just before he got run over by a tram. When he was admitted to hospital and died shortly after, many thought he was a homeless man. A trip to Barcelona without seeing this work of art would be a pity. Best to buy your entry tickets online as the lines go forever on busy days. 

5. La Pedrera and Casa Batllo

Both of Gaudi's buildings are just a few blocks from each other. The nearest subway station is Diagonal if you are feeling a bit tired toward the end of this walk. Barcelona today would not have as many tourists if it weren't for Gaudi's fans from all over the world. Once again, due to it's ever popularity, I would suggest buying tickets online to avoid the long lines.


Other Points of Interest

Las Ramblas - Barcelona's most famous boulevard is a tourist mecca for pickpockets, but charming all the same if you don't get robbed.

Park Guell - A playful creation of Gaudi's masterpeice.

Museu Maritim - A fine example of civil Gothic architecture.

CCCB and MACBA - Cultural Centre and Contemporary Museum of Art

Olympic Park and National Art Gallery

Please add more suggestions for other locations in your comments below.

Madrid's 5 Best Photo Locations

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Once again in a series of articles for my frequently visited cities, I have compiled a list of locations for first time photographers to Madrid. The list is open to interpretation and I encourage you to go off the beaten path. It is a rough guide to get lost with a purpose. In my last two articles on Tokyo and Barcelona I focused on street portraits, architecture and night shots of the city. While in Madrid last April of 2016 I walked the city streets with my customers as seen in the Google map below.

The city has a population of almost 3.2 million with a metropolitan area population of approximately 6.5 million. The looped walk I have put together without stopping should take about an hour and thirty minutes. Most of my photo walks without a break last around three hours before fatigue kicks in. The city is vast so I have chosen to pick the most popular and easily tackled parts on foot. You can start and stop wherever you like. Puerta Del Sol is a central starting point as seen in the photo below.  


Madrid Photo Walk

1. Puerta Del Sol

Compared to Barcelona with a grid map pattern, Madrid has more radial patterns. It's fascinating to research if the behavior of walkers varies according to how a city is planned. Let me know in the comments if you have any good evidence to show differences between radial and grid urban planning. With your smart phone gps following your path it's fun to get a little lost sometimes. Serendipity will lead you to some fabulous photos you would not normally discover. Other points of interest nearby are Plaza De Pontejos and Plaza De Santa Ana which are easily found on Google Maps.


Orthopedic shop near Sol

2. Plaza San Miguel

If you are looking for good tapas at Mercado San Miguel and want to try a bit of everything from different provinces of Spain, this is the perfect place for lunch or a snack. Keep in mind it's not cheap but it's convenient. Kind reminder to exercise common sense with your valuables in these dark and crowded places. If you can manage to get a table close to natural light, food photography hand held works great with a 50mm macro lens. A small reflector also comes in handy to throw some more light into shadows.

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Madrid view from the Vincci Capitol Hotel Rooftop Bar

3. Barrio De La Latina

From Plaza Mayor is one of Madrid's most vibrant main squares. Another ten minute walk from here and you can reach a barrio with fewer tourists. Despite having gone through gentrification, the menu of the day is usually the best choice with 3 courses included for 10-12 euros. Weekdays during the day have much less foot traffic. The two main streets that are home to the majority of bars and restaurants are Cava Alta and Cava Baja. A good meeting point if you want to meet a friend at night is Plaza De La Cebada. Other nearby points of interest are Plaza de La Paja, Plaza del Humilladero, Plaza de San Andrés, and Plaza de Puerta Cerrada.




Madrid Street Portraits

4. El Prado Museum

A trip to Madrid is not complete without a visit to this vast museum. Give yourself a few hours to thoroughly enjoy all the old and new art that is on offer from 10 am. The area is known as the avenue of the arts. Two other museums nearby are Thyssen-Bornemisza and Renia Sofia. I usually visit museums in the middle of the day when the sunlight is harshest. It also gives me a break from shooting as photography is not usually allowed. Art for me has always been an endless source of inspiration.  



Plaza Mayor

5. El Retiro Park & Gran Via

The opulent few regularly stroll through this park. Everyone from dog walkers to joggers, locals love to relax here. This location can be welcome break from car pollution and heavy traffic. A must see destination in the park is the Palacio de Cristal glass pavilion. Keep in mind that the park is 350 acres. Another point of interest is the iconic Metropolis building which is on the corner of Calle De Alcala and Gran Via. It's a great spot to set up for a night shot with car lights and lovely architecture. Anywhere along Gran Via you will find equally impressive architecture. Any suggestion on other locations are more than welcome in the comments.  


Metropolis Building on the corner of Gran Via and Calle Alcala

Alfonso Calero – Travel Photographer from Sydney specialising in portraits and landscapes. Regular traveller with my small photo workshops/tours in Australia , Japan, The Philippines and Spain.