Desert Ride

Landscape photography in Texas is an endurance sport, especially for your vehicle. The best locations are far from any major cities and in many cases, far from civilization itself. Having a dependable ride like the Subaru Forester is essential to your success and your survival.

My 2010 Forester has a little over 103,000 miles on it and still runs like a champ. I’ve taken it all across Texas from Houston to Amarillo, Dallas to El Paso and Harlingen to Nacogdoches with not a single breakdown to its credit. We’ve traveled the dirt roads of Big Bend National Park, the two track trails of Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the back roads of twenty different Texas State Parks and the dirt roads of over 150 Texas counties.

Man, what a ride!

Desert Ride

Desert Ride – Salt Flat, Texas
Copyright © 2013 Jeff Lynch Photography
EOS 5D Mark III w/ GP-E
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with GP-E2 unit attached, set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens and tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/16 for 1/20th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter and 2-stop, soft, graduated neutral density filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 4.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

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Using Mirror Lock-Up for Landscape Photography

Water Power

Water Power – Austin, Texas
Copyright © 2011 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 70-200mm f/4L USM tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 70mm, f/18 for 3/10th 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.

Using Mirror Lock-Up
We landscape photographers will go to great lengths and expense to get truly sharp images. For most of us, “sharpness” is the holy grail in our quest and we will spend whatever it takes in new lenses, cameras, tripods and filters to obtain the sharpest image. And yet, I often see well meaning landscape photographers overlooking the most simple and effective technique for eliminating camera shake, the leading cause of “soft” images; vibration!

Every DSLR made in the past ten years contains a mirror lock-up function and I’d be willing to bet that 95% of all DLSR owners have never enabled this important landscape photography setting. To understand why this function is so important you’ll need to understand what takes place in your DSLR when you press the shutter release.

  1. The mirror flips up (wham).
  2. The aperture closes down to the selected F stop.
  3. The shutter opens.
  4. The sensor is exposed to light.
  5. The shutter closes.
  6. The aperture returns to wide-open for viewing.
  7. The mirror flips back down.

Most of these actions occur with very little vibration but the mirror’s movement is the biggest exception. Enabling your camera’s “mirror lock-up” function will cause the mirror to flip up several seconds before the aperture closes down and the shutter opens. This few seconds is critical and allows the vibration caused by the mirror’s movement to dissipate before the shutter opens. Using this technique along with your camera’s self-timer function allows you to press the shutter release and then stand back while the mirror flips up and the timer waits a few seconds (usually 2 or 10 seconds) before opening the shutter.

A Small Caveat
If you plan to use mirror lock-up on your EOS DSLR, to help to remove any trace of shutter vibration, you need to be careful on bright days when there could be a lot of light entering through the lens. This is because the magnification of the lens could concentrate the light onto the shutter curtains and scorch them. To avoid this, don’t wait too long after locking up the mirror before taking the picture. Equally, with the mirror locked-up, you should not point the camera at the sun as this could also potentially damage the shutter curtains.

Also, when you use the self-timer and mirror lock-up you won’t be able to see through the viewfinder since the mirror is blocking your view. That doesn’t mean that stray light can’t enter the camera from the viewfinder and affect your exposure, so it’s a good idea to cover the viewfinder opening with the eye-piece cover as shown in the image below or with a baseball cap (my personal technique).

Canon's Eye Piece

 

 

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Iron Chef Canon Style

I get a lot of email these days from folks asking for advice on which new camera to buy. Many readers seem confused by all the marketing “hype” surrounding a camera’s sensor size (full frame vs. APS-C), resolution (15 MP vs. 18 MP vs. 21 MP) and image quality.

These questions got me thinking about some of the popular misconceptions folks have about digital photography so I decided to write up a short post that illustrates a simple but important point; “it ain’t the camera folks“.

Take these two landscape images for example. Both were taken only minutes apart under the same lighting conditions from the same tripod location. I intentionally chose to process them in Adobe Lightroom using the same basic “settings” so you could compare the results and see for yourself the difference between a $300 camera and a $2500 camera.

Lower McKinney Falls G10

Lower McKinney Falls – Austin, Texas
Copyright © 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography

Lower McKinney Falls 5D2

Lower McKinney Falls – Austin, Texas
Copyright © 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography

Iron Chef Time
Click on each image to see a higher resolution version. Pixel peep to your heart’s content (but don’t look at the metadata) and let me know if you can tell which image was taken by a PowerShot G10 and which was taken by an EOS 5D Mark II.

  • Can’t tell the difference?
  • Not sure which you like better?

The Bottom Line
Any DSLR or point & shoot camera made in the past five years can create stunning images like these two above. It’s not the camera, the lens, the filters or tripod that creates a beautiful image folks, it’s YOU. Here’s the best advice I can offer for those of you looking improve your photography by purchasing a new camera: DON’T DO IT.

A Little Perspective (Again)

It’s raining here in Texas again so I thought I’d repost a short article from another, much wetter year just to get in the mood. :-)

Sometimes it’s a little tough expressing relative size in a photograph. After all, it’s only a two dimensional representation of a three-dimensional subject. In landscape photography this can be especially difficult since the camera tends to “compress” the image perspective somewhat.

