Greetings my friends. September has been a really busy month with quite a bit of travel. It is also the kickoff of my Fall workshop season! Between now and November I�ll be leading a number of workshops around the USA. October will have me leading workshops in Washington State�s Olympic National Park, New York and Washington DC. November, I�ll be photographing in Chicago and Tennessee. I�m really looking forward to photographing Fall colors, trying out new techniques and meeting new people.
Many of you know that I am the Director for the Nikonians Academy (www.nikoniansacademy.com) and we recently offered up an African Safari to Tanzania for 2008. We sold out all available seats in just 4 days, so we are contemplating offering a second trip option in 2008. Keep your eyes peeled at www.nikoniansacademy.com for an announcement this month about the possibility of a second Safari. These trips are going to be great fun!
About a week ago I held my September �Art of Travel Photography� workshop in Mazama, Washington with a fantastic group of photographers (see photos at left). We spent four days up in Washington State�s North Cascade National Park taking photos of the mountains and scenery. Our group was just buzzing with energy each day and it was so energizing to be with other folks who were so excited about photography. Many of the shots that came back from the group were just stellar and I had some of the most fun I�ve had in many months of photography. We�ll be back to the North Cascades next year, so stay tuned for our new workshop announcements. By the way, our travel photography workshops sell out very quickly and this year I had so many people on a waiting list that I eventually just stopped taking names.
My hope this month is that this newsletter inspires you to get out and photograph your passion, try new things and experiment with your photography. I enjoy hearing of all your adventures as well, so keep those emails coming!
September GOAL Assignment: Shooting the Sun
Last month I gave you an assignment to shoot some photographs that incorporate the sun into the photo itself. As you know, these can be extremely hard to shoot for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason why is that the sun itself is many, many stops brighter than anything else in the scene. If you aren�t careful, the sun tends to wash out anything and everything around it!
When I want to include the sun in the photograph, I am very careful to spot meter a variety of locations around the image to get an idea of the contrast I�m dealing with. For example, in the sunset photograph shown to the left, I spot metered on the sun and also to the left of the sun (on the clouds) to make sure they weren�t too bright or too dark. Additionally, I spot metered on the sky at the top of the scene and the dark trees at the bottom of the scene. Ideally, I wanted to have black trees at the bottom, rich red clouds on the side and also maintain some detail on the sun itself. Spot metering in a bunch of locations in the scene tells me how many stops of dynamic range I�m dealing with. It is a quick way for me to make a go/no go decision.
To set the final exposure for this photo, I metered to the left of the sun on the clouds and set my exposure there so it was 0.0 EV. This makes the sky �medium� brightness and will saturate the reds/oranges very well. I was also careful to wait until the sun was very low in the sky. It is only at this time of day when you can actually keep detail in the sun and the clouds at the same time. At any other time of day, you will completely blow out the sun.
Sometimes you want to maintain detail in the sun and other times you don�t. For example, if you shoot the sun when it is high in the sky, you can create an interesting sun star effect. Let�s talk about that next.
I like sun stars and frequently try to include them in my travel photography. The key to getting nice sun star photographs is to use a small aperture like f22. If you use something like f4 or f2.8, then your sun will look like a big ball of mush. A mush sun isn�t that much fun, so I use smaller apertures. Here are my tips for getting sun stars:
1. Set your aperture for something between f16 ~ f22. Most of the time I use f22.
2. Remove any filters on your lens in order to prevent additional lens flare.
3. Make sure that the front element of your lens is very clean. Otherwise you�ll get all kinds of spots on the photo and you�ll be very disappointed! (See picture of wagon wheel to the left).
4. Spot meter on the sky to the left or right of the sun so that the sun doesn�t impact the metered value for the scene.
5. To get the sky to turn the shade of blue you want, set your exposure for at 0.0 for a �medium� blue, +1.0 for a baby blue or -1.0 for a very dark/saturated blue. Remember that you have to do this while pointing your spot meter to the side of the sun.
6. Use a tripod. Since you are setting your lens to f22 and metering off the blue sky, your shutter speeds might be fairly long. For example, the sun star shots I have shown at the left were taken between 1/15 sec. and 1/40 sec. If you aren�t supporting your camera with a tripod, you will probably get blurry photographs! Use that tripod and you�ll be much happier.
7. Take the shot!
October GOAL Assignment: Shoot with an Agenda
Last week at our Art of Travel Photography workshop in the North Cascades, I encouraged the group to go into each new scene with a mental plan. In other words, I wanted them to make some mental notes that included specific themes they wanted to capture. Maybe they wanted to photograph ice cream or children or the color blue. Whatever it was, I wanted them to visualize it before hand.
