Not everything is Epic, and that’s okay

Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz at Sunset

Not everything is Epic, and that’s okay. Are we in such a rush to produce The Next Great Image that we forget that conditions aren’t always astounding? Lackluster sky? No problem, we say, I’ll just add a heaping helping of contrast in photoshop. Now it’s Epic! Forest colors aren’t quite as rich as we hoped? No worries, I’ll just bump the saturation slider. Now it’s Epic!

I have no problem in creating beauty, or in processing a good photo to make it great. But when everything is always forced to be Epic it desensitizes us to the moments that actually are. Think back to 2011. How many other photographers’ photos instantly spring to mind? How many images actually made such an impact on you that can picture them as vividly and clearly as the day you first saw them? Forget photography for a second. What about sunsets, how many from the past year left such an indelible impression on you that when you think “sunset” that’s what you think of. For me, it’s maybe two or three in the past 18 months.

So be ok with sunsets, sunrises, conditions, and photos being Not Epic. In the end you’ll have a greater appreciation for the few singular moments when things truly are.

Hope this doesn’t sound pretentious or ranty, as that’s not my intention. I was just noticing that I hadn’t posted anything in awhile because I haven’t had great conditions lately. I thought about trying to spit-shine one of my recent lackluster shots into something better and it got me thinking about this topic.

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This photo is one from one of those special moments for me. When I think “sunset” I think of this night, the insane light show, the great wave action, and the good company. This is another take on one of my most popular images: Arch Angel. This shot was taken a little later than that first shot when the sunset colors got a bit pinker and slightly less glowy.
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Tech notes on this photo
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Nikon D300s
Tokina 12-24 f/4 at 12mm
ISO100
f/8 – Sharpest spot on my lens, still adequate for full DOF with my crop sensor
1/1.6 sec.
Cloudy white balance
Lee soft 3-stop GND filter

Post-Processing
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In Raw Converter (Nikon Capture NX2)
– Processed single raw file once
– Global curves adjustment to add contrast and pop
– Local contrast adjustments to enhance shine and streaks in the foreground

In Photoshop:
– Noise reduction via Neat Image plug-in
– Selective sharpening of the arch
– Soft light burn / dodge layer, dodged sky in upper left, used luminosity mask to dodge water streaks, and dodged arch. Burned reflections slightly
– Levels adjustment layer to improve contrast on arch

Until next time

~Josh

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1 reply
  1. Eric
    Eric says:

    I really liked your thoughts on this. It is something that can boost one’s photography every bit as much as equipment.

    I saw this in action recently, having just come back from Death Valley. The epic trophy shots that I thought would get lots of feedback only did okay, and the shot I almost didn’t bother processing ended up on the flickr Explored list.

    So I suppose, even “epicness” is entirely subjective.

    Reply

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