Lightroom 3 Poster Tutorial

I received a comment from a reader last week who was curious how I created my posters and what software I used. I covered this in detail about nine months ago but it’s well worth the time to review it once more today.

As you know, there are several different ways to create a poster in Photoshop CS4 or CS5 and Scott Kelby’s books explain most of these methods in great detail. Being lazy, I prefer to let Adobe’s Lightroom 3 Print Module do the heavy lifting most of the time.

Palo Duro Canyon 20x16 Poster

The first step in creating this type of Print Template is to setup a custom Page Size in Lightroom 3 such as the 20″ x 16″ page shown above. I chose 20″ x 16″ since its a common frame size available and the white borders used result in a very viewable 17″ x 11″ image size.

Once you’ve set your page size you’ll need to change the Image Settings as shown below to add a medium gray Stroke Border around your image giving it the appearance of being matted.

Lightroom Print Layout Settings

Lightroom Image Settings & Layout

To create a poster Layout, you’ll need to change the Margins to add the white border and set the Page Grid to 1 row and 1 column. This should result in a Cell Size exactly 17″ wide and 11″ high.

I use Lightroom 3′s Overlay settings to add a custom Identity Plate to the white border below the image as shown below.

Lightroom's Overlay Settings

Lightroom's Overlay Settings

This is where things can get a little tricky so I’ve created three custom Identity Plate templates including a one-line, two-line and three-line version to add and modify as needed.

Lightroom's Identity Plate

Centering Lightroom's Identity Plate

Centering the Identity Plate in the bottom white border can also be a little tricky and this feature has been improved only slightly in the Lightroom 3.

The best way I’ve found to do this is enlarge it to 100% and then center it with the edges of your image, moving it up and down, little by little until it looks about right. Then reduce to to somewhere between 60% – 75% until the text is smaller than the image width as shown above.

Editing an Identity Plate

A few tricks to make this look really nice:

  • Use an all-caps font like Trajan Pro for a really elegant look.
  • Add a blank space between each letter in a word and three blank spaces between each word.
  • Create a multi-line identity plate by adding pressing Option+Return to start a new line.
  • Use different font sizes for different parts of the identity plate.

Once you’ve finished this you can save your poster as a Print Template to use again and again.

Filed under: Photography Tagged: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3, Landscape Photography, Lightroom 3, Photography, Texas High Plains, Texas Landscapes

End of the Year Post: Photographic Safety

At the end of each year I try to leave my readers with a little something extra, to entice them to return in the new year to share my passion for nature photography. This year I want to discuss about a topic that is (unfortunately) becoming more and more important to nature photographers that visit our southern border; Photographic Safety! To start this off, I want to relate an incident from just a few weeks ago that reaffirmed my commitment to broach this sensitive but vital topic with my friends, readers and fellow photographers.

Enchanted Rock

Enchanted Rock – Fredericksburg, 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 1/5th 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.

As many of you know I love to travel the back-country roads of Texas looking for the best locations and light for landscape, nature and wildlife photography. Some of my favorite spots are several hundred of miles from Houston, scattered through the thousands of miles of Texas’ back-country roads and some, like Brazos Bend State Park are just a few miles from my home in Sugar Land. On a recent late afternoon hike I was approached by a group of wildlife enthusiasts, each carrying several thousand dollars worth of photographic gear, just as I was that afternoon. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes before each of us went our separate ways to capture a few last shots before the sun set in the southwest. Just a normal encounter between fellow photographers in one of the region’s finest state parks for photographing birds (cool) and alligators (yuck).

Threat Assessment
As we all began to walk off I noticed another group of four young men with P&S cameras standing alongside one of the trails and speaking with each other in muted tones. I honestly didn’t give it a second thought until they broke into two pairs and began to follow myself and the other photographers as we headed back to our vehicles. Two of the young men approached me and quietly asked how much a camera & lens like the one I was holding would cost. Since it was now fairly dark, I just kept on walking toward my vehicle and laid the camera & telephoto lens in the front seat while standing there with my rather large mono-pod looking very much like a club. I quietly reached up to the two-way radio attached to my pack and “chirped” the mic button a few times to gauge their reaction. As I had hoped, they heard the “chirp” and assumed I was a Park Ranger, TPWD officer or off-duty cop and quickly turned and walked off without waiting for me to answer.

I started my vehicle, put my lights and fog lamps on high-beam and drove over to the other photographers’ cars in time to see the four men now standing off to the side of the parking lot, light up like four deer in the headlights. They quickly turned and fled to their own car parked at the other end of the lake. I sat there with my lights illuminating the scene while the other photographers put their gear and long lenses away safely. Once the situation seemed secure I explained to them that it was my belief that the four young men were looking to steal my gear and theirs as well. The other photographers seemed a bit skeptical until I explained how the four men had split up and followed us separately back to our vehicles. I also explained that walking around with $20,000 – $30,000 of brand new cameras and shiny white lenses could attract the wrong kind of attention, even in a relatively safe place like a state park.

