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

Nature Photography – Monument Hill in Texas

Just a quick post letting everyone know where I’ll be shooting this weekend. The Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Sites in La Grange, Texas is one of my favorite landscape and nature photography locations in all Southeast Texas. The geology of the ridge (see satellite image below) is very unusual for this part of Texas and the view to the North is incredible.

Like all state parks in Texas, Monument Hill is very well maintained with well laid-out hiking trails leading down to the ruins of the Kreische Brewery. The stonework is absolutely incredible and I hope to bring back some really nice images on my 5DII and G10 cameras.

Have a great weekend folks!

Monument Hill State Historical Site - La Grange, Texas

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

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.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Canon, Canon 5D Mark II, Landscape Photography, Monument Hill State Historic Site, Photography

New Camera, New Images, New Beginnings

I wasn’t going to write this post since it’s a photo-blogging cliche to rave about your new camera, new lens or other new gear. I really do believe David duChemin’s mantra “Gear is Good, Vision is Better” but sometimes you just have to lay it on the line. I know some folks reading this post are going to hate me for writing it, but here goes.

Back in mid-July David wrote a post entitled Sens(or) and Sensibility where he postulated; 1) that sensor size really does matter in so many ways, but especially to depth of field and 2) to forget equivalency or more simply put, to forget the field of view crop factor between a full frame sensor and an APS-C size sensor. The ensuing comment war went on for over sixty comments all very passionately discussing the various theories of magnification, field of view, focal length and perspective.

Having used the 5DII for a few outings now I can assure you in no uncertain terms, the differences between a full frame sensor and an APS-C size sensor are huge and the difference between Canon’s xD line and xxD line are very significant. I’ll leave the technical discussions of FOVCF to the experts however.

The image below was taken late Sunday afternoon when it “looked” like a thunderstorm was finally going to end our drought here in southeast Texas (unfortunately it never rained here in Sugar Land). I looked outside, saw the wonderful clouds forming and grabbed my 5DII for a few quick exposures at the sugar mill, a site I’ve photographed several times in the past. I took several exposures of this scene using a single AF point positioned over the silos in the frame using apertures from f/5.6 to f/22. I wanted to see what the minimum aperture would be required to obtain enough depth of field to ensure the entire image was sharp. Boy was I in for a surprise.

Storm at the Sugar Mill

Storm at the Sugar Mill
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 tripod-mounted with a B&W circular polarizer attached. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/11 for 1/40th 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.

Using either of my 40D or 50D bodies I could have easily gotten away with any aperture greater than f/5.6 but with the 5DII even f/8 provided too narrow a depth of field and I ended up using f/11. I half expected this since I’d seen the same result in a previous post showing the water barrel and now started to understand just how different the depth of field of these two sensors really was. To use this camera effectively for landscape shots I would need to pay careful attention to both focus and aperture.

The other differences that hit me right away were the incredible detail provided by the 5DII and more importantly, the almost total lack of noise in my images. Normally I run each image through Nik Software’s Dfine 2.0 noise reduction filter just to see if any areas need a little noise reduction. On my 50D this was a necessity for almost any high contrast or high ISO image. On the 5DII, Dfine could fine almost no noise at all, not even in the darkest shadow areas and blue sky.

So here’s the good news and the bad news for crop body shooters. In my unscientific opinion, the difference between using a full frame sensor and an APS-C sensor is very real in terms of depth of field, although this may or may not be an advantage to a landscape photographer. I also feel the image quality of a full frame sensor is worth every penny of the 2x cost differential. I won’t speak about field of view or crop factors since those discussions are way over my head, but I will say this; my EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM never looked anywhere this wide or this sharp on my 40D or 50D bodies. I took this shot at 24mm, standing at exactly the same spot as I’ve done in the past with my 50D and EF-S 10-22mm lens. And this shot looks much, MUCH wider and much less distorted. That’s the good news.

