Before and After
Hover over the photo to see what it looked like straight from the camera.
Tripod, Nikon D80, 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 at 18mm, ND grad filter, f/22, ISO 100, 6 second exposure
Things That Made it Happen
Timing - Although I arrived before sunset, I waited for a while afterwards to get these colors. The sun set at 5:15; this shot was taken about 5:30.
Positioning - The highly reflective surface of the sand is thanks to the flatness of the beach at that point – after the water recedes it stays very wet, as opposed to sinking into the sand (I know, a very scientific explanation). When I arrived, I moved around to get the best view of the pier while still having the reflections take up the entire field of view.
Misc. Camera/Lens Settings – Turn VR (aka IS) off. Turn auto-ISO off. Use 5-second self-timer to minimize vibration. Set focus, turn AF off.
Aperture - I used f/22 to get maximum depth of field, and to use long shutter speeds. Towards the end I was up to 10 seconds, so I probably could have backed off to f/16 and bought myself a few seconds with no easily noticeable difference. Oh well.
Filter - Once the sun set, the beach became very dark compared to the sky. I used a graduated neutral density filter to darken the sky, or lower the dynamic range. It was a little nerve-wracking to put the filter on and off while the tripod was in the ocean, but I was careful. Very careful.
Get Dirty – I don’t even know why I wore jeans. I rolled them up to just below my knees and they still got soaked and sandy. I paid close attention to make sure the camera didn’t get splashed, but otherwise I just marched right into the water and stuck the tripod in the wet sand.
Take Lots of Shots – Although I could see them coming, I never knew what any particular wave would do. Maybe every 5 minutes or so there would be a gap where no waves rolled in for about 20 seconds or so. Many of the shots I took were rejected because there was too much going on with the waves in the foreground, but I’m glad I had them to compare.
Wait - Birds would have left dark smudges and planes would have left blinking lights. I prefer to just let them pass by instead of ‘fixing’ it in Photoshop.
Lightroom - Turn on automatic lens correction. Use slider to eliminate chromatic aberration. Crop to straighten horizon. Increase brightness, vibrance and saturation just a bit. Clean up dust spots that became visible with f/22.
Photoshop - Paint out two dust spots that Lightroom couldn’t handle.
So, yeah, that’s pretty much everything I did to create the photo. Questions? Leave a comment!