The Holidays are upon us and excitement is in the air. I love the anticipation this time of year brings, especially since Santa (aka Nikon) has brought us a couple of new cameras to play with. Yes, that�s right. The Nikon D300 and Nikon D3 have arrived at a store near you. I picked up my D300 just a few days ago and can�t put it down. Wow, what a camera. It is a lot of fun to use and has some incredible improvements over the Nikon D200. I�ll talk about it below in a quick D300 article.
As always, when a new camera comes out, you have to update your software in order to process and view the RAW files. For those of you who use Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, Nikon Capture NX, Nikon View NX and other software programs, most of these companies published new versions last week, so go to their websites to download the software upgrades. Additionally, if you are using a PC computer, then you�ll need to download the new Nikon Codec so you can view NEFs on your computer. Here are the upgrade links:
– Adobe Camera RAW 4.3:
– Nikon View NX 1.0.2:
– Nikon Capture NX 1.3:
– Adobe Lightroom 1.3:
– Microsoft Vista Codec (from Nikon):
After much anticipation, we have finally posted new workshops that I�ll be leading in 2008. Here�s a quick summary:
– Art of Travel Columbia River Gorge, OR (www.outthereimages.com/travel_workshop.html)
– Art of Travel Mazama, WA (www.outthereimages.com/travel_workshop.html)
– Portrait Photography (www.outthereimages.com/portrait_workshop.html)
– Photoshop Level I and II (www.outthereimages.com/photoshop_workshop.html)
I am also leading a ton (yes, a ton) of workshops through the Nikonians Academy. I�ll be teaching in cities all around the USA on topics such as Nikon D200, Nikon D300, iTTL Wireless flash, and Hands-on digital printing. Beyond that, I have a few travel workshops such as the Olympic Mountains, WA and two African Safaris in Tanzania (I�ve just posted the second one a few days ago). You can find all the details on these workshops at www.nikoniansacademy.com. Our first Nikonians workshops start in January and the first city of the year is Houston, Texas.
Let�s see, what else. November was a very busy month. I taught a great series of workshops in Chicago and then took a short trip to Tennessee for the Thanksgiving holidays. I was able to shoot for a few hours in the Smoky Mountains and learned how to speak �Tennessean�. The best phrase I learned was �I don�t care to.� Translated, this means that �I�d love to.� So, if someone asks you to go get a glass of water for them, you answer back �I don�t care to,� which means that you�d love to. Hmm.
December is going to be spent creating new content for workshops as well as taking a few photographic trips. I�ll be photographing in Yosemite and also around the Northwest USA.
November GOAL Assignment: Light Painting
Last month, I asked you to try light painting your photos with flashlights and other light sources. It is a fun way to create new imagery, but it also can take quite a bit of technique to perfect. Unfortunately, light painting is typically more art than science because you never really know how your exposure will turn out until you actually do it. There is a substantial amount of experimentation involved with light painting and this makes it either fun or frustrating, depending on your perspective. My perspective is that it is fun!
Light painting is defined as using a continuous light source (like a flashlight) to illuminate your subject while your camera�s shutter is held open.
To set up a photo for light painting, you�ll generally need a scene (or room) that is very dark. You don�t want a lot of ambient light because you�ll be exposing elements of the photo with your flashlight or head lamp. If you do have any ambient light, then you definitely need to understand how bright the ambient light will be in the final exposure. For example, if you are photographing outside, then you�ll want to know if the sky will show up or not. It would be wise to base your overall exposure on the ambient light (sky) and then fill in the details with your flashlight. The outdoor light painting photos I have shown at left are a perfect example of that. Exposure for those shots was determined by metering off the blue twilight sky.
The photo of the aluminum fishing boats in front of Lake Crescent was a 25 second exposure at f5.6 and ISO 160. I set my camera on my trusty Gitzo tripod, framed up the photo and then used a shutter release cable to start the exposure. I then walked around the scene, aiming my at all the sections I wanted to illuminate. In this case, I was only interested in lighting up the boats, so as soon as I made sure not to point the light anywhere else, other than the boats. 25 seconds isn�t very much time, so I had to move quickly in order to effectively illuminate all three.
