From Drab to Fab - with a little help from two cool plug-ins


Next week, we have a sunrise shoot scheduled at St. John's Pier in St. Augustine, Florida – the first stop on my Florida Photo Caravan. (The Caravan is full, but you can swing by my talk in Ft. Lauderdale.)

While preparing an email to the participants about getting ready for the early morning shoot, I thought that other photographers might like some quick tips on shooting a sunrise - or sunset. So here goes.

First, don't freak out of the sunrise (or sunset) is drab. You can turn drab to fab with a couple of plug-ins.

I created the opening image for this post using Nik's HDR Efex Pro and Topaz Adjust (Spicify filter). Click here for a discount on Nik Software's HDR Efex Pro and info on Topaz Adjust.

Here is the original, drab image. It's not the St. John's Pier, by the way. I took this shot near Los Osos, California.

Here is my HDR Efex Pro image.

So, the first tip is: Don't get discouraged when you don't get a spectacular sunrise. Help is on the way in the digital darkroom.

A few more tips:
• Bring a flashlight so you can see what the heck you are doing!
• Don't place the horizon line in the center of the frame.
• Don't place the sun in the center of the frame.
• Check your histogram! Avoid washed out highlights.
• Bring a tripod.
• As the light increases, dial down your ISO.
• Use a foreground element (like a pier) to add interest to the image.
• Be careful when changing lenses around salt spray. 

Here is a cool flashlight for photographers:

Explore the light,

P.S. Horses running on the beach is also schedule. For tips, click here.

Sunrise at South Beach

Today was the last sunrise shoot on my South Beach workshop - the best light of the week.

Sure, we shot lots of HDR images over the past few days - and learned how to process the images in Photomatix, Photoshop and Topaz Adjust.

However, this non-HDR silhouette of a man feeding the seagulls is one of my favorite images from the workshop.

I did add a touch of Topaz Adjust to enhance the color in the sky clouds.

When shooting at sunrise and sunset, and almost always, try to expose for the highlights. Watch your histogram and overexposure warning on your camera's LCD monitor.

For me, the seagulls make this shot. However, for the HDR shots of the lifeguard stands that we were also taking, the birds were ruining the shots – because they showed up looking like dust spots on the image sensor. Kinda funny how the same subject can be good or bad.... depending on what you are looking for.

All the images you saw on my blog this week were taken with Canon 5D Mark II and either my 17-40mm lens (this shot) or my 24-105mm lens.

Explore the light,

Why I Think We Like Sunrises

Thanks to all for posting (on my twitter site) their reasons as to why humans like sunrises.

Here is my guess:

Most action in the animal kingdom, above and under water, takes place at sunrise and sunset. Animals seek out prey and seek out protecting from predators during those times. In Africa for example, most of the action is over by 8 AM; it does not start until around sunset. It's the same on the coral reef. This has been true for millions of years. Perhaps the reason we like sunrises and sunsets is because millions of years ago, it was at those times when we were most alert to danger and exhilarated by a potential meal – and perhaps somewhere buried in our minds are those feelings.

• • •

And here is what Dr. Richard Zakia, author of Perception of Imaging, says about sunrises:

I think you hit the nail on the head with your insight. We are part of the animal world. I think if we did not live in our civilized world we might be more attentive to sunrise and sunset, like our farmers are. I wonder if animals were 'civilized', like those that live in a zoo or aquarium, respond the same way to sunset and sunrise as those in the wild.

I recall an experiment that was done some years back where a woman was put in a
dark space for a couple of days to determine whether she could tell sunrise from sunset,
sleep time from wake time, or something like that. The result was astonishing. She could.