A plastic bucket is one of the most useful things you can have with you at the beach. It’s a sand castle construction tool, a seashell collection chamber, and can even be used to help you take better seascape pictures, as photographer Karl Taylor demonstrates in the above video.
While Taylor offers up several tips and tricks for getting the best oceanside landscape shots, the bucket is both the simplest and the most novel. As Hollywood has known for decades, the ground simply looks better when it is wet. Water helps bounce light around, punches up the contrast, and overall just makes things look more special. With this in mind, Taylor uses the bucket to transport water from the ocean and spread it around the rock formation where he set up his shot.
Of course, you’ll need more than a bucket to pull off a photo like Taylor’s. He also used a tripod with a removable center column that allowed him to place the camera very low to the ground. But when shooting from such a low angle, reflections in the water become very pronounced. To alleviate this and bring out detail in the rock below the puddle, Taylor used a polarizing filter. By blocking out polarized light, the filter allows the camera to “see through” the reflections.
Taylor’s most important tip isn’t about gear at all, however. It’s simply arriving early enough to scout out the location. It also helps to know the time and angle of the sunset. The full process of scouting, setting up, and shooting often takes him several hours. It’s proof that what goes into making a photograph is often more about what you do without the camera than what you do with it.
Oddly, as Taylor spent much of his time crouched by his tripod in what couldn’t be a comfortable position, he seems to have neglected a rather obvious use for the bucket: as a stool. He keeps on shooting while the bucket is a few feet away, just sitting there. So consider this a bonus tip from Digital Trends: a bucket makes a great place to sit.