The headlamp I used for this had an incandescent light bulb, so to get neutral colors on the boats, I would normally set my white balance to Incandescent (about 3200K). However, I wanted a little more drama in the pic, so instead I set my white balance to �Cloudy� (about 6000K) to warm up the light from the headlamp. I tried a number of other white balance settings too, but this is the one I liked the best.
You can use just about any light source for light painting. These days, the current rage in flashlights is LED bulbs. Most LEDs have a very strong blue cast, so you can use these to impart some different colors to the scene. One thing to keep in mind when using LEDs, is that they produce a limited light spectrum. This differs from an incandescent light bulb, which produces a full spectrum light. What this means is that you can get complete color rendering from incandescent lights but not from LEDs. There are lots of companies working in full spectrum LEDs and I would imagine that it is only a matter of time before full-spectrum LEDs become widely (and cheaply) available.
For now, if you want full colors in your light painting photos, I’d recommend using a standard flashlight with an incandescent bulb like a Mini Mag.
The next photo shown here is of some Adirondack chairs in front of a lodge in the Olympic National Park, Washington USA. The photo of just the lodge and blue sky didn�t excite me, so I thought it would be fun to highlight the chairs in the foreground with my flashlight. Again, I set my exposure based on the twilight sky. In this case, my exposure was also 25 seconds at f5.6. For white balance, I decided to use 3650 K to give me accurate colors from my flashlight. This also had the effect of making the sky very blue (a low Kelvin value adds a strong blue filter).
Light painting doesn�t have to be limited to outdoor scenics. Some of the neatest light paintings are done in the studio. In this scenario, you are in total control of the lighting arrangement, so feel free to experiment with just about any lighting tools at your disposal.
The example photo I have here is of the new Nikon D300. I set up a simple black backdrop in a dark room and started to experiment with different light sources. I set my camera for ISO 100 and Manual exposure. Then, I experimented with a couple different exposure settings until I had a general idea of how long I needed to expose for my flashlights. I ended up with exposures ranging from f8 at 8 seconds to f11 at 15 seconds. Since I was going to use an incandescent flashlight as my main light, I set my white balance for incandescent. Next, I tripped the shutter and started painting the photo. I used the incandescent flashlight to paint the front of the camera and then used a LED flashlight as a backlight to create some interesting colors.
After I got my product shot, I started experimenting with different arrangements. For example, I wondered what it would look like if I streaked a flashlight behind the scene. Then I started to wiggle the LED flashlight in the scene. Then I added a laser. In all, I must have spent an hour messing around with different arrangements and each one was different. What a blast. Click the photo to the left (or this link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YM6HK1l77iY) for a short movie of all the different arrangements I came up with.
Now what are you waiting for? Get out there and take some pictures!
December GOAL Assignment: Embrace the Noise
One thing I hear from people all the time is how �terrible� their photos look when they photograph at high ISO levels. For example, shooting at ISO 1600 will generate noisy photos that tend to make the photograph look grainy and soft.
Your GOAL (Get Out And Learn) assignment this month is to take pictures at very high ISO values with the intent of creating an artsy effect. Embrace the noise. Rather than look at high ISO noise as a problem, look at it as a creative tool. Think �Kodak T-Max 3200� film. Can you successfully create great shots at high ISOs? Try it; I think you�ll be surprised with the results.
Next month, I�ll give lots of tips and examples of where using high ISO values works well.
Book Review: Adobe Photoshop CS3, One-on-One, O’Reilly Publishing.
Photoshop is an overwhelming program to use and to learn. There are more menus and functions than Jay Leno has jokes. I�ve been teaching Photoshop workshops for a few years and I use it just about every day. In fact, I just finished editing a book on Photoshop CS3 for a different publishing company (written by another great photographer, Mark Fitzgerald, www.ddroom.com). That said, I don�t kid myself for a second thinking that I don�t need to keep learning. There are always more techniques to learn and better ways to do them.
