Caprock Canyons State Park

Caprock Canyons State Park is about 100 miles southeast of Amarillo on the western edge of Palo Duro Canyon. The park is big, red and hot! It covers over 15,000 acres including a 65 mile multi-use trail for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The park is also home to a protected bison herd thought to be the most pure-bred bison left in the US.

Caprock Canyons State Park is an area of stark contrasts. The average temperature in January is only 19F while the average high in July is 91F. The park gets only 20″ of rain per year but most of it comes down all at once from thunderstorms in the plains. The area is most noted for the bright red sandstone and siltstone of the caprock escarpment as you can see in the image below. It’s hard to believe just how “red” this canyon is unless you see it up close and personal. It’s also hard to believe how much heat this red sandstone will absorb during the heat of the day. Hikers had better bring plenty of water to this park. I went through three liters in less than four hours during my hikes.

If you can stand the heat the park offers an amazing array of photographic opportunities during the early morning and late afternoon. If you’re traveling through the Texas panhandle, this is a great place to explore.

View Location on Panoramio & Google Earth: Caprock Canyons State Park, Texas

Caprock Canyons State Park

Caprock Canyons State Park – 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 35mm, f/16 for 1/50th of a second at ISO 100 with a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter and 3-stop graduated neutral density filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

The Canyon Wall

Exploring Palo Duro Canyon is more than just visiting the state park. In fact, most of Palo Duro Canyon lies outside the park’s 20,000 acres in Randall and Armstrong counties. There are three main highways running into the northern parts of the canyon; Highway 256 near Silverton, Highway 86 near Quitaque and my favorite, Highway 207 near Wayside.

Highway 207 runs roughly northeast from Wayside to Claude and meanders through the canyon bottom as it crosses the Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River*. At each end of the canyon there are several spots to pull off the road and photograph the canyon in the early morning or late evening.

Sunrise in Palo Duro Canyon comes abruptly as the sun climbs over the canyon wall and illuminates the mist rising from the river. Sunset arrives at a much more leisurely pace as the sun slowly sinks in the west and highlights the canyon wall with it’s beautifully, warm glow. Add a few late afternoon clouds and you’ve got a recipe for a classic canyon photograph.

Georgia O’Keeffe, the famous painter who lived in nearby Amarillo wrote of Palo Duro Canyon stating: “It is a burning, seething cauldron, filled with dramatic light and color.”

* According to the US government, this main tributary of the Red River is properly called the Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River, and should not be called the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River (Seriously?)

View Location on Panoramio & Google Earth: Palo Duro Canyon, Texas

As the Clouds Move In

As the Clouds Move In – Palo Duro Canyon, 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 28mm, f/16 for 1/5th of a second at ISO 100 with a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter and 3-stop graduated neutral density filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

The Skies of Texas

Traveling through the Texas plains and canyons is feast for your eyes and for your camera. During the late afternoons the moisture in the sky is bound up in these billowing clouds leaving the sky a deep cobalt blue.

It’s hard for folks that have never visited Texas to understand just how beautiful our skies are. Being raised in the mirky midwest I never thought I’d see a sky as blue what we have here in Texas, nor clouds so white and fluffy.

If you’re planning a late summer or fall vacation this year or next, keep the Texas panhandle in mind. The folks in Lubbock and Amarillo are friendly beyond comparison. The cost for hotels, food and gas are among the lowest in the nation and plains and canyons are just begging to be explored.

And the Texas sky? Well, you get the picture!

View Location on Panoramio & Google Earth: Caprock Canyons State Park

The Skies of Texas

The Skies of Texas – 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 23mm, f/16 for 1/15th 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.

Lineman for the County

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of Glen Campbell’s country western songs from the 60’s & 70’s. A few weeks ago I was driving north on Highway 207 towards Claude, Texas to shoot the sunset over the plains. I stopped at this freshly mowed wheat field and pointed my camera & tripod straight south to catch some beautiful clouds rolling by and the words from Glen’s famous song Wichita Lineman just popped into my head.

Have a Great Weekend!

Lineman for the County

Lineman for the County – Claude, 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 73mm, f/16 for 1/6th 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.

Caprock Canyons (That’s in Texas Y’all)

I met two young ladies from the great state of Colorado this afternoon and we got to talking about the weather here (hot & humid) as compared to there (cool & dry) and the scenery here (flat, flat, FLAT) compared to there (mountains, aspen trees, clear rivers), etc, etc, etc. You get the point.

Then I explained that Texas was home to some of the largest and most beautiful canyons in the US and they just rolled their eyes thinking “this old man’s been in the sun way too long”. So I grabbed my iPod Touch and opened this shot taken from the western rim of Caprock Canyons just a few weeks ago. In my best East Texas accent I said “That’s in the Texas Panhandle, Y’all”.

