Wet Feet at the Beach


Sandstone Swirl. The foamy surf rushes around rocks on the beach north of Nazaré, Portugal.
Nikon Z8 with AF-S Fisheye Nikkor 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED at 15mm, 1/350 sec, f/9.5, ISO 500.

Our group ended its first full day of photography on a beach north of Nazaré. As with every beach we visited on this trip—and there were quite a few—there were a nice variety of rocks and cliffs to photograph. I took over 50 images of the group of rocks above, trying to get different patterns of the surf swirling around them. In this image, the sun is just about to fall below the horizon, and while the cliffs will have light for a little longer, the show is about over as far as these rocks are concerned. As it is, the water itself is almost free of the sun’s warm final rays. It is quite blue as a result which contrasts nicely with the orange-lit rocks. I am not convinced this image is the best of the bunch, but most of the earlier ones suffer from a lot of footsteps in the lower right. In the end I may make a composite of several versions.

Foam and Sand. The surf rushes towards a lone rock on the beach north of Nazaré, Portugal.
Nikon Z8 with PC Nikkor 19mm f/4E ED at 1/20 sec, f/13, ISO 64.

The image above is one of about a dozen I made before the inrushing surf overtopped my boots and filled them with seawater. I was able to take a couple of versions of this basic composition, but every time the surf hit the rock it would be moved to a different place and I would have to chase it with the tripod. Since I was using my tilt-shift lens, there was a little bit of frantic set-up and adjustments each time I had to reposition. More often than not the next wave would beat me. But I did get a few exposures, and was rewarded with fresh sand patterns each time. In this version, I like the sense of motion in the surf, the long shadows, the texture of the sand, and the little bubbles of foam on the rock.

Foamscape. The beach—and seemingly the world—are covered in a thin layer of sea foam as the sun sets north of Nazaré, Portugal.
Nikon Z8 with AF-S Fisheye Nikkor 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED at 15mm, 1/250 sec, f/9.5, ISO 500.

After tussling simultaneously with the surging surf and my tilt-shift lens for a while, I decided to switch to the fisheye and do something a little different, not to mention a little faster to set up between waves. The perspective here is extreme, but I like the way the fisheye distortion turns the flat beach into a foam-covered ball. I also like the texture that comes from billions of little bubbles riding the thin layer of water up the beach. Every time the surf reached the tripod, it would move around, but by pushing down on it in different directions I could level it by sinking the appropriate legs deeper into the sand; that was a lot faster than adjusting the tripod’s ball head each time.

Over the Top. Water won’t drain out of waterproof boots any other way.
iPhone 11 Pro at 1.54mm (13mm equivalent), 1/120, f/2.4, ISO 40. By Rachael Talibart.

Even though the fisheye was easier to set up, I still ended up taking the sea into my boots for a second time in less than an hour. This time, I decided to pose for our tour leader, Rachael Talibart, while emptying them. Once I was back at the hotel, I rinsed them out with fresh water and propped them upside down on the balcony to (mostly) dry overnight. As it happens, I flooded them again the next day, but after that I was more careful and in the end they were nice and dry once more.

Cones of Ochre. The late afternoon sun lights up sandstone cliffs north of Nazaré, Portugal.
Nikon Z8 with PC Nikkor 19mm f/4E ED at 1/20 sec, f/13, ISO 64.

One of the first places to catch my eye at this beach was actually wasn’t the beach itself but this little section of sandstone cliff and the tooth-shaped rock below. The color of the stone combined with the color of the late afternoon light was quite striking. I had to shift my tilt-shift lens up almost as far as it would go to hold this perspective, but the cliff looks much more dramatic when you don’t have to angle the whole camera up at it. When you angle the camera up, everything looks like it is leaning back away from you; it wouldn’t be very obvious with a natural cliff like this—as opposed to a building—but it would not look as impressive as it does here. I also like how the central “tooth” in the foreground stands out against the shadow behind it. Looking at it now, I wish I had lowered the tripod a foot so that more of the rock would have had the darker shadow behind it.

Sand and Sandstone. The cliffs glow in the light of a setting sun north of Nazaré, Portugal.
Nikon Z8 with AF-S Fisheye Nikkor 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED at 15mm, 1/125 sec, f/9.5, ISO 500.

I returned to this spot about 45 minutes later, and it is clear by comparing the colors just how much redder the light had gotten closer to sunset. I tried a different perspective, this time with the fisheye again, although there is (almost) nothing in this scene that gives away the fact it was taken with a fisheye, which is my usual preference. The one real indication is the curving shadows of the tripod legs on the left side of the frame; if I decide to use this image for a book or a print, I will probably suffer through the pain of eliminating them (and the footprints in the foreground, too). It is interesting to compare how different this image is from the previous one, despite being taken only about twenty feet from each other.

Lavender Coast. Salt spray is thick in the post-sunset air north of Nazaré, Portugal.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S at 165mm, 1/6 sec, f/9.5, ISO 500.

Eventually the sun was down and we called it a day. This was one of my last images of this area as we headed back to the van under fading light. This general area is known as the “Silver Coast” but at this point the light had a decidedly purple hue. I think it certainly makes a nice contrast with the other images in this post.

At this point in the recap of the trip, there are still five full days of photography to go and I am feeling like, so far, it has been a very productive trip! My goal for the trip was to have enough material to put together a book with about 120 images. So far, I am on pace.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing and each week you will receive the latest post in your email. Also, next week there will be a special announcement!



One response to “Wet Feet at the Beach”