The Long Road Home

The Road Home

The Road Home – Claude, 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 26mm, f/16 for 1.3 seconds 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.

Workshop Preparation – Thinking in Black & White

One of things I try to teach in my workshops is how to add drama to your landscape images. Much of this centers on “in-camera” exposure, composition and lighting but sometimes it’s just easier to do something different in your “post processing” such as turning a nicely saturated image to black & white in Lightroom 3.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I prefer using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro to create my black & white images but not everyone can afford all the latest & greatest plug-ins and Lightroom 3 does a superb job itself (with a little help from you of course). The secret is to play around with the contrast and clarity settings as well as the color sliders until you achieve the look you want. The key to a well balanced black & white image is to have some bright whites and dark blacks as well as many different shades of gray.

Fortress Cliff

Canyon Vista – Palo Duro Canyon near Claude, 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 30mm, f/16 for 1/50th 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.

Canyon Vista

There are few places in Texas with more formidable terrain to hike than Palo Duro Canyon. Looking across this vast canyon it seems amazing to me that explorers, settlers and Native Americans once roamed this region with little more than leather boots and a few mules. We hiked this canyon for only a week last fall and the red dust and dirt took months to come clean from my skin, clothes and boots! I imagine that after spending a few months here my skin would pick up a permanent red tinge adding to my already well known redneck image (LOL).

Canyon Vista

Canyon Vista – Palo Duro Canyon near Claude, 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/3.5L II lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/16 for 1/10th 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 and Photoshop CS5.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

Valley Forged

Valley Forged

Valley Forged – 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 a TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/18 for 120th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 & Photoshop CS5.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages – 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 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 70mm, f/16 for 1/4th 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.

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.

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.

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.