Landscape Photography – More Neutral Density Filter Magic

Remember the days before Photoshop? When the photographer used his skill and experience to capture an image even though the scene was far beyond the film’s dynamic range? When “post” (post capture processing) meant pushing or pulling during film development or dodging and burning during enlargement? When a graduated neutral density filter could span the four or five stop difference between the foreground and the sky? When the photographer spent hour after glorious hour behind the camera, trying out different color filters, different speed film stock and different exposure combinations in his or her quest for a decent image?

In some ways I miss those days and find myself now spending more and more time trying to get back to my photographic roots. No, I don’t miss the cost, mess and hassle of film development and darkroom work, but I do miss the time spent behind the camera working on various techniques to perfect my craft. These days I seem to spend four hours in Lightroom and Photoshop for every hour behind the camera. I’ll be the first to admit it. I love digital imagery but not the tedium of post capture processing. Sorting and keywording is obviously important but boring beyond belief. Processing RAW files into finished JPEGs is more interesting but after a while, even the allure of CS4 begins to fade.

Take this image for example. I could have spent hours using various Lightroom/Photoshop techniques creating an acceptable image from a RAW file where the dynamic range of the scene far exceeded my camera’s capabilities. Yes, I could have bracketed three to seven exposures and blended these into an HDR image in Photomatix. Or I could employ a simple 4-stop, soft, graduated neutral density filter to tame this scene’s dynamic range to show the incredible cloud cover over these rolling hills in central Texas on a hot July afternoon. It took me four or five exposures before I got the image I wanted “in camera”, but the resultant RAW file took only seconds to process in Lightroom before the scene looked as I remembered it.

Here’s the important part! I enjoyed creating this image “in camera” much more than I usually do with images I have to “fix” in Lightroom or Photoshop. It took longer to capture this image but far less time to post process and for me, the enjoyment of photography is being behind the camera looking through the viewfinder.

Packsaddle Mountain

Clouds Over Packsaddle Mountain – Kingsland, Texas
Copyright 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 50D set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM tripod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 47mm, f/11 for 1/200th of a second using a Singh-Ray 4-Stop/Soft graduated neutral density filter. Shot at ISO 100 on Sandisk digital film and post capture processed in Lightroom 2. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Canon, Canon 50D, Landscape Photography, Texas Landscapes

Texas Autumn Landscape Safari

I’m putting together the final schedule for the Texas Landscape Safari that will take place in the Texas Hill Country this fall when the colors begin to change. I should have the schedule finalized within the next few weeks and the participant worksheet posted on this blog at that time. The plan right now is to shoot at the following state parks and key locations during the four day workshop.

  • Colorado Bend State Park in Bend, Texas
  • Longhorn Cavern State Park in Burnet, Texas
  • Packsaddle Mountain near Kingsland, Texas
  • Enchanted Rock State Natural Area near Fredericksburg, Texas
  • Pedernales Falls State Park in Johnson City, Texas
  • McKinney Falls State Park in Austin, Texas

I’ll have lots more information posted in the nest few weeks but one thing to keep in mind is that most of the best locations will require some hiking over terrain like this. A good pair of hiking shoes and strong back may be required! But hey, if an old fart like me can do it, so can you!

Rough Trail

Rough Trail – Bend, Texas
Copyright 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 40D set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM hand-held. The exposure was taken at 28mm, f/8 for 1/15th of a second at ISO 100 on Sandisk digital film and post capture processed in Lightroom 2. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Canon, Canon 40D, Colorado Bend State Park, Texas Landscapes

Texas Landscape Safari – Gorman Falls

Here is one of the incredible sights you can expect to photograph if you decide to join me on this fall’s Texas Landscape Safari. The beauty of Gorman Falls in the Colorado Bend State Park near Lampasas, Texas is truly unmatched in all the Texas Hill Country. It’s like climbing down a steep Texas gorge into a tropical rain forest. Unexpected and wonderful!

Moss & Rocks

Moss & Rocks – Gorman Falls, Texas
Copyright 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 40D set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM tripod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 105mm, f/8 for 1/15th of a second at ISO 100 on Sandisk digital film and post capture processed in Lightroom 2. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Colorado Bend State Park, Landscape Photography, Texas Landscapes

Texas Landscape Safari – Hill Country Drive

Here is another of the incredible sights you can expect to photograph if you decide to join me on this fall’s Texas Landscape Safari. The area just northwest of Austin, Texas covers some of the beautiful and picturesque scenery in the state. From this lookout at the Inks Lake State Park you can follow the Colorado river all the way north from Inks Lake to the Buchanan Dam. In October, the air should be crisp and clear providing a wonderful opportunity to capture some beautiful landscape images. Come and join me for a Hill Country drive during the Texas Landscape Safari this fall.

