Zoom in on Details
The waterfront is a great place to make some attention-grabbing close-ups. See how close your lens can focus. If you have one, use a Micro-NIKKOR (macro) lens to fill the frame with your subject. Some of the things that make for great macro photos are buildings or boats with chipped or peeling paint, the texture of aged wood or rusted metal, brightly colored objects, such as buoys and floats, and unique signage.
A visit to a busy harbor filled with boats may seem chaotic at first, but when you take a closer look, you'll see there is actually some organization. Boats lined up in their slips or moored off-shore can provide you with repeating patterns that can be captured with a wide-angle lens. Don't just shoot the obvious or the first thing that catches your eye. Look for patterns in the ropes or other gear that may be laid out on a dock or boat's deck. If the tide is low enough and there is a safe area of beach beneath a pier, you can make great photographs using the shape of the pilings and shadows falling on the sand. You can also make interesting photos of the texture and shapes of shells, seaweed, driftwood, rocky shorelines or sand dunes.
Different angles can make your photos more interesting. Try shooting down from the pier or dock, capturing small boats with only the water as a background. Use a wide-angle lens to capture fishing gear or lobster traps for example, and the harbor, all in one view. Some of the boats you might encounter when shooting on the water include commercial fishing trollers, speedboats, sailboats, multi-sail vessels, kayaks, rowboats, and even cruise ships.
The Rule of Thirds is a photography technique that says you should place your main subject in one of four intersecting areas that occur if you were to view a scene with a grid of two horizontal lines and two vertical lines (like a tic-tac-toe board) over the scene. The main subject should be placed where the lines intersect. Remember too, that if the subject is facing to one side, you will want to have it facing into the photograph—otherwise it may add tension to the picture, because it will seem like its going to fall out of the frame.
Photograph the People and Wildlife Too
And while there are plenty of good shots to be made of all the gear that goes into boating, don't forget the people there, too. A human figure, silhouetted against the water or sky, adds a personal touch. Take pictures of your kids or other family members walking along the shoreline. Ask them to not look directly at the camera, but to act naturally. These candid photos are likely to be your favorites of the day. A weather worn fisherman hard at work fixing or organizing gear might make an interesting photograph. Ask first, if he wouldn't mind if you take his photo. Most folks will gladly let you take their picture, and some might even pose for the camera.
Don't forget to look for wildlife! Depending upon where you are, you might see Seagulls and other birds such as Puffins, Ospreys, Herons, Sandpipers or even Eagles. Many areas along the ocean coastline will be teeming with such creatures as Dolphins, Whales, Sea Lions or Turtles. If you're shooting with a Nikon D-SLR, use a telephoto lens—if you're using a COOLPIX, zoom in—and you should be able to capture these animals in their own environments. Try zooming in and isolating one animal, or zoom out for a picture that shows multiple animals at play.