Workshop Preparation Post #6: Shoot What You Love

The Spring 2013 Texas Landscape Safari is less than a week away and I know the folks that plan to attend are anxious to get out with their cameras after a long and cold winter. So for the next few days I’ll be posting tips to help folks get the most out of their workshop experience.

The first rule of photography that I was taught thirty five years ago was to “shoot what you love”. There is no better piece of advice I can give to an enthusiastic amateur than that. When you truly “love” the subject that you’re photographing, that “feeling” is reflected in the images you capture. Monet painted many different scenes during his career but none stand out nearly as much as those of his beloved garden’s water lilies.

Folks attending photographic workshops are often searching to discover what subjects they connect with the best. For some it’s big game wildlife in Africa, while for others it’s the unique water fowl found in southern Florida. For many younger landscape enthusiasts it’s the majesty of Yosemite or Yellowstone while for others (like myself) it’s the simple, rugged beauty found in the rural areas of Texas.

The key to getting the most out of any workshop (or your own photography in general) is to discover what you love to shoot and make it your goal to learn how to shoot that subject as creatively as possible. Don’t worry about what others in the group are concentrating on. Take a good look around you at each stop and see what catches your eye. If it’s water, shoot the water. If it’s wildflowers, shoot the flowers. If it’s rocks and trees, then explore the rocks and trees with your camera. Approach each new location during the workshop with an open mind, a curious demeanor and a courageous attitude and I promise you’ll soon learn what you “love” to shoot just as I have.

And remember to enjoy yourself out there. We’re all here to learn and have some fun exploring the Texas panhandle together. Learn to shoot what you love and to love what you shoot and I promise you’ll walk away with some great images and some wonderful new friends. But don’t take my word for it; just ask Angel, Darrell or Ralph when you meet them in Canyon, Texas in a few days.

Caprock Canyon in Summer

Caprock Canyon in Summer – Quitaque, 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 40mm, f/16 for 1/40th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer and two-stop, soft graduated neutral density filter. Post capture processing was done entirely in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

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Workshop Preparation Post #5: Packing for Landscape Photography

As I’ve posted before, gear selection and packing for a landscape photography trip is a cumbersome task. Each time I set out for a few days or a few weeks I begin by putting together a shoot list and hiking schedule. I also check the weather forecast for the area of Texas I’ll be traveling though and pray for any cold fronts approaching from the north or west. The last thing I want is a cloudless sky.

Packing for Landscape Photography

Pulling together a shoot list is a common enough task for most commercial photographers but I find few landscape or nature shooters that follow this discipline. I like to maximize my time in the field but I can’t carry fifty pounds of cameras and lenses on each hike so a shoot list is essential.

So here is a list of what I pack for a typical landscape outing.

  • Canon 5D Mark III with EF 17-40mm f/4L USM zoom attached.
  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L zoom with lens hood.
  • Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II Tilt & Shift Lens.
  • Gitzo Traveller Tripod & RRS Ballhead.
  • Singh-Ray CP, Vari-ND & ND Grad filters.
  • Black Rapid R-Strap & Clips.
  • Bubble level, CF cards, lens cloths.
  • Garmin GPS on one strap.
  • Motorola MR350 Two Way Radio on the other strap.
  • Emergency Thermal Mylar Blanket.
  • Hiker’s First Aid Kit.
  • LED Flashlight & Hunting Knife.
  • Emergency Bail-Out Rope.
  • Water, typically three 24oz bottles.
  • Trail Snacks (for energy).

This much gear weighs in a little under 20 lbs and fits comfortably in my pack. The nice thing is, the weight decreases during the hike as I consume my water supply and trail snacks. I caution folks about carrying too much weight in their packs. I’ve done these hikes and climbs several times in the past few years and every extra ounce of weight you carry takes that much more energy. When you’re out shooting in nature, the last thing you need to be thinking about is how sore your lower back is from lugging around all that gear.

In fact, during my spring workshop (Texas Landscape Safari) I may carry only one lens (24-105mm) on my 5D3 and a few filters in my pockets. I load my pack up with as much water as I can carry along with some apples for energy. One thing I tell all my attendees; if it’s a choice between a lens or a bottle of water, always take the water. The Texas sun can be a relentless companion and folks that don’t respect its strength soon find themselves dehydrated and exhausted. Not a great combination for a budding landscape photographer during a workshop.

Workshop Preparation Post #4: Use a Ball Head

When you buy a good quality tripod, you get just the tripod legs (even though it’s called a tripod). A good quality ballhead can make all the difference in capturing great looking landscape or nature images. A ballhead will let you quickly and easily adjust where your camera is pointed and how it is oriented (horizontal or vertical). Its also the most secure means to hold that expensive DSLR and lens you’ve just paid good money for.

rrs_bh40_blog

The folks at Really Right Stuff make the best ballheads and arca-swiss style clamps I’ve ever used and the unit shown above is their BH-40 LR (BH-40 head with B2-40 LR clamp). It fits perfectly on my Gitzo tripod legs and keeps my Canon 5D Mark III secure and stable when taking landscape shots. It’s a great ballhead for basic pano shots as well.

