Evening on the Sabinal River

The Sabinal river starts in the hills and valleys just north of Vanderpool, Texas and runs south through the well-named little town of Utopia where its joined by the West Branch of the Sabinal. It meanders lazily south through the town of Sabinal and where it finally joins the Frio river in Uvalde County. The Sabinal is probably the purest river in all of Texas due to the sparse population along its path and the respect most folks in central Texas have for clean, clear water.

For miles and miles along its path you can find low water crossings just like this one, where the water is so clear you can see the river stones at the bottom and the small fish darting back and forth looking for dinner. It’s a great place to relax and get some nice early evening shots of the towering Cypress trees lining the river like soldiers standing at attention. Standing here it’s easy to see why the early settlers found this land so captivating.

Evening on the Sabinal River

Evening on the Sabinal River – Utopia, 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 1/13th of a second at ISO 100 with a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

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View Location on Panoramio & Google Earth: Evening on the Sabinal River – Utopia, Texas

Looking East Over Caprock Canyons

Somewhere just north of Caprock Canyons State Park lies a secluded section of Highway 256 that runs northeast from Silverton, Texas. On the north side of the road are several spots that look over the entire canyon for as far as you can see. Most folks in a hurry never give these spots a second thought but in the early morning and late evening you can find a few like myself, that just can’t resist a vista like this.

Just North of Caprock Canyons

Somewhere North of Caprock Canyons – Silverton, 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 22mm, f/16 for 1/50th 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: Somewhere North of Caprock Canyons – Silverton, Texas

You Really Do Need Photoshop CS5

I’m a lazy photographer and I’ll be the first to admit it. I’d much rather be out in the field shooting landscapes or even on location doing product shots for a client, than sitting in my office working in Lightroom or Photoshop. I used to enjoy working in the darkroom for hours on end, dodging and burning an enlargement to get it just right. But I just don’t get the same “thrill” from developing my raw files into something a client might like on my MacBook. Like I said, I’m lazy. That’s why I’m more than willing to shell out my hard earned cash for a piece of software like Adobe’s most recent version of Photoshop (CS5) with its content aware healing brush.

Take this shot below for example. As you ca see in the first image, there are two power lines running horizontally through the middle of the scene. I can remember looking at this scene back in June and wondering if I should even take the shot given my mediocre Photoshop skills. I couldn’t find any angle that hid the power lines but decided to shoot it anyway, with the hope that Photoshop’s new “content aware” healing brush might help me salvage this somehow.

Tule Canyon Butte No CS5

As you can see in the second image, the healing brush in Photoshop CS5 did what I once thought impossible. It erased the horizontal power lines with enough “content awareness” (can a computer program be aware?) that the image still looks “natural”, at least when printed or viewed at less than 100%. Obviously, no amount of “content awareness” will allow you to perfectly erase a horizontal line running through a scene like this, but the results are very impressive anyway.

Given the huge improvement of the Photoshop CS5’s healing brush over CS4, just think of what a few more years of “content aware” development may bring. I guess I’ll need to keep budgeting for those Photoshop upgrades every year or so, and I’m fairly certain that’s what Adobe is counting on.

Tule Canyon Butte

Tule Canyon Butte – Silverton, 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 96mm, f/16 for 1/60th of a second at ISO 100 with a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5.

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View Location on Panoramio & Google Earth: Tule Canyon Butte – Silverton, Texas

High Noon

One of the things I teach in my workshops is that there is no wrong time of day (or night) to shoot. It all depends upon the light and what story you want to tell with your image. Having said that, there are a slew of magazines that will not even look at a landscape image unless it’s taken during the “golden hours”. More power to them.

Me, I’ll shoot whenever the light and the scene have a story to tell. It may be 6:00 AM in the morning, 8:00 PM in the evening or even at high noon. I figure I’ve got about 20 years before this back of mine gives out for good and I’m not about to waist what time I’ve got left waiting for those “golden hours” to occur.

Life is too short!

High Noon

High Noon – Silverton, 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 28mm, f/11 for 1/125th of a second at ISO 100 with a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

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View Location on Panoramio & Google Earth: High Noon – Silverton, Texas

Why You Need a Good Circular Polarizer

A circular polarizer filters out light that has been polarized perpendicularly to the axis of the filter. This has three effects in digital photography; it reduces unwanted reflections from most surfaces, it darkens the blue sky adding contrast and it saturates the bright colors in the image by eliminating unwanted glare. A circular polarizer is the one filter a landscape photographer should never be without.

Take this shot of the Frio River for example. The overall exposure looks fine but the glare from the water makes this look more like a snapshot rather than the great shot I wanted it to be.

