Seascape Techniques by Lea Tippett

Seascape Techniques by Lea Tippett

Cornish born, Lea Tippett shares his techniques that can help with your seascape photography in the August issue of Landscape Photography magazine. Sigma Imaging UK Ltd. is proud to share an exert of Lea’s article below. 

Seaside Techniques by Lea Tippett

As a child growing up on the Cornish Coast I was fortunate to spend many weekends at the local beaches, observing the waves crashing in and then being sucked back into the sea. It is a concept that fascinated me as a youngster and, now in my forties, this same fascination has been rekindled as a landscape photographer.
I bought my first serious digital camera, a Sigma SD9, back in 2004. The innovative Foveon sensor design appealed to me as the sensor is capable of capturing great detail and tonal range, utilising pixels differently to conventional Bayer cameras. I have continued to use Sigma cameras to this day and have found the latest Quattro H to be a superb camera for landscape work, yielding image quality close to medium format.

I’m purely a self-taught landscape photographer that has spent many years trying to perfect my workflow to suit my style. I feel I’m far from the finished article but, over the years, I have learnt from my many mistakes and also to slow down in my approach to taking photographs.
This is probably the single-most important reason why I feel my photography has improved in recent years and one of the key points I try to emphasise to my clients.
I often get asked ‘What is the single most important thing to remember as a landscape photographer?’ My answer would be plain and simple; preparation.
Ahead of getting up extra early in the morning for a summer sunrise, or an evening’s sunset, it is vital that you do your homework on the location in preparation for the shoot.
The obvious details are checking the weather forecast and, vitally, the tide times, so you don’t make a wasted journey and ensure the tide is going to be in a favourable position at either sunrise or sunset. This is when knowing the location well comes into its own and, if you are not too familiar with the location, it is advisable to pay a visit before a shoot.

This is key to any image and a skill that I initially struggled to get to grips with for some time.
Just moving a camera by a very small amount can make a vast difference to an image, either improving or ruining its flow.
The majority of time I adopt the rule of thirds in respect of composition so that my subjects, albeit a focal point of interest within the landscape, fall on an intersecting line. However, this is not always the case and there are times that I personally find that the rule of thirds does not work so well.
For the majority of my work I use two Sigma lenses, which are excellent for landscape work.
The Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art lens is my ‘go-to’ for many of my images, as I really love the focal length. Being a wide angle prime lens, it allows me to fill the frame, giving me the ability to make compositions that previously I would not have been able to achieve, with virtually no distortion.
My second Sigma lens and my ‘workhorse’, due to its superb sharpness and extreme wide angle use, is the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 Art. I enjoy using wide angle lenses as the wide perspective enables me to create compositions that would have been almost impossible for me previously.
I often shoot low to the ground, especially with wide angle, enabling me to capture a decent amount of foreground, as well as big skies and backgrounds.

Changing the Aspect Ratio
Similarly to composition, an aspect ratio can either make or break an image. Often I have produced an image in the standard 3:2 format and then, after processing the file, I have found the image has a far stronger composition in a different aspect ratio.
This is a function that many modern digital cameras have built in to them and one of the most useful functions to aid me with composition.
The Sigma Quattro H gives me the ability to select various aspect ratios such as 3:2, 4:3, 7:6, 1:1, 21:9, 16:9. Being able to change the ratio and see the result of doing this before taking the final image is extremely useful.
I have grown to love the 1:1 ratio and produce a lot of my work in the square format. This in-camera function has certainly helped me to think more about composition and improved my creativity.

Experiment with Depth of Field
The majority of time I’m looking for my images to have a large depth of field, so usually set the aperture between f/8 and f/16 and, on occasions higher than f/16, but at such small apertures diffraction can start to creep in.
There are times where it pays to be a bit creative and use a shallower depth of field to isolate a subject in a seascape. Lighthouses stand out in an image if the foreground is slightly out of focus, but ensuring the lighthouse is sharp and in focus. This can help draw your eye into the image much in the same way as lead in lines draw your eye to the subject.
Take multiple exposures
Although I use a combination of filters of different strengths, there are times when the light can be quite challenging to work with and the dynamic range can be at a camera’s limits.
These situations can be difficult to overcome at times, so I tend to set the camera to bracketing mode to enable the camera to make either three or five images at different exposures. This allows me to either select the best exposed image when I get home and process the files, or alternatively I can use Photoshop and blend images to balance skies and foreground using layers. Although I prefer not to have to work this way, there are times when extra processing can’t be avoided. The majority of time, however, this is not required as I can do everything in-camera, keeping my processing to a minimum.
Shoot RAW
I always select RAW shooting in camera while on location. This gives me much more latitude with respect of adjustment to the files when back in the digital darkroom.

Click on the following link to read the full length article : 

To see more of Lea’s images, visit his website: