Fishing is what I’d like to be doing today…or any other day. I’ve been quite under the weather today and am feeling sorry for myself for not being able to get out shooting photos downtown tonight with my buddy Pete Talke. Life is still good though! 🙂
Photo taken at sunrise on the beach in Port Aransas, TX with a 50mm lens @ f/1.4.
I’ve gotten over my thing about missing the snow and am now thinking about getting back to the Texas coast. My 7-year old son brings it up constantly so we’re just going to have to set a date and do it. The shot above was taken on our last big trip which was during Sharkfest at Padre Island National Seashore. When we scheduled our trip we weren’t aware of Sharkfest and on arrival were very surprised by the crowds. This 63-mile stretch of beach has one way in and out (via land) as is mostly limited to 4×4 vehicles so it’s generally rather empty. Of course “crowded” is a relative thing and even with 10x the normal crowd there were still plenty of places along the seashore to fish and play in the water without crowding anyone out. Normally you can pick a place where you have at *least* 1/2 mile between you and your nearest neighbor. We had to settle for 1/8 – 1/4 mile this trip (once we made it 30 or 40 miles)…first-world problems. Unfortunately we saw no sharks being caught. On our “normal” trips we often see them and thought that with all these shark fishermen we’d see several. No luck.
For those of you not familiar with shark fishing in the surf, here’s the very rough description of how it works. Gear consists of short-ish, stiff rods with reels capable of holding hundreds of yards of approximately 100# test line. At the terminal end there are leader rigs made out of materials ranging from 400# test monofilament to stainless steel cable. Hanging from those are huge hooks (the size of your hand). For bait something like a big chunk (even half) of a jack crevalle is used. Once the rig is ready, the bait is generally paddled out with a kayak and placed beyond the third sand bar. Then you wait, and wait, and wait. When you get a decent sized shark on the line the fight often lasts well over an hour. It’s pretty amazing to watch. On a side note, it’s extremely interesting to witness the various vehicular rigs that people come up with for their shark fishing — giant platforms on top of trucks, etc. If I’d known how unsuccessful our fishing was going to be on this trip I might have just spent time photographing the shark rigs.
I processed the image to make it appear a bit like an old print from film. Kept the colors reasonably saturated (via the vibrance slider in Lightroom) and made the image warm like prints in the “old” days. In Lightroom I added grain to taste. I rarely use additional grain in images but really like it for this beach scene and if it weren’t for the vehicles it could pass for a pic from the ’70s. I wasn’t “into” photography in my film days so I can’t wax nostalgic about this film or that film or tell you that I mimicked a certain film. I bought whatever was cheap.
While in Hawaii I managed to catch the sunrise most mornings (not necessarily for pictures). As the sun rose over this jetty in Kauai I stopped all the way down to f/22 in hopes of getting a nice sunburst — success. The lens flare effect (real — not added in post) is nice too. I had hoped to get more interest and/or color out of that rope in the rocks but it doesn’t add much unfortunately.
The image was processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro using 9 exposures. Lightroom was used for most of the touch-up and then Photoshop was used for curves and noise adjustments.
I recently downloaded a trial version of Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro. I’d been semi-disappointed in many HDRs I’d created in Photomatix and had heard many people say they’d made the switch to Nik. If you’re hoping for a complete review of Nik HDR Efex Pro I apologize in advance — I’m only going to give some impressions here.
First, a bit on Photomatix. It’s great software in many ways and I’ve used it to make many cool (IMO) images. However, in many of my HDRs of late I’ve ended up doing so much masking in Photoshop after tone mapping in Photomatix that I’m practically producing a composite of the original exposures. Photomatix often doesn’t handle motion to my liking — leaving way too much work to do afterwards. I’ll readily admit that it could be the user — I’m no wizard with Photomatix. It could also be that I’m getting pickier as time goes on. On the plus side, I find Photomatix to be much faster than Nik but I don’t process all that many HDRs so that’s not a huge factor.
I used Nik HDR Efex Pro to process all but one of the images in this post. For my own comparison purposes I processed another Hawaii coast photo — similar to the one at the top of this post — with Photomatix. It’s not completely apples-to-apples since I didn’t process the *same* photo but I ended up having to spend a ton of time in Photoshop fixing up the Photomatix image (basically ending up with a composite as I mentioned above).
