West Side Street Scene

These are the kinds of images that move me, but it’s not just a snapshot. I have lived in coastal areas almost all of my life. The kinds of images that you see in Endless Summer, Surfer Magazine, or half of the travel magazines out there have been the things I see around me almost every day. To me, this isn’t “surf photography” it’s just photography. There’s not a lot of money to be made in this genre, but it’s my favorite topic to shoot and share.


This particular image is one that you’d think would be a simple snapshot — a street scene in a beach town. You’d be close, but it’s not that simple. I was shooting surf near Indicators on the west side of Santa Cruz, California and I had my longer telephoto mounted. A friend of mine was surfing and the light on her was spectacular. I turned around and these other two beautiful girls were walking back  to Steamer Lane. This is exactly the kind of scene that I love the most: people experiencing — living — the coastal lifestyle together. I can’t pass these moments up.

So here’s my situation: The closest focal length I can use is now 150mm. To frame up the photo with the gear I have ready I have to move, and move fast. I’m setup for surf at 500mm in somewhat ambient light. I’m also setup for fairly high ISO and a rapid burst of frames (my Canon 7d Mk II will get around 10 shots per second in RAW depending on the speed of the cards used) . Now I have to adjust to this moving subject that’s lit from the side. I had to jog backwards setup my monopod again, frame the shot and go. (In non-photographer jargon that means that I was setup to shoot serious distance with a pro camera designed for sports. To get them setup the way I wanted I had to plan quickly.)

Editing was a little more involved and I needed to put a lot of thought into it. There was distracting cruft to the left and to the right, so a bit of cropping was needed. I like to bring out detail in the dark wetsuits, so I masked them and brought up the shadows selectively in Lightroom. The general ambiance was warmed some, noise toned down, then the girls were sharpened. Other smaller distractions were removed in Photoshop in one last sweep.

Could I have just gone with the shot as it happened? Maybe, but I’m not looking for snapshots. I want to make art. Why spend the time on a photo that I’m positive won’t have any return on the investment? The same reason I studied Art instead of Computer Science. I wanted to.

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