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Workshop Preparation Post #3: Tripods

Lake LBJ Overlook

Lake LBJ Overlook – Kingsland, Texas
Copyright © 2009 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 32mm, f/11 for 1/6th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer and two-stop, soft graduated neutral density filter. Post capture processing was done entirely in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

As many of you know this spring’s Texas Landscape Safari is scheduled for later next month (April 21st – 24th, 2013) and I thought I’d help folks get ready by discussing some “tools of the trade” used by every landscape photographer. So over the next three weeks I’ll be posting images of the gear I use along with some shots made possible by this gear. Honestly, it’s just plain fun to “geek out” over gear every once in a while.

Tripod Legs in ActionThe single most important piece of photographic gear you’ll ever purchase (after your camera and lens) is a set of light-weight, good quality tripod legs. A good tripod can make the difference between a shot that “looks” sharp on the camera’s LCD and one that “is” tack sharp when printed at 24″ × 36″. Remember, the number one cause of soft images isn’t poor focus, it’s camera movement.

Click on the image above and look at the crisp detail of the rocks and trees compared to the silky smooth look of the water. Getting this type of shot required a 1/6th second exposure in the late evening and the slightest camera movement would have completely ruined the image.

Good quality tripod legs are not cheap and you can expect to pay somewhere between $300 – $800 (USD) depending upon the materials of construction, size and weight. I currently use two different set of tripod legs these days; one for studio & on-location work (Gitzo GT2541 Mountaineer) and one for hiking (Gitzo GT1541T Traveller). Both are constructed from carbon fiber making them very light-weight but extremely strong and durable.

I’m an unabashed believer in Gitzo tripods (probably the only French product I’ve ever bought) and highly recommend them to any photographer. Both of my tripod legs have seen the extremes of heat, humidity, mud, sand, gravel and just plain dirt and they work as well now as the first day I bought them. You may buy four or five cameras over your lifetime as a landscape photographer but you’ll only need one Gitzo tripod!

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Workshop Preparation Post #2: Flying Straight & Level

In landscape photography its the little things that count. One of the most important aspects of creating a well composed landscape image is knowing where “level” is. This is especially true when your background is hilly or mountainous. We use our sense of “level” so much every day that a person will look at an image on the web or in print and instinctively know if it’s not perfectly level.

Nikon's Virtual HorizonFinding the perfect “level” has always been fairly easy for Nikon shooters since inclusion of a Virtual Horizon in the D3, D300 and D700 firmware and now owners of Canon’s EOS 7D or 5D Mark III have the same thing.

Before you run out and buy a new camera, there is a simple answer that works for all of us. The folks at Adorama sell a great little Hot Shoe Bubble Level 337 made by Manfrotto that takes all the guesswork out of finding a perfect “level” in our landscape images. For $34.00 it’s an inexpensive tool that every landscape photographer should carry with them in the field and it’s a required accessory during the Texas Landscape Safari. (Note: Adorama now sells their own Hot Shoe Bubble Level for only $5.95. Hard to Beat That)

Hot Shoe Bubble Level

Hot Shoe Bubble Level
Copyright © 2008 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shots taken with a Canon Powershot G9 hand-held at 30mm, f/4.0 for 1/320th of a second at ISO 200 on SanDisk digital film. All post capture processing was done in Lightroom 2.

Texas Landscape Safari Spring 2013

Texas Landscape Safari

The Spring 2013 Texas Landscape Safari will be held April 21 – 24, 2013 in Canyon, Texas deep in the heart of the panhandle! That’s right folks, the TLS will be moving from the Hill Country to the Texas High Plains & Canyons this year.

This not your usual photography workshop or tour. It’s more like a bunch of friends getting together to share their love of landscape photography and help each other grow as serious photographers. It’s a chance to visit and photograph some of the most beautiful spots in the Texas panhandle and to learn some techniques to enhance your landscape photography behind the camera and in the digital darkroom.

South Prong Canyon

South Prong Canyon in Caprock Canyons State Park

Our Base Camp will be in Canyon, Texas and we will be shooting at both Palo Duro Canyon State Park and Caprock Canyons State Park as well as other key locations during the three day workshop. Many of the panhandle locations are “drive up and shoot” opportunities and there are literally thousands of great spots within 90 miles of our base camp!

Texas Panhandle

Click on the image above to see our Google map for the TLS

What You’ll Learn

  • Some of the best landscape photography locations in the Texas Panhandle.
  • Basic landscape techniques for your DSLR, lenses & tripod.
  • How to compose your landscape shots for maximum impact!
  • How to correctly use a circular polarizer filter.
  • How to correctly use a graduated neutral density filter.
  • How to create special effects with a neutral density filters.
  • Basic post-capture processing techniques in Adobe Lightroom.
  • How to correctly prep your images for printing.
  • Where to have your images printed and why!

Registration Opens Now!
Just drop me an email via this blog with your name, mailing address and email address and I’ll add you to the mailing list. Our class size is limited to the first fifteen people, so don’t wait too long!

Autumn Colors

Lake Buescher

Autumn Colors – Buescher State Park in Smithville, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
EOS 5D Mark III w/ GP-E
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 47mm, f/16 for 1/10th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 4.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

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Hiking Grapevine Hills

Hiking Grapevine Hills

Hiking Grapevine Hills – Big Bend National Park, Texas
Copyright © 2011 Jeff Lynch Photography
EOS 5D Mark III w/ GP-E
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 24mm, f/14 for 1/30th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 4.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

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