Tips for Photographing during Coastal Winter Storms

Rockin' the Coastline

Winter is a great time to get outdoors and try your hand at some coastal storm photography. Stormy conditions along the coast can bring interesting lighting and wave conditions that can add drama to your images.

Before you head out to the coast to take those pictures, there are a few safety conditions you should be aware of.

  • Weather Conditions. I like using a few phone or iPad apps for checking weather conditions. Here are some apps I use: The Weather Channel, NOAA World Radar, AccuWeather, and WeatherBug. Be sure to check for special weather alerts. Living on the Southern Oregon Coast we are subject to high surf and wind advisories.
  • Tide Conditions. Knowing the tide conditions is a must. When you go out to take pictures, knowing if the tide is coming in or going out is important. Like weather apps there are many choices for tide apps as well. I’ve tried several and my new favorite app is TideTrac. You don’t have to have high tides to get some great shots. Some of my favorite photos were captured during low to mid tide conditions.
  • Watch Your Back. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Never turn your back on the ocean”. It’s an absolute true statement. You have to constantly watch your back as a sneaker wave can come your direction in an instant without warning. Rough seas can bring in logs or other debris as well. Stay alert.
  • Erosion. If you are positioned along a cliff, keep in mind that normal erosion occurs and make sure you are not on an edge that could be vulnerable. You also need to know that standing on sandstone edges can add to the erosion process. By you standing there, you could be contributing to its deterioration.

Moody Face Rock

What to wear

Here are a few ideas on what to wear when you are out in stormy conditions:

  • Rain jacket & pants – Most people will wear the rain jacket but few think about water repellent pants. You can buy some snap on pants that don’t take up much room in your pack, but are handy when you need them.
  • Hats or hoodie – I like to wear a hat. I also like putting my raincoat hood over my head when it is really windy.
  • Gloves – Wearing gloves for the cold, damp weather is a must. There are many options at the outdoor stores for gloves. I like the kind where I can slip open my fingers when I need them but I can cover them when not in use.
  • Boots – I love my knee high boots as they have great traction and fit snuggly enough to keep water out.
My equipment

Here is a list of items I bring with me.

  • Sturdy Tripod – Rain and wind are often what you will encounter when you are shooting during stormy conditions. To prevent your camera from falling over, make sure your tripod is a sturdy one. If it has a center column with a hook, you can hang your camera bag for extra support. It also will keep your bag off the ground and give you easy access.
  • Rain Sleeve – I like to protect my camera with a good rain sleeve. I have tried many things from a shower cap to those cheap, thin plastic covers over the years. It’s best to spend a little money and purchase a good rain sleeve. It’s well worth the cost.
  • Camera Bag Cover – A fitted camera bag cover will keep your bag free of moisture and condensation.
  • Shutter Release Cable 
  • Circular Polarizing & Various Neutral Density Filters 
  • Lens Cloths – Between sea spray and rain, you’ll need to keep a few on hand.

Sunset Bay Reflections

Now be safe and go out and enjoy those coastal storms!

Additional Articles

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.