The Beaches of St. Maarten

So it turns out that St. Maarten doesn't just have great people... they have a few great beaches too!  I'm assuming nobody remembered or even read last week's post, so I figured I mention a few of the key facts again.

The island has over 70km of coastline, has 37 beaches, and as I mentioned last week, is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. St. Maarten features some of the world’s finest seascapes. From unspoiled, quiet shores to lively hubs of activity (with plenty of places to buy stuff... trust me, there are places to buy stuff everywhere and we found all of them), every single one of St. Maarten’s beaches is totally unique and reflects the rich diversity of the island itself. The 37 beaches on the island are so beautiful, they rank among the finest in the Caribbean.  There's plenty of water activities to participate in, from diving, surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing and fishing... or if hanging out on the beach and basking in the sun is more your style, you can do that too.  There's something for everyone and although we spent a lot of time playing in the ocean and laying in the sun, we found time to go diving, snorkeling and even swam with the dolphins in Anguilla.  I highly suggest making the day trip Anguilla if you ever find yourself in St. Maarten.  Not only is it another country with beautiful beaches and really good food, but it's another place to buy stuff and apparently this family will never pass up an opportunity to shop.

I've got to admit, as relaxing and fun as laying on the beach was, I enjoyed taking pictures of it even more.  So here are some of my favorite beach pics from the island.  Hope you enjoy!


Not all the beautiful views are found during the day.  Stay out for the golden hour, right before sunset, and stay for sunset.. it makes for spectacular images.

 A slow shutter speed (this was shot at 16 sec.) is what gives the water in this shot such a soft, dreamy look.  Water is a really fun thing to shoot with a slow shutter speed.

The problem with taking photos of beaches in St. Maarten is they're most often covered in people.  Get out early or stay late... you'll have the best light and a better chance of finding an unpopulated area.

In St. Maarten there are awesome views of a beach all over the place.   This wasn't the greatest view but I thought made for a really interesting image.  

Literally saw this tree off the side of the road as we were driving back to the hotel.  Made a u-turn and went back to shoot this scene.  Glad I did cause I would have been sad to miss this image.

Don't forget to look around and don't always just shoot what's in front of you.  Get down on the ground, or do what I did for this image... look up.  You never know what you'll see.

Day at the beach

So last week I talked about the HDR photos I took during a portrait session at the beach two weeks ago.  Well, as cool as those photos were... and they were pretty cool if I do say so myself, what about the portraits I took?  Good question... I'm glad you asked.  You did ask, right?  If you didn't this is going to be really awkward.  I don't want to push these on you.  Okay, I'm just going to pretend you asked and go from there.

So two weeks ago some good friends asked if I would take their family photo, and they wanted to do it at the beach.  No problem I said... then i thought... problem.  Well, it's not really a problem as long as you think about what you want to do and what you want to get ahead of time.  First question I had to ask was "what kind of photo do you want."  The thing about taking photos at the beach is that if you want the water in the picture, you pretty much have to be standing facing east.  Now I know there are inlets, jetties, outcroppings (I don't even know what those things are), etc. that let you get the beach in your shot without facing east, but pretty much you have to face east, with your backs facing west.  So the reason that's a problem is what if they don't want a sunset, or the colors that go along with one, in their photo.  Maybe they don't want to be lit by flash, which you'd pretty much have to do if you're taking a portrait at sunset.  So that means no photos after about 4:00pm.  So they decided that they didn't want sunset and they did potentially want some black and white photos, so we decided on as early as they could tolerate in the morning.  That ended up being about 8:00am.  Remember, the best light in the first part of the day is around sunrise.  Now, I couldn't convince them to get up that early, but I figured I could work with 8:00.  Now since we were facing east, with the ocean behind us, that meant that the sun could potentially be in their face.  We dealt with that by blocking the sun when we could and when we couldn't, I let them close their eyes until right before I was ready to take the shot.  1... 2... 3... OPEN!!  That worked pretty well, but I did have to discard a bunch of photos where eyes were closed or they were making mean faces at me for making them look into the sun.  

Another thing to consider is the colors your subject are going to be wearing.  You don't want them to be a miss-match of colors and textures so they look more like they came out of a clown car rather than preparing for a photo shoot.  Try things that are not too distracting.  Trust me, if you have a portrait of a family and one of the members is wearing bright yellow shirt, that's ALL people are going to notice in the photo.  If you have somebody in stripes and somebody else with circles, that will look weird too.  So consider things that don't scream for attention and make sure they all work together.  They don't all have to be the same color, as we had for this day, but complimentary colors work great.  All earth tones are one of my favorite looks for photos outside, but there are lots of options out there.

Below are some of my favorites from the day. Hope you like them! In fact, let me know what you think at


1... 2... 3... OPEN YOUR EYES!  That's a great trick to use when your subject have to close their eyes because they're looking into the sun.

Don't forget, all your photos don't have to be in color.  Try experimenting with what works in color and what might make a bigger impact in b&w or even as a duotone image like this one.

Try to shoot all your portraits both in landscape and portrait orientation.  You never know which you'll end up liking better.

Sometimes over or under exposed shots with the sun behind your subjects can make for a really interesting photo.

Sometimes black and white makes for a more interesting photo with more impact.  Take the color out takes out some of the reality.

Don't forget to have fun!!