Surf’s Up: Sand Waves in Wilder Ranch State Park

Wilder Ranch State Park beach sunset, Santa Cruz, California

On March 11th the front of a major storm system hit Santa Cruz and brought a wonderfully-textured pink and purple sunset with it. I hit the beach looking for waves but never imagined I would find one carved naturally in the sand.

When I shoot seascapes I’m always trying capture the waves and their motion in the most interesting way possible. Rarely do I get a chance to express that goal with such a great visual metaphor. When I saw this sand wave on the beach I laughed out loud. After all, could there be a more absurdly perfect subject for a seascaper?

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Tech notes on this photo
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Nikon D7000
Tokina 12-24 f/4 at 12mm
ISO100
f/16 – To carry the DOF while being so close to the sand
8 sec.
Custom white balance about halfway between cloudy and shady
Lee soft 2-, and 3-stop GND filters, handheld

Post-Processing
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In Raw Converter (Nikon Capture NX2)
– Processed single raw file twice, once for the sky and once for the foreground
– Exposure bump because I didn’t pay close enough attention to my histogram, d’oh!
– Global curves adjustment to add contrast and pop
– Local contrast adjustments to enhance colors and details in clouds, sand, and rocks

In Photoshop:
– Noise reduction via Neat Image plug-in
– Selective sharpening of the sand and rocks
– Blend in the sky via a gradient mask
– Dodge/Burn on Soft Light layer through various luminosity masks to enhace shine and appearance of sand wave, brighten rocks, and darken overly bright part of the sky
– Levels adjustment on dark luminosity mask to improve contrast in rocks
– Curves layer to brighten foreground and add contrast
– Color balance to remove a teensy bit of magenta from the the foreground

Until next time

~Josh

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