Many Thanks to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

Summertime in southeast Texas can be brutal. Most folks around here spend the summer cooped up in their air-conditioned homes, cars or offices and never venture forth until the cooler, dryer days of autumn. Other folks like myself, head for the closest state park when the mercury begins to rise.

We are blessed here in Texas with some of the most beautiful and well maintained state parks found in the US. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) folks do a great job of managing and maintaining these incredible parks, most of which have been in continuous services since the 1930′s. In fact, many of these wonderful parks were built or expanded by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The Texas Legislature has charged the folks at TPWD with protecting the state’s fish and wildlife resources and managing the state parks, wildlife management areas and historic sites for people to use and enjoy, now and in the future.

As a landscape and nature photographer, I am constantly amazed at the beauty and grandeur of our state parks. As a husband and father of four daughters, I am grateful for the efforts of the folks at the TPWD in preserving these treasures for future generations to enjoy as we do today.

Summer at the Lake

Bastrop State Park Lake – Bastrop, 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 38mm, 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.

View Location on Panoramio & Google Earth: Bastrop State Park Lake – Bastrop, Texas

Park Road 1C Between Buescher and Bastrop State Parks

Here’s a bit of advice for you summer couch potatoes. Grab your keys, your kids and your car this Saturday and head on out to Buescher State Park or Bastrop State Park just a few miles northwest of La Grange, Texas on Highway 71.

It’s only 90 minutes from Houston (if you drive like I do) but the scenery is unlike anything Houston has to offer. Rent a canoe, bring your fishing pole or just dip your toes in the water. Life is too short to spend it inside waiting for cooler weather.

And just before sunset, you’ll find me on Park Road 1C setting up my tripod and camera and enjoying the late evening Texas heat. Come on out and join me! There’s always plenty of room for folks looking to enjoy a beautiful Texas sunset.

Filed under: Photography Tagged: Bastrop State Park, Buescher State Park, Canon, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, Landscape Photography, Nature Photography, Photography, Texas Hill Country, Texas Landscapes, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

Evening Drama

Here’s another simple but effective way to capture a very high contrast image without resorting to HDR techniques. Not that I have anything serious against HDR, but I find it very rewarding to be able to capture a shot like this “in camera”.

Yes, I know I’m an old fuddy-duddy but hey, I earned every one of those gray hairs.

Evening Drama

Evening Drama – Johnson City, 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 1/6th of a second at ISO 200 with 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.

View Location on Panoramio & Google Earth: Evening Drama – Johnson City, Texas

How to Get this Type of Shot
The key to getting this type of shot is to recognize that the dynamic range of this scene is well beyond what your camera’s metering system can handle. In fact, the dark-to-light-to-dark pattern found in this scene is sure to fool your camera’s meter most of the time.

  • For Canon shooters this type of situation call for enabling your camera’s Highlight Tone Priority setting which “shifts” the sensor’s response curve (dynamic range) so that gradations between highlight tones become smoother. It also helps recover blown-out highlights as you can see in the center of this shot. You should always have your camera’s highlight warning (blinkies) turned on as well.
  • Another key is to use a graduated neutral density filter to “even out” the exposure values between the foreground, middle ground and background. I prefer to hand-hold Singh-Ray’s “soft” graduated ND filters and move them slightly during the exposure to obtain an even softer transition. Yes, this may create some dark areas in your image that need some post-capture work since an ND-Grad filter won’t follow the broken shape of your scene’s horizon.
  • The final key is to slightly underexpose this type of shot to add drama to the clouds and add saturation to the colors in the scene. If you overexpose a shot like this the highlights will be completely blown out and all the detail will be lost forever. No amount of post-capture processing can recover blown out highlights because there is simply no data to recover. I generally underexpose a shot like this about two-thirds of a stop to prevent this from happening.