Your GOAL assignment this month is to go into your next photo adventure with a vision of what you�d like to capture. I think you�ll be amazed at what you come back with! During our trip last month, I went into one of our shooting environments with the goal to shoot �old cars�. Next month, I�ll show you how I did and explain more of my philosophy.
Camera Techniques: Night Sports Photography – Don�t be Afraid of High ISOs
A few weeks ago I was shooting a high-school football game with someone who hired me for a private workshop. Our goal was to shoot the big rivalry game between two home-town football programs. It was a huge game and I was just blown away by how many people were in attendance. There were so many people at the game that folks were lining the field behind caution tape. The energy was fantastic and the crowd was as loud as I�ve ever heard at a high school sporting event. What a rush!
The game began right around dusk and continued until about 9:30pm. We arrived about one hour before kickoff in order to scout the location, pick our shooting spots and make a photo plan for the evening. We spent a while testing our equipment to make sure everything was operating properly before the game began. I like to get to shooting venues pretty early because that allows me time to make sure my white balance is adjusted well and it also allows me to shoot some test shots to get a feel for the quality of lighting at the venue. In our case, the lighting was provided by metal halide stadium lighting that produced a color temperature right around 5000k. To set my colors properly, I actually used a preset value taken from a Lastolite Ezybalance greycard (http://www.lastolite.com/ezybalance.php).
As we were shooting, I wanted to freeze the action of the players and the only ways to do that are either a fast shutter speed with ambient light or by using flash. The problem with doing it with flash is that you end up losing the natural lighting look. You see, when it is very dark outside, if you use flash, then only the foreground gets enough light and the background goes completely black. This results in a flash shot that looks like, well, a flash shot! One of the goals of flash photography is to make it look like flash wasn�t used at all! That�s a difficult proposition with football photography, so I like to use available/ambient light.
So, our other alternative is to use the fastest shutter speed while using just the ambient light. As stated before, the ambient light at the football field consisted of the standard stadium lighting. In order to shoot at fast shutter speeds, you have to use a big aperture. In my case, I used my 70-200 f2.8 lens. I set my camera for manual exposure and pointed at the green grass in the middle of the field. I set my aperture to f2.8 and then adjusted my ISO until I could get shutter speeds about 1/200 sec. In this case, I used ISO 800 in order to get a shutter speed of 1/200 sec. Sometimes you can create an artistic look by using longer shutter speeds like 1/20 ~ 1/60 sec, but my goal was to stop most of the action while allowing for a bit of blur in the hands and feet. 1/200 of a sec seemed to be giving me the results I was after.
Now, about that ISO setting. Everyone knows that you can�t get good shots at high ISO settings right? Everywhere I go, people tell me that they never shoot above ISO 200 because they are afraid that noise will ruin their shot. In fact, while shooting the football, there were many people there (year book staff, parents, fans) who were shooting at ISO 200 because someone told them never to go above that if they wanted decent looking shots. Folks were coming up to me and asking why all of their shots were so blurry. The first thing I did on everyone�s camera was increase the ISO to maximum and then set their apertures wide open. Immediately, smiles started forming on everyone�s faces!
The moral of the story is that you can sell a shot that is noisy as long as it is sharp and crisp. You can�t sell a blurry shot no matter how little noise it has. Take a look at the 100% crop of the football player�s helmet at left. This is at ISO 800 from a Nikon D2X. Yes, there is noise, but the kid is sharp! You can read the words on his helmet and see the detail on his face. It�s a good shot as far as I�m concerned. It�s a shot that any parent would like to have of their kid. Contrast that with a blurry/soft photo taken at ISO 200 and you now see the light!
Don�t be afraid to pump up the ISO in order to get a sharp photograph.
Digital Tidbits: Nikon View NX Impressions
Last month I mentioned that Nikon has released a new software package called Nikon View NX. I�ve been using it for a month now and have been extremely happy with its performance and flexibility. Especially considering that the product is a free download!
You can download Nikon View NX here:
Initially, when I downloaded the software, I was a little hesitant because I was uncomfortable with the new user interface. The look and feel of the program has changed significantly from the previous Nikon View v6.2. However, after using it for about a month now, I�ve found it to be well laid out and user friendly. The program fits nicely into my workflow and serves as an excellent file browser.
Perhaps the best attribute of Nikon View NX is the speed at which it shows me thumbnail previews of my images. It is blazingly fast when I click on a new folder, and that makes me happy! If I�m looking around my folders for an image with other slower programs, I can spend an inordinate amount of time just waiting for the images to come up on my screen. Even if you aren�t shooting professionally, you�ll appreciate the speed at which View NX delivers photos.
