Sydney’s Turimetta Beach has had a long history. It’s been visited by some of Australia’s most successful artists since the film days. Referred to by many locals as their go-to spot for seascape photography, it’s certainly one of my favourite coastlines. I’ve been taking photos for the past three or so years. If you browse my Oceans Gallery, you’ll notice many images are from the same area. Every morning you’ll find beach goers up early having a stroll, enjoying the landscape looking its best (at sunrise!). There’s a certain feel to the beach that’s difficult to put words on. I guess that’s why it has become such a popular location! Our images express what our words fail to explain.
I’d recommend the usual landscape photography kit… This being (ideally) a full frame camera paired with a wide angle lens such as a 16-35mm. A tripod can come in handy too, and should be used if you wish to drag out your shutter speed (although not entirely necessary with some cameras). I very rarely use filters when photographing seascapes. They simply get in the way. Depending on the scene I might use a polariser (to cut out unwanted glare). However, I often find light bouncing off rock formations can aid the composition! In today’s digital age there is no real need for graduated filters. Camera sensors are powerful enough to handle very high dynamic range scenes (the range of light from totally black, to totally white). With strong post processing knowledge, RAW files of various shutter lengths can be blended for the desired effect. A long lens can be great at isolating subjects for more intimate photographs, such as Collaroy Cracks. I carry a 100-400mm telephoto lens in my kit for this exact purpose.
From the southern rockshelf to the northern headland there are many photo options. I’ll highlight some of these below. Just remember it’s always important to keep an open mind when shooting a new scene! Don’t lock yourself into what I’ve written here. This is merely a guide to entice you to pay this special beach a visit. With a camera in hand or not. Simply getting out and enjoying nature early in the day can do wonders for your wellbeing. If you consciously make an effort to stop and breath, you’ll start noticing tiny details in the landscape that would usually go unnoticed. The way light interacts with the ocean. How various tidal systems can totally change the atmosphere. Diverse creatures that make appearances throughout the year (birds, schools of fish, dolphins & whales). The abundant compositions that seemingly appear out of nowhere from one week to the next. Seascape photography is so much more than taking a pretty photo as the sun comes up. If it’s something you’d like to explore I highly recommend Turimetta Beach as a solid starting point!
Here’s a quick screenshot of the beach from Google maps. I’ve circled 5 “hotspots” in blue. The red lines are a general guide in the direction I’d usually shoot (although you’re free to experiment). The entire southern rockshelf is tide dependant. As a general rule of thumb, <1 metre tide with a small-medium swell will be enough to get water pumping over the rock formations. Anything more than that will make photography a bit more challenging. Always check TIDE and SWELL conditions the night before venturing out. Safety is key here! Don’t go making unnecessary or uncalculated risks for an image. Before getting your camera out stop and take note of the ocean. Imagine yourself standing in front of your desired composition and pay attention to the waves.
Generally, no good images come from a place of frustration (talking from personal experience). Try to clear your mind before pulling out your camera. I like to practice some deep breathing, especially if conditions are looking promising and I can feel myself getting excited. Remember, it’s not always about taking the “perfect image”. With a constant stream of wide-angle, heavily processed images on social media it can seem difficult to find your own creative voice. This is a skill that comes with time and can’t be forced. If you stress yourself out, the emotions you’re trying to convey won’t resonate with you or your audience. Don’t pressure yourself.
1. This is the classic composition. Above is one of my earlier images, Stomping Grounds for reference. Here you’ll find a few options. The rock shelf can act as a strong leading line, pointing the viewer directly toward the northern headland. Waves will break in this area so be careful! Both vertical and horizontal compositions can work here. You can capture some great water movement as the waves crash down the 10m wide gully. It offers the most expansive view of the beach. Get creative with the boulders in your foreground, however be careful. They are extremely slippery.
2. This is where you’ll find the main rockshelf. The ocean has cut a huge gap down the middle, and in the right conditions you’ll get massive waves breaking down the 15 metre gully. During winter, green algae blooms adding yet another point of interest. Generally, I’ll use the northern headland as a subject and find textures, lines or water movement to assist the visual flow of the composition. However, keep an open mind! When the tide is just right (about 1.8m) you’ll spot some super interesting shapes in the rockshelf.
3. Turimetta is known for its life like personality. It’s forever changing. Area 3 really brings this notion to life. This rockshelf is very tide dependant and new compositions will pop up out of nowhere from one week to the next. As a general rule of thumb, I’ll use the headland as a subject and shoot in a northern direction. You can use the entire length of the beach as a mid-ground and really add some depth to your images. I find vertical compositions usually work best here. As the tide recedes sand is drawn back to the ocean creating some visually stunning patterns and textures. Keep an eye out for this, experiment with a telephoto lens and have some fun!
4. Don’t forget the northern end! It’s highly under rated and home to some awesome wildlife. You’ll most likely be greeted by pelicans, seagulls and petrels. Fish may make appearances as they patrol the coastline. The animals that call this area home bring a lively atmosphere with them. I find the best photos from this area are shot during the earlier months of the year, as the sun rises closer to the tip of the headland. Get down low, get wet and have some fun! A low tide with a small-moderate swell will yield good result here!!
5. Area number five is home to some enormous cliff shavings. Here you’ll find massive chunks of weathered stone getting lapped at by the ocean. Use these features to create interesting compositions. Check Pursuit of Perfection for an example. Even get a little artsy, throw on the long lens and shoot some more intimate scenes. The northern end has a lot of un-tapped potential! Most photographers will stick to the southern rockshelf, however in my opinion both ends are just as good! If you follow the headland further north, you’ll find a vast rockshelf. It really comes out to play during low tide (<1m). Keep an eye out for the boulders out there! They can act as a strong subject for your image. Just be careful when venturing that far around! It gets slippery!
I’ll often use the Photo Pills app before visiting a location. This will give me a rough understanding of the area, and access to meteorological data. This information can play a huge role in the preparation of a photography shoot. Visit Johnny James’s website for some powerful inspiration. His work is some of the best from the area, and really something to admire.
All in all, this is a really special beach. It’s where myself and many before me have learnt the basics of photography. Don’t be afraid to shoot me an email via the Contact page with any questions! If you’d really like to get amongst the action, why not join me on one of my private Weekend Workshops. We can really dive into the creative process. Seascape photography is a bit of a rabbit hole, once you bag a shot you’ll understand why! Stay safe, and never turn your back to the ocean!