Greetings folks. As of yesterday, our move to Gig Harbor is complete and I can now take a few days to relax over the July 4th holiday. Of course, my version of relaxing means that I’m up at 4:00 am to go take some pictures! So, this morning I went out to the Tacoma, Washington waterfront to take pictures of the Tall Ships that are in town for Independence Day. It was quite a stunning sight to watch the sun rise as the ship’s masts towered in the distance. Those giant ships moored against the harbor wall reminded me of the amazing freedoms we have here in the USA. It is so wonderful to live in a country that allows us to freely pursue our dreams – to go wherever we want to go – to do whatever we want to do. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to live in this nation and am looking forward to more celebration this coming Monday.

One quick note about our move to Gig Harbor. Many people who have attended our workshops have asked if we will still be leading workshops in their home city and the answer is “YES”. We will still be hosting workshops in Seattle, Portland, Phoenix and lots of other locations throughout the USA. We’ll keep you posted with new dates and locations as we schedule them.

Photo Techniques: Be prepared!
I had already planned to write this month’s column on being prepared, so this morning’s photo adventure with the Tall Ships gave me some good fodder to talk about. Today’s experience really reinforced my mantra of always being prepared. I knew that the Tall Ships were coming to town and that I wanted to get some dramatic shots of these classic beauties, so I did a little research. I figured out where they were going to be moored (Thea Foss Waterway), which direction to take the pics to maximize the light (from the East side at sunrise), exactly what time the sun would rise (5:18am) and which roads to take to get there (Google Maps). Why did I go through all this trouble just to get some shots of big boats? Because I wanted the shots to be the very best possible and because I am a professional – this is my job! With the Internet, all my research only took about 5 minutes last night, but made a huge impact on my final images.

I know that at the beginning of civil twilight (i.e. really super early in the morning) I can always get skies that are absolutely beautiful purple/blue in color. So, checking the US Navy web site, I found that civil twilight began at 4:39am today. This meant that I had to be in position a few minutes before then in order to set up my tripod and camera. I left the house very early and made it to the Tacoma waterfront in time for the sky to start turning an amazing shade of purple/blue. I began taking pictures and didn’t stop until just after sunrise at about 5:30am. Once the sun rises, there are literally only a couple minutes of light that are good enough for photographs. You have to move fast, because after the sun rises too far, then light just becomes too harsh for decent pictures. Since I was in the right spot at the right time, I got some amazing pictures today.

However, while I was there taking pictures, a number of other photographers showed up who weren’t prepared! One guy pulled up before sunrise, snapped a couple pictures without a tripod and drove off. His shots were all blurry. Another guy pulled up right after sunrise with a 4″x5″ Linhof Technica view camera – you know, the big Ansel Adams type camera with a black hood over the top. He jumped out of his car and set up as fast as he could, but in the few minutes it took him to set up, the light had gone from “incredible” to “unusable”. He didn’t get any usable pictures because he didn’t even take a single frame! A third person pulled up well after the sunrise and started snapping away. His shots have far too much contrast and will have deep dark shadows and blown out highlights.

I mention all these examples to show that with a little bit of preparation, I was able to be in the right place at the right time and get some great pictures. (They are posted at Some people will say that I was lucky because the light was just right or because I just happened to be standing in the right spot. However, now you know that I wasn’t lucky – I was prepared. I encourage all of you to prepare a little bit in advance so that luck will find its way to you.

Here are the web sites I used for my research:
Sunrise/Sunset times:
Map software:
Tall Ships Info:

Digital Tidbits: Don’t use Contrast and Brightness in Photoshop
A lot of times when we take a photo and then open it up in Photoshop, we notice right away that it is a little bit too dark. One of the quickest and easiest tools to use is the Brightness/Contrast sliders in Photoshop. A quick adjustment of the “brightness” slider will brighten up the image and then a quick nudge to the “contrast” slider seems to give it the punch it needs. Easy, right? Well, like most things in life, there’s the easy way to solve a problem, and then there’s the better way to solve a problem.

Using the Brightness/Contrast adjustment tool is the easy way, but it is far from the best. Actually, a very good argument can be made that this tool does more harm than good. The reason why, is that all this tool does is shift around the brightness of the picture. In fact, by moving the sliders, all you are doing is clipping highlights. By clipping I mean that you are causing the areas that are already bright, to become even brighter so that when you go to print the image, all you’ll get are white blotchy areas. Then, by adjusting the contrast slider, all you are doing is spreading out the brightest and darkest regions so they are more extreme. In other words, you clip both the highlights and the shadows so you get white blotchy areas and black blotchy areas – sounds like your picture just developed a bad case of acne!

