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Holey Glow, Batman - Hole in the Wall Beach, Santa Cruz (Explored #3 - Thanks!)

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"I'll just fix it in post." Soapbox time! (but I promise I'll keep it short :). It seems to me that many photographers today are using post-processing to create their shots, rather than just fine-tune them. Add in some color here, clone out an annoying rock there, cut-n-paste in a sky from another day, and voila, a beautiful photo! I don't condemn these actions, but I do feel that relying on post to make your shot is a bad idea, because it turns off your brain in the field.


When you know that you can change anything you need to on the computer, you no longer put the effort into finding just the perfect comp, waiting for the perfect light, understanding how to properly expose a scene, and doing a million other things that are so crucial to photography. Post is great, but it's not a substitute for making the best image you can in the field. When you are able to slow down and work (yes, WORK) to make a killer image in camera, then post-processing serves as the polish which makes the image shine. And this is the real role of post-processing, not the invention of something new.


I bring this up because last night I was guilty of a lazy-photographer mentality myself. I hadn't found the perfect comp by the time the peak light hit, so I started rushing. Rushing around trying to find something, anything to shoot before the sky blew its proverbial load. Luckily I came across this comp as the light was waning but I was still rushing: I didn't take the time to take a test shot to make sure my filters were in place, I had my finger in the frame in the lower right, and my filters were spotted with spray. As such, my final shot had water drops everywhere, a blown out sky, and a bit of red haze down in the lower right from my finger. "I'll just fix it in post" I said to myself, and so I made a real frankenstein of an image here: the foreground and water motion from one shot, the rocky shelves from another, and the sky from yet another. Way too much work to create this image in post when a few extra seconds in the field could have got me the same result.



Tech Notes on this Photo



Nikon D300s

Tokina 12-24 mm

ISO200 - It was getting pretty dark but I wanted a fast-ish shutter speed to catch the streaky wave action so I bumped the ISO to 200

f/8 - sharpest spot on my lens but still provides sufficient DOF at 12mm; helps defocus scratches, drops, and dust on my filters/lens

3 sec - 3 seconds is a pretty long time if you want to catch streaky wave action (0.5 sec - 2 sec is better), so for this shot I had to open the shutter just as the wave reached is peak surge up the beach. That way I caught the full motion as it flowed back out to the sea.

12 mm on a crop sensor

Lee 3-stop and 2-stop soft GND Filters, handheld




3 separate shots with the above settings, hand blended to produce the final image

In Raw Converter (Nikon Capture NX2)

- Global contrast for added pop

- Slightly darkened and added contrast to the sky to add oomph

- Brightened foreground rocks and added contrast to enhance shine


In Photoshop:

- Noise reduction via Neat Image

- Selective sharpening of sand and rocks

- Curves layer to slightly darken and enrich the sky

- Curves layer to brighten and add contrast to foreground rocks

- Curves layer to darken and add contrast to sand and water streaks in mid-ground


Thanks for looking!




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Taken on December 27, 2010