40 Surreal Examples of Seascape Photography

Beaches are one of the top subjects for photography in the summertime. They’re beautiful and work well with a variety of genres and styles, but their popularity does make it harder to create interesting, one-of-a-kind shots. You have to think creatively and possibly experiment with new techniques.

One way to start thinking outside the box is to consider the mood of your photo. What kind of atmosphere are you trying to create? This one question can push you to think more strategically and creatively, rather than taking a quick snapshot like so many others.

A seascape can inspire a wide range of moods, from joy and peace to sadness and loneliness. You can also transform an everyday beach into a slightly surreal or dreamlike location without much effort. Here are some ways to make your seascape pictures look like images from a dream or novel, rather than reality.

Marco Romani – High Tide

Marco Romani - High Tide

How to Create Surreal-looking Seascape Photos

Surrealism can be subtle or obvious, blatantly bizarre or only slightly strange. The majority of the images below are not crazy weird, but instead have a tinge of surreality to make them stand out. If you want stronger surrealism, find more inspiration from these surreal examples of photo manipulation and fine art portraiture.

Start with a long exposure.

Taking a long exposure is the quickest way to make a seascape look surreal. Just by lengthening your shutter speed, you change the entire appearance of a shoreline. The water has an unusual sheen, and the lighting takes on a different quality, making a familiar beach look suddenly strange and unfamiliar.

Joao Cruz Santos – In the Hades Kindgom

Joao Cruz Santos - blue hour long exposure

Amine Fassi – Borderline Cat

Amine Fassi - Long Exposure Cat

Rudaki1959 – Paard van Marken

Rudaki1959 - Old Lighthouse Marken

Joao Cruz Santos – There is always a path

Joao Cruz Santos - Carrasqueira Portugal

Joao Cruz Santos – Can eyes lie?

Joao Cruz Santos - Carrasqueira, Portugal

Try intentional camera movement.

Intentional camera movement (ICM) is another simple way to create a surreal seascape. All you need to do is move your camera while shooting. Of course, you might end up with dozens of mediocre images before you get a compelling shot, but that experimentation is part of the fun.

Elizme – ~ Cliff on Sea ~

Elizme - ~ Cliff on Sea ~

Martin Brigden – Godrevy ICM

Martin Brigden - Godrevy ICM

Nathalie – Seaside Ghosts

Nathalie - Seaside Ghosts

Elizme – ~ Dreamscape ~

Elizme - ~ Dreamscape ~

Play with reflections.

Seeing sky and other reflections in water can be beautiful, but also a little surreal. Add an interesting composition, and you’ll get an image that seems unreal, even if it’s an exact picture of reality.

Zoltán Vörös – Afterglow

Zoltán Vörös - Seefeld in Tirol

Manuel Acebedo – Luz Que Ilumina en La Noche… La Del Faro de Trafalgar!!!

Manuel Acebedo - Los Caños, Spain

Mark Freeth – What a wonderful world.

Mark Freeth - Kiddemore Green, England

Theseus Troizinian – “Πίνοντας ήλιο Κορινθιακό, Διαβάζοντας τα μάρμαρα…” Οδ. Ελύτης

Theseus Troizinian - sunset reflected in water

Karey – Key Largo Sunset

Karey - Key Largo Sunset

Capture a surreal-looking sky.

A lot of seascapes focus on the shoreline and water, but the sky is no less important. In fact, a beach can be the perfect place to shoot a strange-looking sky, since there’s nothing blocking it from view. Whether it’s an unusual sunset or a bizarre cloud formation, your seascape can look surreal simply because of the sky’s appearance.

Theseus Troizinian – When a cloud decided to kiss the sea

Theseus Troizinian - storm cloud over water

Ivan Ferrari – Blue Summer

Ivan Ferrari - La cinta, San Teodoro - Sardegna

Manuel Acebedo – The Heavenly Angel…!!!

Manuel Acebedo - Roche Cape in Conil de la Frontera

Елена Пејчинова – Pathway of dawn

 Елена Пејчинова - Dawn Sky Sarti, Macedonia

Елена Пејчинова – Mount Athos at Dawn

 Елена Пејчинова - Mount Athos at Dawn

Find an empty boat.

An empty boat floating in the water can look surreal because you expect someone to be in it. Left empty, boats can have ghostly vibe, like something you’d see in a horror movie. This effect is strongest with empty boats anchored in the water off the shore, but you can capture a similar mood with boats stranded on a beach, too.

Joao Cruz Santos – Calm waters

Joao Cruz Santos - Rosario beach, Portugal

Joao Cruz Santos – The drunken boat

Joao Cruz Santos - sunken boat

Shamini – Lonely Boat

Shamini - Lonely Boat

Joao Cruz Santos – Maybe next time…

Joao Cruz Santos - boat on water

Tenia Prokalamou – Unforgettable Moments

Tenia Prokalamou - boats Mesolonghi

Add people to the scene.

People can bring oddness into an otherwise normal seascape. Part of this surreality is due to the fact that people are familiar, so when you make them and their environment look slightly different – for example, by using a unique angle or Photoshop effect – viewers immediately notice the strangeness.

Sharon LuVisi – Passersby

Sharon LuVisi - bicycles on beach

Tiago Pinheiro – Waiting for the capture…

Tiago Pinheiro - fisherman long exposure

Matthew Johnson – Contemplating

Matthew Johnson - Contemplating

James Drury – leg it

James Drury - running on beach

Saul Landell – momento zen

Saul Landell - boy sitting on beach

Shoot a rocky shoreline.

Though a rocky shoreline may not seem strange at first glance, it’s an ideal location to experiment with some of the other ideas in this list. For example, a long exposure of a rocky cliffside or giant boulders in the water will often look more surreal than a sandy beach. That’s because the water flows and crashes differently against rocks compared to flat sand, creating a more unusual long exposure.

KT Gravatt – Warp Speed at El Matador

KT Gravatt - El Matador State beach long exposure

Елена Пејчинова – Gazing Mount Athos

 Елена Пејчинова - sunset Mount Athos

Chris van Kan – Misty Ocean, Australia

Chris van Kan - Misty Ocean, Australia

Joao Cruz Santos – Another Earth

Joao Cruz Santos - Abano beach, Portugal

Paul Shears – The Ledge

Paul Shears - Pulpit Rock England

Switch to black and white.

Beaches are prime spots for color photography, especially during sunsets and sunrises. However, black and white photography can make your seascape look more dramatic, as it increases the contrast between dark and light. This contrast can also give your image a more surreal look, turning a normal scene into an otherworldly shot.

Kev Browne – Milford-On-Sea B+W Groyne

Kev Browne - Milford-On-Sea B+W Groyne

Joao Cruz Santos – Untitled

Joao Cruz Santos Vila de Franca de Xira

david constance – Tidal Pool

david constance - Tidal Pool

Nimit Nigam – High Contrast Lakescape…

Nimit Nigam - High Contrast black and white lake

Shirren Lim – and bird makes four….

Shirren Lim - high contrast black and white Penang Island

Many of the above images were selected from our creative Flickr community.