Rocky – Grapevine Hills in Big Bend National Park

There is something about the desert heat, the rocky slopes and the rugged terrain that brings out the explorer in most of us. It’s hard to look at a photograph like this and not want to climb through these huge boulders and explore for hours on end.

Hiking through the desert of southwest Texas is a magical and almost mystical experience and the scenery is enough to take your breath away. The trails in and around Grapevine Hills are a wonderful place to spend a few hours or a few days with your camera. Each twist and turn in the trail brings new wonders to capture and marvel at. The scale is hard to imagine but each of these beautiful rocky formations towered above me by a dozen feet at least. It makes you feel both small and humble to view some of God’s most beautiful rocky creations.



Rocky – Grapevine Hills in 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 24-105mm f/4L IS USM hand held. The exposure was taken at 95mm, 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 4.
Click on the image above for a larger version.


Canon Releases Two New Wide Angle Primes

Introducing the world’s first image stabilized, wide-angle primes

EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USMA few short months ago Canon launched the new EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM and EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM lenses; the world’s first 24mm and 28mm fixed wide-angle lenses to feature optical IS technology. Ideal for photo-journalists, both lenses offer outstanding flexibility allowing photographers to shoot an even broader range of scenes and subjects – combining fast apertures with image stabilization to enable sharp results when shooting handheld, even in low light conditions.

Offering an advantage of up to 4-stops over lenses without IS, both lenses are ideal for capturing more of the scene thanks to their wider focal lengths. Both feature a wide f/2.8 aperture, allowing photographers to explore shallow depth of field, or to shoot in lower-light conditions. Wide apertures and IS technology also make each lens ideal for shooting fast-moving subjects, while Canon’s advanced IS technology is able to detect intentional panning movement and automatically switch from Normal IS mode to Panning IS mode – helping users to capture movement with greater accuracy.

Silent, high-speed AF performance is provided by the inclusion of a ring-type USM and additional features including optimized AF control. Full-time manual focusing also ensures adjustments can be made even when AF is engaged, while a minimum focusing distance of 0.20m (EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM) and 0.23m (EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM) allows photographers to get even closer to smaller or more detailed subjects.

Designed to Perform
EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USMBoth the EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM and EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM feature redesigned optics to improve image quality. An aspherical glass moulded (GMo) lens element is incorporated to correct aberration throughout the optical system, while Canon’s optimised Super Spectra Coatings reduce ghosting and flare for stand-out image quality.

Externally, both models also boast a number of design similarities with Canon’s professional L-series lenses, with a similar coating on the barrel and a similar design on the focus ring. A distance scale is also included to assist with landscape photography, while the compact design makes these lenses an unobtrusive addition to any kit bag.

Key Features
• 24mm wide angle lens (38mm equivalent on APS-C sized sensors)
• 28mm wide-angle lens (45mm equivalent on APS-C sized sensors)
• Fast f/2.8 maximum aperture
• Up to four-stop Image Stabilizer
• Ultrasonic autofocus mechanism
• Circular aperture for soft background blur
• Super Spectra coatings reduce flare

The wide f/2.8 apertures of the lenses allow users to creatively isolate subjects from backgrounds, with the EF24mm f/2.8 IS USM and the EF28mm f/2.8 IS USM having seven-blade circular apertures to help photographers to create dramatic background blur.

Close Focus
The EF24mm f/2.8 IS USM lens is very versatile: it can be used to capture a wide-angle view or you can get in close to the action with a close focusing distance of just 0.20m. The EF28mm f/2.8 IS USM has a close focusing distance of just 0.23m. Both new lightweight lenses weigh less than 280g and are ideal for travelling photographers. The lens’ optical design features an aspheric, Glass Mold (GMo) lens element to ensure sharp, high contrast images.

Ultra Sonic Motor AF
To ensure sharp, in-focus images, both the prime lenses are both fitted with high-speed ring-type USM autofocus motors for fast, silent focusing at all times. The addition of full-time manual focusing allows you to adjust focus manually without first having to switch to MF.

L Series Quality in Non-L Series Lenses
Both new wide angle primes feature Canon’s “L Series” quality (and high price tag) but neither is an “L Series” lens. Don’t let this fact scare you off. Both of these new lenses contain state of the art optics and image stabilization technology and these are two of the most advanced wide-angle lenses ever released. Now if the price ($800 +) was just a little more reasonable. 🙂

One Enchanted (Rock) Evening

Many folks set off to photograph their favorite landscape spot wondering which lens or lenses to use in the field. Given how many fine lenses are available on the market today, answering this question is not quite as simple as it seems. While I can’t provide specific recommendations (since I have no idea your camera type or your budget), here’s a list of the lenses I’ve used for landscape photography over the past few years along with a few reasons why each makes a good nature or landscape lens.

