Photographing during High Surf Advisories

A huge wave crashing against the cliff's at Shore Acres State Park, Oregon Coast.

Living on the Southern Oregon Coast, we often get high surf advisories from fall to sometimes, early spring. High surfs can generate sizable waves and dramatic sea conditions, particularly if they crash against the cliff walls.

During these special weather advisories I am alerted through my weather apps and by paying attention to weather conditions. For more information about how I receive these high surf advisories, see my article How to Set Up Oregon Coast Weather Alerts.

Here are my tips for photographing these waves.

  1. Shutter Speed. Practice using faster shutter speeds for capturing the drama of the large swells and crashing waves.
  2. Aperture. I generally shoot these waves from around f/7 to f/10. Of course, it depends on the lens I use and the composition I want.
  3. Manual Mode. Practice shooting in manual mode so you can make adjustments as the lighting changes.
  4. ISO. Typically I set my ISO from 200 – 800 but have bumped it up much higher for a faster shutter speeds.
  5. Lenses. I like to use a wide-angle lens to capture these huge waves. My favorite lenses to use are my Canon 16-35mm and 24-105mm. These give me a good range. Bring a longer telephoto lens for more intimate scenes. See Varina Patel’s article, How to Shoot Waves.
  6. Remote Shutter Release. Use a remote shutter release to quickly capture those incoming waves and prevent camera vibration.
  7. Circular Polarizing Filter. Use of a circular polarizing filter can be useful for enhancing colors and bringing out details in clouds.
  8. Neutral Density Filters. I don’t often use mine during these types of stormy conditions. You definitely can experiment to get the look you want.
  9. Tripod. I almost always use a tripod.
  10. Shoot in Raw. You’ll be glad you did when you can make adjustments in post-processing!

Waves at Shore Acres

See my recent article on Tips for Photographing During Coastal Winter Storms where I talk about equipment and safety during stormy conditions.

For more help with photography tips and techniques check out the following related information from Visual Wilderness:

About Author Patricia Davidson

Patricia Davidson is an award-winning outdoor photographer, specializing in landscape, commercial and editorial assignments, and travel photography. Patricia has spent the last 20 years living on the beautiful Southern Oregon Coast where she developed her landscape photography skills. Currently, she and her husband live nomadically, traveling in their RV throughout the western United States. With a background in the visual arts and web development, she sets out to produce images that express her artistic vision and passion for photography, as well as her love of nature and the outdoors.