Beach
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San Diego

Windansea Tide Pools

Skip the museums to photograph some beautiful sea life in San Diego’s tide pools. Isn’t the real version so much better?

This is an extremely kid-friendly photo opportunity, so photographers traveling with the fam will love this one!

I took these photos at Windansea, an easy to access beach area between La Jolla and Pacific Beach. But San Diego has several tidepool locations so you can use this information at almost any of them. Some may be more accessible than others, this website details each spot.

The Nitty Gritty

Best Time of DayWhen the tides are low. Definitely check tides for the San Diego area.
Best WeatherCloudy days marginally better for the flat lighting. But really any weather, as long as you can handle walking around with your feet wet.
Versatile GearA good walkaround lens will work here.
Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens
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AccessoriesA polarizer will help you see through the reflections on the water. I like this one, but be sure to pick the one that fits your lens ring size.
Hoya HD circular polarizer
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Lens cleaning implements for when those splashy waves get you
Nikon 8072 Microfiber Cleaning Cloth
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Roll Up Your Pants And Get Started

First things first, you’re going to want to be barefoot, or have shoes that can get wet and hold a grip. The rocks can get slippery.

Also watch the ocean as you work, there’s these things called waves. I usually end up with soaked jeans, but thankfully manage to keep my camera safe.

Remember to bring a polarizer (I like this one). It can really help cut through the reflections in the water.

It was a super sunny day when I took these shots – occupational hazard of living in San Diego. So although I suggest cloudy days, there’s not a lot of those, so just go anyway!

The Star of The Show

As far as I’m concerned, that’s definitely the starfish, also called a Sea Star. Something about their adorable five fingered chubbiness just gets to me. And their color is so vibrant against the blues, purples and greens of the tide pools.

This location is one of the few places I’ve actually seen starfish, and I’ve visited various tidepools around California.

Tidepool Sea Star

Exposure
1/100s ƒ/7.1 @ ISO 400
Focal Length
39mm
Camera
Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Date & Time
November 15, 2008, 4:36 pm

And here we have a nice group of starfish buddies. You can see they come in quite different shades ranging from orange to red to a deep eggplant or brown.

Tidepool Sea Star

Exposure
1/80s ƒ/7.1 @ ISO 400
Focal Length
39mm
Camera
Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Date & Time
November 15, 2008, 4:36 pm

Make Friends With Your Anemones

Another popular little guy is the anemone. They’re all the more fun for their response to touch. Although, please be gentle so as not to harm them.

You can see that there are harsh shadows from the sun, which is why I suggest a cloudy day. But it’s still workable.

img_4146

Exposure
1/320s ƒ/5.6 @ ISO 400
Focal Length
115mm
Camera
Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Date & Time
November 15, 2008, 3:52 pm

Look out for anemones that are under water where they stay open with beautiful pink or blue tentacles. Above water, they close up and are kinda ugly.

This is where that polarizer comes in handy. It can cut right through the reflections on the surface and let the true colors come through.

To learn more, read up on polarizers, one of the few filters you can’t fake in post-processing.

Windansea Anemone

Exposure
1/40s ƒ/7.1 @ ISO 400
Focal Length
63mm
Camera
Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Date & Time
November 15, 2008, 4:00 pm

Take some time away from the creatures

There’s more to see than the sealife. Shoot some images of the rich colors and striking patterns at tide pools. They could make for a great abstract print.

This set of rocks under water had such fluidity and beauty, I had to take a photo.

Tidepool Rocks

Exposure
1/320s ƒ/6.3 @ ISO 400
Focal Length
173mm
Camera
Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Date & Time
November 15, 2008, 3:36 pm

Green Seaweed

Exposure
1/125s ƒ/5.6 @ ISO 400
Focal Length
55mm
Camera
Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Date & Time
November 15, 2008, 4:45 pm

Insert Some Personality

Incorporate other elements, kids have a great sense of wonder which can be very contagious when captured right.

Since I don’t have kids, and my husband loves to hide from my camera, I incorporated my feet!

Putting people in the photograph gives the viewer a sense of scale.

With this point of view, it also puts the viewer in the scene, looking down into this underwater world.

Feet at edge of tidepool

Exposure
1/320s ƒ/5 @ ISO 400
Focal Length
34mm
Camera
Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Date & Time
November 15, 2008, 4:44 pm

Check Above Sea Level

Finally, don’t forget to check above sea level for some interesting patterns of clams and mussels. Some of them have beautiful vibrant colors and interesting shapes.

I found the blue in these mussels captivating.

Blue Clams

Exposure
1/100s ƒ/7.1 @ ISO 400
Focal Length
39mm
Camera
Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Date & Time
November 15, 2008, 4:40 pm

And I love the shape of these claw-like mussels as well as the inky black markings on them. I wonder what they’re called?

Claw shaped clams

Exposure
1/250s ƒ/5.6 @ ISO 400
Focal Length
55mm
Camera
Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Date & Time
November 15, 2008, 4:53 pm

Better That A Museum?

I hope so, and I hope you’ll head out and shoot some of San Diego’s many beautiful tide pools.

If you enjoy this post, do share using the buttons below! And when you get back from your shoot, leave a link to your photos in the comments!

This post contains affiliate links.

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Shimona Carvalho
Photographer, Engineer, Traveler who wants to help you take incredible photographs on your next trip.
beach
kid-friendly
nature