I had envisioned a long exposure beach sunrise photograph looking somewhat dreamy with the water edge leading to the distant cliffs or mountains. I knew one place where I could reach this effect.
The beach is wide and sandy and with a cliff on one side. Sounds like what I need. The area was closed for some time due to the bushfire and road reconstruction, so I had to wait a bit. To find out if there are any local alerts I always check National Parks website before the date. This weekend I went to check the weather forecast. It looked like promising, and so I woke up early and drove to the Garie Beach in the Royal National Park. Garie Beach is one of my favorite beaches in Sydney as it is full of exciting stuff – sand, standalone rocks, rock platform, cliffs, etc. I planned to photograph the sand with the stones and climb the cliffs after sunrise. But shortly after the dawn Sun got covered by the clouds and I have canceled the cliff climbing part.
Long Exposure Beach Sunrise
The conditions were nearly perfect. There were some clouds, and the tide was low. I have also got a bonus of the sea mist. What a gift! Due to the decent distance to the cliffs, the thick haze covered the cliffs. The were several hard parts about the photo.
- Too dark to focus. I solved this by setting aperture wide open and focusing manually.
- I needed a continuous shoreline so that there are no breaks and it flows smoothly towards the cliffs. I needed to choose the right point of view (relating to the sand relief) and make several extra photos.
- Another challenging thing was the size of the objects. I took a wide-angle Tamron 15-30 lens at first, and it appeared that the cliff is too small and there is too much sand in the photo. Instead, I took the Nikon 50mm lens to compress the perspective (making the water surface shinier) and to emphasize the cliff.
- Colors. There wasn’t a lot of color at the time (40 min before sunrise). But in the end, it became a feature of the photo, not the disadvantage. There are too many over-saturated beach sunrise photos out there.
Nikon D750, Nikon 50/1.8D
f/13, 20 sec, ISO 160
As you see, I used a 20 seconds exposure. I did this deliberately to achieve the dreamy smooth retreating water effect. I had pressed the shutter when the wave reached its highest point and started a slow retreat. Because it was slowly flowing away, we can see a gradually increasing radiance on the water surface due to the long exposure. This effect is what gives a dreamy vibe to the photo.