The George Ranch Historical Park

I took a personal photo-walk yesterday afternoon at the George Ranch Historical Park in Richmond, TX. According to the folks that work there the ranch had its beginning more than 180 years ago when the first pioneers came to a bend in the Brazos River and settled as part of Stephen F. Austin’s first colony. This whole area was part of northern Mexico then and settlers came for the inexpensive and sometimes free parcels of land that were available.

The story has it that this is where Henry and Nancy Jones planted an oak tree on the site that was to become their home. Well, that old oak is still there and its an impressive site to see.

180 Year Old Oak at the George Ranch

The Old Oak
Copyright © 2008 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon 40D , 17-40mm f/4 L at 17mm, f/11, 1/60th sec at ISO 200 on SanDisk digital film.

The ranch has a colorful history and was passed down from mother to daughter from the early 1820’s until 1971. Today, the 23,000 acre ranch is managed by the George Foundation and the Fort Bend Museum Association and is visited by more than 80,000 folks each year including more than 35,000 school children from the surrounding area. This includes my four daughters, each of whom has visited the ranch in the past ten years.

Back in 1977 the Davis House, a beautiful 1890’s Victorian mansion originally built in Richmond, was moved to the ranch where it stands proudly today. The Davis House includes the original greenhouse and grape arbor, as well as the servants quarters and carriage house. What a sight this house makes on a hot summer afternoon. You can click on this image for a high resolution version which really shows the incredible detail in this Victorian home.

The Davis House at the George Ranch Historical Park

The Davis House in Summer
Copyright © 2008 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon 40D , 17-40mm f/4 L at 17mm, f/16, 1/80th sec at ISO 200 using a circular-polarizing filter. Recorded on SanDisk digital film.

Every once in a while you really get lucky. I took these two shots hand-held in bright sunlight and never in my wildest dreams did I think they would turn out this sharp. And to answer your next question. No, I did not post process this as an “HDR” (High Dynamic Range) image. All post processing was done in Adobe Lightroom 2 using the “Clarity” and “Sharpening” settings I wrote about in my last post.

Adobe Lightroom 2 Clarity & Sharpening

For years I’ve used Photoshop or Photoshop Elements to “finish” my images for online presentation. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with Adobe’s Lightroom 2 “Develop” module to see just how much finishing could be done here instead of in Photoshop or Elements. I’ve been very pleased (and sometimes amazed) at just how simple and easy it is to do ALL your post-capture processing in Lightroom 2.

A Quiet Sunday Afternoon
Copyright © 2008 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon 40D , 17-40mm f/4 L at 27mm, f/5.0, 1/400th of a second at ISO 100 on SanDisk Digital Film.

Take this image for example. A few weeks ago I was walking around Sugar Land’s new “Town Center” area on a quiet Sunday afternoon. I took a few shots of this tree-lined side street because the contrast between the muted red of the bricks, the brown and beige of the office building and the vibrant green of the leaves really struck me as peaceful and serene.

I really wanted to capture the texture of the bricks, leaves and wood in as much detail as possible but my monopod and tripod were sitting in the trunk of my car a half mile away. I knew that getting a tack-sharp image, hand-held without an “IS” lens, was going to be difficult but I gave it my best shot.

When I returned home and loaded these images into Lightroom I wasn’t surprised to see that many of the images were a little “soft” due to camera shake. I knew my best bet was to try out the new “Clarity” and “Sharpening” sliders that Matt Kloskowski talked about in his online training class at Kelby Training.

Since these images were for my blog, I wasn’t really worried about creating extra noise. So I really cranked up the “Clarity” and the Sharpening “Amount” sliders as shown above. To get a better idea of how well this worked, click on my image to see a larger version which really shows what Lightroom 2 can do! The level of detail is incredible.

The best thing is, all this post-capture work took about 3 minutes to complete. I don’t know about you but for me this really beats having to export the image to Photoshop, create extra layers for sharpening and then import the final image back into Lightroom.

Sometimes They Come To You!

I was stalking this bird for well over an hour trying to get a few good exposures and nothing seemed to work. One minute the light would be too harsh, reflecting off the water and then the next minute the sun would go behind a cloud and everything would go to gray. I was just about to pack up my gear and take down my tripod when everything just clicked. The bird flew straight at me and landed on the walkway’s hand-rail not more than fifty feet away. The sun went behind a thin cloud and the light softened perfectly. I swear that bird turned it’s head and looked me straight in the eye as if to say “Well, what are you waiting for? Take the shot dummy!”

So I did!

Looking Ahead
Copyright © 2008 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon 40D , 70-200mm f/4L with a 1.4x extender at 280mm, f/5.6, 1/160th sec at ISO 200 on SanDisk Digital Film.

Canon 40D Highlight Tone Priority

Canon 40D Highlight Tone Priority

Another subtle but cool little feature of the Canon 40D is “Highlight Tone Priority” which is enabled by selecting C.Fn II:Image -3 and setting it to 1 (Enable). The Canon Professional Network site includes a video “Masterclass” on this feature and the 40D in general, and it’s a great presentation to watch.

Setting this custom mode “extends” the dynamic range so that gradations between highlight tones becomes smoother. It also helps recover “some amount” of blown-out highlights but in my experience, the effect is subtle. Since enabling this mode limits your ISO setting from 2oo – 16oo (it also changes how the ISO looks in the LCD from 200 to 2oo so that you can easily tell it’s set), you may find this feature creates more noise than you would see at ISO 100. In my own shooting I’ve found this setting can really help out in sunrise and sunset landscape work where the highlights tend to get blown out. It isn’t a fix for every situation but it will help if you’ve forgotten your neutral density grad filter.

It’s another cool little feature included in the Canon 40D that was first introduced in the 1D Mark III bodies and I believe it shows Canon’s continued commitment to the mid-range “prosumer” market.

The Wind Beneath My Wings

I’ve been using Adobe’s Lightroom 2 as the center of my RAW workflow for the past few weeks and I’ve got to say it really out performs Apple’s Aperture 2.1 in terms of speed, ease of use and most of all, RESULTS!

The Wind Beneath My Wings
Copyright © 2008 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon 40D , 70-200mm f/4 L with a 1.4x extender at 280mm, f/8, 1/800th sec at ISO 200 on SanDisk digital film.

In fact, Lightroom 2 includes many of the features found in Aperture plug-ins like Nik Software’s Viveza or Silver Efex Pro. The image above was shot on my Canon 40D using a “cloudy” white-balance and was converted to B&W (medium contrast gray scale actually) by Lightroom’s “Develop” module. In Lightroom 2, the conversion is completely under your control and as you can see this image, includes pure whites, pure blacks and almost every shade of gray imaginable. You can control the conversion of each color to a corresponding shade of gray using the “Grayscale Mix” slider controls until you get just the right mix for your image. The level of control and the final results are spectacular.

Canon L Series Glass – Desktop Images!

Image courtesy and copyright © Canon

I was wandering around a few of Canon’s sites while listening to this week’s TWIP podcast and stumbled across a really cool site featuring Canon’s L Series glass. The site features several downloadable desktop images and even a screensaver for Windows (boooo!) and Mac (yahoooo)!

Since I have a love and hate relationship (love their sharpness, hate their price) with this glass, I just had to download these desktop images for my MacBook.