How to capture the stunning light of a seaside summer on the Sunshine Coast

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Top 5 tips from photographer Mark Benson


It’s a gorgeous, sunny day in the harbour and you just have to share it with the world. You pull out your phone, your camera, anything that will capture the beauty all around you. There’s a kayaker, sailboat, perhaps even some wildlife, or - if you’re in Gibsons July 26-29 - a world-renown tall ship laser and light show.

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Now, how do you take a photo that’s not totally washed out, blurry, and filled with reflections? I took to the water in Gibsons harbour with talented Sunshine Coast photographer Mark Benson to learn some of his top maritime photo tips.

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Nomadic Tempest

Just past the iconic Molly’s Reach restaurant and the hull of the Persephone, of CBC Beachcombers’ fame, I met Benson at his gallery in Lower Gibsons. Stunning West Coast photography and paintings hung on the walls, featuring sunsets, forest scenes, and serene waterfront panoramas, and beach landscapes with moody skies.

From there, we walked down to the Government Dock where we met up with Greig Williams of Land’s End Marine Training who runs the regularly scheduled Gibsons - Keats Island ferry service.

Nomadic Tempest

Joining us on the boat were the founders of the Caravan Stage Company who will be bringing their tall ship theatrical production to Gibsons during the Sea Cavalcade.

Greig pulled the water taxi out of the marina and we cruised between Keats Island and Gibsons while Mark shared some wisdom.

Nomadic Tempest

Nomadic Tempest

Top 5 tips for photographing maritime scenes:

  1. Know where the sun is. If you’re shooting on the water it’s good to have the sun from the side. A lot of people think the best shots are when the sun is in front of you but that can flatten your subject. The best light come from the side at 45 degrees.

  2. Time of day. If you can choose when to shoot, it’s best to shoot when the sun is a bit lower in the sky because you’ll get less direct light and you’ll get more warm glow. Shooting just after the sun sets also provides a beautiful and soft light too.

  3. Move away from automatic shooting modes and try to use Aperture priority mode or the “A” on your camera’s settings dial. You then get to choose the aperture or “F Stop” so you can control your shutter speed. This is a bit advanced but play with it a bit to see the results you get with each setting. Mark recommends F2.8 as it gives you a shallow depth of field so you can shoot portraits, a boat in the harbour, and your subject will be in focus and everything away from that will fall out of focus and give you a dramatic effect.

  4. Use a polarizing lens. Just like polarized sunglasses, it cuts through glare so you get less light bouncing across the water in your photos and you might even see through the water.

  5. Shoot in RAW format as opposed to JPEG so that you can post-process your photos more effectively. RAW allows for more editing, then you can export in JPeG to share on your social networks, print etc.

Nomadic Tempest

You’ll want to use these tricks of the trade from July 26-29 when Nomadic Tempest transforms Gibsons Harbour into a performance arena. From the shore, spectators will witness a theatrical production balancing from the tall ship Amara Zee. The show is described as: “A mythical saga of a band of monarch butterflies; forced to migrate due to climate-change. The butterflies, embodied by four talented aerial artists, serve as a metaphor for today’s Climate Refugees. The Monarchs are from four global regions: Salish Sea, Syria, China and Mexico, each with their own tongue: Hunqeminem, Arabic, Mandarin and Spanish.”

Sunshine Coast

Tickets are on sale now via the Sea Cavalcade, now in its 48th year of presenting a circus by the sea in Gibsons.

If you go

Interested in checking out the Sunshine Coast? Visit for trip-planning ideas.

Need more inspiration? Learn about hidden gems on the Sunshine Coast here.

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