Lots of times in photography we want to compose the scene we’re photographing so that it appears as if it is from a specific era. Professional photographers often want our images to appear timeless. This approach gives our images more staying power and therefore allows them to be used in any decade. As I travel the world, I make sure to compose a good percentage of my images so they don’t include elements from vastly different eras in the same scene. This is often easier to do in nature photography, but it can be very difficult in urban environments.
During a recent trip to Cuba, I was constantly struggling with this approach. Much of Cuba is stuck in 1959 but their nation is also struggling to fit into the modern world. For example, many of the cars are pre-1960 American vehicles, while the many of the buildings are from the 1700s and 1800s. Couple that with the modern imported cars from Asia and all the people with cellphones walking the streets and you have an amazingly diverse visual setting.
Trying to isolate a visual element while eliminating elements from different eras takes quite a bit of effort and patience! At some point during my trip, I decided that I would embrace the juxtaposition between old and new and use that as a thematic element in my story telling. Rather than fight it, I decided to embrace it! I set about tell Cuba’s story in a way that would show how the modern era is quickly emerging.
That’s a lesson I have to learn over and over again in photography. I go into a scenario with a certain mindset and find that reality is different than I expected. Rather than trying to impose my will on my surroundings, I find I get better images when I adapt to the scene. Next time you go out photographing on a trip, I encourage you to adapt to your scene as well. Your photographs will thank you.
Over the last year, I’ve been working with CreativeLive to teach a wide variety of classes aimed at helping photographers become proficient shooters. The topics range from panoramas to studio photography to Nikon wireless flash and autofocus. CreativeLive is one of the premiere educational platforms available today and I’m proud to be a part of their team of high-caliber professional educators.
Here are links to the current classes posted at CreativeLive.com. Be sure to check out classes from their other instructors as well!
Here are the classes and links.
Our January 2016 Newsletter is posted. We have a great series of articles covering everything from book reviews, to backpacks, to new products.
In This Month’s Newsletter
– Stuff I Like This Month
– Workshop Updates
– Our Newest Book: The Nikon Autofocus System
– Book Review: The Digital Negative, 2nd Edition
– Book Review: Jay Maisel, Light, Gesture & Color
– Long Term Gear Report: Naneu K5 v2 80L Backpack
– Workshop and Business Updates
Check it out here: Visual Adventures January 2016 Newsletter
One of my favorite things to do is lead private workshops for individuals who want to take their photography to the next level. I’ve been teaching photography and running photo workshops since 1998 and find that sometimes the best way for a person to learn a specific topic is via one-on-one mentorship.
I like to think of of private workshop sessions as a great way to turbocharge someone’s photographic skillset. Some individuals thrive while learning in a group setting while others learn best in a one-on-one environment.
The advantage of a private workshop is you get to learn exactly what is most important to you. Over the years, I’ve taught photographers just about every photographic topic imaginable.
Individuals have wanted to spend an entire day learning off-camera flash, so we set up a studio and did exactly that until they fully learn the process. Others have wanted to learn best practices for landscape photography, so we traveled to a beautiful location and practiced exactly that skill. Many individuals have just purchased a new camera before taking a vacation to Europe. Together, we spent a day setting up the camera’s menus and buttons while also learning the overall operation.
There are a variety of ways I teach private workshops. Each is customizable to your own learning style or photographic interest. Whether it is for an hour, half a day, full day or multiple days in a different country; you name it, I’ve done it. Some of the venues where we meet for private workshops are:
1. At my office in Gig Harbor, Washington
2. At the client’s house
3. At the client’s business location
4. Over the Internet via Skype or Google+ video hangout
5. At a predetermined outdoor location like a park or waterfront
6. Over a weekend in the city
7. Over the course of a week in a scenic area or a foreign country
For each person’s private workshop, I put together a learning plan that covers all of the topics the client wants to learn. We talk about the learning objectives in advance of our meeting and then agree to a final plan for our time together. Here’s an example of a learning plan for a 4-hour workshop I ran last week:
As I mentioned above, people have asked me to teach on just about every photo subject. Here are a few stories of people I’ve recently worked with:
Michael V. flew in from California for three days of private instruction. His goals were to learn the Nikon D810, learn Lightroom CC, and learn autofocus techniques in the field. Each day was planned out in great detail to help him learn digital photography from the ground up. He used to shoot extensively with his collection of Nikon F film cameras, but stepped away from photography for a few decades to focus on his career. Now that he’s retired, he wants to get back to the joy of photography. After three days, he was all set to move forward in his photography after feeling comfortable with the operation of the Nikon D810 and comfortable working with Lightroom CC. This three-day private session was just what he needed to get over the steep digital learning curve.