Once you learn to recognize a difficult lighting situation like this, you’re halfway there to capturing a shot you’ll be proud of. Don’t get discouraged if this takes some practice. I took over 30 shots of this scene before I got the “one” that I liked enough to print. The other 29 ended up on the cutting room floor (metaphorically speaking of course).

Filed under: Photography Tagged: Canon, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, Landscape Photography, Nature Photography, Pedernales Falls State Park, Photography, Texas Hill Country, Texas Landscapes

Workshop Preparation Post #5: Packing for Landscape Photography

As I’ve posted before, gear selection and packing for a landscape photography trip is a cumbersome task. Each time I set out for a few days or a few weeks I begin by putting together a shoot list and hiking schedule. I also check the weather forecast for the area of Texas I’ll be traveling though and pray for any cold fronts approaching from the north or west. The last thing I want is a cloudless sky.

Packing for Landscape Photography

Pulling together a shoot list is a common enough task for most commercial photographers but I find few landscape or nature shooters that follow this discipline. I like to maximize my time in the field but I can’t carry fifty pounds of cameras and lenses on each hike so a shoot list is essential.

So here is a list of what I pack for a typical landscape outing.

  • Canon 5D Mark III with EF 17-40mm f/4L USM zoom attached.
  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L zoom with lens hood.
  • Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II Tilt & Shift Lens.
  • Gitzo Traveller Tripod & RRS Ballhead.
  • Singh-Ray CP, Vari-ND & ND Grad filters.
  • Black Rapid R-Strap & Clips.
  • Bubble level, CF cards, lens cloths.
  • Garmin GPS on one strap.
  • Motorola MR350 Two Way Radio on the other strap.
  • Emergency Thermal Mylar Blanket.
  • Hiker’s First Aid Kit.
  • LED Flashlight & Hunting Knife.
  • Emergency Bail-Out Rope.
  • Water, typically three 24oz bottles.
  • Trail Snacks (for energy).

This much gear weighs in a little under 20 lbs and fits comfortably in my pack. The nice thing is, the weight decreases during the hike as I consume my water supply and trail snacks. I caution folks about carrying too much weight in their packs. I’ve done these hikes and climbs several times in the past few years and every extra ounce of weight you carry takes that much more energy. When you’re out shooting in nature, the last thing you need to be thinking about is how sore your lower back is from lugging around all that gear.

In fact, during my spring workshop (Texas Landscape Safari) I may carry only one lens (24-105mm) on my 5D3 and a few filters in my pockets. I load my pack up with as much water as I can carry along with some apples for energy. One thing I tell all my attendees; if it’s a choice between a lens or a bottle of water, always take the water. The Texas sun can be a relentless companion and folks that don’t respect its strength soon find themselves dehydrated and exhausted. Not a great combination for a budding landscape photographer during a workshop.

Filed under: Photography Tagged: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4, Canon, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM, Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Caprock Canyons State Park, Landscape Photography, Nature Photography, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Photography, Te, Texas High Plains, Texas Hill Country, 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

Circle of Life?

Another landscape self portrait in a long series of shots from the great state of Texas!

Circle of Life

Circle of Life – Big Bend National Park, Texas
Copyright 2011 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/14 for 1/15th 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.

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Filed under: Photography Tagged: Adobe Photoshop CS5, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3, Big Bend National Park, Canon, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, Landscape Photography, Nature Photography, Photography, Texas, Texas Landscapes, Travel Photography, West Texas

Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks – Big Bend National Park, Texas
Copyright 2011 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 33mm, f/14 for 1/60th 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.

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Filed under: Photography Tagged: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3, Big Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Canon, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, Landscape Photography, Nature Photography, Photography, Texas, Texas Landscapes, West Texas

Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon – Terlingua, Texas
Copyright 2011 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/14 for 1/30th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 4.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

Follow @jefflynchphoto

Filed under: Photography Tagged: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4, Big Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Canon, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, Landscape Photography, Nature Photography, Photography, Santa Elena Canyon, Texas, Texas Landscape Safari, Texas Landscapes, West Texas