Frio River Stones No Polarizer

Frio River Stones (No Polarizer) – Leakey, 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 17mm, f/16 for 1/25th of a second at ISO 100. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

Adding a circular polarizer as shown in the second shot makes all the difference in the world. The shallow water is almost crystal clear and you can see the river stones clearly beneath the surface. The leaves on the tall Cypress trees look more crisp and better defined and the overall contrast of the shot is much improved. All from a simple turn of the circular polarizer.

Frio River Stones

Frio River Stones – Leakey, 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 17mm, f/16 for 1/30th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray LB Warming polarizer. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

When I added the LB Warming Polarizer to the Canon 17-40mm lens, it immediately cut through the glare on the water and brought out the beautiful yellows and greens in the scene. By adjusting the degree of polarization, I was able to make the water almost perfectly transparent in the foreground but gradually becoming reflective in the middle-ground. This allowed the river stones to dominate the image without losing the beautiful reflections of the trees. It also added some much needed contrast between the white clouds and blue sky in the background.

The trees and bushes here in Texas really reflect a lot of light causing severe problems when shooting digital images. Even in the early morning or late evening, the reflected light can overwhelm the camera’s sensor, resulting in blown-out highlights and washed out color. That’s where the Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer really comes in handy, by reducing the glare and adding much needed color saturation. The final shot was much closer to what I remembered seeing that day and all the heavy lifting was done “in camera” using the Singh-Ray polarizer, rather than in “post” using Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop.

Singh-Ray filters are not cheap but they do offer the best quality and performance I’ve seen in a filter. I honestly can’t remember the last time I didn’t use my Singh-Ray polarizer for landscape work.

Many Thanks to the Houston Photochrome Club

Houston Photochrome ClubI had a wonderful time presenting at the Houston Photochrome Club last evening. The folks were patient, warm and friendly; pretty much what you’d expect from a group of enthusiastic Houston photographers. I’d like to thank Scott Meyer for giving me the opportunity to speak in front this distinguished group. I enjoyed every minute of it.

Sharing my passion for landscape photography in the Texas Hill Country with a group of enthusiasts is something like preaching to the choir. It’s amazing to me how many folks from different walks of life have fallen in love the camera the way I did over 30 years ago. It’s also very gratifying to see “somewhat older” folks take up this hobby of a lifetime and begin to learn how to “see” all over again.

Hill Country Landscapes Presentation HighlightsI’ve posted a copy (PDF format) of the presentation that folks can download here. Just click on the image to the left. Be warned, it’s a 15 MB file and might take a bit of time to download. And here’s a set of links to some of the products I discussed last evening:

Gitzo Traveller Tripod (Legs)
Really Right Stuff Ball Heads
Hot Shoe Bubble Level
Singh-Ray Filters

Hill Country Blues

Some evenings right before sunset, the Hill Country sky will turn a beautiful shade of turquoise as the sun’s rays begin to refract through the humid atmosphere. The color fades fast going though a transition from turquoise to blue-green to indigo and finally to a deep violet. It’s almost as if the sky is performing for our viewing pleasure.

Folks that spend most of their lives in the big cities of Texas, may never have the opportunity to experience a sunset like this. Many don’t even know what they’re missing. But those that frequent the Hill Country know that a summer sunset is best enjoyed among friends, sitting high above the canyon floor and celebrating all that the Lord has provided.

Come to Texas at least once in your life my friends, and experience for yourself the simple beauty of a Hill Country sunset.

Hill Country Blues

Hill Country Blues – Leakey, 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 37mm, f/16 for 4/10th of a second at ISO 100 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: Hill Country Blues – Leakey, Texas

The Road is Long

Well, I’ve finally caught up on some much needed sleep and uploaded all my shots from last weekend’s Hill Country trip. As I said in my last post, the good Lord must have been watching out for me because the weather in central Texas was nothing less than spectacular. While Houston was wilting under heat indices over 110F, we were enjoying 85F afternoons with 50% relative humidity. Unbelievable for August in the Texas Hill Country.

Like most journeys through central Texas, I racked up over 800 miles of Hill Country roads in my quest to photograph the rivers in this region. As I’ve said before, Texas is a really big place and we’re very lucky to have some of the best maintained state and county roads of any place I’ve ever traveled.

And talk about beauty! With skies like this, what more could a traveling photographer ever ask for?

The Road is Long

The Road is Long – Vanderpool, 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 17mm, f/16 for 1/60th of a second at ISO 100 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: The Road is Long – Vanderpool, Texas