Daily Photo – Aquaman

The Daily Photo series focuses on the two or three key creative choices, in terms of composition and processing, that go into creating an image.  Specific technical details about the shot have been left out — you won’t hear me talking about tone curve adjustments and whatnot unless it was a key component of the end result.

Once a year, when I visit my dad for the Thanksgiving holiday, I spend some time shooting surfing at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, California.  The cliffs of Lighthouse Point provide an excellent vantage point for capturing the surfers on film from a wide range of angles.  And when the weather cooperates, as it did this past November, you can get some great shots.

  • Shutter:  1/2000
  • Aperture:  f/4
  • ISO:  800
  • Camera:   Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM + Canon 1.4x extender (effective 420mm)


Composition and Processing:

  • Lighting is always a challenge here.  The waves are backlit by the afternoon sun (a simple fact of being on the west coast), and that provides a nice translucent glow to the wave.  But often times the surfer is on the face of the wave and a good 3 stops darker than the crest of the wave.  In this case I got lucky and caught the surfer just as he was emerging from the wave and into the sunlight (albeit, not with his board).
  • For most sports photography, I turn to the 1D instead of the 1Ds.  The faster frame rate and cleaner image at high ISO settings makes it preferable despite the trade off in resolution.  Plus, in cases like this, the 1.3x crop sensor adds a little more reach.  On this day though, with the swell north of 15 ft at times, another photographer encouraged me to shoot wider and focus more on the wave itself.  That is, instead of capturing the tightest possible image of the surfer, set the surfer in the grander context of his surroundings.  By shooting wider, I could afford to go with the 1Ds and the lower frame rate, making this shot possible.
  • The final shot is much more colorful than the original.  What can I say, I like the notion of contrasting the warm sun with the cold water, and processed accordingly.  Those colors are actually there in the original, just much more muted.  But I decided to overlay a gradient with Lightroom 2’s new graduated filters to exaggerate the effect, and then mucked with the HSL sliders for good measure.

January 05 2009 05:49 pm | Photography

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