How Did They Do That: Joshua Zhang

Harrison Jacobs

Spirit of the Ocean

Sydney, Australia-based Joshua Zhang has picked up a passion for shooting seascapes. It doesn't hurt that his country of residence is home to some of the most breathtaking natural features in the world. 

“Australia is an amazing country because all the nature is well preserved,” explains Zhang. “It is not very difficult to find a place to photograph, like seascapes or waterfalls or mountains. I live in the city of Sydney. I only need to travel 20 to 40 km to find an amazing place to shoot.”

For “Spirit of the Ocean,” Zhang traveled to Kiama, a popular surfing village south of Sydney. Whenever Zhang shoots seascapes, he aims to find a strong foreground to anchor the image, lest the image get dominated by a series of blues. According to Zhang, Kiama is perfect for his style of photography because of the number of rock formations and reefs that ring the coast.

Once he found his ideal foreground, Zhang decided that he needed a low vantage point to emphasize the foreground and put the viewer in the center of the water. To do so, he got into the water with his camera mounted on a tripod, no easy task when shooting at high tide. On the day he was shooting, the weather was particularly unruly. According to Zhang, the tide could rise to 1.6 meters while the swells (the waves caused by deeper storms at sea, not the wind) could rise to as high as 2.5 meters.

“I needed to protect my camera and myself from the incoming waves, “ says Zhang. “To do that, when there was a wave coming, I would lift up the tripod really high, sometimes, over my head. When the water retreated, I pulled the camera low and photographed the retreating waters.”

Zhang used a wide-angle lenses to exaggerate the foreground and shot at 1/4th of a second to maximize the “silky water effect” from the rushing ocean water. He knew beforehand the composition he was trying to capture, which helped him know when to get into the water and when to get the camera out.

“I wanted the incoming wave and the outgoing retreating water to happen at the same time so the motion draws the viewer inward to the center of the frame,” explains Zhang.

Capturing that specific interaction between currents, while also trying to make sure he and the camera didn't get swept under the waves, proved a difficult task. It became a test of persistence as Zhang spent the entire morning photographing the water. He estimates that it took between fifteen and twenty captures to come up with the one image that he was happy with.

To see more of Zhang’s beautiful seascapes, check out his 500PX site, where he already has 26,500 views and nearly 6,000 likes on his images.

Lighting: Natural lighting, shot just after sunrise
ISO: 100
Shutterspeed: 1/4
Aperture: f/11



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