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Tropical Beaches
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Tropical Beaches

The glistening white sands, turquoise waters, and vibrant blue skies of tropical beaches are the stuff of which wall calendars (and daydreams) are made. Capturing the simple beauty of such scenes is relatively easy if you keep a few basic concepts in mind.

Because tropical beaches are so intrinsically attractive, finding a good composition isn't hard. For broad views, use a wide-angle lens and look for vantage points where the curving line of the sea lures the eye into the scene, perhaps leading to a particularly attractive palm grove or a row of beached sailboats. In places like the Caribbean or the South Pacific, where the sea and hillsides are close neighbors, climbing to a clearing and shooting down at the beach below may reveal vistas unseen from sea level. Be sure to use a small aperture (or your Landscape exposure mode), so everything is in focus from near to far. Don't be afraid to let your designs border on abstraction; sometimes simple arrangements of sand, sea, and sky are the most effective.

Including people provides a good center of interest and also helps establish scale, but take care with exposure. Tropical beaches are very bright and contrast-y, and the intense light reflecting off the sand will fool your camera into turning the sugar-white sands gray and casting your human subjects into silhouette. One solution is to use your camera's exposure compensation feature to add a full stop or a stop-and-a-half exposure to the suggested readings.

Better still, try working in the 90 minutes or so after sunrise or before sunset, when the light is less harsh and contrast isn't such a problem. Photographers call these the "golden hours" because the light is much warmer and romantic. The low angle of the sun casts long shadows that give scenes greater depth and three-dimensionality.

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