Hill Country Drive

Hill Country Drive – Burnet, Texas
Copyright 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 50D set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM tripod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 50mm, f/11 for 1/50th of a second at ISO 100 on Lexar Professional digital film and post capture processed in Lightroom 2. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Canon, Canon 50D, Inks Lake State Park, Texas Landscape Safari, Texas Landscapes

Moving to the Canon EOS 5D Mark II

I’m cameraless for the first time. All my Canon crop bodies (40D / 50D) and EF-S lenses have been shipped back to Adorama’s used department for trade-in on a new EOS 5D Mark II. It feels kind of strange not to be carrying around a DSLR everyday and not having ANY camera to call my own right now. I suspect it will take a few days before the withdrawal symptoms subside and I begin to feel normal again. I knew going “cold-turkey” was going to be tough!

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Several folks have asked why I decided to go “full-frame” and the answer may surprise you a bit. As I’ve gotten older, my eyesight has become an issue and the incredibly clear and bright viewfinder on Canon’s full frame cameras really makes a difference in my ability to focus the camera during landscape and nature photography. Looking through my 50D’s viewfinder with my glasses on was a real pain at times.

Of, course the resolution (21 MP) and image quality are said to be quite incredible according to folks like Matt Brandon and David duChemin, and that’s a big draw for most photographers, myself included. But this was a big decision for me. I had to trade-in my Canon 40D and 50D bodies as well as two EF-S series lenses before I could afford to look at the 5D Mark II. This will be my only body for quite some time and the thought of having no back-up body does make me a little nervous. But if the results are half as good as I’ve seen, this will be a camera I keep for many years to come.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Canon, Canon 5D Mark II, Photography

Really Right Stuff L-Plates Need New Home

UPDATE: The BGE2-L40 L-Plate for the EOS 40D w/battery grip has been sold.

UPDATE: The B40D-L L-Plate for the EOS 40D has been sold.

UPDATE: The BGE2-L50 L-Plate for the EOS 50D w/battery grip has been sold.

Thanks for responding to my post. I’m really glad this wonderful gear has found a new home.

Since I’ve sold all my Canon crop body cameras and lenses, I have three Really Right Stuff L-Plates in excellent condition that are looking for a new home. These are the BGE2-L50, BGE2-L40, and B40D-L L-Plates. Each Really Right Stuff L-Plate is designed to exactly fit the EOS 40D (B40D-L), the EOS 40D with the BG-E2N battery grip (BGE2-L40) and the EOS 50D with the BG-E2N battery grip (BGE2-L50). These incredible little devices are machined from a solid bar of aluminum and anodized with a scratch resistant black coating.

For those of you not familiar with how an L-Plate works take a look at this video tutorial by Really Right Stuff.

Really Right Stuff L-Plates

If you’re interested in buying any of these L-Plates please drop me an email using my Contact Me page. They are priced at $50.00 each (plus shipping) which is less than half the original price. If you’re interested just send me an email and I’ll reply back with a PayPal request for payment which you can pay by credit card.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Canon, Canon 40D, Canon 50D, Photography, Really Right Stuff

Canon Speedlite Menu System Videos

Small Strobes

Canon has released two great new videos on the Canon Digital Learning Center from photographer Bruce Dorn. Each video demonstrates how to control your on-camera and off-camera Speedlites using the menu system found on the Canon 5D Mark II and 50D cameras.

Bruce Dorn Speedlite Videos, Part I: External Speedlite Controls

Bruce Dorn Speedlite Videos, Part II: External Speedlite Ratio Controls

I use Canon’s 580EX II strobes in most of my studio and on-location product shoots and really love how these units can be controlled almost completely from the menu system on the back of my 50D (and soon from my new 5DII).

However, every time I look at these two videos, one glaring problem keeps staring me right in the face. Watch how many menus Bruce has to navigate through time and again, just to change a setting on the remote strobes.