So they rolled their eyes again . . .

Link to Google Maps: Caprock Canyons Along Highway 256

View Location on Panoramio & Google Earth: Caprock Canyons Along Highway 256

The Big Canyon

The Big Canyon – Silverton, 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 37mm, 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.

Way Out West

Way out west in the Texas panhandle is a beautiful little spot just north of Silverton called Tule Canyon. Most of Tule Canyon is on private land but the section that cuts across Highway 207 is on state land and offers some wonderful roadside scenery to photograph.

Hit this stretch of road doing 70 mph or more and you’ll leave your stomach on the ceiling of your car in a hurry. But if you slow down to enjoy the view you be amazed at how much beauty the Lord was able to put in one square mile of land. Each direction you turn presents a unique scene to capture and I must have taken over fifty different shots in less than one mile of this road which dips down and back up over 200 feet in less than a mile.

Yes, everything is bigger in Texas, but sometimes the smallest parts are the best.

For those readers not familiar with our Texas skies, that deep blue you see is the honest-to-goodness “real thing”. It’s so dry here in the panhandle, once the clouds have gathered all the moisture all that’s left is a deep, cobalt blue sky.

Link to Google Maps: Tule Canyon Along Highway 207

View Location on Panoramio & Google Earth: Tule Canyon Along Highway 207

Way Out West

Way Out West – Silverton, 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 1/30th 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 Over the Texas High Plains

Some sunsets are best photographed “over your shoulder” such as this one taken on Highway 207 just south of Claude, Texas. Highway 207 runs straight north in this perfectly flat part of Armstrong county and I thought I’d catch a nice sunset looking to the west after climbing out of Palo Duro Canyon. Unfortunately, the low clouds hid much of the sunset but painted the wheat fields to the east with a wonderful, warm glow for me to capture. The weather in the Texas High Plains is fickle, but I’ll take a quiet sunset over a thunderstorm any day of the week.

I’ve begun posting each image in Flickr and Panoramio (Google Maps & Google Earth) along with its geographic location. I’m not quite geotagging yet (due to Canon’s ridiculous hardware requirements) but this will give you an idea of where I took my shots here in Texas.

Sunset over the High Plains

Sunset Over the Texas High Plains – Claude, 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 90mm, f/16 for 1/10th 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.

Canon’s Secret Weapon for Landscape Photography

Every lens manufacturer has a few secret weapons in it’s arsenal. Those hidden little gems who’s performance, quality and value far exceed their price. For landscape photographers shooting with Canon DSLRs one of these is the EF 17-40mm f/4L USM.

The build quality of this lens is nothing less than superb and the fact that it’s Canon’s smallest and lightest ultra-wide angle zoom makes this an ideal landscape lens in the field. The ring-type USM (ultra-sonic motor) focuses very fast and silently. Both the focus ring and zoom ring are firm to the touch and spaced apart enough not to interfere with one another in use. The zoom function is completely internal (the barrel does not extend) and the focus is the same. Again, both of these features are ideal for landscape photography. The image quality from this lens is nothing less than superb and the optical design uses of three aspherical lens elements and one of Canon’s “Super UD” (ultra-low dispersion) glass elements.

However, the best feature of this incredible, little landscape lens is the price. At $750 (USD) it’s half the price of it’s much more expensive big brother the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM II, priced at $1520 (USD). Yes, the EF 16-35mm is one full stop faster, but when was the last time you used an ultra-wide angle zoom wide open? I generally shoot landscape shots with my 5D Mark II at f/16 or smaller to achieve the greatest depth of field possible.

Like I said, the EF 17-40mm f/4L IS USM is a perfect landscape lens.

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

Photo & charts courtesy and copyright © Canon

 

MTF Charts

MTF Chart for Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM (Wide)MTF Chart for Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM (Telephoto)

 

Specifications
Focal Length & Maximum Aperture: 17 – 40mm; 1:4
Lens Construction: 12 elements in 9 groups
Focus Adjustment: Inner focusing system with USM
Closest Focusing Distance: ~ 1 foot
Zoom System: Internal Rotation
Filter Size: 77mm
Largest Diameter x Length and Weight: 3.3″ x 3.8″, 1.1 lbs

For More Information:
Canon USA
Canon Professional Network (Europe)
The Digital Picture’s Review

My Results

Sunshine & Blue Sky

Sunshine & Blue Sky – La Grange 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 20mm, f/18 for 1/10th of a second at ISO 100 with a Singh-Ray warming polarizer and 3-stop graduated neutral density filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3. Click on the image above for a larger version.