Daily Photo – Surfer at Sunset

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.

The cliffs at Lighthouse Point, in Santa Cruz, extend a good distance out into the sea.  That’s convenient for photographers, enabling them to shoot the surfers as the waves roll by.  But it’s also useful for the surfers, who walk back along the cliff and drop into the water again off the point rather than paddle all the way back out.


  • Shutter:  1/500
  • Aperture:  f/4
  • ISO:  800
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1D Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM + Canon 1.4x Extender (effective 420mm)

Composition and Processing

  • When it comes to sunsets, there’s a huge disparity between what we see and what the sensor (or film) captures.  The original shot here looks dull and lifeless, but truthfully, the final version is pretty close to how I remember it.  It almost looks like I’ve introduced additional color to the shot; however, all I’ve actually done is pushed up the saturation and shifted the orange hues to red a little more.  The information is there, just somewhat muddled.
  • One side benefit of shooting silhouettes against sunsets (or any other non-descript background) is that you can completely disregard realism when it comes to color correction.  You can also process entirely to the background since your subject is a single tone.  While this shot didn’t take much work, I could have easily changed the color to just about anything depending on the mood I wanted to convey.  It may sound like an obvious point, but there’s little need to be authentic in this sort of composition.


February 08 2009 05:05 pm | Photography

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