Daily Photo – Surfer at Steamer Lane

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.

Here’s another surfing shot from Steamer Lane, taken over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Unlike the previous shot, this one was taken in the late afternoon on an low overcast day, creating a number of exposure challenges.

  • Shutter:  1/2000
  • Aperture:  f/4
  • ISO:  1600
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1D Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM + Canon 1.4x extender (effective 420mm)


Composition and Processing

  • One thing that drives me nuts about shooting surfing on gray days like this is the complete lack of contrast (other than the water with the surfer’s wetsuit, which itself has no contrast).  The histogram for this shot is a giant lump in the middle third of the graph, with nothing elsewhere.  I was already at ISO 1600 in the fading light, so I knew the image quality, once I increased the contrast, was going to suck no matter what.  So I chose a more extreme processing approach to mask that, hoping it wouldn’t look over the top.
  • I really liked the composition on this, with the surfer launching out of the wave, arm extended into the upper left of the frame, and nothing but whitewater behind him.  But every time I pushed up the contrast on the background water, it just de-emphasized the surfer.  I decided instead to focus my attention on the foreground wave– I wanted to reinforce the direction of the surfer’s motion.  I colored the wave blue with a graduated filter in Lightroom, letting it fade at the peak.  That merged the surfer and wave together in high contrast color, which separated well from the blown out low contrast background.
  • I tend to shoot surfing horizontally like this and later crop vertically.  It would probably be better to shoot vertically in the first place, it’s just hard to track the subject and insure they’re in the frame along with enough of the relevant background.

January 17 2009 05:39 pm | Photography

One Response to “Daily Photo – Surfer at Steamer Lane”

  1. David Bean on 17 Jan 2009 at 9:11 pm #

    the final result is stellar. very nice crop!

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