As for the mechanics of using Nik HDR Efex Pro, it’s quite simple. In each of the images (5-ish?) that I’ve processed with it I’ve started out with a preset and tweaked from there. Of course I’m still learning all the sliders, etc. but I’m happy with it so far. I find the “control point” concept useful (it defines circles in which you can separately tweak portions of the image) but I would prefer that it worked more like the adjustment brush in Lightroom where you can choose exactly where the effects are applied. The final images here aren’t completely to my liking (some spots would get fixed if I were to spend more time on the images) but are illustrative enough for this post.
We’re having a great time in Hawaii. Scenes like the one above abound here on the island of Kauai. This shot was taken at Ke’e Beach which is at the end of the road on the north shore of Kauai. The land beyond is only accessible by trail, boat, or helicopter. Jurassic Park was filmed somewhere in those mountains so many of you have had a glimpse of what it’s like.
As much as I like to take (and process) photos, I *try* to limit it when on family vacations. We went all over the east and north shore the other day but I only dragged my tripod out of the car once. When we walked along Ke’e Beach I didn’t have a tripod so I put the camera down on some mossy rocks and used the timer to fire off 3 exposures. I didn’t quite eliminate the blown-out highlights in my exposures but I didn’t want to be a drag on the group and spend a bunch of time fooling with the camera. I used Photomatix to tonemap the exposures then Photoshop to play with some curves adjustments.
A recent sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico along Padre Island National Seashore. The image was processed with 4 or 5 different textures in OnOne’s Perfect Photo Suite. After that I did a few Photoshop curves adjustments…that’s it.
I was very surprised to find that one of my (not-so-freshly-pressed) posts was featured on WordPress Freshly Pressed. I started thinking about what post I should follow up with to hopefully meet the expectations of any new followers, etc. I’m humble enough to realize that I’ve got nothing but photographs that *I* like — and hopefully others will like many of them. What’s the Ansel Adams quote? Something like “There no rules for good photographs, only good photographs”. And of course “good” is defined by personal taste. So…I’m just posting the next picture I had already planned to post in hopes that others like it too 🙂
On a recent trip to the Texas coast I was setting up for some bokeh shots with the 50mm f/1.4 and noticed this couple approaching. I quickly focused on the sand and recomposed to catch them as they passed in front of the camera. I said a quick ‘hello’ but otherwise pretended to ignore them and clicked off a couple of shots as they were in the frame.
My camera was already at what I considered a good aperture for this situation — f/2. From experience I knew that anything larger and the background would be too blurred to provide enough detail to give a sense of where the shot was taken. I had already experimented with some f/1.4 shots taken at a very close distance from the subject and the background was completely lost. For all you could tell, I was in a bright room inside my house as opposed to the beach. Sometimes that’s a nice effect but when I’m at the beach I typically want to show, or at the very least hint strongly, that I’m at the beach.
I knew my focus wouldn’t be perfect. With such a shallow depth of field it usually doesn’t work to recompose your image since you end up swinging the whole plane of focus away from the subject [see below for a short, lame-ish explanation of that]. I had no time to worry about that nor did I care for this shot since I didn’t really want to capture any detail of the couple — I was going for the overall scene of “some couple” walking on the beach. With the blown-out highlights and backlighting a precise point of focus wasn’t going to matter much anyway. I’m not wild about the composition but again, this was a hurried, serendipitous shot. The almost-opaque frame around the image was something I added while experimenting with OnOne Software’s Photoframe. I’m not sure if I like it but I’m considering this one “done”.
About those depth of field issues when recomposing a shot…When you focus your camera on a particular point, imagine a plane that is perpendicular to line between your lens and subject. Everything on that plane (including everything near the plane within the range of your chosen depth of field) will be in focus. Taking that further, if you focus on a subject 10 feet away it will obviously be in focus, but so will anything on the flat plane (NOT arc) which goes left and right from that point. [Here’s an illustration — not sure how helpful] When you focus and then rotate the camera (recompose) that whole plane moves. If you have a large depth of field (ie small aperture and/or fairly large distance to the focus point) that may not matter because the subject remains within the in-focus region even when you rotate the plane. If the depth of field is very narrow there’s a good chance that you end up moving the subject out of the in-focus region (actually you move the plane of focus away from the subject as you rotate it). I’ve seen a great illustration of this somewhere…I’m not able to find it with a couple quick internet searches though.
I don’t ever get tired of beautiful sunrises…like this one I recently witnessed on the beach in Port Aransas, TX.
I used two versions of the same exposure to create the image above. One version used daylight white balance while the other used (nearly) a tungsten white balance. A gradient mask blended the two, keeping the golden light in the lower portion of the frame and gradually transitioning to the blue sky above. Four or five curves layers were used to touch up portions of the image and create a vignette. Some minor cloning/healing was done to get rid of some birds zipping across the screen and a few other tiny elements.
