Behind the Shot: Ludington Beach

Ludington Michigan on the West coast of Michigan’s lower peninsula is a beautiful lakeside city. Sitting on the shores of Lake Michigan, it attracts visitors who are eager to get away from the cities and towns, and who are looking to enjoy the lake.  This photo was taken on the beach at Ludington, late in the day.

I got down low for this shot because I really wanted to capture that look and feel of a late summer day on the beach. However, the land and sky were hardly cooperating with me! I made do though and here’s how…

Although it was late in the day, the sunset didn’t quite cooperate as there was too much overcast without any defined clouds or any clear areas of sky. It was just plain and ‘heavy’ sky! Not much I could do with that, so I decided to take the shot anyway and do something with it later in the digital darkroom. I used Lightroom on the final photo and applied a magenta colored gradient to the sky. It wasn’t dark enough though so I lowered the exposure in the gradient area and this really saturated the sky colors and gave me that pink and purple that I was looking for!

When I took the shot, I had the tricky situation of trying to balance the exposure between the sky and the sand. I settled on an exposure of 1/80 sec. at f8 with an ISO of 200. This worked o.k. and got me the sky really good, but the sand in the foreground was way too light. In Lightroom, I applied a gradient going from lower left toward upper right and darkened this sand using an exposure adjustment in the gradient. The real features in this photo are the volleyball nets and the light sand in the foreground really detracted. With the dark gradient applied though, it forced my eye up and away from the sand – just what I wanted!

Another issue was all the people that were around. I had to wait for just the right time when there weren’t people walking by in front of the camera and when no one was close enough to have their face recognizable – I didn’t want to have to get a model release signed by anyone for this shot! I did want people in the shot though, but in the background so it gave that feeling of summer and not of a deserted beach. Finally, it worked out perfectly and I had not only people in the background far enough away that their faces weren’t recognizable, but also people out on the pier in the left of the shot and sitting on the beach in the middle, giving the look of people coming out to watch the sunset! Perfect!

Finishing touches: In Lightroom I added some film grain and put a dark vignette at the edges to make the photo ‘stand-out.’ The volleyball nets were not quite sharp enough for me though, so I used Focus Magic to make it even a little bit sharper and more in focus. I used the ‘focus’ setting and a blur width of 2 but at a 50% rate because the last thing I wanted to do was to over-sharpen.

And that’s how I made this photo: Sometimes nature doesn’t cooperate fully, and some adjustments are needed to bring the shot to life and make it look just like I originally experienced it!