Point Loma Sea Cave

We had a number of days with negative tide and I’ve used them quite well to see, explore and scout areas that I hadn’t seen before. The Point Loma Sea Cave is one of them.

Point Loma Sea Cave at low tide
Point Loma Sea Cave at low tide

I consider this pretty much a documentary photo that I wouldn’t add into a portfolio gallery, I just made it to capture the space more completely in addition to the more intimate detail and close-up photos that I make quite often lately.

OK, you’re right: this a quite shitty one minute development effort and the photo suffered from heavy lens flare to begin with (that I masked with the adjustment brush and/or healing tool in Lightroom). In particular, I could have spent more attention to the right cave entrance, which looks quite fake right now, I know! But that’s not my point, anyway! 🙂

And this scene was quite insane of course – bright afternoon sun from a sky with only wispy clouds, shining into a cave! On occasions like these, I try my luck with HDR. And most of the time, I find that a single exposure serves a better and more convincing result. Maybe it’s nonsense to even try and capture a scene like this in HDR – but isn’t that what HDR is made for?

Also, there’s no doubt I’m pretty much a tool when it comes to HDR processing. I never use the tools (I have HDR Efex, from the time when Nik/Google updated all single-plugin users to the full suite) so it’s probably no surprise that I can’t come up with anything useful. Still, I would expect that applying one of the presets would give me a somewhat natural looking result…

But most of the time, I can get that more easily with Lightroom. The photo above is from a single exposure and the dynamic range that the D800 can capture is insane. This is what the frame looks like, straight out of the camera:

Point Loma Sea Cave OOC
Point Loma Sea Cave OOC

The important thing is, as usual with digital: expose to the right (ETTR) without blowing out the highlights. Which in this case means that the rest of the frame will look pretty much dark. But the shadow detail and even color is all there! Unreal.

Yes, the shadows are VERY noisy, there’s no denying it. Bumping up the color noise reduction and smoothness in Lightroom, as well as applying a good amount of luminance noise reduction, was absolutely necessary. But that’s the other thing about the 36 megapixel sensor of the D800: resize that image down to 12 megapixels on export, and that nasty noise becomes a fine grain that actually adds “fake detail” to the photo.

Use this gallery (click on either thumbnail) to switch between before and after with your mouse or keyboard:

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