Workshop Preparation: Shoot What You Love

The Spring 2011 Texas Landscape Safari is less than two months away and I know the folks that plan to attend are anxious to get out with their cameras after a long and cold winter. So for the next few weeks I’ll be posting tips to help folks get the most out of their workshop experience.

The first rule of photography that I was taught thirty five years ago was to “shoot what you love”. There is no better piece of advice I can give to an enthusiastic amateur than that. When you truly “love” the subject that you’re photographing, that “feeling” is reflected in the images you capture. Monet painted many different scenes during his career but none stand out nearly as much as those of his beloved garden’s water lilies.

Folks attending photographic workshops are often searching to discover what subjects they connect with the best. For some it’s big game wildlife in Africa, while for others it’s the unique water fowl found in southern Florida. For many younger landscape enthusiasts it’s the majesty of Yosemite or Yellowstone while for others (like myself) it’s the simple, rugged beauty found in the rural areas of Texas.

The key to getting the most out of any workshop (or your own photography in general) is to discover what you love to shoot and make it your goal to learn how to shoot that subject as creatively as possible. Don’t worry about what others in the group are concentrating on. Take a good look around you at each stop and see what catches your eye. If it’s water, shoot the water. If it’s wildflowers, shoot the flowers. If it’s rocks and trees, then explore the rocks and trees with your camera. Approach each new location during the workshop with an open mind, a curious demeanor and a courageous attitude and I promise you’ll soon learn what you “love” to shoot just as I have.

And remember to enjoy yourself out there. We’re all here to learn and have some fun exploring the Texas Hill Country together. Learn to shoot what you love and to love what you shoot and I promise you’ll walk away with some great images and some wonderful new friends. But don’t take my word for it; just ask Glenn, Leslie or Josh when you meet them in Lampasas in a few weeks.

Caprock Canyon in Summer

Caprock Canyon in Summer – 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 40mm, f/16 for 1/40th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer and two-stop, soft graduated neutral density filter. Post capture processing was done entirely in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

Canon’s Secret Weapon for Shooting Panoramas

Every lens manufacturer has a few secret weapons in it’s arsenal. For landscape photographers shooting panoramas with Canon DSLRs one of these is the TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II tilt & shift lens introduced in early 2009. As I’ve said before, the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II is quite possibly the sharpest lens Canon has ever released. It’s certainly the sharpest lens I’ve ever owned. If you’re interested in all the technical details I recommend reading the in-depth review at The-Digital-Picture.com.

Caprock Canyons Panorama

Caprock Canyons Panorama – Quitaque, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using a TS-E 24mm f/4L II USM lens tripod mounted. The three exposures were taken at 24mm, f/16 for 1/15th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer and 2-Stop (Soft) ND-Grad filter. Post capture processing was done in Photoshop CS5 using the “Merge to Panorama in Photoshop” command in Lightroom 3.

One of the areas that a tilt & shift lens really excels in is panorama photography, Shooting pano’s is something I’ve always wanted to try but never did due to the cost of the special panning components required to turn your tripod and ball head into a pano rig. Once I bought the TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II tilt & shift lens for my commercial work I found a much simpler method for a three or five shot landscape panorama that requires no additional hardware.

In-Camera Technique
This simple technique is based solely upon the “shift” capabilities of a tilt & shift lens and almost completely eliminates parallax (uneven overlap) and distortion.

  1. Setup your camera & lens on your tripod, taking care to ensure the camera is level. I use a simple $25 bubble-level to accomplish this in seconds.
  2. Focus on your subject manually and take your first exposure with the lens “unshifted”.
  3. Shift the lens to the left as far as it will go without creating vignetting, and take your second exposure. Be careful not to refocus or to change the exposure settings too much.
  4. Shift the lens to the right as far as it will go without creating vignetting, and take your third exposure. Be careful not to refocus or to change the exposure settings too much.

Canon's TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II USM Lens

Lens Images Courtesy & Copyright © The Digital Picture

Caprock Canyons (Left Image)

1. Lens Shifted Left

Caprock Canyons (Center Image)

2. Lens Centered

Caprock Canyons (Right Image)

3. Lens Shifted Right

Post Capture Processing
Once you return home simply process all three shots in Lightroom 3 keeping the exposure and other settings as similar as possible between all three. Then select all three images and select “Edit In” from the “Photo” menu. The choose “Merge to Panorama in Photoshop …”. Once Photoshop opens just select the default options and in a few minutes your three-image panorama will appear. Save this file to Lightroom and complete your post-capture processing as normal.

The results? Well, see for yourself by clicking on the image above.