With the release of Photoshop CS3, I felt it was important to read up on the new features and learn as much as possible. For a few years, I have known of Deke McClelland and have loosely followed his work. He�s written 84 books, with over 20 of them just on Photoshop! He�s also a well-known video training guru. To top it off, he�s funny! Anyways, I had the opportunity to review his new book on Photoshop CS3, titled Adobe Photoshop CS3, One-on-One. He subtitled the book �one-on-one� because that is his training style. He structures the book so that it�s like he�s teaching you in person. His writing method works and his teaching style works. To top it off, the book ships with about three hours of actual training videos that go directly along with the text. The videos are done so well, that they reason enough to buy the book.
Ok, so what�s the book like? Simply, it�s good! Deke has done a great job of showing the user how to use CS3. The book isn�t specific to any one genre (i.e. Photoshop for nature photography or retouching photographs), but it does cover almost all the fundamental tools that we as photographers need to know. He starts the book off with the basics and then rapidly progresses to higher-end tools like masks, layers, vanishing point and special effects. His chapters are organized into a total of 12 lessons. Each lesson begins with a video and then goes into step by step instructions for how to complete the tasks. He�s also done a great job at showing the Mac and PC keyboard functions.
I like to judge a book by how much I mark it up. What I mean is that when I learn something new in a book, I draw a big circle around it with a red pen. In this case, I have red pen marks all throughout the book, starting from the first chapter! Awesome. I learned so much in the first few chapters that I eventually just stopped circling things. In fact, the first chapter of the book on using Bridge and setting up preferences is worth the price alone. I have ten big red circles that I put into use immediately. All of the concepts are time-saving shortcuts, or preferences that help me work more efficiently. Couple the book with the training video and you�re going to learn more in a few hours than you thought humanly possible.
So, who is this book for? I think it�s for those of you who want to know Photoshop from a fundamental level. Don�t buy this book if you are looking for better techniques on specific photographic topics. For example, Deke doesn�t focus his examples on Nature Photography or Portrait Retouching or High Dynamic Range Imaging. He covers these topics, but doesn�t focus the whole book on any one thing. The book is exactly what it says in the title; �Adobe Photoshop CS3�. It is over 500 pages long and in full color. All of his exercises have color examples so you can easily follow along.
I read a lot of books on digital photography and only recommend a few of them. This is one I can wholeheartedly recommend.
You can find out more about the book here:
Digital Tidbits: Nikon D300 Digital SLR
This camera is very cool. I picked mine up a few days ago and have been playing with it every since! Nikon has really outdone themselves and has created a professional tool that is worthy of the Nikon brand. I was talking with another professional photographer about this camera and mentioned to him that everything has improved from the D200. Everything! ISO performance is better. Autofocus is faster. White balance is more comprehensive. RAW files are better.
I�m amazed and impressed with Nikon�s ability to continually create cameras that simply work. This camera is a tool that I�ll be using for many years to come.
So, rather than go through a comprehensive discussion on everything the camera offers (lots of other websites do this), I�ll simply talk about the things that make my professional photography better.
First, the white balance tools are greatly expanded from the Nikon D200 and D2X. For example, the fluorescent setting has a whole host of sub settings such as:
– Warm fluorescent
– Cool fluorescent
– Day fluorescent
– Sodium-vapor lamps
– Mercury-vapor lamps
That is very exciting. I can�t tell you how many times I�ve wished for a white balance setting for Sodium-vapor and Mercury-vapor lamps. In fact, today I�m going to be photographing an indoor soccer game in an arena with Mercury-vapor lamps. I just can�t wait to try out the new settings.
In addition to these, Nikon has completely changed the way we fine tune our white balance. In the past, we used a �+� or a �-� to bias the photo to the blue or to the red. It was always a bit difficult for people to memorize whether minus meant redder or bluer. Now, Nikon has added a 4-color correction graph that allows us to really fine tune our colors. We can adjust towards green, magenta, blue or amber. Added to that, they got rid of the plus and minus symbols and started using letters to designate the color shift. Much easier to understand and use. I like anything that makes my photography easier to understand and quicker to implement.
