Before and After – Monterey Bay

Welcome back!  I had a nice amount of traffic on yesterday’s post from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, so if you missed it, go check it out :)

Today I wanted to give you a little behind the scenes look at what I see before and what you see after I process a photo.  In the below two images, the first is directly out of the camera, while the second is its resulting end product.

Briefly, I can walk you through my processing decisions, which are pretty similar for every “landscape” oriented photo I work on.

First off, I was shooting with a Nikon D800 and a Nikon 14-24mm lens, set up on a tripod, with a remote release.  I like to get a little smidgen of movement in the waves.  This is a personal preference; some people want to stop time with crisp water droplets, while others prefer to use a long exposure, making the water look like silk.  I like to shoot for somewhere in between.

Having just been soaked with a wave myself, I stepped back to dry off and noticed how cool this point of view was with my friend Dave setting up his shots, waves crashing around him.  After a few wave crashes, I could see a nice big swell coming in, the one you see below.

Settings for the shot were pretty standard, shot on “A” priority, low ISO (50), Aperture around f/10, white balance auto (and off, as you can see).

The first thing I do when I import photos in to Lightroom 4 is lens correction.  No lens is perfect, and even the awesome 14-24mm images can be improved by correcting for the lens.  *Note, this is only available when you capture RAW images I believe.  I also correct for chromatic aberration.

Lightroom 4 does a fantastic job of recovering lost details, whether it be in dark or light areas.  Depending on the image, I will crank up “shadows” and “blacks” while toning down the “highlights” slider.  I will then pump up contrast and correct my white balance.  Since this image is going to turn in to a black and white, modifying white balance really isn’t necessary.

After that, I exported to Silver Efex Pro.  Here is what my image (w/ settings) looked like right before exporting:

Working in Nik’s Silver Efex Pro is not difficult at all.  I did not save my settings for this shot but I can give you a little summary:  Top preset on the left, gain in contrast, brightness, and sharpness.  That is pretty much it.

Back to Lightroom for some sharpening and final touch ups, and that’s it!  Please let me know below if you have any questions.  Thanks!

I can’t show you a black and white image without mentioning how awesome Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro is.  Now you can save 15% on every product they offer by accessing the Nik site here!  You can even download and try it for free for a while!

Original:

Final Image:

I hope this helps!  Thanks for visiting and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog on the upper right!


  1. ken bello says:

    Very nice, Adam. I have a similar workflow but I do sharpening in Lightroom before importing into other software for further modifications simply because I like the non-destructive algorithm in LR4 for sharpening and noise reduction. If necessary, I can then work backward to produce the best effect. Does this seem reasonable to you?

  2. Rich McPeek says:

    Terrific write up and very cool shots Adam!

  3. Sathya says:

    Adam – Could not agree more on Nik. Nice processing. Nik’s plugins rock. Need to wait and see how the Google coming in picture plays out !

  4. Edith Levy says:

    Excellent post Adam. The final image is truly fantastic. I love the detail that you were able to bring out in the clouds.

  5. Catherine says:

    Thanks so much that was excellent!!
    I love the fact that I continue to learn more and more with photography. thanks for paying it forward.

  6. don hamilton says:

    Hey now!! Welll done, and a classic example of NIK!!! An otherwise mundane, lacking in punch image… Processed into a Beauty!!! Got Love the NIK OPTIONS!!!!!!!!!
    Sweet image Adam…. Keep them coming…..

  7. Mark says:

    Great write up Adam and great results, I have just got Silver Efex pro2 on your recommendation and think it is awesome.

  8. Beautiful shot Adam and loved your work flow process. You can’t beat the combination of LR4 and NIk plugins!

  9. Wonderful results Adam! Thanks for sharing the process. You did a awesome job.

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Before and After – Monterey Bay Before and After – Monterey Bay Before and After – Monterey Bay
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