The problem is that Canon’s menu system has no way to remember where you were in the menu hierarchy once you click the shutter. You have to start over from the beginning and navigate through each layer of menus to get back to the setting you just changed, even if all you did was adjust the flash exposure compensation (a very common task).

In fact, watching Bruce go through this routine again and again is one of the best demonstrations I’ve ever seen of why manual flash control as taught by the Strobist community is a much more efficient and effective system for off camera lighting. Watching these two videos, I felt like I could have gotten up, walked over to the remote strobes and set them manually much faster than Bruce could work through the menus. I certainly hope someone at Canon (besides Fake Chuck Westfall) has seen these videos and realized how tedious this routine really is.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Canon, Canon Speedlites

Texas Landscape Safari – Lower McKinney Falls

Here is another of the incredible sights you can expect to photograph if you decide to join me on this fall’s Texas Landscape Safari. McKinney Falls State Park in Austin , Texas is a hidden gem in the middle of central Texas. This wonderful little state park boasts one of the most picturesque water falls in Texas that is only a few minutes from downtown Austin. The upper falls is a well known swimming hole but my favorite place is the usually deserted lower falls with its beautiful rock formations.

Lower McKinney Falls

Lower McKinney Falls – Austin, Texas
Copyright 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 50D set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM tripod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/11 for 1/25th of a second at ISO 100 on Lexar Professional digital film. The image was post capture processed in Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4 using Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro filter. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Canon, Canon 50D, McKinney Falls State Park, Texas Landscape Safari

Texas Landscape Safari – Longhorn Cavern

And one more great location to photograph if you join me on this fall’s Texas Landscape Safari. Longhorn Cavern State Park near Burnet, Texas is one of the most interesting small caverns in this part of the country.

Longhorn Cavern

Longhorn Cavern – Burnet, Texas
Copyright 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 40D set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM tripod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 21mm, f/10 for 1/30th of a second at ISO 100 on Sandisk digital film and post capture processed in Lightroom 2. Click on the image above for a larger version.

The cave itself has been used as a shelter since prehistoric times. Among legends about the cavern is one that the outlaw Sam Bass hid a $2 million cache of stolen money inside. Confederates made gunpowder in the cave during the Civil War. Legend has it that the Texas Rangers rescued a kidnapped girl from Indians in the cave and during prohibition, the cave was used as a speakeasy, serving bootleg liquor to folks from all around central Texas.

Longhorn Cavern

Longhorn Cavern – Burnet, Texas
Copyright 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 40D set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM tripod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 22mm, f/7.1 for 1/40th of a second at ISO 100 on Sandisk digital film and post capture processed in Lightroom 2. Click on the image above for a larger version.

One thing’s for sure, the temperature in the cavern is 68F all year round and a refreshing change from the hot Texas sun anytime of the day. Photography tours of the cave are offered by Longhorn Cave Tours, a private firm that manages the site for the state. They are private tours and run about 2 – 3 hours so we can photograph the cavern at our leisure.

Longhorn Cavern

Longhorn Cavern – Burnet, Texas
Copyright 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 40D set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM tripod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 17mm, f/8 for 4/10ths of a second at ISO 100 on Sandisk digital film and post capture processed in Lightroom 2. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Longhorn Cavern is a great place to practice our high dynamic range (HDR) techniques as well as different filter techniques. Long exposures are the norm so a good tripod is a must. You can expect some incredible images to come from this location on the Texas Landscape Safari.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Canon, Canon 40D, Longhorn Cavern State Park, Photography, Texas Landscape Safari

Scott Kelby’s The Digital Photography Book, Volume 3

The Digital Photography Book, Volume 3

I love Scott Kelby’s books. Every single one of them. I’m a confessed “fanboy” of Scott’s energy, his passion and his writing style. I’ve bought just about every photography or Photoshop books he’s every written and enjoyed reading each and every one.

His latest, The Digital Photography Book, Volume 3 is exceptional, even for Scott. I highly recommend this book for any serious amateur photographer to learn from and for any professional writer to use as a great example of great “person-to-person” communication.

Beside being full of great tips and tricks for digital photographers, it’s also one of the most “fun” photography books around. Scott’s sense of humor and writing style pull you right into the book and you really feel like he cares about helping you improve your photographic skills.

I give this book a 5 star rating!

PS: I’m also pretty pumped that my friend Josh Bradley’s concert image was used in Scott’s book. See page 172.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Photography, Scott Kelby, The Digital Photography Book