Taking a walk to the end of a pier and back is a must when visiting the coast. However, instead of walking up and over the beach why not step down onto the sand and under the pier for a spot of pier photography with a difference?
You can't get underneath all piers so please use your common sense and don't put yourself in danger for a photograph. If you do plan on spending time under the pier, make sure you keep your eye on the tide as if you're distracted it can easily take you by surprise.
What Gear Do I Need?
Most lenses, from wide-angle to telephotos can be used for pier photography, but if you want to get in close to the rust patterns and seaweed you'll need a macro lens. If you don't have one, try a close-up lens or even an extension tube. Pack your tripod if you want to play with long exposures.
Capture Lines And Patterns
The underside of a pier is a hidden world of patterns and strong compositional lines waiting to be photographed. Position yourself right and you'll be able to follow the vanishing point into the sea and photograph the solid shapes formed by the supports that frame it. If you're on the beach late afternoon and the pier you're under is made of wooden boards you'll see rays of sunlight shining through, which will add even more interest to your frame.
If you don't want to get your feet wet walk further up the beach and focus your macro lens on the rusting nuts and bolts that hold the pier together.
Study The Tide Times
Check the tide times and head out at low tide when you'll find seaweed and barnacles decorating the supports with bands of colour and textures or take an exposure from the sky to turn the pier into a silhouette and leave all the detail out.
Play Around With Longer Exposures
As mentioned above, take your tripod along and you can put your camera on a long-ish exposure to leave the still strong pier surrounded by smooth, fluid waves. This can take a while to get right as waves can grow too big or shrink to something not worth photographing so you may have to experiment with exposure times and just keep taking photographs until you get it right. Have a lens cloth to hand as sea spray will land on your lens, leaving dots of water in the process and make sure your tripod is sturdy as all it takes is one, strong wave to knock your gear over into the sea.
Choose To Shoot In RAW
If you can, shoot in RAW as you'll be surprised how much detail you'll be able to bring out in the highlights and shadows in post production without ruining the look of the rest of the image.
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