Top 10 tips for great photos at sea

Nothing beats the feeling of being out on the water, but a good photo is nice to have when conditions or commitments mean you can’t go out to play.

RNLI photographer Nigel Millard taking a photo with his camera

Photo: Eleanor Driscoll

Also, it helps to have documentary evidence when telling tall tales later, or when showing off on Facebook!

Nigel Millard (pictured) is a professional photographer and a lifeboat crew member at Torbay. Nigel's book The Lifeboat: Courage on our Coasts tells the RNLI story through almost 500 stunning images. Take a look here.

Below, Nigel shares his top tips for getting the money shot while out on the water:

1. Get a good waterproof case

There are various housings on the market to fit most cameras. They range from full underwater housings to rain capes. Cameras Underwater stocks a huge variety and gives great impartial advice. Look after your housing – wash it in fresh water and dry it after each use.

2. Use zoom lenses rather than fixed focal lenses

Zoom lenses let you constantly recompose your subject, allowing for the movement of boats and the sea.

3. Try not to change lenses at sea

Every time you open up the waterproof housing, you risk getting salt water onto your camera. If you do have to change lenses, try to do so in the safety of a dry cabin or wheelhouse.

4. Use a large memory card

Shooting in RAW mode, a larger memory card will allow you to use the continuous shooting mode to capture action sequences without having to worry about filling up your card too quickly.

5. Faster shutter speeds freeze action

Everything moves around at sea and there are lots of vibrations from boat engines. A fast shutter speed will freeze the action.

6. Slower shutter speeds create movement

For sharp focus on your subject and different levels of movement or blur on the water, try varying boat speeds and/or experimenting with slower shutter speeds.

7. Use a lanyard

Make or buy a lanyard to attach the camera in its housing to you. Clip it to a ring on your clothing or lifejacket belt. If you hit lumpy water or a sudden gust of wind and you lose grip of your camera, the lanyard will prevent it from falling overboard. Do make sure, however, that the lanyard is clipped to an area that will not impede your lifejacket function.

8. Get an air blower

Air blowers are ideal for dispersing unwanted water on the lens port without creating smears.

9. Clear lens smears with a cotton cloth

If you do get lens smears, keep a cotton cloth in your pocket to clean them off. Cotton cloths do not leave fibres.

10. Shoot downwind

If possible, keep your subject downwind. This will protect your lens from spray.

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