Caprocks & Moonlight

Here’s another shot taken under a clear blue sky but in this case about an hour after sunset with only the light of the moon to illuminate the scene. Getting a shot like this is fairly simple if you remember three key rules:

  • Always turn on your camera’s Long Exposure Noise Reduction setting when shooting exposures over one second in duration. This setting will force your camera to take two exposures; one with the shutter open and one with the shutter closed. The in-camera processor will subtract any digital noise present in the first exposure that is not present in the second exposure, resulting in a theoretically noise free image. In my experience this really does work as advertised.
  • Always use a sturdy tripod for any long exposures. The number one cause of soft images is camera shake and no one can hand-hold a 20 second exposure, not even Joe McNally. I strongly recommend a carbon-fiber tripod over aluminum as the carbon-fiber legs dampen vibrations better than any other material currently available with the exception of wood.
  • Stop down your aperture to f/16 or smaller to create the star effect seen around the moon in this shot. Yes, you can cheat and create this effect in Photoshop but why not practice the craft of landscape photography and do it “in-camera” instead. I guarantee you’ll feel more proud of getting this shot “in camera” than you ever would in “post” and isn’t that why we practice this art form anyway?

Caprocks and Moonlight

Caprocks and Moonlight – Quitaque, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using a Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/18 for 20 seconds at ISO 100 using Canon’s in-camera Long Exposure Noise Reduction. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

Landscape Photography Without Clouds

One question that comes up in every workshop I teach is how to shoot when there’s little or no cloud cover to act as a dramatic background. While the old adage about photographers loving bad weather may not be completely true, capturing a really beautiful scene under a cloudless blue sky does present a real challenge, even for the most experienced landscape photographers.

Below are two different examples of how I capture a scene with a cloudless blue sky along with a few rules to remember for situations like this.

  • Rule #1: Always favor the foreground when the background is less dramatic. Find some object in the foreground like a rock, stream-bed or plants to pull the viewer into the scene. Let the foreground and middle-ground make up 90% of the overall scene.
  • Rule #2a: Shoot right before sunset to add warmth and contrast to your scene. Use a graduated neutral density filter to even out the exposure between the foreground and background but go easy on it. In this situation, a little goes a long way.
  • Rule #2b: Shoot in the shade during sunset by letting the diffuse sunlight reflecting off the blue sky act as a giant soft box. The diffuse light right after sunset can open up details in a scene better than any HDR merge I’ve ever seen. Use a warming (3A) filter or polarizer to add some subtle “warmth” and contrast to a “cool” (<4500K) scene.
  • Rule #3: Remove or dial-back on your circular polarizer to obtain the most realistic looking sky. Your eyes will see the blue sky as almost white right before sunset. Nothing says “Photoshop” more than an over-saturated blue sky.

Desert Heat

Desert Heat – Caprock Canyons State Park in Quitaque, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using a TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/16 for 1/30th of a second at ISO 100 with a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

Sunset Hike

Sunset Hike – Caprock Canyons State Park in Quitaque, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using a TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/16 for 1/30th of a second at ISO 100 with a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

Jack the Giant Killer

Every landscape and nature photographer needs a Jack. In Norse mythology and later adopted in Welsh lore, a “Jack” was a youthful hero that fought and slew giants against all odds. My “Jack” continues that fine tradition acting as guide, coach and sometimes pack mule during our trips through Texas.

My success as a landscape photographer is due in no small part to his unwavering ability to guide me to the ends of the earth (Texas actually) for that one great shot, without getting us both killed. Jack is a resource no landscape photographer should be without.

He looks taller in real life :-)

Have a joyous and safe Thanksgiving my friends!

Jack the Giant Killer

Jack the Giant Killer – Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 17mm, f/16 for 1/50th of a second at ISO 100 with a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

View Location on Panoramio & Google Earth: Jack the Giant Killer – Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

Earth, Air, Fire & Water

Now that I’ve finished my new book “Landscapes of the Texas Plains & Canyons”, I can begin to share some of my latest work, the locations and photographic techniques I used along the way. The book is layout out in four sections (Earth, Air, Fire & Water) and each covers a different aspect of these magnificent canyons and endless plains.

Visiting this region for the first time, it’s hard to grasp the scale of what your are seeing and driving through. During my last two visits to the panhandle I put over 3,000 miles on my vehicle driving from Lubbock to Amarillo, to Claude, to Turkey, to Quitaque, to Silverton, to Tulia, to Happy and to Canyon.

Only when you stand in the deep red dirt (as fine as talcum) of the canyon floor and gaze up at the canyon walls towering above you, do you get a clear picture of just how “big” this place really is. Imagine what Francisco de Vasquez Coronado must have felt like, those hundreds of years ago, when he came upon this fortress-like cliff face. Too steep for his horses and wagons to climb and too far to turn back and find a more navigable route to the other side. Damn!

Fortress Cliff

Fortress Cliff – Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using a TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/18 for 1/13th of a second at ISO 100 with a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

View Location on Panoramio & Google Earth: Fortress Cliff – Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

Unto the Breach Once More

Photography is fun. Writing is scary.

