Citadel – Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

Want to add some drama to your landscape images? Looking for a way to have your best shots stand out from the crowd? Take a step back in time and relearn what you’ve forgotten from the early 70’s, to think in black & white!

If you’re like a lot of us that grew up before the age of “digital” when color film processing & printing was expensive beyond compare, you remember shooting roll after roll of 36 exposure Kodak Tri-X black & white film. Tri-X was one of Kodak’s most popular and versatile films and could be “pushed” from its native ASA 400 (before ISO) to ASA 1600 and beyond. The contrast in Tri-X negatives was spectacular as was the film’s “dynamic range” (different shades of gray). Photographers the world over praised Tri-X as the sports shooter’s best friend, the landscape shooter’s savior and the wedding photographer’s ticket to success.

Tri-X could be gently “push processed” from 400 to over 1600 allowing sports photographers to shoot night football, indoor basketball and even the dreaded hockey game at shutter speeds capable of freezing the action. Landscape photographers by the hundreds shot Tri-X at ASA 400 and found an inexpensive film that was capable of rendering scenes comparable to Ansel Adam’s large-format zone system. But it was the wedding photographer that made this film famous. No longer did a wedding photographer have to lug around 20 – 30 lbs of lighting gear just to shoot a few candid shots. Like sports shooters, wedding photographers quickly learned to push Tri-X to ASA 1600 or even 3200 with wonderful results and acceptable grain.

Citadel

Citadel – 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 21mm, f/18 for 1/15th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 and Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

Today we shoot with 21 megapixel CMOS sensors in cameras that are more computer than mechanical. We use computer-ground lenses sharper and smaller than we ever thought possible and we develop & print our work electronically, using incredibly powerful software like Adobe Lightroom or Apple Aperture.

And while these technologies have made our photography more plentiful and less time consuming, we still find drama, detail and beauty in a simple black & white photograph reminiscent of our work from 35 years ago, when all we had was a Canon FTb, a 50mm lens and a few rolls of Tri-X to play with.

Outfitting Your Camera for Landscape Photography

There are a few essential pieces of equipment that every landscape photographer should carry besides their camera, lens and tripod. Without these accessories you limit what scenes your camera can capture correctly but with these accessories, the only limit to how far you can take your landscape photography is your creativity and imagination.

The first is a high-quality circular polarizer (CP) filter. Almost every situation a landscape and nature photographer will face requires a circular polarizer which is why this one filter sees more action in the field than all the other filters combined. A circular polarizer filter acts just like your polarized sunglasses, it helps reduce glare, improves contrast and saturates otherwise washed out colors in your images.

Investing in a high-quality CP filter early on in your career (or hobby) is always a good idea and will save you considerable time, money and frustration down the road. A good CP filter will run between $100 – $300 (USD) depending upon the size you need and the thickness of the filter you desire. I recommend a thin-mount CP filter to help prevent vignetting when shoot with an ultra-wide angle lens.

I generally use Singh-Ray filters these days but both B&W (Schneider Optics) and Heliopan also make fine CP filters.

Landscape Photography Setup

The second is a set of two and three-stop, graduated neutral density filters and a system to hold them in place. A graduated neutral density filter is used to balance the exposure between the background and foreground of an image. As such, it is an essential tool that every landscape photographer should learn to use early in their career (or hobby). Yes, I know you could accomplish the same thing using a photo-blending technique like HDR but it’s much easier to do this “in camera” while you’re out in the field.

The way a graduated ND filter works is very simple, by reducing the amount of light transmitted through a portion of the filter to your camera’s sensor so that the foreground exposure more closely matches the background exposure. They are not perfectly matched mind you, just more closely. By positioning the graduated ND filter in front of the lens you can vary the amount of exposure “balancing” the filter does in each scene. You can position these filter by hand or by using a filter holder as shown in the image above.

