Seascape Recipe

You will need:
A camera
Some sort of photo editing software (I use CS6)
A computer (mine is dark grey)
A good tablet is well worth the money.

One blurry image that has something appealing about it. It needn’t be of the sea.
One or two images with nice big skies.
One or two images with interesting foreground features.

Note that it helps if all the images have a similar sort of field of view and perspective (another bonus of using a fixed lens Fuji!)

This recipe takes between half an hour and three years, depending on your level of enthusiasm and ambition.

Four frame composite

Four frame composite

Instructions on how to make the seascape:
1 Open an interesting blurry image. Pick one that has something you want to retain or that has stimulated some sort of idea. Don’t over think it. You’ve got to start somewhere.
2 Paste in bits of the other images, using layer masks to blend them in. Don’t assume land can only be land and sea is always made of water. You’re constructing a scene. Give the viewer suggestions and s/he’ll fill in the rest.
3 If you’re feeling calm, make the horizon straight. If you’re feeling edgy make the horizon annoyingly ‘just off’.
3a Decide what the aspect ratio of this image wants to be and go with it. If cropping, decide if you want to just cut off the end bits, or squash the image up a bit.
4 Create your colour pallet. There are many ways to do this: a) Sampling the colours you like from your images and creating a gradient; b) As per a) but instead make layers with colours and apply them selectively; c) Sliding the ‘Hue’ control about until you like what you see (you can do this selectively or universally); d) Taking the whole image back to mono and using some colour gradients or ‘photo filters’. I mostly do d).
5 Fiddle about with contrast, brightness and levels.
6 Check that your fiddling hasn’t created a digital mess. Skies are particularly prone to over-cooking. If so, consider less twiddling, going 16 bit, pasting over another sky with partial transparency, starting over with RAW like you know you should have done in the first place, doing an HDR instead, adding a Gaussian blur layer or some noise, or grain. Or bin the sky and start with another one.
7 Blur bits you want blurred.
8 Sharpen bits that want to be sharp.
9 Repeat some all or none of the steps above until it looks right.
10 Close the image and take a break.
11 Come back. Reopen. Go to step 9.
12 Publish.

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  1. Julia Fuchs December 29, 2014 at 7:56 pm #

    This is how you do it? Sounds quite complicated to me (I usually only fiddle with one ICM exposure in Lightroom until I like it) but your result is very nice, and that’s all that matters in the end, isn’t it?

    • Simon December 29, 2014 at 10:01 pm #

      I have developed quite an elaborate process I guess. But like you say, it’s getting me to the result I’m after, and it’s great seeing something coherent appear out of many disparate, and often individually unremarkable elements.

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