by Duke Miller
Beach Scene by Duke Miller
This is one of those shots that just comes along thanks to dumb luck in terms of timing.
I make it a habit after a cold front goes through, which was the case on the 28th of December, to head out to our beach and try to get some drama out of the sunset. The great clouds and a choppy Gulf of Mexico usually serve up some cool scenes. We all know great landscapes have foregrounds for depth, interest, perspective, whatever. I usually try for including some birds, couples walking, whatever.
As luck would have it, that afternoon, some artistic sand sculptors crafted this cool dragon in the sand, complete with waves. Voila! A foreground, some waves, great clouds, and a setting sun.
Dragon Beach Scene by Duke Miller – Before post production
Therein was the challenge: The vagaries inherent in susets when it comes to light just didn’t do this one justice above. Cue the HDR preset in my Nikon D300, then set the lens to infinity, turn off auto focus, set the bracketing to five frames, frames, one EV apart, and pull the trigger. You never know exactly when the light is going to be just right, so I just keep firing as the sun dips behind the horizon. In post, I used Nik HDR Efex PRO plug-in for Lightroom, then threw in a dash of variable neutral density, popped the clarity and vibrance a bit, and adjusted the temperature to give the dragon that golden hour glow.
Not your everyday sunset shot, and just in time for the Chinese New Year, which happens to be the Year of the Dragon! EXIF data: Nikon D300, Nikkor 16-85mm VR lens at 16mm at f/11, ISO 100. No shutter speed since it’s an HDR.