Runoff

Runoff – Austin, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on manual (M) using an EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 85mm, f/22 for 1/13th of a second at ISO 50. All post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 Beta. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Take the shot above for example. Can you tell how large the waterfalls and surrounding rocks really are? Can you tell how close they are to you? Me neither! Which is why it’s always a good idea to add some visual clue to your landscape images to help viewers judge the size of your subject and distance the subject is from the viewer. In some cases a simple foreground object can be used to add this sense of “perspective”. In others it’s simply best to add people in your landscape images as shown below. There’s nothing better to add a sense of relative size than having a person in your shot.

(And yes, those folks were mighty close to the slippery edge out there. You should have seen me & my tripod :-))

Perspective

Shooting Canon’s 70-200mm f/4L USM Lens

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM LensAs most of you know, I shoot regularly with Canon’s EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens and have always found it to be an incredibly sharp and versatile little lens. Sometimes however, you just need a little more “reach” than this lens provides so I turn to another of my all-time favorite telephoto zooms, the EF 70-200mm f/4L USM and it’s younger brother the EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM.

I’ve always loved Canon’s telephoto zoom lenses in the “70-200mm” range and shot extensively with an old FD 70-210mm on my F-1N body in the days before digital. The EF 70-200mm lenses are both extremely sharp throughout their zoom range as you can see below in the MTF charts. I’d love to shoot the f/2.8L version of this lens but the price, size and weight convinced me to stick with the f/4 version. I also settled on the newer, image stabilized lens so I could use it for landscape and commercial (hand-held) work.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM MTF Charts

I’ve got to say that this is one impressive lens. The size and weight are just about perfect for my 5D2 body and using the “Tripod Mounting Ring A II” the combination balances effortlessly on my Gitzo tripod. This is probably the sharpest Canon zoom I’ve ever shot with and the extra “reach” really helps cover those shots I was missing before.

Lower McKinney Falls

Lower McKinney Falls – Austin, Texas
Copyright © 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on manual (M) using an EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 85mm, f/20 for 0.4 seconds at ISO 100. All post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

No lens is perfect but this little beauty is close. My only gripes are that the image stabilization system is somewhat loud compared to my EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM and my EF 300mm f/4L IS USM lenses and that the ET-74 lens hood is very narrow and deep. This makes adjusting a CP filter a bit of a pain when shooting.

And finally, the price difference between the “IS” version and “non-IS” version is just plain wrong ($1135 versus $589). The two lenses are optically very similar and I just can’t imagine that adding image stabilization could double the price. I suspect that Canon has been selling the “non-IS” version at too low a price for many years now and is trying to make up some of the profit on the “IS” version.

Other than that, Canon’s EF 70-200mm f4L lenses are absolutely superb in terms of sharpness, size/weight and value (especially the non-IS version at less than $600 USD) and I highly recommend either of these two lenses for landscape, portrait or commercial photography. You won’t be disappointed.

Workshop Preparation – Some Final Thoughts

The Spring 2011 Texas Landscape Safari is just two weeks away and it’s time to think about those final preparations that can make the difference between having a good workshop or enjoying a great experience.

Texas Landscape Safari

Shoot What You Love
The Texas Hill Country boasts some of the most beautiful landscape settings in this great state of ours and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the magnitude of your surroundings. Take the time to shoot the things you love and want to remember from this workshop and safari. Sometimes it’s the smaller settings and tighter shots that contain the most meaning.

Hope for the Best but Plan for the Worst
The weather here in central Texas can change in the blink of an eye. It can go from hot and humid to rainy and cold in less time than most folks can imagine. Mornings may be cool and damp but the afternoons could be hot and dry. Folks that plan their wardrobe accordingly, dress in layers and wear comfortable hiking boots tend to get the best shots since they spend less time acclimating to the changing weather and more time behind the camera.

Water, Water, Everywhere, But Not a Drop to Drink
Water is vital to a successful safari, whether in the wilds of Kenya or the outback of central Texas. Dehydration is a very real danger and I’ve had more than one attendee drop out after a day of hiking without sufficient water. I usually carry three liters or more of water on each hike and ALWAYS have a backup gallon in my vehicle. You should too!

Ask Questions. Really.
This year’s outing is going to be a large group of amateur photographers with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Josh, Glenn and I are there to answer any questions we can, so don’t be shy. This isn’t an episode of Survivor or Top Shot. We are all here to enjoy the beauty of central Texas and to come away with some great images to share and some wonderful memories to cherish. Make friends. Ask Questions. Enjoy yourself. Life is too short to do anything less.

Here are a few of the sights from the Texas Landscape Safari in years past. Enjoy!

 
Texas Hill Country Video
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Video created in Adobe Lightroom 3. Best shown in full-screen HD.
 
The Bioluminescence of the Night
Copyright © 2009 Atlantic Recording Corporation.

After All That Rain

Here’s a shot of the lower falls at McKinney Falls State Park taken last weekend after all the rain from tropical storm Earl. We were lucky this year (knock on wood y’all) and most of the heavy rain missed the Houston area. Our friends in Austin and San Antonio caught the worst of it and after three days of sunshine, the area creeks and bayous were still flowing pretty good.

Have a great weekend!

McKinney Falls

McKinney Falls – Austin, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 97mm, 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.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

View Location on Panoramio & Google Earth: McKinney Falls – Austin, Texas

Hill Country Landscapes

Just a gentle reminder to everyone that my first book Hill Country Landscapes is back in stock and available for immediate shipment. You can preview the book below to see some of the wonderful landscapes you can find in the Texas Hill Country.

 

My next book should be completed in the fall and be available before Christmas, so stayed tuned!