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Screenshot 2023 08 07 At 16.34.00
CREDIT: Richard Ellis ARPS

Planning A Coastal Location Shoot by Richard Ellis ARPS

RPS Landscape Group Newsletter, October 2023

Planning A Coastal Location Shoot

by Richard Ellis ARPS

Children perennially ask “Are we there yet?” when on a car journey. Landscape photographers ask what it will be like when they get to a new location. There are basically two extremes of approach to a new location.

Approach 1

Turn up, see what it is like and shoot what catches your eye. Sorry, but I cannot help those of you who have this approach though I fully accept it works for many people.

Approach 2

Do some planning to try and maximise your chances of capturing a particular type or set of images. As one of the world’s inveterate planners I prefer to do some research for a new location so thought I would share with you my approach. I recently used this approach to give some pointers to a friend who was going to Seacliff beach so here is how I tackled the challenge.


Step 1 

Search the location using Google maps and especially the satellite maps. These give you a wealth of information. The first thing you can tell from the satellite image is that there is a some nice rock structure, a bit of sandy beach another bay to the west and an offshore island so plenty of material to work with on your shoot. Zooming in a bit shows there is a car park nearby so easy access. There are also a large number of people on the beach so it is probably best avoided on a sunny day and as it is easy access with a large sandy area there will likely be dog walkers so if you want footprint free images visit on a receding tide and be there first. 


Images: Overview (top) and zoomed in view of the bay (bottom)


Step 2

Work out where the sun and  tide will be at a given time.  A good starting point is to use a tide  time table which will give you the high level view of the tides. On 2 Oct the date of the planned visit the tide will hit high tide at 17:33 and sunset is at 18:43. Using the photographers ephemeris you can see where the sun will be at this time. This is available on the web for free or as a paid App. The ephemeris shows that there will be light on the side of the island and that the rocks on the eastern side of the beach should get some side lighting so if conditions are good there should be some nice opportunities for sunset pictures. As the sun will be coming in from west south west your shadow will be on your right and slightly forward so be careful if you do any images with a close foreground as you may get an unwanted shadow. 


Tide table and Photographers Ephemeris. Images not made by Richard Ellis


Step 3 

Try to gain an understanding of how the various elements in the landscape will relate to each other. You can do this using Google images and the shots people post of their everyday lives. A couple of examples are shown here of the rocks at the eastern end of the beach. These are shot at below high tide as the seaweed will be covered at high tide. If you want this amount of foreground then 2 October at sunset will not give you this so start your visit earlier in the day to take full advantage of the foreground. 

Looking at further images shows that at a lower state of the tide you get reflections in the sand as the beach has a shallow slope 

Image © Walter Baxter



Based on a few minutes of searching and a bit of detective work you can formulate a plan for your visits. If I were visiting on 2 October I would plan to start mid afternoon and look to capture some beach reflections and then go and have a look at the harbour and rocks on the western end of the bay before finishing for sunset capturing the light striking the island with foreground rocks on the eastern side.

A military maxim is “No plan survives contact with the enemy” so whilst planning can help do be aware of your surroundings when you get to the beach and look for other opportunities. 

Happy shooting, Richard Ellis ARPS 


Richard Ellis is a keen amateur photographer based in Berkshire. He loves to make images at the coast and is especially fond of small coastal islands. He is a founding member of the RPS Landscape SIG and a former Chair of the group.


Images © Richard Ellis unless otherwise stated