Before and After — Surfer At Steamer Lane

The Before and After 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.

A surfer rides a wave at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz.


  • Shutter:  1/2500
  • Aperture:  f/2.8
  • ISO: 800
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1D Mark IV
  • Lens:  Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM

Composition and Processing

  • I cropped this shot pretty tight for a couple reasons.  First, by moving the subject to the upper right corner of the frame, I gave them more room to move into the scene.  While there’s technically the same amount of space in the original for them to move into, it’s watered down (ahem) by the extra room behind them.  The eye isn’t going to travel backwards in the shot, so best to remove the distraction.
  • Second, it increases the perceived size of the wave, making it a little more dramatic.  Cropping out part of the bottom, where the ocean is flatter, helps as well.
  • Third, it’s simply more personal as a shot:  the subject takes up a larger portion of the frame.
  • I also colored the water by tweaking the HSL sliders and putting down a couple blue gradients in Lightroom.  You’ll never see water this color in Santa Cruz.  I wanted something more vibrant to go with the action, and the normally dull green water wasn’t cutting it.


February 09 2012 07:17 pm | Photography

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