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.

The Bluest Skies in Texas

I’m a sucker for a good country song and back in ’88 it was Restless Heart‘s “The Bluest Eyes in Texas” which made it to the top of the country charts that year. It’s still a great song for hot Saturday afternoon in the Texas Hill Country.

Yes Sabrina, I do seem to find the bluest skies in Texas!

Monument Hill Summit

Monument Hill Summit – 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 21mm, f/18 for 1/20th 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: Monument Hill Summit – La Grange, Texas

Hill Country Landscapes

Just a gentle reminder to everyone that my first book Hill Country Landscapes is back in stock and available for immediate shipment. You can preview the book below to see some of the wonderful landscapes you can find in the Texas Hill Country.

 

My next book should be completed in the fall and be available before Christmas, so stayed tuned!

Flora & Fauna

You don’t have to look very hard for something wonderful to photograph here in Texas. As I tell my friends, “it’s a target rich environment”. Sometimes you capture the big views and sometimes the small views. Both work very well in the springtime!

Flora

Flora – La Grange, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens hand-held. The exposure was taken at 105mm, f/4 for 1/320th of a second at ISO 200 using only a circular polarizer filter. All post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 Beta 2. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Charlie the Caterpillar

Charlie the Caterpiller – La Grange, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens hand-held. The exposure was taken at 105mm, f/5.6 for 1/160th of a second at ISO 200 using only a circular polarizer filter. All post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 Beta 2. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Using a Graduated Neutral Density Filter

By now, everyone knows I’m an old-fashioned kind of guy when it comes to getting the correct exposure “in-camera” as opposed to in “post”. For me, post-capture processing in Lightroom or Photoshop is a matter of tweaking a RAW file to obtain what I remember seeing when I took the shot. Since many of you reading this blog are relatively new to photography and perhaps to the use of filters, I thought I’d explain my basic setup for the shots of Monument Hill shown below.

Using a Graduated Neutral Density Filter

The image above illustrates a typical setup for a landscape shot with my 5DII on a lightweight but sturdy tripod (Gitzo Traveller using an RRS ball-head) and a Singh-Ray graduated neutral density filter held in place by a Cokin “P-Series” holder, mounted on a wide-angle zoom. The graduated neutral density filter is generally a 2, 3 or 4-stop / soft ND Grad made by Singh-Ray, a company that designs and builds probably the highest quality filters in the world.

Monument Hill - No Filter

Monument Hill (with no filter) – La Grange, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 28mm, f/16 for 1/25th of a second at ISO 100 using only a circular polarizer filter. All post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 Beta 2. Click on the image above for a larger version.

The purpose of the “ND Grad” filter is to “hold back” the bright sky to balance the foreground exposure as shown in this late afternoon shot. Using an ND Grad allows your DSLR to meter for the mid-tones without blowing out the bright highlights in the sky. The image above was taken without an ND Grad filter and you can see how dark the trees are in the foreground while the clouds in the background are almost completely blown out. Compare that with the image below where both the trees and the sky are exposed properly and you begin to see how powerful a graduated neutral density filter can be.

Monument Hill - NDG

Monument Hill (using an ND Grad) – La Grange, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 28mm, f/16 for 1/20th of a second at ISO 100 using a circular polarizer and a Singh-Ray 3-stop graduated neutral density filter. All post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 Beta 2. Click on the image above for a larger version.

The great thing about a graduated neutral density filter is that you the photographer, have complete control over how much light the filter blocks by changing its position in the filter holder. Many photographers (myself included) prefer to hold the filter against the lens by hand, moving it to achieve exactly the effect we want.

One of my favorite landscape photographers Steve Kossack, is famous for teaching students “conscious control over colors and light” and a big part of his craft is in using the right filter at the right time. Steve’s also famous for hand-holding and moving his ND-Grad filters during the exposure so that each image is unique and one of a kind.

Getting control of the colors and the light “in-camera” using a graduated neutral density filter is a great way to bring some control to your landscape photography.

Stormy Weather

Stormy Weather

Stormy Weather – LaGrange, 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 28mm, f/13 for 1/8th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer and 4-stop (soft) graduated neutral density filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 Beta. Click on the image above for a larger version.

How to Get this Type of Shot: A landscape image of a storm rolling across the land.

  • The key to this shot is (obviously) the weather conditions. You’ll need to shoot on a day when a storm is moving in. I raced this storm over sixty miles before pulling ahead enough to setup and shoot.
  • A good sturdy tripod is a must in a situation like this, since any camera shake will ruin the effect. Another very important accessory is a bubble level. The human brain is very sensitive to horizontal lines and if your image is not perfectly level, people will notice. I used a bubble level for this shot but still had to do some final corrections in Lightroom.
  • Correct exposure and contrast are critical in an image like this, which is why you’ll need both a circular polarizer and a three or four-stop graduated ND filter to balance the foreground and background exposure levels. Though the storm clouds look dark, most of the sky will be much brighter than the ground and without a ND grad filter, your camera’s metering system can easily be fooled.
  • The final keys to this getting type of image are patience and safety. In Texas, a severe thunderstorm can blow in with only a few moments notice, or it may take hours to develop as conditions gradually change. Learning to wait for the right moment takes both patience and perseverance. However, safety should always be your first concern. Thunderstorms are dangerous and standing on a hillside carrying a camera and tripod makes you a definite target for lightning. Be careful and safe when shooting in bad weather. Even the best shot in the world is worth little if you’re not around to enjoy it.

Foul Weather Landscape Photography

One of the things that I try to teach during the Texas Landscape Safari is that great images can be created in almost any weather. Cloudy days can be a great time for nature and landscape photography since the foliage will almost always appear more saturated and the shadows much softer. Using the right filters (circular polarizer & ND-Grad) on cloudy days can bring out the contrast in the clouds and add drama to a scene.

Storm Approaching Monument Hill

Storm Approaching Monument Hill, Texas
Copyright © 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 35mm, f/11 for 1/6th of a second using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer and 2-stop graduated neutral density filter at ISO 100 on Lexar Professional digital film. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 2. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Landscape Photography – Bone Dry

Most of Texas is in the middle of a severe drought. The once lush vegetation of east Texas and the Rio Grande valley is dry and quickly dying. The once rapidly flowing rivers and streams of central Texas are running at all time low levels and none of the beautiful falls really exist this summer.

While much of the nation experiences a much cooler than normal summer, here in Texas the heat is scorching. We’ve had almost three months of record high average temperatures with no respite in sight. The once deep green forests around La Grange, Texas look as if autumn has already begun and the farmers’ fields look burnt to a crisp.

Friends, join me in prayer for an end to this drought, the scorching temperatures of summer and for some much needed rain. We need some relief from this bone dry weather!

Bone Dry

Bone Dry – Monument Hill State Park in La Grange, Texas
Copyright © 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM hand-held. The exposure was taken at 105mm, f/4 for 1/200th of a second at ISO 100 on Lexar Professional digital film. Post capture processing was done in Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4. Click on the image above for a larger version.