About the Photography

ml.jpgSome visitors have expressed interest about the photography on the site, so I’ve put together this resource in hopes it will encourage others to explore the artform; there’s never been a more exciting time to be a photographer. We have tools at our disposal that a few years ago would have seemed too farfetched to be believed…

Matthew Lyon

The Art:

I’m drawn to a wide variety of images. Some photographers have a “voice”, a style that is hard to confuse with anyone else’s. I’m not there yet, and may never be… we’ll see. I’m interested in technically precise artists as well as some of the fluid, “messy” work of some of the toy camera photographers.

I love old-school “straight” photography, but have never worked in a traditional darkroom. I’ve read all three of Ansel Adam’s books in the big trilogy and have tried to understand how to apply some of these principals to the digital darkroom. I’ll analyze what makes an image I like “tick” and try to figure out how to make that happen in Photoshop, kind of like “reverse engineering” art. Some things of course happen very easily, even naturally, with film that are difficult to reproduce digitally. I’m trying to get to a place in my understanding of digital workflow so that it provides a pure path to expression.

Digital photography, in turn, provides the opportunity to achieve things that would have been difficult with film. The ability to produce images of extremely subtle color and tonality ranges is a facet of digital photography that is just beginning to be explored. Low contrast, low saturation images with delicate colors and gradations of tonal values are as easy to produce as vibrant saturated images. Both have their place.

A few photographers I’m currently enjoying are Bill Schwab, Frank Grisdale, Rolf Horn, Alain Briot and Henri Carter-Bresson. These divergent voices are a few of my current influences as I work on my own images.

The Gear: digital_rebel_xt-front.jpg
It’s really not that important. At the moment, I’m using a Canon Rebel XT digital SLR, kind of the Honda Civic of DSLRs: well built, inexpensive (relatively…),and ubiquitous. If don’t own one yourself, chances are you know someone who does. I’m using the kit lens. It’s the only one I have, a situation I hope to remedy soon. 056.jpg

I’m in between tripods at the moment. (aren’t all photographers?) I had a smallish Slik with a ballhead that has taken up residence in Helena at our son Ian’s dorm room. My own father recently gave me a really nice Manfrotto/Bogen head that I just need to find the right tripod to go with. He’s made some modifications to it, as he seems to with all his tripods… he really should work for Manfrotto, because he seems to have a knack for improving their already fine products. (There seems to be a theme of father/son tripod transfers going on here, though I think I got the better end of this particular round of exchanges!)

The Software: star_essentials.jpg
I’m shooting in RAW format exclusively. There’s a lot of debate of the merits of shooting RAW vs. JPG. For me, once I experienced the power of working with RAW images, there was no way I could go back to shooting anything else. The ability to have total control over so many parameters is worth the additional steps added to my workflow. I’m using Rawshooter to do my conversions… the “essentials” version is free and has nearly every feature I’d like to see in a raw converter. Of course this info is PC specific, since I’m presently using a Gateway machine running WinXP. If I was using a Mac I’d be looking seriously at Apple’s Aperture, which looks incredible.

I’ll frequently process multiple versions of the same file with different exposures and combine them using layer masks in Photoshop, giving me more control over the final image, much like dodging and burning in the traditional darkroom setting.

Once the raw image is processed into a TIFF format file, it heads to Photoshop, where I do cropping, resizing, and anything else that might be needed that can’t be accomplished in Rawshooter.

My black and white conversions are done using a custom Photoshop action I developed using a combination of the best conversion methods I’ve seen in my research thus far. It involves several hue/saturation layers as well as a selective color layer and a solid color layer. I plan on writing a complete tutorial on this subject soon, so check back if you’re interested.

The Print:

Like many people, I’ve spent way too much time and money trying to sort out the best way to print my work. I’m a huge fan of the beautiful tonalities available using modern inkjet printers, when everything is just right. So often though, it wasn’t, and I’d burn through ink and paper at alarming rates. It was getting difficult to justify the expense and headache. In response to this, I’ve recently started doing my printing at Costco. I just upload images to the website and pick them up next time we’re in Missoula. The service is great, the prices are great, and most importantly of all, the quality is very good. Prints are made on either glossy or lustre surface Fuji paper, and look exactly like what my image files look like.