Now here’s the bad news. Once you see the results of an average shot taken with a full frame sensor you’ll never want to shoot with a crop body again. I know I didn’t after renting a 5D and trying it out a few months ago. Fortunately the price of full frame DSLRs should begin to fall as each manufacturer reports significant declines in their quarterly earnings and becomes desperate for sales revenue. And as each manufacturer comes out with another new FF model, the prices for discontinued full frame models like the original 5D becomes more palatable. I hate to sound like a fanboy convert but the lure of the full frame sensor is very strong and for good reasons. I hate to say it but I really believe the full frame sensor will allow you to dramatically improve your photography and after all, isn’t that what we all aspire to?

My recommendation is simple. If you’re in the market for a new DSLR of any brand, rent one with a full frame sensor for a week. Shoot almost any subject with your current DSLR and the full frame DSLR you’ve rented. Look at the RAW files from both cameras at 100% crop and I promise you, you’ll be astonished by the difference.

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

Landscape Photography – Mission Cross

Here’s one of the first shots taken last weekend in Goliad, Texas at the Mission Espiritu Santo de Zu iga, a beautifully reconstructed Franciscan mission from the 1700 s. A stone outside reads:

“Site of the Mission Nuestra Se ora del Espiritu Santo de Zu iga. First established at the site of La Salle’s fort on Garcitas Creek, Victoria County, Among the Coco, Cujanes, Karankawa and other indian tribes in 1722. Moved to Mission Valley, Victoria County, on the Guadalupe River among the Jaranames and Tamiques in 1826. Located on the present site in 1749 for the same indian neophytes. Secularized in 1794. Here Franciscan friars attempted to civilize and Christianize even the cannibalistic indians of the region. Erected by the State of Texas 1936.”

Mission Cross

Mission Cross
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 tripod-mounted with a Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer attached. The exposure was taken at 105mm, f/8 for 1/250th 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.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Canon, Canon 5D Mark II, Goliad State Park, Photography, Texas State Parks, Texas Towns

Landscape Photography – Mission Bell

Here’s another shot taken last weekend in Goliad, Texas at the Mission Espiritu Santo de Zu iga, a beautifully reconstructed Franciscan mission from the 1700 s. For every mission there must be a bell to call folks to worship and this is no exception.

Mission Bell

Mission Bell
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 tripod-mounted with a Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer attached. The exposure was taken at 70mm, f/11 for 1/80th of a second at ISO 100 on Lexar Professional digital film. Post capture processing was done in Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4 (details below). Click on the image above for a larger version.

I decided to try a little different approach in post processing on this image. I had taken this image using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer, so not much really needed to be done in post.

Mission Bell Converted from RAW

I originally envisioned this shot as a black & white or duotone image and began the RAW conversion in Lightroom 2 as I normally would by correcting the exposure, adding some contrast and tweaking the luminance of the sky slightly.

The image really started to look nice with the warm details of the Mission set against the deep blue sky and white clouds as you can see here.

Using Layers for a Desaturated Look

I almost stopped right here and gave up on the idea of a B&W or duotone image but then I remembered a simple little Photoshop trick that I’d learned from one of Matt Kosklowski’s videos on Kelby Training.

I cloned the background layer and converted it to grayscale using Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro plug-in filter with the “Soft Sepia” option. Then I simply set the new layer’s opacity to around 28% to give the finished imaged a warm, high contrast but desaturated look. I also lightened the bell just enough to bring out the highlights on it. This is a really simple way to add a little contrast and color to a black & white or duotone image and took about 5 minutes in Photoshop CS4.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Canon, Canon 5D Mark II, Goliad State Park, Photography, Texas State Parks, Texas Towns

Landscape Photography – The Old West

Here’s another shot I took last weekend in Goliad, Texas of the Presidio La Bahia. Walking around this old mission and fort was like stepping on the set of a John Wayne movie. The old west at it’s best!

Have a great weekend folks!

Presidio La Bah  a

Presidio La Bahia – Goliad, 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 tripod-mounted with a Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer attached. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/13 for 1/40th of a second at ISO 100 on Lexar Professional digital film. Post capture processing was done in Lightroom 2. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Canon, Canon 5D Mark II, Goliad State Park, Landscape Photography, Photography, Texas State Parks