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Tamron Blog: Top Tips On Photographing Piers

We're at the coast again but this time we're photographing piers.

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Tamron Blog: Top Tips On Photographing Piers: Pier


The UK is home to some fantastic Victorian as well as more modern piers that are perfect for a small photographic project you can have a go at before you head off for your fish and chips. A nice, sunny day when the sky is bright blue is a great backdrop for a pier but don't be put off by the more common, dull British weather as this can add mood to a coastal image and on the upside, this type of weather gives you the perfect excuse to nip into a seaside café for a quick brew. It's also the type of weather others might avoid so your pier shots are less likely to have people in them. 

Most lenses can actually be used for pier photography. Wide-angles give piers perspective and context, plus they're perfect for sunset or sunrises where you want the pier to be a dominant foreground structure while macro lenses can be used for close up shots of textures in the wood, rust patterns, and limpets. If you don't have one of these, try a close-up lens or even an extension tube. You could also pack a zoom lens which gives you several focal lengths, from wide right through to telephoto, in one body. Plus, some like the 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD MACRO can get pretty close to detail, too. If you need to change lenses, try and do it off the beach so sand is less likely to be blown where it shouldn't be. 

A tripod can help prevent a wonky horizon but it's not a necessity, just remember to have a quick last look around the viewfinder before pressing the shutter if you're working hand-held to make sure the sky and sea are not at an angle. Some cameras and tripods have built-in spirit levels that will help combat this problem. If you don't have one of these you can buy an accessory spirit level to attach to the tripod to help you. If you do want to work handheld, a lens that has vibration compensation built in will help minimise shake. 


Tamron Blog: Top Tips On Photographing Piers: Pier


One final bit of kit that's worth putting in your camera bag is a polarising filter as one of these will help cut down on reflections and also increase colour saturation so if you're at the coast on a particularly sunny day they'll be less glare in the image and your sky will come out a lovely bright blue.

The best time of day to photograph piers is the same as with landscape photography; early in the morning and late in the day as the warm light and long shadows create mood and atmosphere. As do varied weather conditions. Blue skies on sunny days, dark thundery scenes and if you're lucky enough to see one, even rainbows are perfect backdrops for these imposing architectural structures.

Once you've stood on top of the pier start to look for alternative viewpoints and unique angles – you don't always have to shot the 'norm'. If it's safe to do so try walking underneath the pier to photograph the shapes formed by the structure and this is also the perfect place to get up close with the barnacles and other sea beings that create interesting textures on the supports. 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.

Another effective technique is to turn the pier into a silhouette; this is done by exposing for the sky rather than the pier. 

When back home, do remember to wipe all of your gear down and leave it to dry out completely. This should be done even if your camera is water- or at least splash proof as salt water can damage equipment. To protect your lens while you're out in the field, consider fitting a UV filter as this will prevent small grains of sand from scratching it and when you're not using your gear, put it back in your bag.

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