I generally use Singh-Ray’s 2-stop, or 3-stop, soft, graduated neutral density filters but both Lee and Cokin make excellent “ND Grad” filters as well. These filters come in various rectangular sizes to fit the various “standard” holders (“P” series or “Z” series) for both still and motion picture photography and are generally used along with a CP filter. Graduated neutral density filters are not cheap however and may run from $150 – $350 each.

Yes, this is a lot of extra money to spend just to obtain a properly exposed image from our DSLR camera. Yes, you could spend hours in Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom achieving the same effect (or close to the same effect) during your “post capture” processing. However, I like to think that photography is about learning to capture these incredible images “in camera” and to use as little “post capture” magic as possible after the fact. This is how I was taught 35 years ago and it’s how I teach my workshops. It’s about spending more time out in nature behind your camera and a lot less time sitting in front of a computer screen (which we ALL spend too much time in front of anyway).

It’s also how I captured this shot of Lighthouse Peak’s “Iron Sights” at Palo Duro Canyon State Park last fall.

Iron Sights

Iron Sights – 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 19mm, f/16 for 1/15th 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 Powershot G12: From Snapshots to Great Shots

Canon Powershot G12: From Snapshots to Great ShotsJeff Carlson’s latest book Canon PowerShot G12: From Snapshots to Great Shots has just been released and is available from Amazon or Peachpit Press right now.Jeff’s books contains five of my favorite landscape shots taken with Canon’s Powershot G Series cameras.

I was honored to be included in this wonderful book which contains a ton of great information for anyone wanting to take better photographs with their G10, G11 or G12 camera.

 

There are also over one hundred spectacular photographs included in this book from amateur and professional photographers across the globe and this alone makes it a “must read” for anyone owning one of these cameras.

Canon Powershot G12: From Snapshots to Great Shots

As you would expect, most of my images are featured in Chapter 7 – Landscape Photography and the shot below (taken at Palo Duro Canyon) was used as a two-page spread to open the chapter.

Canon Powershot G12: From Snapshots to Great Shots

Now that I’m done bragging, I’d really like the thank Jeff Carlson and the folks at Peachpit Press for once again including me in their projects. You folks rock!

Those Spanish Skirts

Nothing defines the beauty and grandeur of the Texas plains and canyons more than the famous Spanish Skirts seen from the canyon wall just a few miles into Palo Duro Canyon State Park. These colorful sculptures of nature are one of the first landmarks a visitor sees upon entering the park and they’re the last they see when they depart.

Folks from all over the globe remember their first view of these incredible colors and shapes and unlike the Haynes Ridge in Caprock Canyons, you can drive right up to this view and take as many pictures as you want without so much as breaking a sweat.

Spanish Skirts

Those Spanish Skirts – 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 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 39mm, f/16 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.

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.

Bifrost Bridge

In Norse mythology, Bifröst is a burning rainbow bridge that reaches between Midgard (the world) and Asgard, the realm of the gods. I’ve always thought the butte between Lighthouse Peak and Castle Peak in Palo Duro Canyon fit the description of the mythical bridge perfectly. Castle Peak certainly looks like Asgard to me and the red and orange caprocks seem to burn a fiery red in the late evening sunlight, don’t they?

Bifrost Bridge to Asgard

Bifrost Bridge in Palo Duro Canyon, 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 19mm, f/16 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 and Adobe Photoshop CS5 using Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro plug-in filter.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

Early Fall in Palo Duro Canyon

I love the early fall. It’s that time of year when the scorching heat of the Texas summer is past but the cold, north winds from the plains have yet to arrive. When you can almost “touch” the quiet of a desert afternoon and “taste” the fresh, clean air as the light breeze tickles your skin.

Autumn is when the days begin to grow shorter, the nights cooler and the light becomes warm and inviting. It’s that magical time of the year “between” the seasons. For artists, painters and photographers, it’s a time to cherish the light and color before the pale, cold days of winter set in. When the “golden hours” come early in the day and stay late into the evening. When time itself seems to pause and wait for you to capture that one last shot.

What more in life could you ask for?

Early Fall

Early Fall in Palo Duro Canyon, 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 1/30th 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.