4 Mile Beach

We were waiting for sunset. This is never a problem at the beaches around Santa Cruz, CA. Actually I’m pretty much never at a loss for what to do while I wait for sunset! In this case, I just had to capture some of the swirling waters around these rocks. But I wanted the water to be ribbony, wanted to catch a little splashy wavelet – and I wanted to shoot it HDR. Oh yeah and I didn’t want to get my feet wet. Miss Pickypants strikes again! But of course, I did get all my wishes. ;D


I set up 5 exposures. I wasn’t shooting into the sun so didn’t need 7… but there was enough contrast between the rocks and the water that 3 didn’t seem like enough. I figured 5 would do the trick, which it did. ISO 50, f/22, 14mm prime. All of the exposures had some cool features in the way the water swirled; but the mid-range images had the patterns I liked the best.

On to processing: I combined various water sections from 3 of them in Photoshop. Now I like to process layers as I go. Meaning, before I start masking in a new layer, I’ll run it through NIK Software; usually either Viveza or ColorEfex Pro 4. Then bring in the bits I like using layer masks. In this case, each new layer got treated to Viveza 2’s brightening (on the darker exposures), structure and saturation. Using Vivieza in particular gave this shot a fanciful feel… which was the vibe I wanted to express in my processing. Once I brushed in the various water swirls (and that groovy little splashy wavelet!), I gave the final photo a bit of NIK’s Skylight, some onOne Software’s Ocean plugin, then some Glow Baby love in the soft focus blending mode, along with a final flair using Center Spot Focus. Back out to Photoshop. And then… Alien Skin’s Exposure 4 Subtle Square vignette gave it just the eye-leading focus that I wanted. Some selective sharpening, lens spot clean up, NIK Define for noise… and I was finally done! Work time: about 40 minutes.