I also like the ease with which you can label and rate your images. It is as simple as clicking on the image (or images) and then applying the label/rating from the top button menu (see screen captures to the left). Alternatively, you can use keyboard shortcuts to do it even faster. Just press the number �1� to add a red label or �Ctrl + 1� to add a one-star rating. Similarly, �Ctrl + 2� will add a two-star rating.
Perhaps the neatest thing about the ratings that you add in View NX is that they are written to the XMP metadata and are therefore readable by other software like Adobe Bridge and Photo Mechanic! That�s a fantastic improvement from Nikon�s previous software. This means that I can now use Nikon View NX to quickly view my files and add the star ratings and labels without having to wait for Adobe Bridge to render the thumbnail views. This speeds up my workflow.
After you�ve rated and ranked your images, it is very easy to filter by your selections. For example, here�s the process for quickly choosing and viewing your keepers:
1. Set up Nikon View NX to the �Image Viewer� mode.
2. Click on the first image in your folder.
3. Use your arrow keys to move from image to image.
4. Type �Ctrl + 1� to add a star to your best images.
5. After you�ve finished your quick edit, click on the �One Star� icon at the top of the window. This will filter all your images to just show which ones have a �One Star� rating.
Beyond that, you can choose to view different combinations of rankings and labels just by clicking on the appropriate buttons at the top of the screen. Easy!
Another thing I like about View NX is the simple/quick file conversion tool. It works very similarly to Adobe Bridge�s �Image Processor� and allows you to change your files quickly into other formats and sizes. Just yesterday, I used View NX to batch convert 2500 photos from RAW files to 1200×1800 pixel JPG files. It took about 40 minutes to convert the images into JPG, rename, resize and place in a new folder. That�s one RAW conversion per second. Pretty impressive considering the shots were about 90% from a Nikon D2X and about 10% from a Nikon D80.
One of the aspects I�m looking forward to using is the Picture Control utility with the new Nikon D300 and D3 cameras. This will allow for quick adjustments to the image with respect to sharpening, contrast, brightness, saturation and hue. These are all settings that we can set in our cameras under the Optimize Image menus, but on the D3 and D300, we will have groupings of settings that we can customize and upload from software to our camera bodies.
Nikon View NX allows three basic �Views� of your picture files. The first is the simple Thumbnail Grid. This allows you to see a big panel with a bunch of thumbnails. You can vary the size of the thumbnails by moving a slider at the top of the screen or by pressing �Ctrl +� on your keyboard. The next view is the Image Viewer and this shows a filmstrip at the top of the screen with a large preview at the bottom of the screen. Finally, we have the Full Screen view which clears away all the clutter and simply shows the photo as a large image.
So, should you download Nikon View NX? I say absolutely yes! You�ll be happy you did and you�ll find lots of ways to incorporate it into your workflow.
Almost all the workshops I am leading for the rest of this year are completely sold out! That is exciting for me, but frustrating for many of you who have contacted me about the next series of workshops. I am now putting together a schedule for 2008 that will have more workshops and more cities. Additionally, I have hired on a number of excellent instructors for the Nikonians Academy (www.nikoniansacademy.com) that will be teaching my curriculum all around the USA during the remainder of 2007.
The Art of Travel Workshops
We�ll have many more Art of Travel workshops in 2008, so be prepared for fun, adventure and amazing photography! Go here for more details: www.outthereimages.com/travel_workshop.html
We have dramatically expanded our workshops and instructor base through the Nikonians. Please go to www.nikoniansacademy.com to see all the new cities and the new topics! We are offering topics such as wildlife safaris, travel workshops, D80/D70, D2X, D200, Nikon Capture NX, Nikon iTTL wireless flash through the Nikonians. If you are thinking of signing up, then you had better hurry! Seats are selling quickly and there are quite a few workshops that are already completely sold out in various cities.
D80 and D70 Workshops
We have now combined our D70 and D80 workshops for 2007. Our remaining workshops this year are offered through the Nikonians (www.nikoniansacademy.com) 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. All remaining D200 workshops in 2007 are being run through the Nikonians (http://www.nikoniansacademy.com). Go here for more details on class content: www.outthereimages.com/D200_workshop.html.
Nikon iTTL Flash Workshops
These are some of our most popular workshops and sell out quickly wherever we run them. 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. The remaining workshops in 2007 will be offered through the Nikonians Academy (www.nikoniansacademy.com) More info on class content at: www.outthereimages.com/ittl_workshop.html
Private instruction is a very popular and affordable way 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, exposure theory, and more. Many of our customers have requested specific topics and we have tailored our private tutoring to their needs. Call (253) 851-9054 or email ([email protected]) if you have questions about this option.
It is an honor to be able to share the joy of photography with you each month. Go take some great photos this October! As always, feel free to contact me at any time if you have questions.
Out There Images, Inc. – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335