As we were headed down Padre Island National Seashore to fish early Saturday morning, my older son and I were intently looking for bait fish activity, holes/cuts in the sandbars, etc. with the intent to find the best fishing spot — didn’t even notice the sun. My seven-year old piped up in a matter-of-fact voice, “Hey, Dad…you’re going to want to get a picture of this.” He’s in tune with my photography habit.
I hopped out of the truck and snapped off a few pictures. It’s amazing how quickly the sun rises in the sky at this point in the day.
Our family was supposed to spend last weekend in Rockport, TX but were unable to go to at the last minute due to medical reasons. As a consolation I’m taking a few of the kids to the beach this weekend. The shot above was taken on our last trip. We had just watched the sunrise and my daughter shed her shoes and went wading. On a whim I got down low and took a variety of shots. I wanted bokeh for the artsy look, yet enough detail to still see my daughter and the pattern in her dress. Turns out that the widest aperture on my Canon 17-40mm (f/4) just did the trick. I made a quick attempt at cloning the letters out of the shoes but it was soon clear that it would take a lot of work to make it look realistic…above my skill level.
This was the second shot I took (out of maybe 50). In the subsequent images I framed the shot in all manner of ways — no sun or reflection from the sun, put the sun at the 1/3 point in the frame, showed my daughter completely, etc. I like this one best. In particular, I like the leaning subject (partially due to taking a step and partially due to the distorted perspective of the wide-angle lens) and the motion implied here. I also like the extreme highlight in the left corner fading into the darker sky on the right.
My daughter and I watched the birds and the sunrise last Saturday on the beach in Port Aransas, TX. The weather was perfect and the Gulf was the calmest I’ve ever seen it. While I was playing around with photo stuff, my daughter waded out. I told her to freeze for some silhouettes and captured many photos like the one above. I underexposed a bit to be sure to produce a dark silhouette — the goal being to avoid any detail in the subject of course. Processing consisted of basic adjustments in Lightroom, including some purposely heavy contrast/clarity. I debated whether to clone out the birds streaking across the frame…I obviously elected to leave them in. There were a lot of interesting looks I could have gone for in this image and I had trouble deciding what I liked best.
One consideration in shots like this is the height of the camera. Low to the ground results in a lot more sky as opposed to beach and water. It also places the silhouette mostly against the sky which is generally nice IMO. Camera placement high off the ground — say standing height — gives more water and beach, plus a longer reflection/shadow of the subject on the water. There’s no “right” choice. In a beach situation I prefer to show more water in the shot but you have to be careful about having the horizon cut through the subject’s head and things like that if you place the camera too high (see image below — it’s OK, but not my preference). I think the shot above strikes a reasonable balance.
Later I played around with flash in the mid-day sun while taking pictures of the kids playing on the beach. I’ll post some of those soon.
This past weekend I took my 6 year old son on his first camping trip on the beach. Specifically, we went to Padre Island National Seashore, which has been the site of many camping trips with my oldest son over the years. It’s frankly not the prettiest, most pristine beach on earth but the solitude is hard to beat.
From the point where the blacktop dumps you on the beach, there are 63 miles of uninterrupted sand on which to camp. The first 5 miles or so are accessible by any vehicle but it’s 4×4 only after that point for the most part. That fact eliminates the casual beach trippers and helps keep the number of campers down.
Our normal modus operandi on our beach trips is be very minimalist and not set up a permanent camp. This allows us to be mobile and chase the fish so to speak (often you can drive and spot them silhouetted in the surf as the waves roll over). We might go up and down sections of the beach several times in a day. However, since it was this son’s first trip, we just set up a camp and concentrated on spending time together having fun rather than worrying about how good the fishing was. He had a grand time fishing, finding shells, chasing crabs, throwing the football, swimming…he was never bored for a single moment.
The picture above was taken by our campsite as the sun rose Saturday morning. As you can see, there isn’t anyone in sight as far as the eye can see. It was the same in the other direction. Those tire tracks represent the long road back to civilization — 28 miles to the blacktop in this case. No cell service available anywhere on that road. It’s great to be isolated like that occasionally…we’re headed back in a couple weeks.
The image is not an HDR (you know you do HDR a lot if you feel like you have to specify when it’s *not* an HDR). I had bracketed the shot with the thought of tonemapping mainly to bring out the texture in the sand. However, I ended up using Topaz Adjust, levels, and curves on a layer then masking the original sky back in.