Happy New Year!
A whole new year is upon us and I am excited for the opportunity to continue taking photographs, continue leading workshops and continue challenging myself as a photographer. I hope that you do the same by reading this newsletter and putting into practice what you learn.
Our business continues to be good and we�ll be offering many more workshops in 2007, a few more books and lots of new learning opportunities. We are looking forward to the year and can�t wait to get started.
We�ve had a crazy December here in Washington State with a huge winter storm that knocked out power to 1 million people (including us). It also blew down thousands of big trees, with one of them knocking a big hole in our home and office! Additionally, our internet web host (based on the East Coast of the USA) was hit by its own storm and hasn�t been able to get our email service back online for a week now! If you have written an email to us, but haven�t received a reply, it is most likely because our email service is completely down. They assure me they are aggressively working on fixing it. Right!
December GOAL Assignment: The Picture Within the Picture.
Ok, all you over-achievers, how did you do at finding the picture within the picture? Our GOAL assignment for this month was to find photographs that go deeper than the �easy� photo. I wanted you to keep photographing a scene until you found something that was truly interesting. Forcing yourself to look hard for new photos is a skill that you can�t practice enough. I think it is one of the keys to great photography because it encourages you to seek out the essence of the scene.
I have three examples here where I worked to find the picture within the picture. The first is a series of photographs that I took at St. Peters� Church by the World Trade Center in New York. I started taking photos of the interior of the church � you know the ones that show the ceiling arches and the pews. I wasn�t too happy with my results, so I began pushing myself to �find� a photo within the church that better showed the atmosphere. The first shot I kneeled down on the floor and waited for someone to walk down the aisle to get their silhouette. Next, I went to the back of the church by the candles to see if I could get a shot with someone lighting a candle. The picture was just ok, but I knew I wanted something a little more dramatic. So, I decided to take the pic with only the candles. I like that one best. You never know what might sell to a photo buyer, so be sure to photograph lots of angles.
The second set of examples I have here are from the Lunar Lander at the Smithsonian Museum. I took about five shots of the Lander from various angles, but it just wasn�t happening photographically. So, I changed lenses to a more telephoto lens and went for some tight shots. It was only then when I found a reflection in one of the helmet masks where I could see the rest of the module and the other astronaut. Perfect. My picture within a picture was complete. Sometimes in photography, less is more.
Finally, this last month I took my children to a McDonalds for a well rounded meal! While there, I noticed all the neat shapes on the ceiling and on the chairs. I took out my camera and started photographing to see if I could come up with a neat composition. I snapped off about 10 photographs and finally found two compositions that I liked. They are simple shots, but actually took a fair amount of searching and moving about to find. They may not ever sell, but I like them anyways. I like the s-curves, the colors and the textures. Fun stuff!
January 2007 GOAL Assignment
There is a big resurgence in black and white photography these days as people are finding newfound freedom with easy-to-use software conversion tools. My GOAL assignment for you this month is to take three photos with the intent of converting them to black and white. For the over achievers in the group, make some actual 8�x10� prints to see how well your conversions were. Here are some photographic subject ideas.
– Cloudy day
Next month, I�ll give a number of things to think about when photographing for black and white. I�ll also include some great conversion tips to use various software packages that you can put into use right away.
Digital Tidbits: How to quickly put together a large photo shoot
(see photos to left)
In early December, my son�s teacher asked me to volunteer my Professional Photography services for a school assembly they were having called �Sharing and Caring.� The school puts on an annual assembly where they collect presents for homeless and underprivileged kids. This year, the school collected thousands of new toys, games, and presents that they donated to local relief organizations.
All the kids in the school were all dressed up in red shirts and the teachers wanted to give each parent a framed portrait of their child. That�s where I came in. My son�s teacher wanted me to take pictures of all the students from the Multi-Age Program classes and then immediately prepare them for printing. There were 162 kids, so that meant taking at least 162 portraits, processing them and burning them to disk in a matter of a couple hours. Here�s how I did it.
