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Photographing the hidden gems and magnificent landscapes of the Lowcountry

Story by Ellen Linnemann

Don and Ruth Lambert have become students of the rhythmic ebbs and flows of the salt marshes and habits of coastal wildlife, history and local culture.

Nature and landscape photography is a combination of art, technology and the experience of being on location at some of the most beautiful spots in the world. With the Lowcountry home to many picture-perfect locations, there are so many opportunities to capture truly one-of-a-kind photographs. That is, if you know where to look.

Captivated by the beauty of Beaufort and the surrounding coastal area, the couple behind Beaufort Photography Tours have searched through the shaded avenues, meandering backroads and watery vistas to find those hidden spots which produce true photographic “wow” opportunities. Don and Ruth Lambert first fell in love with the area in 2015 in their quest for a new home that would blend their many interests of art, ecology and history.

Here are five of their tips for capturing the perfect landscape photograph:


1. Raining? Get out and play

Don and Ruth note that they are usually met with shocked expressions when they share with guests that they prefer photographing on overcast days 10 to 1 over bright bluebird sky days.

“When photographing the maritime forests, live oak alleys or black water swamps, the harsh light of a blue sky day will almost instantly provide you with harsh shadows that become distracting and hard for even the best of cameras to capture – whereas overcast days allow the light to become diffused and even so that you can easily capture the full mystical beauty of the forest,” they stress. And, they point out, “when you add a slight mist to an overcast day, you have magic. The leaves, branches and palms will all be gently saturated, providing brilliant shades of green to your photograph.”

One of the best ways to truly experience and photographically capture the essence of the Lowcountry is to venture down any and every back road you can find. Hidden gems lie tucked away, leading to plantation homes of another era. Photo by Don & Ruth Lambert

2. Know when to go

Arguably the best light happens in the golden hours of the day. Golden hour begins a half hour before and after sunrise and sunset (although often off our coast the colors will start exploding up to an hour before sunrise). This beautiful time of day will give you the best light.

According to both Don and Ruth, “Sunrise over our coast is one of the most magical experiences you can have in the Lowcountry.”

From the boneyard beaches that line parts of our coast to the piers and jetties, there are many opportunities to make beautiful photographs of the sun coming up over the ocean (if you’re planning to capture sunrise be sure to wake up early and arrive on the beach an hour ahead of the sunrise). Be sure to check the tide levels so you have an indication of where the water will be cresting. Sunset is also a beautiful time to get out and take pictures – but make sure not to leave too early. “Usually we find the best colors in the sky come up to 20 minutes past sunset,” they note. “Beautiful colors painting the sky come to those who patiently wait for it. Look for places to watch the sun set over shrimp boats, marsh and waterways.”

Sunset locations over the marsh are jewels that are frequented by photographers and sunset viewers in the Lowcountry. When the sun settles in for the evening, the colors in the sky are reflected and painted in the waters, surrounded by marsh. Photo by Don & Ruth Lambert

3. Use a long lens

Making images that allow the viewer feel like they can step into the scene or giving the appearance of a three-dimensional image are two of the goals Don and Ruth incorporate in their nature photography. “When we happen on live oak alleys or tree tunnels, we love to use long lenses. Long lenses are any focal lengths that extend from 70 to 300 millimeters. Look for your longest and biggest zoom lens, and that will be the one you want to use.”

The colors reflected from the sky onto the water and the setting sun over the marsh are best captured up to 20 minutes beyond sunset. For those who linger and watch the evening fade, they will usually be rewarded with a magnificent display. Photo by Keith Briley

4. Creating sharp images

According to Don and Ruth, a tripod can be your best friend when you realize how important it is to create sharp images. Since the best hours to create beautiful photographs are in the early morning or later hours of the day, people often find themselves in dark conditions when the colors begin to light up the sky. Because the camera exposes each individual picture with light, it can take the camera a long time to absorb enough light to give you a picture that doesn’t look like a black screen. “To overcome the dark screen of death, you have to adjust your shutter speed and ask the camera to extend the length of time it takes each picture,” they said. “For example, in early morning light it’s not uncommon for it to take us 8 seconds to take just one picture. No matter how steady of a hand you have, it’s impossible to hold a camera perfectly still for even a second. That’s where the tripod comes in very handy.” In addition, capturing sweeping waves as they ebb and flow off our coast is “one of the most fun adventures we have with guests, and a tripod is paramount to slowing down the shutter speed so you can truly capture the essence of the moving water.”

Many visitors who visit our Lowcountry don’t realize the beautiful colors of the marsh vary by season. The spring’s fresh green is a fabulous time to capture the waters and marsh scattered through the Lowcountry. Late summer and autumn find the grass turning into a beautiful shade of burnt umber. Photo by Keith Briley

5. Wink at it

Our eyes are built to work together to convey depth to us, but creating a photograph that has depth requires us to eliminate our visual depth perception. The best way to do this is to wink at the subject that has caught your eye. “Close a single eye and stare at the subject,” they note. “By doing so, you’re eliminating your depth perception and you’ll be able to have a more accurate vision of whether or not you’ll be able to achieve image depth with your point of view.”


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