Concealment and Preparedness
I’ve blogged before about Packing for Landscape Photography but I want to emphasize that this post is about your personal safety and protection and I’ll be quite frank with everyone, the only person that can guaranty your safety is YOU and the only animal you have to fear as a photographer is the kind that walks upright on two feet!

As a husband and father of four daughters I sincerely wish this wasn’t the case, but we live in a world where some folks have decided (for whatever reason) that it’s acceptable behavior to steal someone else’s possessions and even assault them in the process. I’ve hiked, camped, snowshoed and canoed in North America all my adult life and have never run into an animal in the wild that wasn’t more afraid of me than I was of it, including bears, wolves, coyotes, elk, hogs and even a moose. The only animal that consistently preys on its own kind is “man”.

So, I have a few hard & fast “safety” rules when I’m out photographing nature into the evening hours.

  • I never (ever) open the back of my SUV and put together my shooting outfit (camera, lens, tripod, etc.) in the field. Nothing attracts the wrong kind of attention more than letting the whole world see all your shiny and expensive photo gear while you rummage through it for 20 minutes before beginning your hike. I generally put together my kit for the day before leaving my home and rarely put it away before returning home at night. Having your gear ready in advance offers you opportunities to shoot that you might miss otherwise and allows you to quickly and quietly exit your vehicle without attracting unwanted attention.

Filson Sportsman's Bag (Open)

  • I never store my camera, lenses, filters, etc. in an easily recognizable camera bag while I’m out in the field. Yes, I love the “Think Tank Rollers” for commercial work but nothing says ROB ME more than a large camera bag or backpack. In fact my current “camera bag” of choice is the Filson Sportsman’s Bag shown here. It is only slightly larger than my old Domke F2 canvas bag but it holds a whole lot more gear in its main compartment and two full-size, front & back pockets as you can see in this image.

  • I never hike without a Motorola MR350R two-way radio strapped to my belt or backpack, especially when alone. I have one with me at all times and another on the dashboard of my vehicle on top of a note that says quite simply “If I’m not back by 10:00PM, call me on this channel because I’m hurt and need help”. In most state parks here in Texas, the Park Ranger or Superintendent will drive the park before shutting the gate to all but folks camping in the park for the night. Most parks close at 10:00PM so my note tells the park official two things when he comes across my vehicle during his nightly “sweep”; I’m not camping in the park and I may need assistance. The radio allows the park official to contact me to determine my condition and location should a rescue be needed. A set of two radios costs less than $50 (USD) and is the cheapest insurance you can find when trouble occurs.

  • Another piece of technology I never leave home without is my trusty GPS with a fully-charged, high-capacity, lithium battery. In fact, my good friend and trusty guide Jack, has come up with a way to use an overcharged and partially discharged (non-standard) battery in his Garmin GPS to get over 10 hrs of continuous use. Today I use the Garmin GPSMAP 62S model since it has almost 2 GB of memory to hold my custom TOPO maps and previous routes. I’ve used the less-expensive Garmin Dakota and Oregon units in the past but found their range, reliability and battery life to be a potentially life-threatening issue. When you’re hiking in the Texas outback the last thing you need is a GPS that can’t find enough satellites for a proper fix. The high-end Garmin units have served Jack and I without fail during our recent expeditions and in one case, probably saved us from a 750 foot climb in the dark.

  • The final piece of gear that I carry is a Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm compact, semi-automatic pistol, that I pray, never (ever) has to be used to defend my life. I’m quite sure some of you reading this will stop right here in shock, thinking something like “how on Earth could a good Christian like Jeff carry a gun?” and “could he really take another life to save his own?”.

Like all major choices in life, the decision to train with, carry and potentially use a firearm is a very personal and difficult decision to make. Only a small percentage of our country’s population owns a firearm (the percentage is much higher in states like Texas & Montana) and an even smaller percentage of firearm owners decide to apply for a “concealed handgun license” and carry a firearm when they feel it’s necessary.

I grew up shooting pistols, rifles and shotguns and have owned a handgun on and off for the past 25 years. Although I’m comfortable around handguns my decision to properly train with and carry a firearm in the field was the result of my age and circumstances as well as where I live and photograph. A friend and fellow nature photographer that pens the blog Montana Outdoors, once posted a picture of his S&W .357 magnum pistol next to a huge paw print from a wolf walking on the same trail. While he carries for a different reason, we both understand that in the field, you are “responsible” for your own safety and protection and I doubt he hikes without his firearm.