I had asked the teacher to put up green butcher paper on a wall somewhere in the room and to leave me about 15 feet of space in front of the background. I arrived about ten minutes before the school bell rang and set up my quick portable studio in one of the teacher�s classrooms. I used my Nikon D200 camera for the shots. On the right side, I set up one single SB-800 flash in a 32� white umbrella for the key light. Since I was going to take quite a few shots and I knew I didn�t have any time for missed shots, I hooked up the SB-800 flash to my camera through a dedicated SC-17 TTL cable. One the left side, I used a 42� white reflector to fill in the shadows. I balanced the reflector on a portable chalk board stand.
On the floor, I used masking tape to place an �X� where I wanted the kids to stand. I made sure to place the X about 5 feet away from the background so the shadow wouldn�t show up in the photograph. Then, I went through my pre-camera mental checklist to set up everything for the photos. First, I set my ISO to 200. Next, I set my image quality to JPEG Fine. Since I was going direct to print and I was going to do a good job with exposure and white balance, JPEG would do the job very well.
I stepped over to my flash and set it for Manual output at 1/16 power, then placed my Sekonic L-358 flash meter at the location where the kids would be standing for the photo. I aimed the dome of the meter towards the camera lens and then triggered the flash for a reading. The meter said to set my camera for 1/60 second at f5.6. Perfect. I set the camera for 1/60 sec at f5.6 and then began my white balance settings.
I dialed the D200 white balance to �Pre� in order to capture a custom white balance value. Then, I aimed the camera at my Lastolite gray card target to get a custom white balance setting. Done! I took a test shot of a kid who was passing through to make sure I had everything correct. Now I have my exposure, white balance, ISO and lighting all set and ready to go. Total time was about 8 minutes. I have two minutes to spare until the kids come in the room.
Once Kids started coming into the room, I had them all stand in a long line in order to queue them for the photos. One by one, they stepped into the �studio� and stood on the X on the floor. Since each kid was a different height, I adjusted the umbrella height in order to get a nice catch light in their eyes. The process moved very smoothly as I photographed each class.
After I finished with the first two classes, I removed my CF card from the camera to begin downloading the images. I downloaded the images to my portable hard drive which is a Western Digital Passport 40GB drive. It is tiny and perfect for situations like this. As those pictures downloaded, I continued taking photographs of the other classes.
It took about 40 minutes to photograph all six classes (162 kids). Once we finished moved my laptop to the back of the room where I complete downloading the images. After the images were downloaded, I did a quick review on the laptop to make sure all the kids� eyes were opened and that we had nice smiles. I found that one of my images was corrupted due to a bad CF memory card, so I had to go track down that kid to take his picture again.
Once all this was done, I used iView Media Pro 3 to annotate and caption all the images. I added my copyright notice and keywords to all the images, and also renamed each of the images. Then, I burned the images to CD-ROMs for the teachers to keep. They told me before hand that they were going to do the printing themselves at the local Walgreen�s Drug Store. Since I knew this, I made sure to set my color space to sRGB, Mode Ia. This is important if you are printing at a commercial mini-lab like Walgreen�s since their machines natively print in the sRGB space anyways.
The total time elapsed from arrival to completion was about 1.5 hours.
After school that day, the teachers took the images to be printed at Walgreen�s and the images were turned around in one hour. They brought the images back to school the next day and handed the framed prints out to the parents for Christmas presents. The colors were excellent, the prints were sharp and exposures were perfect.
The elements that made this whole production come together easily were based on very sound digital workflow methods. Specifically,
1. Choosing the correct color space (sRGB).
2. Setting up exposure properly using a calibrated light meter (Sekonic L-358).
3. Using a custom white balance to nail the colors (gray card).
4. Using good lighting skills (Key and fill with appropriate lighting ratios).
Since all these steps were taken at the beginning, the photos were ready to print with absolutely no Photoshop work. I�ll take that any day!
