The clouds did make for a great sunset, though.
I couldn't find anything interesting to put in the foreground for this shot, so I kind of gave up on the composition.
All of the best beach sunset photos seem to have a rock or some tide pools in the foreground. It makes sense--you need something in the foreground to give the photo depth, and what are you going to find on the beach except some rocks or maybe some driftwood?
Anyway, the colors were stunning enough that I thought I'd share the photo regardless.
There were also some interesting edits involved here. Check out the before and after.
When you expose for the sunset, the foreground is going to be too dark. Looking at some stunning beach sunset photos on flickr, you can tell that they always bring up the foreground.
Lightroom makes this really easy with its graduated filter tool. In the below screenshot, the filter is the three lines running across the horizon. In the pallete on the right, I can specify what adjustment(s) I want applied across this filter. For this shot, I increased the exposure by 1.33 stops to brighten both the beach and the waves.
You can also do this, of course, in Photoshop or the GIMP. Take a look at my Digital ND filter post for an example.
I boosted the contrast a bit, and brought up the darks as well.
For the saturation, I actually boosted just the oranges. I thought this added some nice punch to the sunset.
You can also do this with the saturation tool in Photoshop or the GIMP--they allow you to select which color you are adjusting.
Finally, I brought the image into Photoshop and did some sharpening and noise reduction. I'm still not very familiar with either of these two techniques, but I got a little help from a video tutorial I watched of another photographer showing what he typically does with his landscape photos.
The changes were very impressive. The best way to show you would be for you to be sitting next to me looking at the image in Photoshop, but I was able to zoom in on some parts and take some snapshots that I think show the effects pretty well.
The first image in each series is the original, the second adds the sharpening, and the third adds the noise reduction.
I sharpened using the "Unsharp mask" with a radius of .8 and an amount of 200 (the tutorial suggested a radius of .8 with an amount between 170-220). This made the waves look a lot better, it was really cool.
You can see in the sky, though, that it also added a lot of noise there. I then used the "Reduce noise" tool with a strength of 7 and "preserve details" set to 40%. I didn't really know what I was doing here; I hadn't found any good tutorials, so I just played around a bit. You can see, though, that this brought the sky pretty much back to where it was without affecting the waves much.
I'll be sure and share more about sharpening and noise reduction as I learn it!