Taking good beach photos sounds easier than it is. The big trick, according to Bryan Peterson, is managing the massive amount of uncontrolled ambient light. In this video, Bryan challenges his student, Andrew, to take an interesting shot of a single starfish, rather than try to capture the entire beach landscape:
Andrew is using a full-frame camera with a Nikon SB910 AF Speedlight Flash and 14-24mm wide angle lens. He needs a big depth of field, because he’s shooting into the sunlight, and needs to control his lighting as much as possible. What Andrew is shooting for is a silhouette effect with the sun in the background, except he still needs visibility on the foreground subject. To reduce flaring in the background, he is avoiding the use of a lens filter.
Andrew decides to kill the ambient light by lowering his shutter speed to 1/250 of a second. Andrew’s assistant is gripping the flash very close to light up the starfish from above, which creates a unique sparkling effect. But in order to do that, they have to power down the flash to 1/128.
Bryan stresses that anyone can take this kind of shot, and the video does a fine job at giving step-by-step instructions.