The better way to adjust your brightness and contrast is to use the Levels adjustment tool instead. The middle slider is used to lighten or darken the overall image without clipping any of the image. The highlight and shadow sliders on the left and right are used to reset your bright point and your dark point in the picture. Levels is a much more sophisticated tool to use because you have much more control over the final output. In Photoshop, to pull up the levels control window, click Image –> Adjustments –> Levels. Adjust the right slider (highlights) so it is just under the right-most area of the histogram. Adjust the left slider (shadows) so that it is just under the left-most area of the histogram. Then, set the middle slider so you are happy with the overall brightness.

Sometimes, using the Photoshop “auto levels” command does a good job too. To activate this tool, just hold down these keys on your keyboard simultaneously: Shift + Ctrl + L. If you like the results, great! Just leave it. If you don’t like the results, then undo it and then do your own levels adjustment.

I teach a lot more image adjustment techniques using Levels and Curves in the Photoshop for Photographers Workshops shown below.

Workshop Updates:
Special Nikon D70 Workshop Session
The D70 workshops continue to be our best sellers. In fact, we’ve had so much demand that we scheduled a last minute workshop for next weekend, July 8th and 9th, in Seattle. We will hold two sessions – D70 Level I on Friday July 8th and Advanced D70 on Saturday July 9th. There are still a few positions open, so if you want sign up, send me an email ([email protected]) and I’ll get right back to you with more information. We’ll also be posting more workshops for 2006 very soon, so let your friends know!

New Workshops in the works
We are putting together many new workshops for later this year and for 2006. These will cover topics such as Portrait Photography, Studio Lighting, Digital Workflow, Calibration and Digital Printing Methods. Stay tuned for updates throughout this Summer and Fall.

Nikonians Workshops
The Nikonians workshops just keep getting better and better. In fact, almost all of our locations throughout the USA are sold out. There are still a few spots open however, so sign up quickly if you want to get a seat. Remaining locations are Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, Toronto Canada, and Boston. Follow this link for the official list of dates and locations: There is also a link on this page for those who want to sign up.

Nikon iTTL Flash Workshops
If you’ve ever been frustrated trying to get your flash photography to look natural, then you need to attend this workshop. We spend all day learning the ins and outs of the Nikon’s SB600 and SB800 flashes. You’ll never again have to struggle with these flashes.

Photoshop Workshops
We’ve added more Photoshop workshops for later this year and will be adding many more for 2006. These workshops are a great way to learn Photoshop while using practical, real world examples that photographers face each day. Also, based on customer feedback, we are working on creating up to two more Photoshop workshops: Photoshop III and Black and White printing. Details will be posted soon.

The Art of Travel Workshops
Our Art of Travel workshops are based in either the Columbia River Gorge or in Gig Harbor, Washington. These two-day events are targeted towards those of you who want to create artistic images and want to better understand what elements help make great pictures. Both the Columbia Gorge and Gig Harbor offer so any inspiring photographic subjects that it is hard not to come away from these sessions with beautiful photographs. Go here for the updated schedule:

Private Tutoring
Each month, more and more of you are signing up for private workshops. These are becoming very popular and are an affordable way for you to learn specifically what you want to learn in a one-on-one environment. During these sessions, we are able to work specifically on your own photographic needs and at your own pace. Available topics are Studio Lighting, Nature Photography, Wedding photography, Photoshop, color management, digital workflow, flash photography, portraiture, etc. Many of our customers have requested specific topics and we have tailored our private tutoring to their needs. Call (360) 750-1103 or email ([email protected]) if you have questions about this option.

Lens for sale: I’m selling a lens that I no longer use. Tokina 20-35 f/2.8 AT-X lens. Nikon mount. This is a great lens that is in excellent condition. I’ve taken some of my best pictures with it. Price is $295. Send me an email ([email protected]) if you are interested or would like to see a picture.

As always, if you have questions or need more information, please send an email or give us a call. We’ll get back to you right away and are always happy to help. Also, I just wanted to say thank you for all of your referrals. Many people have signed up based on word-of-mouth contact from you and I want you to know how much I truly appreciate your kind words.

Best regards,

Mike Hagen
Out There Images – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335
[email protected]

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