Shells and Curves

Shells (right side shows post-curves adjustment) 70mm, f/6.7, 1/500s ISO 100

[Update: The photo above is a single photo were I masked in the original on the left side then drew lines as boundaries]

Padre Island National Seashore (PINS) is a favorite place for me and my sons.  There are over 60 miles worth of beach on which to camp, fish, and explore.  At the south end — 63 miles from the nearest paved road — the beach dead ends at the jetty protecting the Port Mansfield channel.  On the other side of the channel is South Padre Island.  The fact that 90% of this beach is only accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicles keeps it relatively unpopulated and generally one can set up a camp site which is out of view of any campers to the north and the south.  You get a couple miles of empty beach to play on.  One sad note is that there tends to be a lot of trash due to this being sort of a focal point for the Gulf currents.  On the bright side, some of the huge items which wash up would make for cool HDR.  Can’t wait to go back soon.

One of my younger son’s favorite stretches of beach consists of more shells than sand (pictured above).  There are sections of beach referred to as “Little Shell” and “Big Shell” because of this fact.  A shell hunter’s dream.  That son spends hours picking up shells and deciding which to add to his collection.

On the photo front I’ve been experimenting with curves more and I decided to play with some old shots taken along PINS.  The picture of the shells was processed in Photoshop with a single s-shaped curves layer in normal mode — no other adjustments.  Amazing how significant the change is.  It’s not that I didn’t already know what an s-curve would do in general but I didn’t expect that much improvement from such a simple thing.  I would probably tweak the final image a bit further to expose it and saturate colors slightly more but I show it as-is here to illustrate the effect of that one simple curves adjustment.  Sometimes a simple, unheralded type of edit works as well or better as our expensive Topaz/Nik/Whatever software packages.

Experiment for yourself.  Check out David Nightingale’s work and free basic curves tutorial too — he does amazing things with curves.


3 responses

  1. Sounds like a great area to explore. I have tried to use curves and I just cannot get the hang of it, maybe it’s just me. Every time I try it I end of really trashing the final result and going back to the drawing board. I know Mike C. went to that workshop and learned allot, maybe I will spring for the tutorial. Have a great weekend

    April 30, 2011 at 11:29 am

  2. yep it does make quite the difference Mike! Jim

    April 30, 2011 at 2:37 pm

  3. Pingback: Cloud Angel In The Night Sky « Michael Tuuk Photography

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