The Winds of Change

“Sooner or later, something fundamental in your business world will change.”
– – Andrew Grove. Former CEO of Intel.

Details to follow later this week . . .

The Winds of Change

The Winds of Change – Claude, 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 24mm, f/16 for 1.3 seconds at ISO 100 with a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 and Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro plug-in.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

View Location on Panoramio & Google Earth: The Winds of Change – Claude, Texas

That Highway 207 Glide

Someday I’m gonna get myself killed taking a photograph from a spot like this, but I just can’t resist shooting down a long stretch of winding road. Those converging lines are mesmerizing and just seem to grab me by the arm and drag me out of my car and into the middle of the road.

It’s also fun to see the look on Jack’s face when I ask him to “watch my back for any large trucks coming around the corner”. I can almost hear his thoughts. “Oh shoot! I should have gotten the car keys from him before he set up that stupid tripod. Gonna be a damn long walk back to the hotel.”

Highway 207 Glide

Highway 207 Glide – Claude, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using a Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5II L “tilt & shift” lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/16 for 1/8th 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: Highway 207 Glide – Claude, Texas

Hiking Palo Duro Canyon State Park

I apologize for being so quiet lately but I’m neck deep in the final edits for my new book “Landscapes of the Texas Plains and Canyons” which will (hopefully) definitely be available before Christmas.

Here’s another image taken with my Canon PowerShot G10  a few weeks ago and finished in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3. For a landscape photographer, hiking through Palo Duro Canyon State Park is a bit like driving in Houston’s rush hour traffic (without the guns). Stop-Shoot-Start. Stop-Shoot-Start. Stop-Shoot-Start.

There are way too many photographic opportunities to choose from and not nearly enough time before sunset. I guess that why many Texas photographers return to the canyons year after year!

Palo Duro Canyon

Hiking Palo Duro Canyon State Park – Canyon, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon Powershot G10 set on aperture priority (Av) using a circular polarizer. The exposure was taken at 40mm, f/6.3 for 1/50th of a second at ISO 80. All post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

View Location on Panoramio & Google Earth: Hiking Palo Duro Canyon State Park – Canyon, Texas

Hiking the Haynes Ridge Trail

The incredible majesty of Caprock Canyons State Park was created over millions of years by wind and water. Wind, the Texas Plains have plenty of. Water, they do not. At least not on the surface. The park sits at a natural transition between the high plains of the Llano Estacado to the north & west and rolling hills of the Texas Hill Country to the south & east. Most of the water that created these wonderful canyons ran underground in a process called “piping”.

Streams running east from the Llano Estacado flow onto the lower plains through the Caprock Escarpment, then into the Red River, the Brazos River and the mighty Colorado River. Over tens of thousands of years, the waters of the Little Red River have exposed the different geologic layers (“red beds”) of shale, sandstone, siltstone and mudstone. Each layer exposed by this weathering contains different colors of rock including the beautiful shades of red, orange and white you can see in the photograph below.

These steep and colorful canyons are one reason I love this area so much, but it’s the sky and the clouds that really captivate the senses. Driving through the park is a real treat but to get the best landscape shots you’ll need to grab your camera and hike to some of the park’s more remote locations like the Haynes Ridge shown in the graphic below.

Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail in Caprock Canyons State Park

Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail in Caprock Canyons State Park

Hiking the Haynes Ridge trail is not for the feint of heart however. The initial climb from the trailhead is over 500 feet straight up the steep and rocky face. In the dry desert climate of the canyons, water is a necessity you can’t live without. I (hiked) climbed this section of the trail with my new pack holding my camera, lenses, filters and four 24 oz containers of cold water. Little did I know just how much water I’d need for the grueling 7 mile hike. As always, I used my trusted Gitzo Traveler tripod as a walking stick.

Once you reach the first summit, the view of Caprock Canyons State Park is spectacular to say the least. The horizon seems to stretch on forever before fading into the eastern cloud cover as you can see in the image below. Yes, the climb up to this point puts you well above the interior of the canyon.

