ViewBug community member Paul (Pauljackson_4080) won in the past a water contest with one of his sharp monochrome wave photos. Photography has been a part of Paul’s life since he was a teenager, and even if he’s not a professional photographer (yet) he always carry his camera with him. As many other aspiring photographers, Paul can mention more than one favorite photo and photographer that inspires him.

"I’ve been into photography since I was in my early teens, but it was more of a hobby, just for fun! I couldn't really afford to develop the pix I took and buy all the film I wanted! My first SLR camera was a Zenit 11. I loved that thing, it was bulletproof  and it lasted for years until it finally died on South Georgia in the South Atlantic! Freezing cold and film cameras never really go together -  Who knew!? And a lesson learnt! I was in and out of photography for years after that but started again in earnest 3 years ago, and you'll pretty much find a camera in my bag or hand everywhere I go now! I’m not a professional, but I’d love to make money from it… its far more fun than IT!"

If you really want to shoot waves then go for it. It’s rewarding and exhilarating (especially on a windy, stormy day), but please:

1. Be SAFE.

The sea is unpredictable, and can change in seconds and I've seen people swept off piers, harbour walls and rocks by rogue waves.

When  you are shooting make sure you either carry your kit bag or leave it, higher up the beach, above the high water line… Again I've seen people and kit bags get swept out to sea by a larger than usual wave.. to be honest I recommend carrying it on your back, or leaving your equipment above high water with a friend or even in the car and walking backwards and forwards if you're on your own.

Always watch what the water is doing! When you've got your head down and your looking through a 400 mm lens your world can become very narrowly focused and big waves WILL get you. On the same shoot, not long before I took this one I was caught out and found myself up to my waist in water from a freak wave that swept in and nearly knocked me over! I was a long way above where the previous waves had been coming to. Luckily, I managed to set myself and keep my footing, else it would have been a short and expensive shoot.

2. Research the area you want to go to.

Check locations, tides and winds etc. Look for offshore winds and incoming tides. This is a great combination, incoming tides means larger waves, and offshore winds hold the waves up and makes the curl and shape better. When you arrive spend some time studying patterns and the lay of the land and actions of the sea. Waves often come in repeating or similar patterns so it may be that the second wave of a set tends to have the best curl or the third is the biggest. Spend some time looking and learning before you dive into shooting. that way when you can pick the best view and when you are looking through the viewfinder you'll have a rough idea of whats coming in and where.

3. Setting up your camera.

I recommend a wider aperture, and a faster shutter speed. Use a higher ISO if you need to. Waves move pretty quickly and if you want to freeze them, or shoot surfers etc., then you'll need to be fast. So depending on time of day you may need to bump it up a bit. I recommend that you get the longest lenses you can handle. I usually use a 400mm f2.8 (you can hire them as a cost effective solution). I’ve used up to 600mm lenses to shoot waves, but they are MONSTERS in size and weight. If you do use one of these longer lenses, I really recommend that you use a tripod. I recommend getting a substantial one and setting up further away from the surf. you can shoot hand-held for short periods, of you want, but you’ll want fast shutter speeds, high ISO etc.

Use a continuous shooting mode when you first start. Whilst we all want to improve our "one shot - one picture" ability, shooting waves takes practice and experience, so use a high speed continuous setting and shoot 4-5 frames per wave. This will give you the best chance of getting the curve/shape/texture you are looking for. As you get more experienced you can reduce number of shots or go to single frame shooting and be more selective. Obviously, if you do this and shoot in RAW as suggested above then don"t forget to take lots of memory cards. When framing your shot, look at whats in the background. Rocks and cliffs can work to frame the shot, but an ice cream van may spoil the shot - or add to it! Each shot will be different - just be aware of your backgrounds.

4. Before you leave the beach.

Or in fact any location, look around you! There will often be some great opportunities to capture other things, shapes, silhouettes, sunrise/sets, people, wildlife etc., so always look around and be flexible. you never know where that killer shot is going to come from.

5. Extra Tip - Never stop learning.

Look at other photographers work, try to work out how they took a shot, how do they do it, what did they do? If you wanted to recreate it or use it to do something else, does it mean learning a new skill or is it something you can adapt to help your work? Don't just look at photographers though, look at and learn from the old masters; look at how they painted light and shadows; look at their composition and framing. How did they make their work tell a story? It all helps you develop your eye and vision. It’s a continuous process and keep flexing and developing those creative muscles!

Follow Paul on ViewBug for more beautiful shots and award the ones that inspire you.