Further Reading
Canon’s Digital Learning Center – Tilt & Shift Lenses.
Canon’s Digital Learning Center – An Introduction to Canon’s New Tilt-Shift Lenses
Really Right Stuff’s – Panoramas Made Simple

Desert Trail

Even a cloudless sky can become an interesting background is your subject is a beautiful as the scenery at Caprock Canyons State Park in Quitaque, Texas. Standing here on a warm fall evening, looking over miles and miles of pristine desert and colorful canyons is one of life’s simple pleasures.

Caprock Canyons State Park is one of the states most beautiful and least explored parks. Many folks visiting the Texas panhandle miss this wonderful park situated on the southwestern rim of Palo Duro Canyon, well away from any major highways and cities. Those that find their way there are greeted by miles and miles of desert trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. The geology of the area is incredible and behind every one of those buttes seen in this image is another and another, just waiting to be explored.

Desert Trail

Desert Trail – Caprock Canyons State Park in Quitaque, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using a TS-E 24mm f/4L II USM lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/16 for 1/30th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer and 2-Stop (Soft) ND-Grad filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

Made the Front Page of Singh-Ray’s Site

It’s amazing what impact a little warm weather photography can have on folks in the middle of the worst winter in 20 years throughout much of North America & Europe. My friends at Singh-Ray filters are some of the coolest folks in the business and I’ll take all the free publicity I can get these days!

Singh-Ray Web Site

Yes, those two images on the front of the Singh-Ray web site and their blog are two of my favorite shots from the Texas panhandle and a little something to help warm your soul on a cold and wet winter day.

While you’re feasting your eyes, take a look at the Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer, the Galen Rowell Graduated Neutral Density Filters and the brand new Vari-N-Trio. These are three essential filters for any landscape photographer and the same three that I use again and again in the field.

No, the folks at Singh-Ray do not sponsor me. I just think the world of their products and customer service and you will too!

Gateway to the Texas Panhandle

Folks traveling to Texas from the Western and Northwestern states often stop by Palo Duro Canyon State Park to rest a bit before continuing their long journey through the remaining 1000 miles of Texas. The canyons in the Texas panhandle may not be as steep as the Grand Canyon nor as picturesque as Brice or Zion but what they lack in definition, they more than make up for in scale.

Thousands of tourists drive through Palo Duro Canyon State Park each year but few ever hike the hundreds of square miles of trails, paths and dry creek-beds just begging to be explored. That’s a darn shame because it’s in the far reaches of these magnificent canyons that they begin to yield up their secret locations, hidden spaces and picturesque spots. I know folks that have spent 2 – 3 weeks there every year for the past twenty years and they tell me they’ve yet to run out of virgin territory to explore.

So the next time you’re passing through the area, stop by Palo Duro Canyon State Park and spend a few hours or a few days exploring the gateway to the Texas panhandle. I promise you, it’s some of the most beautiful country this side of the heaven.

Gateway

Gateway to the Texas Panhandle – Palo Duro Canyon 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 17mm, f/16 for 1/20th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer and 2-Stop (Soft) ND-Grad filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

Top of the World

No, you can’t drive your car to get this shot!

You’ve got to hike, climb, hike some more, climb even more, hike even further and then climb down and hike back (6 or 7 hours) just to get this one shot. However, standing on top of the world in the Texas panhandle on a beautiful fall evening makes it all worth while!

Enjoy (and don’t forget to click on the image below for a larger version).

Top of the World

Top of the World – 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 23mm, f/16 for 1/50th 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.

Landscapes of the Texas Plains & Canyons Book

My second book, Landscapes of the Texas Plains & Canyons is available today for delivery before Christmas. I’ve had a lot of fun putting this 70 page book together and there’s a special treat for photographers on each page. Taking a cue from many of Wyman Meinzer’s incredible books, I’ve included my exact settings for each of the 50 images presented in the book including the camera, lens and exposure. It’s my hope that this information will help other photographers enjoy the incredible photographic opportunities available in the Texas panhandle.

Here’s a Sample to Whet Your Whistle

 

As many of you know, my love affair with the Texas plains and canyons began with an invitation from a fellow photographer Jerod Foster and with my daughter Kelly’s decision to attend Texas Tech in Lubbock. These two seemingly random events opened my eyes to one of the most beautiful and majestic regions in our great state and an area that calls to me like a bee to honey. Join me as I explore the rugged outback of the Texas panhandle with its rich history and unique geology and geography. From the verdant plains to the deepest canyons, it’s a region like no other.

Jeff Lynch
December 2010

Landscapes of the Texas Plains & Canyons

Landscapes of the Texas Plains & Canyons (10″ x 8″ x 70 pages, Autographed)
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography, Ltd.
$39.95 + $5.00 for Shipping and Handling (USPS – US & Canada)
$39.95 + $15.00 for Shipping and Handling (USPS – International)

Coming Soon!

Landscapes of the Texas Plains & Canyons

Click on the image above for a sneak peek.