What Time Would Be Best for Photographing Waves Breaking Over Rocks?

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Capturing waves breaking over rocks is an aesthetic sight. However, you need to capture it in the right light to get the best shots. So, what time would be best for photographing waves breaking over rocks?

What Time Would Be Best for Photographing Waves Breaking Over Rocks?

The best time for photographing waves breaking over rocks is the golden hour. At this time, the warm sunlight lights up the waves and makes the water look like it’s glistening. By taking photos at golden hour, you can capture the waves crashing over rocks using a fast shutter to freeze the waves or by taking a long exposure to provide more movement in the frame.

Photo of waves in rocks

Besides golden hour, you can also take pictures of waves during the blue hour and nighttime.

Why Golden Hour Works Best for Photographing Waves

Golden hour is the hour right before sunset or right after sunrise. At this time, you will find the sun to be very low, and therefore, the light it emits is super soft and flattering.

Moreover, sunlight is warmer and less harsh than during the middle of the day. The light is just enough to allow you to capture photos with a fast shutter speed. This allows you to capture waves in a frozen motion. You can also adjust your settings to take long exposures during golden hour.

At this time, the light goes through the waves, instead of being right above it. This gives the water a good color and texture and allows you to capture aesthetic shots. When the sunlight goes through the water, it highlights the foam and creates amazing effects.


There are a few challenges associated with capturing photos in the golden hour:

  • Conditions: The main problem during golden hour is that the conditions are changing rapidly. The sun setting very quickly, leaving you with less time to get into position and capture photos.
  • Tones: Sometimes, the golden hue might be too warm for your preference, and you will need to do more work in Lightroom or Photoshop to adjust the tones and colors.
  • Reflection: The lighting might overpower the water and reflect back. This might ruin the shot as you might get glares from the water’s surface.

Other Times to Capture Waves Breaking Over Rocks

Although the golden hour is the best for capturing photos of waves, there are many other times that you can capture them too. These include the blue hour as well as the nighttime. It’s also important to consider the tidal times when planning your photo shoot.

Blue Hour

The blue hour comes an hour right after sunset or before sunrise. The sun has not risen or has already set during this time; however, there is still some light to play around with. During this time, you will find a bluish tone in your images.

This works very well when you are photographing waves crashing into rocks because the tone blends in well with the color of the water. Also, the light during this time is even lighter than that of the golden hour, and there are no chances of reflection in the water. Therefore, you would not have to worry about glares.

Night Time

This time is right after the blue hour. Although some people might believe that nighttime is not good for capturing photos, some of the best pictures are taken at night.

At night, the moonlight can light up the water. The light is not strong, so there is no glare; however, you can capture some great photos of waves at night. At this time, you need to use a long exposure. Use a slow shutter speed and a wide aperture to let more light enter your camera.

An image of photographing waves breaking over rocks

Tidal Times

Besides the lighting, you should know the tidal times to capture the waves breaking over rocks. There are specific times when waves are higher, and these differ from place to place.  You can capture bigger waves by getting there during one of these times.

You can combine these times with golden hour photography too. However, you need to research and plan ahead before making your way to these spots. Sometimes, if the tide is too high, it might be over the rocks.

Related Questions

How Do You Photograph Waves?

To photograph waves, you need the right equipment and the right camera settings. Follow these steps:

  1. If you want to freeze the waves, you need a faster shutter speed of above 1/1000 seconds. 
  2. Keep the ISO levels low (below 400) if you have a wider aperture of around f/1.6.
  3. There might be some splashes of water that might damage your gear. Bring protective gear for your camera and extra batteries.


Golden hour can be great for capturing waves. This is due to the warm sunlight and golden hue that makes the experience aesthetic. Besides this, you can capture photos during the blue hour where the bluish tones match well with the color of the water.