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

Travel Photography – Storm Brewing

Texas is in a drought. The entire state is way behind in rainfall and we’re really praying for some wet weather. I took this shot on State Hwy 36 on my way out of Brenham, Texas last weekend. You can see just how dry things look and the storm that was brewing never came to be.

Storm Brewing

Storm Brewing
Copyright 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon 50D set on aperture priority (Av), using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM hand-held. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/9.5 for 1/250th of a second at ISO 100 on Lexar Professional UDMA 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 50D, Texas Towns, Travel Photography

Landscape Photography – A Sense of Scale

Have you ever photographed a deep forest, a huge lake or an enormous mountain range and when you looked at your images later they just didn’t seem as “big” as you remember? This happens a lot in landscape photography since the camera itself has no way to record a sense of scale. Its up to you as the photographer to create this sense of scale, which is why many professionals prefer to shoot landscape and travel images that include people.

Take the image below for example. This field of wildflowers covered several acres of land and stretched almost as far as the eye could see. Without the people in the image, the sense of scale would have been lost.

Bluebonnets

Bluebonnets
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/9.5 for 1/60th of a second at ISO 100 on Sandisk Extreme III digital film. Post capture processing was done in Lightroom 2 and Photoshop Elements using Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro filters. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Canon, Canon 40D, Landscape Photography, Texas Towns, Wildflowers

Landscape Photography – Columbus Tower

As many of you know, I love wandering around small Texas towns with my camera in hand. Each town I visit has a rich and varied history as well as some of the most wonderful architecture a photographer could ever ask for.

Columbus, Texas is no exception. After a serious fire gutted the town’s livery stable and hotel in 1883, the county commissioners authorized construction of a round brick water tower, constructed from some 400,000 locally made bricks. The incredible brick walls in this tower were built almost three feet thick to support a metal water tank atop the two-story structure. Beneath it, the city’s volunteer fire department had its office and fire fighting equipment. After the early 1900 s the water tower fell into disrepair and in 1926 the United Daughters of the Confederacy got county officials to agree to let them use the tower as their meeting place. It stands proudly there to this day as a wonderful historical marker.

Columbus Tower

Tower in Columbus, 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 24mm, f/6.3 for 1/640th of a second at ISO 200 on Sandisk digital film. Post capture processing was done in Lightroom 2 using Nik’s Color Efex Pro plug-in. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Canon, Canon 40D, Landscape Photography, Texas Towns

Black & White Conversion in Silver Efex Pro

Some shots are just meant to be converted into black & white and there’s really no better tool than Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro plug-in for Photoshop and Lightroom. I’ve tried many different black & white conversion techniques in the past few years and nothing I’ve found works half as good as Silver Efex Pro.

Oldest Presbyterian Church in Texas

Oldest Presbyterian Church in 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 circular polarizer filter attached. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/13 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 using Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro filter. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Church_Raw_Blog

Here’s what the raw file looked like in Lightroom 2 before any processing was done. Not a bad color image but fairly bland given the cloudless sky and dry conditions. Converting this image into black & white added the extra contrast that was needed to give the image a little more vibrance and “pop”.

One thing to keep in mind when converting to black & white using any technique is noise. I always run Lightroom’s or Dfine’s noise reduction before the black & white conversion process. This helps eliminate the artifacts that can occur when high contrast images are converted to black & white.

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