Ain’t No Sunshine by Laurie Excell
I’m an early riser so the thought of hopping out of bed at o’dark thirty for sunrise shooting is not a problem, and when the weather is fowl, I’m even more motivated. So when I awoke to the sound of rain on the roof of our condo in Kauai, I got out of bed, had my morning cup of coffee, and headed out to see what the photo gods had in store for me this morning. I had scouted a likely location for sunrise the night before just minutes away from our home base.
As I had suspected, there was no classic Hawaiian sunrise to be had, but being one who loves all kinds of weather and light, I knew that with a little help from my friends at Nik, I would be able to make some fun and creative images in the overcast light.
I climbed down the rocks to the beach and moved in close to a nice grouping of rocks at the water’s edge. The low, overcast light played perfectly into my plans to create a motion blur of the softly swirling water flowing around the solid rocks. Even with low light, I still had to employ several other adjustments to achieve the shutter speed I was looking for. I began by dialing my lens to it’s smallest aperture of f22 which results in a slower shutter speed. My shutter speed was still too fast so, I dialed my ISO to L1, which droped my ISO one stop below the optimum of 100; still too fast, so out came my handy Singh Ray Vari-ND. I threaded it on and rotated it until I reached 30 seconds, (my camera’s slowest shutter speed without using a remote release), and began clicking in rhythm with the incoming tide. Back at the condo, I reviewed my images, and selected my favorite based on the motion and patterns of the water.
I sorted and edited my images using Lightroom, and processed the RAW files in Nikon Capture NX2. I then saved the file as a tif and moved on to Photoshop CS6 and Nik plug-ins for creative finishing touches.
The first step was to select Color Efex 4 > Detail Extractor to bring out detail in the rocks and texture in the water. I adjusted the sliders to my own visual preference resulting in Detail Extractor 17%, Contrast -7% and Saturation +6% and moved the Shadows slider to the far right. I then clicked OK.
*At this point you have the option of adding more filters in one adjustment, but, for this image, I have opted to add each filter separately for increased control after the fact.
The next step is to go back to Color Efex Pro 4 and select Brilliance and Warmth, which I again adjusted to my own personal vision resulting in Saturation 17%, Warmth 13% and Perceptual Saturation 12%. In this case I went a little bit heavy on the warmth for the foreground sand reflecting the rich, warm colors of the Kawai beaches.
Rather than select OK, I choose the Brush button so I could go a little lighter on the water leaving the bluer cast to enhance the color contrast. Lowering the Opacity of my brush to 40%, I brushed in the effect of the Brilliance/Warmth filter and the amount in the areas I choose.
My final adjustment using Nik filters is to open Dfine 2.0 and simply click on OK, going with the default adjustment.
In three simple steps, using the Nik filters, I have gone from my original capture to the finished product that represents my vision as I stood on the beach that morning. Viewing the image triggers my senses, feeling the wind on my face, the tang of salt on my lips, and the smell of the sea on that overcast morning as I photographed sunrise all by myself.