Texas is a big place and many of the best locations for nature photography are in areas bordering Mexico. Now I’ve traveled along the Mexican border and into Mexican border towns for twenty years without feeling the least bit uncomfortable but the drug violence of the past few years has turned much of the country’s southern border into a “no mans land” reminiscent of the 1870′s. I’m not making any statements here about cause & effect or about border security policy. I’m just saying it’s a fact that there’s just too much land for the “authorities” to cover and any nature photographer venturing into the border area had better be aware of the risks.

We’ve had less trouble here in Texas than our neighbors in New Mexico and Arizona but the days of pitching a tent along a deserted stretch of the Rio Grande and waiting for a beautiful sunrise to photograph are probably over for time being. Today the watchwords for nature photographers are “situational awareness”, “threat assessment” and “evasion” just as much as they are “camera”, “lens” and “tripod”. These days it’s a good idea to plan your hikes to return before dark, be mindful of exactly where you are in relation to the border and be prepared with an emergency egress (route) should the worst occur. If possible, never hike alone and always leave an itinerary with someone at your base camp or hotel.

More than anything else, don’t take your personal safety in the field for granted. We still live in a world where the wolves will eat the unwary rabbit. Be aware, be careful and be safe and bring back some great photographs to share with us all.

Happy New Year!

Filed under: Photography Tagged: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3, Canon, Canon 5D Mark II, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Landscape Photography, Nature Photography, Photography, Texas Hill Country, Texas Landscapes

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.

Filed under: Photography Tagged: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3, Canon, Canon 5D Mark II, Landscape Photography, Nature Photography, Palo Duro Canyon, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Photography, Texas High Plains, Texas Landscapes

Workshop Preparation Post #6: Shoot What You Love

The Spring 2013 Texas Landscape Safari is less than a week 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 days 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 panhandle 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 Angel, Darrell or Ralph when you meet them in Canyon, Texas in a few days.

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.

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Filed under: Photography Tagged: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3, Canon, Canon 5D Mark II, Caprock Canyons State Park, Landscape Photography, Nature Photography, Palo Duro Canyon, Photography, Texas High Plains, Texas Landscape Safari, Texas Landscapes

Beside Still Waters

Beside Still Waters

Still Waters – Frio River near Concan, 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 24mm, f/16 for 1/13th 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.

Filed under: Photography Tagged: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3, Canon, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, Frio River, Landscape Photography, Nature Photography, Photography, Texas Hill Country, Texas Landscape Safari, Texas Landscapes

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.

Filed under: Photography Tagged: Adobe Photoshop CS5, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3, Canon, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, Landscape Photography, Nature Photography, Palo Duro Canyon, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Photography, Texas High Plains, Texas Landscapes, Travel Photography

Shooting Canon’s 70-200mm f/4L USM Lens

As most of you know, I shoot regularly with Canon’s EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens and have always found it to be an incredibly sharp and versatile little lens. Sometimes however, you just need a little more “reach” than this lens provides so I turn to another of my all-time favorite telephoto zooms, the EF 70-200mm f/4L USM and it’s younger brother the EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM.

I’ve always loved Canon’s telephoto zoom lenses in the “70-200mm” range and shot extensively with an old FD 70-210mm on my F-1N body in the days before digital. The EF 70-200mm lenses are both extremely sharp throughout their zoom range as you can see below in the MTF charts. I’d love to shoot the f/2.8L version of this lens but the price, size and weight convinced me to stick with the f/4 version. I also settled on the newer, image stabilized lens so I could use it for landscape and commercial (hand-held) work.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM MTF Charts

I’ve got to say that this is one impressive lens. The size and weight are just about perfect for my 5D2 body and using the “Tripod Mounting Ring A II” the combination balances effortlessly on my Gitzo tripod. This is probably the sharpest Canon zoom I’ve ever shot with and the extra “reach” really helps cover those shots I was missing before.

Lower McKinney Falls

Lower McKinney Falls – Austin, Texas
Copyright 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on manual (M) using an EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 85mm, f/20 for 0.4 seconds at ISO 100. All post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

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No lens is perfect but this little beauty is close. My only gripes are that the image stabilization system is somewhat loud compared to my EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM and my EF 300mm f/4L IS USM lenses and that the ET-74 lens hood is very narrow and deep. This makes adjusting a CP filter a bit of a pain when shooting.

And finally, the price difference between the “IS” version and “non-IS” version is just plain wrong ($1135 versus $589). The two lenses are optically very similar and I just can’t imagine that adding image stabilization could double the price. I suspect that Canon has been selling the “non-IS” version at too low a price for many years now and is trying to make up some of the profit on the “IS” version.

Other than that, Canon’s EF 70-200mm f4L lenses are absolutely superb in terms of sharpness, size/weight and value (especially the non-IS version at less than $600 USD) and I highly recommend either of these two lenses for landscape, portrait or commercial photography. You won’t be disappointed.

Filed under: Photography Tagged: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3, Canon, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, Landscape Photography, McKinney Falls State Park, Nature Photography, Photography, Texas, Texas Hill Country, Texas Landscapes