Scott J. and Matt J. are a father and adult son who both own Nikon DSLR cameras. They travel quite a bit and each has family that they love to photograph. They spent a day with me to learn their cameras, better understand exposure control, and set up their autofocus menus properly for children’s sports and international travel. Matt’s young daughter has started playing youth soccer, so one of his goals for the private session was to improve his camera skills in order to get great photographs of his daughter in action. Scott travels with his wife all around the world. They are planning on taking a three-week-long European river cruise and wanted to make sure everything was set up with his camera system before leaving on the trip. He also wanted to practice autofocus techniques as they pertain to travel photography. We set up scenarios to mimic sports photography and travel photography so each could practice their craft under real-world situations.
Hannah D. and Angela C. live in northern Washington State, about two hours from my office. We met at a lakefront park mid-way between our towns to go through exposure control, metering usage, autofocus techniques, menu setups, and video usage. Both wanted to become better with landscape and portrait photography. Both Hannah and Becky are hands-on learners, so we spent the entire private workshop outdoors, going through real-world scenarios.
Dr. B. is a cosmetic dentist who wanted to set up a photo studio in his office to photograph before/after shots of his surgical clients. We spent a few hours setting up the studio including lighting equipment, backdrop, gels, camera, etc. Then, we allocated the rest of the day to working on photographic technique and digital asset management.
David S. is a photographer in southern California. We schedule one-hour Internet sessions approximately once a month to go through camera technique, image reviews, Lightroom methods, and lots of other photo-related topics. We use Google+ hangouts to host our meetings since it allows us to share video, share screens, while communicating in a very natural way.
Ray V. is a retiree in Florida who is a very active photographer. He hired me to come to Florida for a three-day private session where we spent the majority of time learning Photoshop techniques, improving his digital asset management system, and setting up his computer for optimal performance.
Sam B. from Chicago, Illinois wanted to learn how to be a better street photographer. He travels quite a bit for business and loves to photograph the cities he visits along the way. He was feeling a bit insecure about photographing people on the street, so he flew to Seattle, Washington so we could spend a day together. We walked the city streets while photographing people and street performers, while working on his people interaction and photography skills.
Tom G. flew in from San Diego for four hours of private instruction on his Nikon D750. We met at a waterfront location in Gig Harbor and spent the morning going through camera operation and autofocus technique. We also worked on setting up portable lighting equipment for location portraiture. He flew back to San Diego that evening learning exactly what he wanted to know.
Ron L. is a businessman from the southern USA. He loves hiking and has always wanted to photograph the wild areas of Washington State. I set up a photo itinerary for Ron that included scenic vistas, beautiful seascapes, and towering mountains. Together, we’ll spend four days hiking and photographing the best of Washington State.
Sarah M. is a high school sports photographer who was having trouble consistently getting sharp photographs at football games. We set up a private workshop where we spent a few hours going through technique and camera setup, then the remainder of our time together we spent at an actual Friday night football game on the sidelines. We photographed the game together, going through technique and method while reviewing shots in real time.
If you are interested in a private workshop, feel free to email or call and we’ll set up a date. For more details on private workshops, check out our workshop page here: http://visadventures.com/services/private-photography-lessons/
Four of our 2016 photo workshops are posted and ready for signups. We’ll be going to Tanzania, Galapagos, Iceland, and Prague. I’m looking forward to seeing you and I know you are going to love these photo adventures and workshops. Great photography. Great food. Great people. I take great pride in putting together incredible journeys to the most incredible locations on earth. Join me in 2016!
Our Czech Republic and Prague workshop is a new destination for us in 2016. We’ll be traveling to during the second week of October, 2016 and our goal is to take advantage of the fall colors . Imagine photographing the Czech Republic’s castles, forests and cities with the backdrop of vibrant colors. It will be beautiful.
Email me at [email protected] if you have any questions. I’ll get right back to you!
Our April 2015 Newsletter is posted here: http://visadventures.com/newsletters/2015-04-newsletter/
In this month’s newsletter:
– New Books
– Stuff I Like This Month
– Studio Tips: Seven Things I Learned by Photographing 500 People
– Digital Tidbits: Don’t Forget These 3 Things in the Lightroom Develop Module
– Digital Tidbits: New Software Options in 2015
– Workshop and Business Updates
Check out our April 2015 newsletter for three big articles, new business updates, and tips related to new products in the photo market. One of the articles covers tools you should be using in Lightroom 5, 6 and CC. We also have an article comparing of all the new photo processing software available in 2015 including Apple Photos, Nikon Capture NXD, Nikon View NX-i, Affinity Photo, Lightroom CC. Our third article is dedicated to what I learned when photographing 500 people for a church directory. I give some great tips for setting up a studio on location, posing, and working with the public.