I’d rather stand in the path of a fifty-mile wide thunderstorm waiting to get that one last shot than sit down in front of my Macbook and type out three paragraphs of an introduction to my new book. I’ve culled through hundreds of shots. Made all the final photo edits and crops. Exported, color checked, uploaded, labelled, tagged and pixel peeped till my eyes gave out, but sit me down with a blank screen and I’m terrified. To those of you that both photograph and write, I applaud your skill and daring. I hate you, but I do stand in awe.

I had a potential client ask me for a resume last week. I handed her my iPad. “Written”, she asks? “Pixels only”, my reply.

Highway 207 Storm

Highway 207 Storm – Claude, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/16 for 8/10th of a second at ISO 100 with a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 and Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro plug-in.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

View Location on Panoramio & Google Earth: Highway 207 Storm – Claude, Texas

Peachpit Interviews Photographer Jeff Lynch (Me!)

The folks at Peachpit Press are truly incredible and have treated this old Texas photographer like royalty. I’ve been honored to have my work featured in Jeff Carlson’s book from Peachpit Press, Canon Powershot G10/G11: From Snapshots to Great Shots and in his upcoming book on Canon’s Powershot G12.

When Sara Jane contacted me for an interview about my photograph entitled “Touchdown” I was tickled pink. It’s not every day that a guy like me gets interviewed along side the likes of Mark Krajnak (The K-Man from the Hot Shoe Diaries) and world famous wildlife photographer, Moose Peterson. Face it. The only thing Joe McNally and I have in common is our Irish heritage and the time he dated my younger sister at Syracuse (just kidding Joe).

Peachpit Blog Interview

So here’s to you Sara Jane, Jeff, Valerie and Scott! Many thanks for making my week a bit brighter.

All Good Things Must End

I have been privileged in this life to do work for and to become friends with some of the most incredible people on the face of this planet. As you grow older and begin to realize that you have fewer days ahead than behind, you come to appreciate just how much these relationships enrich your life. The true measure of a man is not how much money he makes but how many friends he can call upon when the #$%^ hits the fan.

This week a dear friend of mine sold his “small business” to a much larger company for a tidy sum of money. Now I’m not going to name names but if you read the business section of your local Texas paper or go online, you can figure it out. My friend has run this not so small business for the past 25 years and has grown the business tremendously during the past decade. I’d like to think that I had some small part in that success and I have enjoyed working with these folks more than I ever thought possible.

It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to do work for this company for the past nine years but alas, all good things must end. Sadly, the new parent company is really big, headquartered outside of Texas and won’t be needing my services any longer. I was a small fish in an already crowded pond but now I’m a minnow in the ocean and the sharks are circling. I’ve known this was coming for the past two months and was grateful that my friend thought enough of our relationship to let me know. But this does leave my personal compass spinning wildly at the moment.

The energy, oil & gas business in the gulf coast has been hit badly in the past year with the BP disaster, the moratorium on deepwater drilling and the glacial pace at which new offshore drilling permits are being issued. Most small to medium size businesses in Texas & Louisiana have been hit hard and aren’t spending a dime on anything right now.

I’ve worked in this industry for 27 years and I know that may make some readers uncomfortable, but the folks finding oil & natural gas are no different than you and I. Most work for small to medium size businesses and they have bills to pay and groceries to buy just like everyone else does. They do very difficult and sometimes dangerous jobs, hundreds of miles offshore, for twelve hour shifts, six days a week. When they return home, they kiss their wives, play with their kids and go to church on Sunday. They’re good people and I’m proud to call some of them my friends.

So I have some tough choices to make and I’m not quite sure which path I’m meant to follow.

  • My industrial & product work started our well this year but has almost completely dried up during the past six months. My oil field knowledge and small business background was a real plus in this market and I wisely stayed away from the larger accounts that other commercial shooters would vie for. (CON)
  • My landscape and nature photography print & web sales have grown significantly this year and I’m amazed at how many new clients found me “online” from my Blog, Google, Flickr and Twitter. And yet, some of my biggest sales were the result of word-of-mouth referrals. (PRO)
  • I’ve also been dipping my toe into the real estate and B&B (bed & breakfast) photography market outside of the Houston area. So far, it’s been a great niche market that’s been ignored by most commercial shooters. (If you’re a commercial photographer in central Texas I promise not to go after your headshot business if you leave the B&Bs to me. We all gotta eat!) (PRO).
  • Last but not least, interest in the Texas Landscape Safari workshop to be held next April has been incredible and I’m already looking at holding two workshops back-to-back to accommodate the number of folks planning to attend. (PRO)

So I find myself at a crossroads knowing that sadly, all good things must end.

All Good Things Must End

Endings – Kingsland, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 45mm, f/13 for 2 seconds at ISO 100 with a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

Something New on the Horizon

I apologize for being cryptic and short in my post yesterday and for more of the same today, but my work has reached an “inflection point” and my personal compass is spinning wildly. But in the midst of all this chaos there is something new on the horizon.

More to come in the days ahead . . .

Landscapes of the Texas Plains & Canyons