On the Beach with a Camera

Sanibel Island Sunrise

Taking pictures at sunrise and sunset on the beach is one of the most enjoyable experiences for a photographer! Or, at least that is the conclusion I have come to after spending the past few days here in on Sanibel Island in south-western Florida. This is the first time in my life I’ve ever done serious photography on the beach, so from this fresh perspective, here are a few things that I’ve learned concerning keeping your equipment clean, planning ahead, and capturing great compositions!

The beach is one of the most unhealthy environments for the camera! Sand and salt water destroy equipment, so the most important things I learned first were how to keep my camera clean.

  • Kneel or squat, instead of sit, on the shore to keep clothes from being covered in sand.
  • Keep at least one hand clean for holding the camera. After touching sandy objects with the other hand, rinse them off in water and dry them before touching the camera again.
  • Keep camera and lenses in plastic bags inside your camera bag. This makes it more time-consuming to change lenses, but it sure keeps them dry.

And it always helps to plan ahead.

  • Find out the exact time of the sunrise/sunset. Though the best pictures are captured at this exact time, great pictures can easily be taken 30 minutes before and after.
  • Know in what direction the sun will be rising/setting. In Florida, it’s as difficult to get a good sunrise over the Gulf as it is a sunset over the Atlantic. 🙂
  • Bring plenty of storage and charged batteries!

Now for the fun part: composition!

  • Clouds are what make dynamic compositions. Go wide-angle and capture the sky.

Dynamic clouds

  • Look for subjects to complement the sunrise/sunset. Flying or wading birds, trees, grass, boardwalks, piers, buildings, shells, and driftwood all make great foreground subjects. Strong shapes are best, as most subjects will be silhouetted.

Foreground subjects

  • People are also excellent subjects!

People as subjects

  • Look behind you. You might be surprised at the color in the opposite direction of the sunrise/sunset.

Opposite direction

  • Watch that the horizon is either perfectly level or tilted to a degree that it is obviously intentional.

Horizon line

  • Try using a tripod to play around with long exposures. Moving water can create some interesting textures your eye never sees.

Using a tripod

Last, but most important, never let photography become higher priority than relationships and never ever forget why you are taking the pictures:

“The sea is His, and He made it:
and His hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.”

Sanibel Island sunset with siblings




  1. Crystal December 31, 2009 at 9:42 am #

    Great shots!! Beach sunsets are some of my favorite scenes.
    Great applications too!

  2. Michael January 3, 2010 at 2:53 pm #

    That Christmas Eve was a wonderful time together! I enjoyed your post and shots, and especially your conclusion!

  3. Mom January 5, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

    The verse says it all. The ocean is a great reminder of the glory of the Lord. This was the first time all ten of us had been at the beach together. I appreciate my brother’s generosity in letting us stay there in his house.

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