Umbrella Blues

By Aydin Aksoy

It was a cloudy, rainy September day in 2004 on the Aegean coast of Turkey. The rain had not yet begun. I only had a small and simple camera with me, but I knew there was a photograph brewing, so I grabbed it and quickly headed to the beach.
 
 

Instamatic  .  40mm  .  40mmmm  .  1/6ss  .  f/2.8  .  ISO100
 
It was a cool summer day in the seaside town of Ayvalik, Turkey, where we have our summer house. We were there on vacation for only a couple of days. I was not expecting a storm but when I saw the cloudy sky, I wanted to go to the beach. It was likely to rain so I didn't take my big camera with me. In fact, it (a Nikon F4s) was not with me on this trip since it only shot film.

"The crashing sound of the waves served as the messenger of the fast-approaching storm. I had a simple camera with me, and I needed to find a good composition before it started raining."

When I arrived at the beach, the color of the sky and the umbrellas got my attention. There was no one in sight, and the air had the sweet smell of rain and earth. It was obvious that it was raining in the distance on the open sea, and the wind was carrying the smell back to shore. The crashing sound of the waves served as the messenger of the fast-approaching storm. I had a simple camera with me, and I needed to find a good composition before it started raining.

I aligned the umbrellas so they formed a straight line from the foreground to infinity, making sure that their bottom edges lined up along the horizon. That was a somewhat difficult task without a tripod, and it didn't help matters that there was not enough light. I noticed a few bricks lying around, so I quickly constructed a makeshift tripod out of them. Since it was a basic Instamatic camera, I shot three photos with the automatic setting.

"I am so used to seeing this very location in sunny, warm and crowded conditions, so this rare meteorological event allowed me to create an image that is very different and out of the ordinary."

I was quite happy with the result. The sky was much more dramatic once I processed it, and I was able to illustrate the storm effect in the sky. I had fun taking this photo as well as editing it. That's because I love photography: no matter where I am or who I am with, I enjoy taking photos. This specific image is so special to me because this is where my family and I have a summer house. I am so used to seeing this very location in sunny, warm and crowded conditions, so this rare meteorological event allowed me to create an image that is very different and out of the ordinary.
 
POST PROCESSING
Many years later, I came across this image while I was looking through my photos on my computer. The colors and the tones were average since it was taken with an automatic setting. The sand was a bit bright and the clouds were not as dark as I wanted. I opened it up in Photoshop to see if I could improve it.

1) First of all, I applied a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer and decreased Brightness to –9 and increased Contrast to +65. 

2) Using the Lasso tool, I selected the upper part of the photo, including the tops of the umbrellas and the horizon. I applied the Brightness/Contrast tool (Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast) only to this selection by decreasing Brightness to –27 and increasing Contrast to +98. This made the selection a bit darker.

3) I applied a Selective Color adjustment layer and made the following changes: 
Yellows: Cyan +8, Magenta –66, Yellow +54, Black –54
Cyans: Cyan +45, Magenta –9, Yellow +83, Black +68 
Blues: Cyan +59, Magenta +3, Yellow +76, Black –7
Whites: Cyan –71, Magenta –73, Yellow –66, Black –23

4) With the previous selection active, I then inversed the selection (Select > Inverse) to adjust the rest of the image separately (essentially everything below the horizon). Using the Brightness/Contrast tool, I increased Brightness to 60 and decreased Contrast to –24. By right-clicking on the selected area, I set the Feather to 160. Then I used the Eraser tool set to zero Hardness to clean up the horizon line a bit, using a few different sized brushes.

5) To reduce noise (Filter > Noise > Reduce Noise) I adjusted these settings: Strength 9, Preserve Details 82, Reduce Color Noise 71, and Sharpen Details 72.

6) I applied the Unsharp Mask filter, setting Amount to 43, Radius to 23.9 and Threshold to 38. That created unwanted noise on the right side of the sky, so I decided to blur the area. I selected this area using the Lasso tool, selected Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set it to 2.2 pixels. Then I right-clicked the selected area and changed the Feather to 100. Finally, I used the Eraser tool to slightly erase the edges of the selected area.
 
TIPS
1) While taking photos like this, look at the clouds and the state of the sea, and then try to focus the attention on the one looks more interesting. 

2) I always try to see the scene from different points of view, trying different angles. For instance, you can try to rotate the camera a bit so that the sea is not parallel with the framing anymore. Aligning some lines can create a big difference. 

3) I always shoot the photo with three different exposures. I also use three different values of aperture and shutter speed. There should always be alternatives when you want to merge multiple photos of the same scene in post-processing.
 
BIOGRAPHY
When I met my first camera, I was in elementary school. It was a Kodak Instamatic. From time to time I took a break to shoot a few photos. During this time, I had a lot of cameras. My best one was Nikon F4s, and I liked to use slide film with it. Lately, I don't carry this camera with me. 

Photography to me is like hunting. I had a few hunter friends, but they gave up their weapons; now they are photographers after realizing photography and hunting were similar activities. Of course photography has a much broader range; you can find an object to hunt everywhere, at anytime, under any conditions. 

I'm a mechanical engineer. I have been interested in nano metals in industrial disinfectants and farming for the last three years. I live in Ankara, Turkey, and I'm an amateur photographer. I don't have any important awards in photography because competitions do not appeal to me. But I gave a lot of slide film shots to our Ministry of Culture back in the days. 

Being lucky is always important. In one split-second you can either capture an impressive shot or you can miss it. You must be patient and focused when you are shooting. So I say to all photographers: "Let the luck be with you."

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