Greetings everyone and Happy Holidays! I hope your Thanksgiving was full of great food and great family and I hope that your Christmas season will be full of joy.

Our East Coast series of workshops were a great success. Almost every one of our sessions sold out in Washington DC, Toronto, New York and Boston. The people we met on the trip were all fantastic and I greatly appreciated their hospitality as this “West Coaster” invaded their home towns.

Over the next few months we’ll be here in the Pacific Northwest leading workshops in Seattle and Portland while also continuing to build new and exciting workshop topics for 2006. I’ll also be photographing a few portrait sessions and weddings just to keep things busy! Additionally, we’ll start producing books and DVD training videos on topics that will include Digital Portraiture, Studio Setup, Nikon D70, iTTL flash system, Nikon D2X, etc. We’ll start creating these items in December for distribution starting “sometime” in 2006. You know how book projects go – they always take longer than you expect!

Our workshop schedule for 2006 is just about completely firmed up. In addition to our line of new workshops in the Pacific Northwest, we’ll also be running a number of workshops in partnership with the Nikonians ( ). We’ll be leading workshops in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, New York, Boston, Ft. Lauderdale, St. Croix, Philadelphia, Vancouver BC, Seattle, and Washington DC. Whew! It’s going to be a busy year. The scheduled dates will be posted here ( ).

Finally, since Christmas is coming up, we have created gift certificates for our workshops that you can purchase and give to your significant other (or anyone else who you think “needs” a photo workshop). Simply contact us and we’ll give you the details on how to send a certificate to your recipient. They can then redeem it whenever they are ready to attend one of our workshops!

Photo Techniques: Composition and Persistence

Last Spring, I was taking some photos in the Columbia River Gorge in NW Oregon and was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of green foliage. There were ferns, flowers, trees and moss and just about everything was a subtle variation of green. My goal was to try and photograph something that said “Vibrant Green Plant”, but I found that I had to work pretty hard to finally get a composition that worked. As you can see in my photo examples, I took a number of shots until I felt I had the best composition. The first shot I took was a bit too cluttered and the background was chaotic. Shot number two is better, but still had some elements that distracted from the main subject. The third picture shows the photo just the way I like it and includes three very important compositional elements that I generally try to follow in my photography.

Here are those elements:
1. Rule of Thirds. Following this simple rule can dramatically transform a ho-hum photo into a masterpiece. The key is to divide your image into three equal sections and then place your subject along one of the intersections of the third lines. Look at the last fern photo here and you can see that we have key elements of the fern at intersections of the third lines. Specifically, the water droplet is at the intersection of the right third line and the top third line. The first two shots don’t have a definite alignment and aren’t as strong. The rule of thirds technique works for just about everything you photograph whether they are ferns, people, mountains, flowers or cows.

2. Leading Lines (S-curves and Diagonals). Work hard to try and include a diagonal line or a nice s-curve into your photograph. This will help guide your viewer’s eyes through the composition and is a pleasing touch that brings your photos to a higher level. You can see in each of the examples here, there is a strong diagonal element, but it wasn’t until the last photo where it became strongest. I composed the last shot so the stem of the fern went from the lower left corner to the upper right corner. The diagonal in your photograph can be the branch of a tree or a river flowing through the valley. When I’m taking photographs of people, I still work hard to include some type of diagonal. Many times, I imply a diagonal by having two people look at each other from separate corners of the photograph.

3. Clean backgrounds. Perhaps the most often overlooked portion of your photograph is the background. Sometimes when we are composing our photo, we develop tunnel vision and only look at the subject. It isn’t until we get back to the editing table that we realize there is something in the background that really distracts from the main subject. The three photos here show a progression from a cluttered background to a simple background. The first photo has dead leaves and dark areas in the background. The second photo is better, but it still has part of another fern that distracts the eye from the subject. Finally, after moving my tripod around and trying another composition I was able to make the background very clean and simple.

For this tutorial, I only included three photographs of many that I took on that day. Each photo required a new tripod setup a new exposure reading and a number of other fine-tune adjustments. It required a lot of persistence to finally get an image I was happy with, but I’m pleased with the final result. I find that for most of my nature and landscape shots I frequently try multiple compositions until I find something I like.

I encourage you to also keep trying until everything comes together. Slow down, set up your tripod and try a few compositions. Once you’ve followed these rules, you’ll find they apply to just about all of your photography. Now get outside and take some pictures!

Digital Tidbits: Keeping Images Safe in the Field

One of my biggest fears as a professional photographer is losing my photos during or after my photo session. Just about every photographer has their own horror story of losing their pictures and the havoc that ensued. For most of us, this kind of thing only happens once because we simply cannot afford to ever let it happen again. There is good news for us digital photographers, and the news is that we have a lot of portable data storage options available to us at relatively low prices. Losing your shots in this day and age is something that doesn’t have to plague us any longer!

One of the first things we need to do as digital photographers is to develop a system for how we are going to manage our cameras in the field. I urge you to determine an image management plan for your photography right away. Here is my system for ensuring that I never mess up or lose my pictures:

1. Never delete photos from the flash card during the shoot. I follow this rule when I’m photographing weddings or important events where it would be a major disaster to lose “the shot.” I have broken this rule in the past and end up getting frustrated because I chose the wrong photo to delete. In this scenario, I have to recover the deleted file from the memory card later at my office which costs me lost time and more frustration.

2. When the memory card is full, remove it from the camera and store it backwards in the storage pouch. I keep all my cards in a small storage pouch that I bought at a discount store for $3.99. It holds six memory cards and I keep empty cards with the label facing out and full cards with the label facing in. That way, I can quickly see what cards are ok to grab for the next series of photos. Lots of companies sell these products such as Lowe Pro, Think Tank and Case Logic.

3. Backup photos in the field. This is a critical step for important photo shoots. I want to make sure I have my photos stored in at least two places at all times, so I force myself to backup my shots while I’m on location. My process is very simple, but deliberate. First, I download my memory cards to a portable hard drive. There are a lot of options these days and I recommend something in the 40GB to 80GB range. I purchased mine knowing that I shoot about 350 pictures a day when traveling. If I’m leaving for a week, then I need seven days of storage. Seven days times 350 photos per day is about 2500 photos. File sizes for each photo can vary between 3MB per image to more than 30MB per image depending on what camera and format I’m shooting. At just 3MB per image, you’ll need at least 22GB of storage for those 2500 shots. Second, I copy all the downloaded files to a second drive or to CD/DVD. Either way will work. Now, my pictures are backed up on two separate systems. The actual products I like are made by Western Digital, Epson (P2000, P4000) and Nikon (Coolwalker). Prices are dropping every day, so you have no excuse for not backing up your files.

4. Reformat cards – don’t just delete images. As soon as I’ve made sure that my photos are backed up on two independent drives, then I reformat my memory cards in the camera. I choose to reformat rather than “delete all images” because I feel it consistently does a better job of opening up all the memory. There have been times when I’ve tried to delete the images, and something happened that didn’t clear out all the shots. Then, the next time I downloaded that card, I had shots taken previously as well as shots from the current event. Reformatting is almost always better than deleting.

5. Store each backup in a separate location. I generally try to keep my backup disks in different spots when I’m traveling. I do this just in case I lose one of my bags or someone steals a bag. For example, I’ll keep one set of backup disks in my brief case and the second set of backups in my camera bag.

6. Once back at the office, backup all files once again. After the photo shoot is over and I am at the office, I make sure that my photos are backed up to three separate storage locations. The first location is my office computer system. The second location is on a series of external hard drives. The data on these portable drives is a duplicate of my computer files so that when my computer dies, I still have all my data backed up on separate drives. Finally, I have CD/DVD backups of all my images.

Don’t get lazy with your image management. Murphy’s Law has a way of creeping into our work at the least desirable moments. Since I know that something will fail when I least expect it, I force myself to follow these rules for every single shoot. Having a consistent method that I follow in the field gives me extra insurance that my shots will make it home safe and sound.

Workshop Updates:
Portrait Photography Workshop
Our Portrait Photography workshops are a great way to learn lighting and posing techniques! We provide a great training environment and also have ample time to practice and create. Whether you want to be able to take better photos of your children or you want learn excellent professional techniques, this workshop is where you need to be. We’ll cover lots of topics such as lighting methods, flash, reflectors, posing and gear. Check out more information at The next workshop will be held on December 9/10 in Seattle, WA.

The Art of Travel Workshops
Start planning now to attend one of our 2006 Art of Travel workshops. We’ll hold them in two beautiful locations. The first workshop will be held in St. Croix from May 31st – June 4th. We’ll be discovering the beautiful landscapes and people of the Virgin Islands while learning the art and craft of digital photography. This workshop will be run in conjunction with the Nikonians (see below).

The second Art of Travel workshop will be located in Mazama, Washington in the North Cascades from September 21st – 24th, 2006. Our focus will be on creating stunning travel photos in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. We’ll be staying at the beautiful Mazama Country Inn ( and will divide our time between classroom study and outdoor photography field sessions. Go here for more details:

Nikon D70 Workshops
The Nikon D70 and D70s cameras continue to be big sellers and so we continue to run these very popular workshops through 2006. We offer two days of training on the D70: a D70 Level I workshop and an Advanced D70 workshop. Updated schedules and course outlines are posted here:

Nikonians Workshops
We have teamed up with The Nikonians again for 2006. We’ll be offering four different workshops in major cities throughout the USA. Our workshops will be: Photoshop for Photographers, Nikon Capture, Nikon D70 and iTTL Flash system. Later in the year we’ll be covering the Nikon D200 camera system. The dates and cities will be:

Feb 16-19 Las Vegas
Feb 23-27 Phoenix
Mar 2-5 Los Angeles
Mar 9-12 San Francisco
Apr 20-23 Houston
Apr 27-30 Dallas/Fort Worth
May 25-28 Ft. Lauderdale
May 31-Jun 4 St. Croix
Jul 20-23 Vancouver BC
Jul 27-30 Seattle
Oct 5-8 New York
Oct 12-15 Philadelphia
Oct 19-22 Washington DC
TBD: Chicago area

Also, we’ll be offering an exciting workshop in St. Croix (May 31st – June 4th, 2006) as part of the Nikonians Masters Photography Program Certification. More details will be posted soon.

Follow this link for the official list of dates and locations: . Note that we are still setting up quite a few of the details between the Nikonians website and our website, so be please patient as we get links and signup information posted.

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 finished up our Photoshop workshops for 2005 and have added 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 have created an additional photoshop workshop called “Photoshop III” – pretty neat title, eh? Go here for more information:

Digital Workflow
These workshops cover topics that every digital photographer struggles with. Questions such as how to manage those thousands of digital photos, how to profile and calibrate your system and how to automate your workflow so you don’t spend so much time at your computer. This workshop provides great “nuts and bolts” tutorials in a hands-on environment to make sure you learn the topics. I guarantee you’ll enjoy this day. Go here for more details:

Nikon D2X/D2Hs
Nikon’s flagship cameras are marvels of engineering and capable of amazing results. We have created these two-day workshops to cater to those of you looking for professional level instruction on these incredible cameras. Learn how to use the outstanding white balance capabilities, multiple exposures, in-camera photo overlays and its lightning fast autofocus system during this feature packed two-day event. More info is posted here:

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.

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]

© 2021 Visual Adventures | Site Policies | Web by Works Development