Another big improvement is the new Picture Control menu on the camera. Picture Controls replace the older Mode I, Mode II and Mode III settings and the older �Optimize Image� settings. The new Picture Control allows much easier control over saturation, hue, brightness, contrast and sharpening. In the D200 and D2X, we had to go between multiple menus to make changes. Now, they are all in the same spot and it is much faster make changes.
The next great tool that I�ll be using is a feature called �Live View�. This allows you to compose your photographs by looking at the back LCD screen just like we do with our point and shoot cameras. The benefit for me is when I�m doing low angle photography and I don�t want to lay on the ground to look through my viewfinder. I can simply activate live view and look at the screen for composition and framing. Excellent.
Nikon has also made life easier for those of you who wear glasses. I lead a lot of workshops, so I get to watch a lot of people work with their cameras. At every workshop I lead, about half the class says something like �I wish Nikon made the icons larger. I can�t read any of these.� Well, they listened. On the back of the camera, Nikon added a new button titled �Info� that brings up a screen showing you all the camera settings in big, bold symbols. This is a copy from the Nikon D40 and as far as I�m concerned, it is a masterful addition. Nice work!
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Nikon greatly improved battery life on the D300 over the Nikon D200. I haven�t shot with the camera long enough to give you much real-world experience, but it�s looking like I�m getting about double the battery life out of the D300 as I did with the D200. That�s a good thing.
I�ll be shooting with the camera on a daily basis and am truly looking forward to the resulting images. I�ll give regular updates in the next few months.
Our 2008 schedule is finally posted. This year, we are offering at least four workshops through Out There Images, Inc. and somewhere around 70 workshops scheduled at the Nikonians Academy (www.nikoniansacademy.com). Check out the information below for specific topics and dates.
The Art of Travel Photography Workshops
Join us for a photographic adventure in 2008! Learn how to turn your next vacation into an artistic event with our Art of Travel Photography Workshops. The locations we have are Columbia River Gorge waterfalls and spring bloom 4/24/08 ~ 4/27/08 and North Cascades NP/Mazama 10/2/08 ~ 10/5/08. Both of these workshops are very popular and tend to sell out quickly. If you are thinking of signing up, contact us immediately in order to be placed on our signup list. Go here for more details:
Photoshop Level I and II
These workshops are a great way to learn Photoshop while using practical, real world examples that photographers face each day. We are offering two levels of Photoshop instruction � Photoshop I and Photoshop II. Take them one at a time or take them as a group and get a 10% discount. Our Photoshop workshop is scheduled for July 25th and July 26th, 2008 in Seattle, WA. Go here for more information: www.outthereimages.com/portrait_workshop.html
Nikonians Academy Workshops
Our first workshops of the year are already scheduled for January, �08 in Houston, Texas. We are also going to be teaching in Orlando, Charleston, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Portland, Atlanta, Dallas, Washington DC, Tanzania, Olympic Mountains NP and more!
Our topics include:
– Two African Safaris
– Olympic Mountains and National Park Travel Photography
– Nikon D300
– Nikon D200
– Nikon D80/D70
– iTTL Flash
– Hands-on Digital Printing
Find out about all of our workshops here: www.nikoniansacademy.com.
We�ve brought back our popular Portrait Photography workshop this year. It will be scheduled for July 11-12, 2008 in Seattle, WA. If you�ve ever wanted to learn how to use a flash meter, how to set up a studio, how to arrange your lighting or how to use flash, then this is the right workshop for you. It is a two-day event with lots and lots of hands-on learning and photography. Come along, you�ll enjoy it! I promise. Go here for more details: www.outthereimages.com/portrait_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.
I appreciate your continued patronage and I�m looking forward to meeting you again in our upcoming workshops. Now, get out this month and take some great photographs!
Out There Images, Inc. – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335