Composition & Cropping in Lightroom 3

Today’s DSLR cameras offer incredible image size (pixel density) and quality allowing digital photographers to bring back the lost art of post-capture cropping. Don’t get me wrong. Every photographer tries their best to compose in the viewfinder and today’s DSLR cameras with “Live View” make this much easier than in the past. Cropping in the darkroom during enlargement was always a difficult proposition but with 10 to 25 million pixels to work with, almost any image can be cropped for dramatic effect today.

Cypress Reflections

Cypress Reflections – Austin, Texas
Copyright © 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on manual (M) using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 102mm, f/16 for .3 seconds at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer. All post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

 

I took this shot last year with the idea that I could use it to illustrate how cropping your images can help focus your viewer’s attention. In Adobe Lightroom 3 it’s very simple to crop your image using any number of different “Crop Guide Overlays” found under the “Tools” menu. When I composed this image in my viewfinder I was looking to capture the beautiful texture of the cypress trees and their reflections in the slow moving river.

I wanted to “lead” the viewers’ eyes into the image using the rocks in the foreground at camera right and then have them explore the beautifully textured Cypress trees before moving to the reflections in the slowly moving water.

As you can see in the original image with it’s default 2 x 3 aspect ratio crop, there was a lot of empty space on the far left that I thought would allow the viewer’s eye to wander out of the image. To correct this I needed to select an alternate aspect ratio to cut off some this empty space.

5 x 7 Landscape Crop

The first crop I tried was a more typical 5 x 7 landscape aspect ratio (shown above) that eliminated about 25% of the problem. Not a bad start but still a long way to go before the image “felt” balanced to me.

8 x 10 Landscape Crop

Next I tried using an 8 x 10 landscape aspect ration (shown above) that eliminated about 50% of the problem but still wasn’t quite enough.

1 x 1 Square Crop

Finally I tried using a 1 x 1 aspect ratio with the “Golden Spiral” cropping guide and with a few tweaks here and there, I was finished. I captured all the elements I wanted to present (rocks, trees, water) and cropped the image to eliminate anything that might draw the viewers attention out of the image. I also used the “Post-Crop Vignetting” settings to help focus the viewer on the brighter tree trunk in the center of the “Golden Spiral” cropping guide. Using a 1 x 1 aspect ratio doesn’t always work in landscape photography (it’s fairly rare) but it’s another tool used to isolate your subject and focus your viewers’ attention right where you want it.

Sunset on the Pedernales River

Here’s a shot taken on the final evening of the Texas Landscape Safari last April. We had hoped for a bit more drama but any night spent photographing Pedernales Falls is a treat for the senses.

Pedernales Sunset

Sunset on the Pedernales River – Johnson City, 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 32mm, f/5 for 1/125th 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.

Rio Bravo

Lord, Send Us Rain! — A Desert Prayer

Rio Bravo

The Rio Bravo – Big Bend National Park, Texas
Copyright © 2011 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/16 for 1/50th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter and two-stop, soft graduated neutral density filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

Ernst Tinaja – No Place for Old Men

There are spots of incredible beauty hidden in the desert of Big Bend National Park. Locations so remote on two-track roads so difficult to drive that most tourists will never see them, not matter how many times they return to Big Bend. When Jack and I began planning our trip last fall we new of several spots that would test our hiking skills and physical endurance and also of a few that might test our vehicle’s endurance. Little did we know just how much of a test “Ernst Tinaja” would be.

Ernst Tinaja Map

The deep desert of far West Texas is no place for old men, unless you come well-prepared with a high-clearance, all-wheel drive vehicle, lots of water and emergency supplies. Cell phone service is spotty at best and the nearest service station is 50 miles north. When the park map calls a road “primitive”, they mean just exactly that.

The Ernst Tinaja trail lies  about 8 miles north of the park’s Rio Grande Village visitor center along the Old Ore Road, which is less of a “road’ and more of a hundred year old “wagon trail” running along the western edge of the Dead Horse Mountains. This extremely rough two-track road runs about 6 miles north through a series of cut-backs, washes and gravel slopes with enough sharp rocks to puncture even the toughest of steel-belt radial tires, unless you’re very careful.

No Place for Old Men

What we thought would be a quick thirty minute drive to the trail head turned into a three-hour torture test for the Forester’s tires and for our aching backs. There were spots so covered in sharp rocks that we had to stop and do a little “hand grading” of the road before we would dare drive over it. Though we were prepared with a full-size spare and high-lift jack, a flat tire out here would have been almost impossible to change due to the rugged terrain. Those were the toughest six miles I had ever driven since my younger days running the “Press On Regardless” rally in Michigan’s upper peninsula.

Ernst Tinaja

Ernst Tinaja – Big Bend National Park, Texas
Copyright © 2011 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 32mm, 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 3.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

We finally arrived at the trailhead about 2-1/2 hours later in the day than we had wanted to but we were determined to hike the short trail up the wash to photograph the formations. The word “Tinaja” is Spanish for “large earthen jar” and Ernst Tinaja is one of the deep desert’s few springs in the park. The geology of the local area is unique since the Dead Horse Mountains were formed millions of years ago by a dramatic uplift of the limestone layers which created a series of sharp folds evident in the image below. I’ve never seen geology this dramatic before and the beauty of Ernst Tinaja was well worth the long, difficult drive.

Now for the drive back!

Limestone Folds

Limestone Folds – Big Bend National Park, Texas
Copyright © 2011 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 73mm, f/14 for 1/20th of a second at ISO 100 using 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.

Getting There is Half the Fun!

Getting there is half the fun, especially if you’re driving through far West Texas. Where else can you drive up to a trailhead like this, hike a few miles in the deep desert and enjoy such spectacular scenery.

What a place!

Subaru Forester

Subaru Forester – Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas
Copyright © 2011 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/14 for 1/25th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

End of the Trail

End of the Trail – Big Bend National Park, Texas
Copyright © 2011 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/14 for 1/50th of a second at ISO 100 using 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.

Perfect Balance – Big Bend National Park

One of my favorite trails in Big Bend National Park leads to an unique rock formation called Grapevine Hills. The drive in to the trailhead takes you deep into the desert just north of the Chisos Mountains but the hike itself is fairly short, although very rocky at the end. Once you reach the summit the view north through the balanced rock formation is stunning. If you’re curious about the scale of these rock formations just take a look at my friend Jack in the second image. Like all desert creatures Jack can find shade with the best of them!

Perfect Balance

Perfect Balance – Big Bend National Park, Texas
Copyright © 2011 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 50mm, f/14 for 1/30th of a second at ISO 100 using 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.

Nice Shade

Nice Shade – Big Bend National Park, Texas
Copyright © 2011 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/14 for 1/30th of a second at ISO 100 using 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.

Let Us Never Forget Who We Are!

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

DeclarationWhen in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.