Sryan Bruen: Seascape photographer

I am Sryan Bruen, a photographer from Dublin, Ireland. I am open to almost any kind of photography but my focus is on landscape and weather which can go hand in hand sometimes.


I particularly like to do seascapes as I live close to the coast with my favourite beaches in Dublin both being within my 5 km radius; Burrow Beach and Portmarnock Beach. My love for seascapes became even more evident during lockdown when restrictions meant I could travel only within my 5 km radius and I appreciated these local places more than I had ever done before.


Below are a couple of seascape images I have photographed with details of how they were composed and captured on the scene.


Image 1: A dark gloomy and blustery morning at Burrow Beach was a big surprise in the midst of lockdown and provided a huge contrast to the weather of prior days which were generally calm and sunny - as was the theme of the record breaking dry and sunny spring of 2020. There was a small clearance on the low horizon that allowed the sun to peek through very briefly which was more than enough to make for a good composition.


I kneeled down near the sand. I had waited for the perfect wave to pass by that had a little bit of force to it. The idea was that the sun peeking through the cloud would cause the tide to rise like the moon would do with a gravitational pull. I also composed the sun above this island in the distance to give depth and intentionally lowered my exposure somewhat to give off a dramatic mood and made everything stand out more. If I had increased my exposure conversely, the image would not work nearly as well as everything would look flat.


Image 2: Seascape photographers commonly use long exposures as another means of creating drama in the image. The water on a windy day could be smoothed out to show the ferocity of the waves pounding against the rocks without the usual sea spray appearing in the frame. The water on a calm day meanwhile could be smoothed out further so that it almost looks mystical.


The sky lit up nicely on a mid-August morning at High Rock and this was perfect as I could use the colourful dawn sky to my advantage. Colourful skies can work really well in long exposures, particularly with clouds of various shapes and colours, that can make your image visually pleasing. However, a cloudy sky can work perfectly fine too (see Image 3), especially in black and white. I set up my camera on a tripod - absolutely mandatory if you want to get sharp long exposures. I lined up the camera on this walkway to the ladder as the walkway would act as a leading line to draw the viewer’s eye towards the colourful sky and the smoothed out sea from the long exposure.


A neutral density (ND) filter is nice and handy to have for long exposures as it significantly reduces the intensity of light coming into the sensor of your camera allowing you to use slower shutter speeds without overexposing. However, they are not 100% necessary as you can perfectly do long exposures without them but involve taking lots of individual shots and stacking them together in post production - this was the method I did for this shot.


Image 3: Black and white long exposure of the Forty Foot bathing area. Unlike Image 2, I used a 10 stop ND filter (ND1000) for this shot where I could do a long exposure without having to stack lots of shots in post production to get the same effect as a long exposure. Black and white works well here as the scene is not very colourful by default and it was a grey day when this was taken, it adds a bit of mood to the photo.


I again use the leading line composition technique where the bars and steps are going down into the water which is smoothed out by the long exposure and what the viewer’s eye was most likely drawn to at first.


Below are a couple more different long exposures I have captured by the sea, some with a ND filter and others without. You will notice a variety of lighting conditions. Long exposures are a reliable technique to producing moody and dramatic scenes at any time of day - however, it is best to shoot long exposures in the morning or evening if you want the sea smoothed out significantly and without a harsh bright sky because even a cloudy hour in the middle of the day will still disallow you to use short shutter speeds without a good ND filter or taking lots and lots of shots and stack them after but that would be heavy work on your computer RAM and CPU.


Forty Foot long exposure in the middle of the day (taken with a phone instead of my DSLR)

Seapoint nightfall reflections

Colourful dawn sky at Portmarnock Beach

Nightfall long exposure at Burrow Beach looking towards Howth

Calm Irish Sea reflections at Clontarf

Black and white long exposure at Clontarf on a grey day


A couple of small tips I would like to add are:


  • Having good knowledge of tides and being aware of when high and low tides occur as they make a huge difference to your seascape photography. A particular composition you might have in mind for example that you go to a place for but you discover the tide is out - by knowing about tides, you can avoid wasting your time like this. Don’t forget the phase of the moon and the strength of the wind as well as the wind direction affect tides greatly!

Baldoyle Bay at dawn. Tide is out on the left image, tide is in on the right image.

  • Reflections are amazing for any kind of photography and seascapes are no different. If the water is calm, there will more than likely be reflections of the sky or surroundings. If you cannot see much of a reflection, don’t be afraid to bend down or walk a bit further back away from the sea if possible as you might pick up on a photographic opportunity you might have otherwise missed.


Burrow Beach blue hour reflections

  • Shoot at different times of day. Don’t limit yourself to just sunrises or sunsets, broad daylight can do just as well sometimes.


Thank you for reading and I hope you've found this useful! If you would like to check out more of my portfolio and or follow my journey, I have provided a few links below. All you have to do is simply click on the site you would like to access.


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Sryan Bruen

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