Windburned and Victorious

Hole in the Wall Beach sunset, Santa Cruz, California

My face is six inches from a tide pool and all I can see through flecks of wind-driven foam is algae and anemonies. Which is a shame because somewhere down there in that watery world are my favorite photo filters, pulled out of my pocket by a gust of wind and sent skittering into the deep.

I knew the wind was going to be a problem as soon as I got the beach. Curtains of ocean spray were being drawn through the air while bursts of wind threatened to topple both me and my tripod. But I’d fought the wind many times before and I wasn’t too worried. I turned my back to it, thinking that simple step would be enough to make for an easy shoot. But the wind had other plans and sent a surprise gust that nearly wrenched my filters out of my hand and sent my backpack tumbling into a nearby tide pool.

Seeing it was going to be a struggle no matter what, I decided to get aggressive. I turned head-on into the wind and brandished my lens wipes like a shield, deflecting and repelling the torrents of salt spray headed my way. It was a hard-fought battle but I managed to keep my filters clean long enough to grab this photo as lightbeams shot up from the clouds and roaring waves sent cascades of water to swirl around my legs.

Thinking I had conquered the elements I stuffed my filters in my pocket and tromped off to find another composition. Then, sticking my hand into my pocket to grab the filters back out, all I felt was air. Some nitrogen, some oxygen, maybe a little pocket lint. But absolutely no filters. Yes, the wind had had its last laugh: taking my filters from me and depositing them somewhere in a thousand square feet of tide pool.

I looked and looked, hunched over and squinting. Peering into the pool from half a foot up I scoured every inch of that tide pool. Nothing. I got out my headlamp and shined it into the shadows. Nothing. The rising tide and relentless wind made it impossible to see into the water for more than a few seconds at a time. My frustrations were mounting and my curses getting louder. But then an abrupt realization: those filters are gone, man. Gone. A peace came over me and I went home, windburned but victorious.

Tech notes on this photo
Nikon D7000
Tokina 12-24 f/4 at 12mm
f/9 – Sharpest spot on my lens, still provides good DOF on my crop sensor camera
1/4 sec.
Cloudy white balance
Lee soft 2-, and 3-stop GND filters, handheld

In Raw Converter (Nikon Capture NX2)
– Processed single raw file thrice, once for the foreground, once for the sky, and a third darker image for the sky highlights
– Cooled down white balance slightly
– Global curves adjustment to add contrast and pop
– Increased exposure of foreground
– Local contrast adjustments to enhance colors and details in clouds, water, and reflections

In Photoshop:
– Noise reduction via Neat Image plug-in
– Selective sharpening of rocks
– Blend in the sky via a gradient mask and luminosity mask to keep details in seastack
– Hand blend of sky highlight layer
– Dodge/Burn on Soft Light layer through various luminosity masks brighten white water throughout the image and add contrast to oncoming wave
– Decreased saturation in the sky
– High pass filter set to soft light and brushed in at very low opacity to add structure to the water on the left
– Curves layer to selectively add a little contrast to the light rays and the foreground reflections

Until next time,


4 Responses

  1. Sorry to hear about your filters! The shot is superb though, at least you got this one. I love the light rays and lines leading toward them. Thanks for the details on the processing. Am just learning blending techniques myself so it’s fun to read what you’re doing!

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