Read it here: April 2015 Newsletter
Check out our May 2014 Visual Adventures Newsletter for great articles on photo technique as well as updates on our trips.
In this Newsletter:
– Stuff I Like This Month
– May GOAL Assignment: Shoot at High ISO
– Photo Techniques: Three Steps to a Beautiful White Background
– Digital Tidbits: Analog Efex Pro 2
– Photo Techniques: Telling a Simple Story Through Photos
– Workshop and Business Updates
We have a full schedule of adventure photo trips planned for 2014/2015 and would love to have you along. Photography adventure trips with Mike Hagen and Visual Adventures are great fun and very educational. We’ve taken care of all the trip details so you can focus solely on getting the best shot in the best light.
Our Iceland and Galapagos trips for August/September 2014 are already sold out, but we have space available for Cuba in October, Tanzania in November, Iceland in February and India next April. Stay tuned for more 2015 trips to be announced soon!
All of our workshops can be found at this link:
Here are our upcoming international trips for the remainder of 2014 and early 2015:
Aug. 12-20, 2014
Iceland Photo and Bird Adventure (SOLD OUT)
Sep. 5-14, 2014
Galapagos Photo Adventure (SOLD OUT)
Oct. 4-12, 2014
Cuba Photography and Cultural Tour
Nov. 4-15, 2014
Tanzania Photo Safari
Feb. 9-15, 2015
Iceland Winter Photo Adventure
Apr. 29 – May 11, 2015
Northern India Tea, Landscape and Wildlife Photo Adventure
The baobab tree is an amazing sight to behold. In Tanzania, these massive trees grow primarily in Tarangire National Park and are known for their funny upside-down shape. According to the legend of Bushmen, the baobab tree offended God, so he plucked it out of the ground and planted it back upside down, leaving the roots exposed to the sky.
Baobabs are succulents and store massive amounts of water in the trunk (sometimes up to 26,000 US gallons) in order to endure harsh drought conditions. Their massive swollen trunks consist of soft spongy wood, saturated with water. They hold so much water in fact, that they’ve been known to survive for ten years with no rain. Interestingly, the diameter of their trunks changes throughout the year in relation to how much rain falls or how long the dry season lasts.
Elephants love the bark of the trees and you’ll often see them tearing off long strips of bark to chew on. This behavior is especially evident during the dry season as elephants work to obtain moisture from the trunk’s water reserves. Most baobab trees in Tarangire National Park bear deep gouge marks and even giant holes through the trunk from the abuse they take from elephants.
One thing you can’t miss is how large these trees are. The photograph here shows a young elephant using its tusks to tear away some bark. This elephant is probably seven or eight feet high, so you can see that the tree trunk is close to 30 feet in diameter.
Baobabs take hundreds of years to reach their large dimensions and some are known to be many thousands of years old. In fact, one of the largest baobabs in Africa has been dated to be more than 6,000 years old. Most baobabs don’t look fully “baobab-ish” until they are at least 600 years old. When they become a thousand years old, many trees begin to hollow inside, providing refuge for animals and people as they travel the African wilds.
Tarangire National Park hosts one of the world’s greatest populations of African elephants, with more than 5,000 roaming the park. It is said to have more elephants per square mile than anywhere else in the world. This park is the perfect place to photograph the world’s largest land animal next to one of the largest tree species on earth.
For this image, I used the Nikon D800 coupled with the Nikkor 200-400mm f/4. For support, I rested the camera on a Gura Gear Anansi bean bag. As always, I used the Peak Design leash system to keep from dropping the rig from the Landcruiser.
Early this morning, my teenage son and I went on a chilly winter run. During the run, I was reminded of a recent scene I photographed in Iceland a few months ago. The image here was created in a glacial lagoon called Jökulsárlón (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jökulsárlón) one evening on my Iceland photo adventure trip. Our intrepid team of photographers walked out to this lagoon at sunset with our tripods and cameras. Just as the sun was about to drop below the horizon, its golden rays lit up these clouds and created a stunning backdrop of red against the beautiful blue ice floating on the water. This particular moment in time was stunning and I knew I had to do my best to capture the incredible colors.
For this image, I took five frames in an exposure-bracketed sequence to make sure I captured the full dynamic range of the light. Back at my computer, I processed the images using a combination of Lightroom 5 and Photomatix Pro. This image was captured with a Nikon D800, Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 and a Gitzo GT3541L Carbon Fiber tripod.