Analysis of visuality and the coast has focused on the appreciation of the sea in art, or in leisure activities. However, a variety of trades, disciplines, and professions looked at the coast with a vocationally trained eye. The anthropologist Cristina Grasseni has called this "skilled vision."
Rocks, cliffs, and inlets were never just scenery. A naturalist might consider a bird-covered offshore rock as an instructive wildlife observation site, while to a foraging seafarer, spotting a guano-streaked cliff face in the distance might indicate a food source. To navigators, of course, distinctively shaped outcroppings demanded attention for a different set of reasons, as hazards to shipping but also as reference points visible from great distances. Sketches of the coast in relief, and from various angles or prospects, formed an important complement to two-dimensional maps of the coast. Scientific and imperialist expeditions employed artists as fieldworkers of a sort, although the instructions given to these sketching investigators varied considerably. Some artists combined coastal flora, fauna, and coast-dwelling humans in a single scene, depicting a kind of integrated ecology, while others disaggregated each component, drawing one isolated coastal specimen at a time. As the science of vision grew more sophisticated and safety standards proliferated, new issues emerged, such as how to anticipate sensory limitations (whether color blindness or simply limits in distance vision). New medical and psychological insights informed the design of lighthouses and warning buoys, but also shaped the ways that skilled labor was deployed, managed, and regulated.