One important thing to keep in mind, since most landscape shots are taken with the camera mounted on a tripod, image stabilized lenses become much less important. You can save yourself hundreds of dollars on landscape lenses by looking at non “IS” or “VR” lenses only.

Sunset Over Enchnted Rock

Sunset Over Enchanted Rock – Fredericksburg, Texas
Copyright © 2012 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 19mm, f/14 for 1.6 seconds at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter and 2-stop graduated neutral density filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 4.
Click on the image above for a larger version.


Ultra-Wide Angle Zooms
Many of the scenes you’ll encounter during a landscape shoot will require a wide angle lens and in Texas, the wider the better. If you shoot a camera with an APS-C size sensor like the new Canon EOS 7D, then the Canon EF-S 10mm f/3.5-4.5 USM is your best bet for a tack-sharp wide-angle zoom.

If you shoot with a full frame camera like the Canon EOS 5D Mark II or the new EOS 5D Mark III, then you have a few more choices such as the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM or the more expensive Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM lens.

Wide-Angle Primes
Many landscape photographers prefer to “zoom with their feet” and carry wide-angle prime (single focal length) lenses instead of zooms. Before the days of computer controlled lens grinding, prime lenses were substantially sharper than zoom lenses but today most high-end zooms compete very well with prime lenses in terms of sharpness.

I understand from my friends (on the dark side) that Nikon has released a very sharp wide-angle prime for their APS-C cameras but unfortunately for Canon shooters, there are no EF-S series prime lenses so finding a wide-angle lens for Canon’s most popular DSLRs is tough.

Wide-to-Medium Telephoto Zooms
This type of lens is probably the most widely used for amateur landscape photographers due to the broad focal range coverage and competitive pricing among manufacturers.

EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USMFor APS-C cameras, Canon offers many lenses that fit into this category such as the brand new Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM, the older Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM as well as the Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens. All three are great choices for owners of a Digital Rebel or EOS 7D.

For those of us that shoot with full-frame cameras like the Canon 5D2 there are also many great choices like the tack-sharp Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM or my favorite, the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM which is one of Canon’s best selling lenses of all time. If you have deep pockets and can wait another few months, then the new Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8L II USM is also a great choice.

Medium Telephoto Zooms
Although not strictly landscape lenses, a good medium telephoto zoom can be a real asset when shooting Texas landscapes from a distance. I highly recommend any of these Canon lenses and their Nikon equivalents. The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L USM lens is without a doubt, the best “value” offered today by any lens manufacturer. Thirty years ago a lens like this would have cost thousands and today this little baby can be yours for less than $700. Yes, you can spend more on the image stabilized version or on the much larger and faster f/2.8 version but for landscape photography this is one sweet deal.

EF 100mm MacroMacro Lenses
Many landscape photographers prefer “going wide”, but never forget the beauty of getting real close. Both Canon & Nikon make excellent macro lenses such as the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM or the new Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM (the first macro with image stabilization). Don’t forget that today, many medium telephoto lenses allow close-focus macro photography and with Canon’s 500D Close-Up “filter” almost any lens can become a macro lens.

Conclusions & A Fresh Thought
Your lens choices for landscape photography are almost limitless and every lens manufacturer has dozens of models to choose from in every price range imaginable. A new lens will not make you a better photographer and some of the most spectacular landscape images I’ve ever seen were taken with a 50mm plastic lens costing less than $100. The most important piece of equipment you can bring on a landscape shoot is your imagination and creativity.

The Trail Before Us

My friends, readers and followers,

Sometimes the trail before us is straight, level and easy to follow. Sometimes however, it contains treacherous curves, rises through unimaginable slopes and remains obscured until we reach a precipice. Life is often like that later type of trail and my own path has been difficult these past five years.

A few short months ago my wife of 23 years decided to divorce me, move out of our home and take my two remaining minor daughters with her. Nothing could have shocked me more or hurt me worse than this news, given to me not from her own lips but from an early morning phone call from her attorney. To say that I was devastated would not do justice to the depth of my sorrow. Nothing in my entire life had prepared me for this situation and my world came to an abrupt end.

Life does go on however and with the help of the Lord, my kind and loving family and my friends near and far, I am moving forward once again with my life’s journey. The Lord never gives us a challenge that we cannot overcome my friends, but with free will comes the responsibility to treat others with kindness, consideration and love. Some never learn this valuable lesson and for those we must pray. I wish my ex-spouse only the best in this life and pray that she finds peace and contentment in her journey. My resolve to provide photographic help and advice through this blog has not wavered. Nor has my love of life, my belief in God and my commitment to my four beautiful daughters’ future.

Your continued support and understanding is greatly appreciated my friends. May the trail before you be filled with wonders.

Jeff Lynch
Sugar Land, Texas

The Trail Before Us

The Trail Before Us – 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 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 28mm, f/13 for 1/20th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter and 2-stop graduated neutral density filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.
Click on the image above for a larger version.