Haynes Ridge Summit

Haynes Ridge Summit in Caprock Canyons State Park, 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 26mm, f/13 for 1/60th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

Having rested for 20 minutes while taking a few dozen shots from this high vantage point, I thought the rest of the hike along the ridge would be a piece of cake. Little did I realize that we still had several hundred feet to ascend before we reached the actual “summit”. Luckily, I had my oldest living friend Jack, along to act as guide, coach and pack-mule if necessary. Jack’s an experienced hiker and we both felt confident in our “pace” though the first few miles of the hike.

That confidence faded fast however when we finally reached the end of the Haynes Ridge trail and started down the trail leading to the South Prong canyon area. I should point out that at this junction, we had climbed over 750 feet from the canyon floor (2467 ft elevation) to the highest point of the ridge (3200 ft elevation). For those of you familiar with Houston, it’s the equivalent of climbing the Williams Tower from the outside.

We now had to descend those same 750 feet down the steepest and most rugged “trail” I’ve ever hiked and the sun was rapidly beginning to set. As we began the long climb down, we both had one of those “Oh Shit” moments that happens when you realize that the trail is not a trail, it’s a “climb” and you (stupid) didn’t bring a rope, harness or hardware required to safely “climb” down. At age 50 and 70, free-climbing 750 feet in the fading light is not something either of us had planned on tackling that day.

Without sounding over-dramatic, this was one of the toughest descents I’d made in over 30 years. The fading light made finding hand-holds and secure footing very difficult and in several spots we lost the trail and had to back-track until we could find a marker. Once we got down to within 200 feet of the canyon floor the climb got downright dangerous with loose rock and gravel from washouts slowing our descent considerably. We climbed the last 100 feet at dusk and reached the canyon floor under the rising moon.

As we walked the final 3 miles back to our vehicle, exhaustion took over and our legs began to cramp. We quickly drank what tonic water we had (the quinine in tonic water relieves the cramps) and our reserve water in the truck. I have no idea how we managed to get out of bed the next morning, let alone scout spots to shoot that evening, but we did.

It was only by the Grace of God that we made it down that descent with nothing but a few minor scrapes and cuts and I’ve never been so happy to have the Lord along for a hike as I was that day. All I could think about during the long climb down was Proverbs 16: 18-19

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.

Amen!

Exploring Monument Hill State Historical Site

Exploring Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery State Historic Site in La Grange, Texas is a treat for both the young and old. The site is considered hallowed ground and the remains of many soldiers and militia from the struggle for Texas’ independence are buried in a beautiful granite tomb on the top of the bluff overlooking the Colorado river. It is also the site of the Kreische home and brewery erected after the war by Heinrich Kreische, a german stone mason and brewer.

The Kreische Home – La Grange, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using a Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 29mm, f/16 for 1/40th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

The brewery is open for guided tours on most weekends which are conducted by trained docents with a rich understanding of early Texas history. The hike down to the brewery and back is short but steep in several places and a walking stick is always a good idea. The temperature drops quickly as you descend down the hillside and enter the lower portions of the brewery itself. On a warm spring afternoon it’s easy to understand why the brewery became such a popular spot in the late 1870’s. The architecture, engineering and stone work in the Kreische home and brewery are truly amazing and both structures have withstood the past 150 years in excellent condition.

The park itself is somewhat small and the hiking trails are well marked and easy to follow. My favorite feature of the park is the bluff overlooking the lower Colorado river, the town of La Grange and the eastern most portion of the Texas Hill Country. There are several scenic lookouts in the park that are the favorite spots of many Texas landscape photographers, myself included. In the late fall, the trees turn a golden yellow and brown, offering some beautiful views and scenic photographic opportunities.

I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the wonderful staff at Monument Hill. Everyone that works there, from the TPWD Park Rangers to the docents are warm and friendly folks, always happy to answer questions and share a bit of Texas history. I’ve visited the park dozens of times in the past few years, and have always come away with some beautiful photographs and wonderful memories to treasure.

Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery State Historic Site is a short two hour drive from Houston and a great place to spend a half-day with family, friends or even by yourself. It’s a place rich in Texas history and scenic beauty and well worth the drive.

Tule Canyon in Black & White

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 hot summer afternoon, 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.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tule Canyon Formation

Tule Canyon Formation – Silverton, 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 32mm, 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 and Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro plug-in.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

Moonlighting at Caprock Canyons State Park

During my last trip to the Texas panhandle I’d hoped for one perfectly clear night to shoot some star trails from the canyon floor. I never did get the opportunity to shoot any star trails but there was one evening when the clouds over Caprock Canyon’s State Park cleared and the moon illuminated the canyon floor beautifully.

Moonlighting

Moonlighting at Caprock Canyons – Quitaque, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using a Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/18 for 20 seconds at ISO 100 using Canon’s in-camera Long Exposure Noise Reduction. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

Shooting with the moon as your only source of light and obtaining a correct exposure can be a bit tricky so here are a few tips for getting this type of shot.

  • The real key to shooting in moonlight is to understand the limitations of your camera’s exposure meter and shoot in Aperture Priority (Av) or full Manual (M). I usually start out in aperture priority but quickly switch to manual after getting a ball-park exposure reading. I use my camera’s histogram exclusively for judging exposure in this situation. Don’t Trust Your Eyes. Use Your Histogram!
  • A good sturdy Tripod is vital in a situation like this where you’ll be shooting at shutter speeds well over one second. At very long exposures (< 1 second) any camera shake will soften the image and ruin your shot. I prefer Gitzo carbon-fiber tripods because of their light weight and vibration damping characteristics but any good quality tripod will do.
  • Always enable your camera’s Long Exposure Noise Reduction setting to help eliminate the digital noise created by the long exposure. On Canon cameras this is done using custom function C.Fn II-1 Long Exposure Noise Reduction which works with both RAW and JPEG files.
  • In very low light situations your camera’s auto-focus system may not work. This is especially true in older model Canon DSLRs like the 5D and 5D2. I usually switch to manual focus right after sunset to prevent my 5D2’s antique AF system from “hunting” when it can’t get a focus lock. I focus manually using the hyperfocal distance method for most nighttime landscape shoots. At f/16 or smaller aperture everything from 3 meters in front of the lens to infinity should be in perfect focus.

Nothing But Blue Skies Do I See . . .

Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II

The new Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II lens is quite possibly the sharpest lens Canon has ever developed. It’s certainly the sharpest lens I’ve ever used, bar none. If you’re interested in all the technical details I recommend reading the in-depth review at The-Digital-Picture.com.

I bought this lens last month after shooting interiors and exteriors for several Bed & Breakfast establishments in the Texas Hill Country. In some situations I’d found that my workhorse lens, the EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens was creating too much distortion and making the interior spaces look smaller rather than larger.

The “shifting” abilities and almost complete lack of pin-cushion and barrel distortion in the TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II lens solved this problem completely.

Another area where this lens really shines is in how well it controls chromatic aberration (CA) at all apertures, even wide open. It’s amazing to pixel peep a shot of an interior room with lots of windows and find almost no “fringing” around the window glass. This is the first lens I’ve ever shot with that controls CA this completely.

This is one tack sharp lens! I shot with both the incredible EF 24mm f/1.4 L II USM and the TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II lens before making my purchase decision and while the new 24mm f/1.4L II is sharp, the TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II blows it away in a side-by-side comparison.

Yes, it’s heavier, larger and more expensive than the 24mm f/1.4L lens but the performance and features of the TS-E 24mm lens make it well worth the investment. It’s also a really fun lens to shoot landscapes with, which is why I keep humming this Irving Berlin tune to myself.

Blue skies smilin’ at me.
Nothing but blue skies do I see.

Blue Skies Smiling at Me

Blue Skies Over Palo Duro Canyon – Claude, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using a Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/18 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.

View Location on Panoramio & Google Earth: Blue Skies Over Palo Duro Canyon – Claude, Texas