by Tom Ormerod

This November is landscape photography month here at Olympus, so we’ve asked Olympus Mentor Tom Ormerod to share some of his top tips for capturing the perfect seascape.

Spending time by the sea is what triggered my passion (or as my wife would say – obsession) for photography. Back in 2017 I was spending a lot of time cycling around the seafront in my home town of Bournemouth. I was regularly out early on my bike and I would see the most wonderful and varied conditions – stunning sunrises, moody skies and stormy seas. Being by the sea made me want to share all the different conditions that I saw.

I have spent countless hours shooting all around Dorset, Devon, Hampshire & beyond. While I dabble in a little bit of wildlife & plant/animal macro photography and I love shooting rolling hills and mountains – I’m always happiest by the sea. There is something about watching the waves, studying the weather and waiting for that perfect combination of the water, the light and the land that I find very soothing. Now I am not going to lie, it can also be very frustrating at times, the tide is too high, the wind too strong, the sea to flat, the sky too grey….but there is almost always a shot to be had by the sea with a bit of perseverance, skill and imagination.

The hardest part of my photography has to be summer sunrises, 02:30 alarms are rather unpleasant, but the rewards can be fantastic. I always try to get on location about 50 minutes before sunrise. This gives me time to set up, study the conditions that I have been dealt, pick out a composition and (with a little bit of luck) capture some amazing pre-sunrise colours in the sky.

My camera has to be able to stand up to the elements, take the occasional wave splash and be resistant to sand and grime. The OM-D E-M1 Mark II is perfect for the job, class leading weather sealing (when paired with an Olympus M.Zuiko PRO lens) in a small lightweight body, great for those long walks to secluded coves.

Personally, I find that shutter speeds are the most important thing to master with seascapes. Capturing the scene often splits into one of 3 areas for me…

  • Fast shutters to capture the exact moment, great for stormy seas and big waves
  • Lazy shutters of around 1/2 second to capture the wave movement (my personal favourite)
  • Very slow shutters of 30 seconds or more, great for calm seas to add that silky smooth feel

Balancing your aperture and ISO certainly helps with shutter speed but ND filters are really useful when you need to have extra control. I always recommend a high-quality glass filter system but I do also mix it up with the Olympus Live ND feature when I am shooting with the E-M1X.

So find yourself some rocks, sit and watch the waves, plan your shot, choose your shutter speed and smile.