The Images:

West Fork of the Thompson River


Second Beach, Olympic National Park


Music & Light, Study#4
(this image was influenced by the work of Frank Grisdale. It is a 30 second exposure, hand-held. This is the straight image with no processing in photoshop…)


Taking Flight,Kalaloch Beach


Alasdair Lyon
Alasdair Lyon, Drumming


Sechelt Peninsula

Sea Stacks, Olympic National Park

Roots in the Sky, Kalaloch Beach

Drumming in Time


Approaching Storm


0 thoughts on “About the Photography

  1. Thanks, Rose-Marie… I hope you do give RAW a try. It really gives you so much control over the final image that it makes the extra work worth it, at least for me.

    The two images you asked about are toned using a “solid color” adjustment layer with the blend mode set to ‘”color” instead of “normal”. I change to transparency of this layer to between 10% and 50% or so depending on the image. Finally, I go into the advanced blending options for the layer and play with the “blend if” sliders to make the image a split-tone… some values of gray are toned and some aren’t depending on how the sliders are set. It’s hard to describe but pretty easy to do… I really need to get around to writing a tutorial!

  2. Your technical expertise is astounding Matt as well as your imagery, the harp shot is a sweet variation from the norm –

    Warmest Regards & Continued Success
    Scott B. of Visual Confections

  3. I have never in my 57 years seen clouds like those in Approaching Storm, I felt like running for cover — and before our recent move to WA state, we lived in FL, where it stormed all the time. Is that real or one you have experimented with? If it is real, I have to see those clouds in person at least once.

  4. Hi Marcia… that was pretty much what the clouds looked like. I did two versions of this shot, one for Weather Underground that was a pretty straight rendition, and this one with a bit more contrast as an “art piece” to try and capture the feel of seeing them. They’re called Mammatus clouds… pretty amazing to see. I was glad I had a camera!

  5. What first attracted me to your site was the mountain photo in Underground. Then I opened your and your wife’s great web site. I’ve tried to view and read it all but haven’t had time yet! You are very fortunate to have such a wonderful (and prolific-writing) wife. Like her, my wife also attended Quaker Meetings in her younger years.
    Coincidentally, my wife also has a Canon XT that she’ll be using on our next Western trip very soon. We’ll be in Wyoming and probably Montana as well. (We grudgingly exist in Massachusetts). I use a Canon 20D but just may upgrade to the better (but pricey) 5D. (I also shoot RAW only.)
    You sir, have obviously reached a higher plane of expertise with Photoshop than I. At my ripe (old) age, I don’t seem to learn new techniques as easily as I once did. It would be great if you did write a tutorial or two explaining your advanced methods of Photoshop image creation!
    Your images are memorable. Keep up the good work!
    Al Hodge

  6. I am so pleased my friend recommended I visit your site. Impressive. Your picture “roots” is so thrilling to me. I will visit often.

  7. Wow, and Awwww…like everyone else sais..each capture is more stunning than the last!
    The last capture~the clouds are fabulous! I think the second capture ~the beach olympic national park is my favorite, something about the color of it, and the stillness, I could just get lost in that photograph!
    Your photos are truly amazing!

  8. Hello I just wanted to comment on the floating tree… I have climbed that tree for many years… I love your work and the memories I get from looking at familiar landscapes of the Pacific Northwest.

  9. Pingback: Advanced Techniques For Beginning Photographers. | 7Wins.eu

  10. “the Honda Civic of DSLRs”
    haha it’s so true!

    I’ve been shooting with one as well, but I’ve still got a long ways to go…

    Found you through Beth Patterson’s page – really nice to meet you guys!

  11. Hi Matthew,
    Your website is beautiful. And your music is lovely and soothing. I would like to ask permission to use the beautiful photo of your harp to create one of several gift icons I’m making for facebook. I’d like to be able to offer a variety of harp gifts, not just the usual gold concert harp. I love the rich colors and slight rawness of your photo. Thank you for your consideration

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