Eizo Color Edge CE210W Monitor
After years of working with CRT monitors, I finally decided to take the plunge and buy a high-end LCD flat panel by EIZO (http://www.eizo.com). I�ve been talking about EIZO monitors for quite a long time and was able to try one out at last year�s PMA show down in Orlando, Florida. I was very impressed with the colors, the brightness and the fidelity of the monitor I used at the show. EIZO makes a number of different models and I decided to buy the CE210W.
This is a fairly large 21� screen in 16:9 wide-screen format. It has a pixel resolution of 1680 x 1050 px and a 1000:1 contrast ratio. I especially like the wide viewing angle of 178 degrees. This means that I can look at the screen from high, low, left and right and still get the same brightness and colors. In the past, I have shied away from lower cost LCD panels just because they traditionally didn�t have consistent colors when viewed from different angles.
I paid about $1200 for the monitor. I�ve been very happy with it so far and I can�t recommend it enough. They work great with PC systems or with Macs as they have both analog and digital inputs. Color calibration is easy and straightforward.
CRT monitors are still a fantastic option for those who don�t want to spend all the money on a professional LCD. I still have my CRTs and will hold on to them just because I�ve been so happy with them over the years.
MAHA AA and AAA Battery Charger
I use a lot of AA batteries and seem to go through them like crazy. Most of the battery chargers I�ve owned over the years will only charge two cells at a time or four cells at a time. I finally got fed up with having to charge batteries in groups of two or four, so I purchased a MAHA microprocessor-controlled charger that will let you charge cells independent from each other. What this means is that the charger will individually charge each cell depending on its own full/empty status.
The model I purchased is the MH-C801D and so far I�ve found the charger to be reliable. It has given me consistent results every time. There are basically three modes on the charger.
– Fast charge mode where it charges AA batteries in about one hour. I haven�t used this mode, just because it is a pretty aggressive charge and can overheat the cells.
– Soft charge mode where it charges AA cells in a few hours. This is the mode I use most of the time since it maximizes battery performance and life.
– Conditioning mode. I use this mode about every ten charge cycles or so to recondition the cells and give me more capacity.
You can find this charger at Thomas Distributing (http://www.thomas-distributing.com/) for about $70 USD. You can also sometimes find discounts on www.amazon.com.
Lexar Pro CF Card Reader
Speed is king in digital photography and the faster I can get my images downloaded, the faster I can complete a job. Lexar has created a great line of CF card readers called the Lexar Pro Card Reader. Last month, I purchased this model for $70 and have been downloading with it ever since. I�m amazed at how much faster it is than my older readers. I can download my 133x cards in about � to � the time. It even downloads my slower cards much faster.
The Lexar Pro CF reader isn�t the fastest reader on the market, but it does pretty well for the money. I�ll be using it for quite a while until I find something better!
Photoflex Convertible Umbrellas
I�m always looking for the most flexibility possible in my lighting equipment. Since I do so much traveling and I like to travel light, I generally bring along umbrellas for my location lighting needs. Umbrellas fold up very small and provide a great source of diffused light. However, there have been quite a few times where I wished I could have had a different shape of light for my subject.
Most umbrellas only give round catch lights or highlights. Recently, I found that Photoflex has been making �convertible� umbrellas that will give you the traditional shape (round) or a converted shape of square. The umbrellas work the same as any other umbrella, however the ribs can be repositioned to form a square shape as well. The resulting catch lights look like squares in the eyes and provide a nice departure from the standard round.
I really like photographic tools that serve more than one purpose and these fit the bill! I ordered two of the Photoflex ADW 45 units which are 45� diameter and white satin on the reflective surface. They were $29.95 each! The units are built pretty well and should stand up to lots of use. I liked the results of shooting with these umbrellas, so these will go on the road with me from now on!
I never really believed all the hype about using a pen tablet for Photoshop work. I saw all the magazine ads and all the photographers who would say �Once you use this, your life will never be the same again!� Well, I had to see if the Wacom tablets were everything they were cracked up to be, so I broke down and bought the Intuos-3 4�x6� tablet.
