Photographing waves and seascapes can be a lot of fun but it requires a certain amount of patience to capture the perfect wave. However, you’re not always able to capture that one perfect wave and in those situations, it’s helpful to capture multiple exposures that you can combine later on.

In this video, German landscape photographer Micheal Breitung shares his best tips on photographing breaking waves and later on bring the images into Photoshop to combine elements from each frame into one.

Capturing the Perfect Wave

Dealing with moving elements such as rushing waves adds an extra factor that you need to consider before pressing the shutter button. The shutter speed is always an important setting but even more so when dealing with motion – just a slight adjustment in the shutter speed can make a huge impact on the final image.

In the beginning of the video, Michael talks about the shutter speeds he prefers to work with when photographing breaking waves. While it does depend on how powerful the waves are, he finds that the best results often come when using a shutter speed between 1/8th of a second to 1.5 seconds.

To find the ideal shutter speed for the scene you’re photographing, it’s important to spend some time experimenting with different shutter speeds until you get the effect that you desire. While doing this, you can adjust the aperture (though you shouldn’t go below f/8 or above f/13) and the ISO accordingly. You might also need to use a Neutral Density Filter if it’s bright outside and you need to use a slower shutter speed. Keep in mind that even though you can create long exposures without filters, it’s better to use one in order to maintain the highest quality in the image.

Avoid a Delayed Timer

Michael also points out that using a delayed timer/delayed shutter is not ideal when photographing breaking waves. You want to capture the exact moment the wave forms a certain position and that’s nearly impossible to predict two seconds ahead.

Instead of using a delayed timer (or manually pressing the camera’s shutter button), you should use remote shutter in this scenario. This allows you to capture the exact moment without actually touching the camera and causing camera vibration.

Capture Multiple Images and Combine Them in Photoshop

After talking about the in-field techniques and tricks, Michael brings us into Adobe Photoshop to show us how we can combine the several exposures into one frame.

Make sure that you’ve captured several images without moving the tripod. This increases the chance of capturing the perfect wave and will be essential in the next steps.

The next step is to blend 2,3 or more images that have wave motions you like in different parts of the image. By doing so, you’re able to recreate a more dynamic scene where every part of the image contains interest. This is done by using Layer Masks and manually painting the different waves into the main frame – Michael explains this in an easy-to-understand way at the end of the video.

Now, the only thing remaining is for you to go out and try this for yourself! Just remember to take enough images and explore with different choices of shutter speed in order to get enough material to recreate the perfect scene.

Learn More

If you want to learn more about the topics touched in Michael’s video be sure to take a look at the following CaptureLandscapes articles: