Photographing the Davis Mountains

The Davis Mountains, the most extensive mountain range in Texas, were formed by volcanic activity during the Tertiary geologic period, which began around 65 million years ago. These mountains were named after Jefferson Davis, U.S. secretary of war and later president of the Confederacy, who ordered the construction of the Fort Davis army post. Most Indian bands just passed through the Davis Mountains, although the Mescalero Apaches made seasonal camps. As West Texas settlements increased, raiding in Mexico and along the San Antonio-El Paso Trail became a way of life for Apaches, Kiowas and Comanches.

Few Americans had seen the Davis Mountains prior to 1846. After the war with Mexico, a wave of gold seekers, settlers and traders came through the area and needed the protection of a military post – Fort Davis. Fort Davis was active from 1854 until 1891, except for certain periods during the Civil War. In 1961, the historic fort ruins were declared a National Historic Site, and a vast restoration/preservation program was initiated by the National Park Service.

Davis Mountains Region

Folks visiting the Davis Mountains in far West Texas, have known the area as an oasis of mild weather in the middle of the blistering heat of the Chihuahuan Desert. The area was settled in the late 1850′s and photographed only sparingly for the next one hundred years. Once the government declared the original fort as a historic site in the early 1960′s, many professional and amateur photographers visited the region and fell in love with the simple and elegant beauty of the countryside.

In recent times however, the Davis Mountains has been somewhat bypassed by photographers heading further south to capture the rugged beauty of the Chisos Mountains instead. I for one, am glad for the opportunity to spend the cool, quiet days hiking through this oasis in the desert. With days in the low 70′s and evenings in the low 60′s, what nature photographer and hiker wouldn’t enjoy the splendor and solitude offered by this gorgeous region? As you can see on my image map above, the Davis Mountains abounds in photographic opportunities like the one below.

Davis Mountains Overlook

Davis Mountain Overlook – Fort Davis, 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 1.6 seconds at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

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Autumn on the River Frio

Now that summer has come to Texas in full force (we topped 98F last week), here’s a look back to a cool fall day in the Texas Hill Country.

Autumn on the Frio River

Autumn on the Frio – Leakey, 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 32mm, f/16 for 1/50th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

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Hill Country Clouds – Vanderpool, Texas

Texas Hill Country Clouds

Hill Country Clouds – Vanderpool, 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 1/8th 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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Cathedral Morning – Tule Canyon, Texas

Here’s a shot of an incredible rock formation found at the very south end of Tule Canyon near Silverton, Texas. Exploring the western edge of Tule Canyon near the MacKenzie Reservoir yields some of the most interesting history and geology in the entire state.

Standing here on a cold spring morning, it’s easy to imagine this canyon filled with vast herds of buffalo being hunted by the Apache on horseback. It’s also easy to imagine what Coranado must have thought when he first came upon this region during his El Dorado expedition in 1540′s.

What an incredible place to explore!

Cathedral Morning

Cathedral Morning – Tule Canyon, 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 28mm, f/14 for 1/40th 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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South Prong Canyon

“The rugged beauty of Caprock Canyons State Park has been created over millions of years, shaped by wind and water. The park is located along the Caprock Escarpment, a long, narrow rocky formation as high as 1,000 feet that forms a natural tran­sition between the flat, high plains of the Llano Estacado to the west and the lower Rolling Plains to the east.

Streams flowing east from the Llano Estacado flow onto the lower plains through the Caprock Escarpment, then into the Red, Brazos and Colorado rivers. With a downcutting action, tributary drainages of the Little Red River have exposed geologic layers in the park down to the Permian age Quartermaster formation, formed approximately 280-250 million years ago. These layers are commonly referred to as “red beds” because of the red coloration of their constituent shales, sandstones, siltstones and mudstones.

Each of the geologic ages exposed by this headwater drainage erosion is characterized by different colorations including shades of red, orange and white. The park’s steep and colorful canyons and bluffs are the breathtaking result of this powerful natural process.”

South Prong Canyon Trailhead

South Prong Canyon – Caprock Canyons State Park, 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 28mm, f/14 for 1/40th 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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The Spanish Skirts of Palo Duro Canyon

Palo Duro Canyon is approximately 120 miles long and 600 to 800 feet deep and is the second largest canyon in the United States. The canyon was formed less than 1 million years ago when the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River first carved its way through the Southern High Plains. The rocks expose a geo- logic story which began approximately 250 million years ago, layer by layer revealing a panoramic view of magnificent color. The canyon’s archeological and ethnological treasures suggest about twelve thousand years of human habitation, rising and waning as climate varied among periods of abundant moisture, aridity, and sometimes fearfully severe drought.

Spanish Skirts

Spanish Skirts – Palo Duro Canyon State Park, 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 17-40mm f/4L USM lens and tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 26mm, 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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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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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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