Wow. That�s all I can say. This is a powerful tool for high-end Photoshop work. I�ve had a lot of fun with this pad since purchasing it and can�t believe how much more freedom it gives me in my editing process. It is also going to save me a lot of time in my Photoshop work because of how much more efficient it is to use than a standard mouse.
One of the most important features is the ability to vary the size of the brush depending on how hard I push on the pen. For example, last week I wanted to blur out some background elements in a photograph so I used a Gaussian blur on a duplicate layer. Then, I added a black layer mask to hide the effect. Finally, I started painting on the layer mask with white over the areas I wanted to blur. By varying the pressure of the pen, I could lightly paint next to the subject for fine detail work and then heavily paint far away from the subject to cover more surface area with the same stroke. When I was finished, the result was much better than I ever could have achieved with a mouse.
You can buy the Wacom 4� x 6� pad for about $229 from most retailers. Wacom makes a number of different sizes and I would recommend erring on the size of �bigger� rather than �smaller�. I�ve found a few times already where I wished I had a bigger pad for my 21� monitor. But for now, the 4�x6� will do just fine.
The first time you use the pen, it takes a little bit of getting used to, but once you figure out how to �click�, �double click�, and �right mouse click� things start falling into place. Now that I�ve been using the pad for a month or so, I can definitively say �Your life will never be the same again.� At least your Photoshop life will never be the same again.
Our 2007 workshops are selling like crazy and I am very grateful for your enthusiasm to learn photography! We have a few seats remaining in our January iTTL flash workshops in Seattle and Portland. Also, even though we haven�t published all the details on the April Art of Travel workshop, we are almost sold out with people on the sign up list. We�ll have the details. Posted within the next few days.
Nikon iTTL Flash Workshops
These are some of our most popular workshops and we�ve set up a few of them for 2007. 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. More info at: www.outthereimages.com/ittl_workshop.html
We are going to be offering topics such as D80/D70, D2X, D200, Nikon Capture NX and Nikon iTTL wireless flash through the www.nikonians.org. We�ll be running them in cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Las Vegas, Houston, Dallas, Boston, New York, Washington DC and Chicago. Throughout the year we�ll also be adding more topics and cities as we add qualified instructors. Our dates are posted here: www.greaterphoto.com.
D80 and D70 Workshops
We have now combined our D70 and D80 workshops for 2007. We�ll be offering these in the Seattle, WA and Portland, OR areas through Out There Images, Inc. Additionally, we�ll be offering these through the Nikonians (www.nikonians.org) in cities all across the USA. Go here for more details: www.outthereimages.com/D80_workshop.html or www.outthereimages.com/D70_workshop.html.
Nikon D200 Workshops
The D200 is an extremely popular camera and for good reason! It is one of the nicest cameras I�ve ever used. We are going to offer D200 workshops in Seattle, WA and Portland, OR and are also offering an extensive workshop schedule with the Nikonians around the USA. Our first D200 workshops in the NW are scheduled for January 2007. Go here for more details: www.outthereimages.com/D200_workshop.html
The next Digital Workflow Workshops is scheduled for February 16th, 2007. This workshop covers 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. We�ll be using programs such as iView Media Pro, Photoshop Bridge/Browser and many other programs to manage our digital assets. I guarantee you’ll enjoy this day of learning. Go here for more details: www.outthereimages.com/digital_workflow.html
The Art of Travel Workshops
Join us for a photographic adventure in 2007! Learn how to turn your next vacation into an artistic event with our Art of Travel Photography Workshops. The locations we have right now are Columbia River Gorge waterfalls and spring bloom 4/26/07 ~ 4/29/07. North Cascades NP and Mazama 9/20/07 ~ 9/23/07. Beyond these travel workshops, we are considering adding more throughout the USA in other pretty locations. Go here for more details: www.outthereimages.com/travel_workshop.html
Each month, more and more of you are signing up for private workshops. These have become 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.
Here�s wishing you a great 2007. My hope is that you work hard to achieve your photographic goals. Learn as much as you possibly can by getting out and taking some pictures!
Happy New Year!
Out There Images, Inc. – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335