Photographs of Ocean Waves Captured With a Long Lens and Slow Shutter


Photographer David Orias of Santa Barbara, California photographs waves with a slow shutter speed, capturing their movement, color, and power as they roll in from the Pacific Ocean.

His goal is to capture things in our world that our eyes cannot naturally see, taking advantage of the fact that cameras can gather light for longer periods of time and present the information as single images.

Orias tells us that he lives “in a location where the beach and rising sun are situated that allows the light form the sky and the sun to create beautiful reflections on the face of the waves.”

To create the shots, he uses a “very long telephoto lens” to photograph the waves almost parallel to shore (i.e. he points his lens at an angle down the shoreline rather than directly out to sea).

I photograph at dawn and due to the lowish light at that time, I use a relatively slow shutter speed and pan the camera with the motion of the wave. This creates a very fluid and painterly feel to the photographs. The early morning light is filtered through a deeper layer of the sky and if there are clouds present in the sky or in some cases smoke from a wildfire, unusual colors are reflected in the wave.

Offshore winds are common in the location I shoot near Ventura, California and this creates a wispy spray being lifted off the waves as they break near the shore.













These images can be found in higher-resolutions in this Flickr set. You can find more of Orias work on Flickr and 500px.

Waves by David Orias (via Colossal)

Image credits: Photographs by David Orias and used with permission

  • Tommy Sar

    Freakin’ fantastic.

  • tyrohne

    I finally thought of what to say when people say “that one’s a bit blurry”?

    Me: “It’s ‘painterly”. Slow shutter speed.”

  • TSY87


  • michaelp42


  • Mark Dub


  • Ivor Wilson

    Such a simple concept; the power of nature, a dynamic force, and some gorgeous light. Puts many of the contrived gimmicks we’ve seen of late in their rightful, frivolous place.

  • Greg Planchuelo


  • Felipe Paredes Schulz

    like it, remind me Kanagawa

  • Maurice Brown

    This is why I encourage everyone to play with their cameras and do “weird” things. Some of the best or most unique photos I’ve ever gotten have been when I threw out the manual – switched everything to manual and spun the wheel.

    Sure some shots sucked at first but now? Awesome sauce!

    Why get an expensive DSLR and then use it like a point and shoot?

  • Kirk Jordan

    Utterly fantastic. I cannot wait to do the artistic thing, and steal. I kinda wanna try this same approach in a time-lapse climate. The colors are magical…and the waves even seem to have more force in this form

  • aashley

    Beautiful art. I’m curious as to why he prefers sunrise shots as opposed to sunset and wondering how backlighting the waves would look.

  • tertius_decimus

    Very inspiring! Thanks for posting! That’s one of the best posts at PP I’ve seen so far.

  • kumicu

    Amazing. Breathtaking.

  • Dave


  • Cochese

    What the hell is going on here!? Nobody complaining or whining because the photographer “obviously” did something wrong? Or how they so easily could have done so much better? That’s odd.

    Seriously awesome photos, though. I love it!

  • Jonathon Watkins

    Love it.