Down to the Sea in Shots

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California / Nature / Photo Log / Photography / Seascapes


January 1, 2020 — Sonoma County coast

The clouds parted. The sky drama left us.

But the sea drama came to take its place. Weather alerts. High surf warnings. Rip currents. Watch out for sneaker waves. I saw a complete idiot take his cocker spaniel onto the beach, only to run back seconds later. He was bucking for a Darwin Award.

I found a low, but safe, vantage point. Hundreds of frames were shot. This is one of them. This wave is one of the moderate ones. About twelve to fourteen feet.

(Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR zoom. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 3.1; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

The Author

California based fine-art photographer featuring abstract, impressionist, and minimalist seascapes — near and distant — and floral-based images. Fine-art photography can be seen at All original images on this blog are copyright 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 Michael Scandling. All rights reserved. No images on this site may be copied, duplicated, reused, published, or re-purposed in any way without express permission from the copyright owner, Michael Scandling.


  1. I’ve shot a few waves while in Maine, but none were just moderately 12-14 feet. People do dumb things. Once while at Acadia a couple of other photographers and I were shooting crashing waves Standing on some elevated rocks and there was one way down behind and below us at shoreline level at a spot called Boulder Beach. Every once in a while he would disappear behind a wave. We concentrated on what we were doing in the other direction and when I eventually did look back he was gone. We had no idea whether he had finished up or was just plain finished. Never heard of a missing photographer so hopefully the former. Your choice of lens tells us you were prudent. It’s hard top anticipate just when the perfect wave will crash but you caught a nice one.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Let’s try this again. Thank you very much. People do crazy things in the name of photography. I try to strike a balance between putting myself in position to get a great shot and complete foolhardiness. I do err the side of caution. I’ve always admired waves, especially the translucency behind a breaking wave, but I’ve never really concentrated on shooting them until this trip. Part of the reason for this concentration is my wife, who is my muse in the admiration of the translucent light. The other is the English photographer Rachael Talibart who we worked with for one day last summer. One day in February 2016 she lay on her belly on a beach in East Sussex and shot some of the most amazing wave photographs ever. She was low enough to get the perspective of the wave going over the horizon, such as mine here, but high enough on the beach to not risk being killed. There’s a place on the San Mateo County coast where I can get a similar perspective. It’s about an hour and 15 minute drive from where I live. This winter, if I see a high surf warning, I will go there if my schedule allows. Catching a good one involves pressing the shutter button many times. I shot about 500 frames that day. Only about three are any good at all.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Awesome image Michael. Love your humility on the number of shots, so true! Never thought to lie down for waves, will have to give that a try! Our barrier island doesn’t get big waves often, usually when there’s a major storm coming. Will have to remember the tip, hopefully for a very long time LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I first read your title as “Down to the Sea in Shorts” — perhaps a result of lovely, warm weather that tempted everyone to our coast this weekend. We never see sights like this, however. Even when the waves aspire to such heights, it’s the result of storms, and that means the water is brown: filled with sand and mud. This is glorious. Apart from the size, the translucency and the froth are thrilling. How lucky you are to be able to see such sights.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much. You’re misread of the title is hilarious. That definitely would not have been the costume of the day. It was pretty chilly. We are very lucky to be in a part of the world where we can see waves like this. This is the season. I will go out to the San Mateo County coast any time there’s a high surf warning and try to get more. But first, a trip to Iceland. That’ll be different.


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