Daily Photo – Wall of Water

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.

One very big wave for one very small boogie boarder.

Exposure

  • Shutter:  1/2000
  • Aperture:  f/4
  • ISO:  400
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM + Canon 1.4x Extender (effective 420mm)

Composition and Processing

  • Even from the cliffs at Lighthouse Point, I had no way of shooting any tighter than this with my gear (other than the 2x extender, which is a touch sluggish with autofocus for this subject).  With 21mp I had some room to crop though, and brough it in tight to emphasize the height of the wave.  By not seeing past the top, and removing some of the foreground water, there are fewer reference points for scale.  The wall of water simply dwarfs the boarder and you lose sight of the fact he’s probably well in front of it at this point (and not about to be pummelled).  The compression of shooting at 420mm furthers that illusion.
  • One neat thing about surfing shots that emphasize the relationship of the rider to wave size is the way the path of the board tracks up into the lip of the wave.  This boogie boarder didn’t start there, or at least, not while the wave was breaking.  But it looks like he came hurtling down the now vertical surface.   Don’t get me wrong:  the guy in this photo is flying (literally;  he’s actually airborne in the shot).  But it wasn’t nearly so dramatic as it looks.

Original:

February 18 2009 | Photography | No Comments »

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)

Original:

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 | Photography | 1 Comment »

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)

Original:

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 | Photography | No Comments »