Greetings Folks! May was a wonderful month of photography that had me taking photos in the Columbia River Gorge, Kalispell, MT and Alaska. I have also been able to take a bunch of great photographs of my children’s baseball games. I’m not sure which is more fun photographically, taking pics of my kids’ great expressions at bat or taking pics of mountains, bears and adventure. I’m going to have to go with the kids!
Good news for those of you located in the Pacific NW. I’ll be giving a multi-media presentation on Africa, Monday, June 8th at 6:30pm in Gig Harbor, WA. The show will include lots of great photographs of Tanzanian Wildlife and native populations, as well as photographs of the Rafiki Foundation orphanage in Moshi, Tanzania. Here’s a link to the event:
Books Are Shipping
Our two new books are currently shipping. The first is The Nikon Creative Lighting System and the second is Nikon Capture NX 2: After The Shoot. You can buy both of them here: www.outthereimages.com/publishing.html .
We ship books the same day they are ordered and if you order from our website, then we’ll send an autographed copy.
Last month we ran a contest to give away two books on flash photography. Joe McNally’s The Hot Shoe Diaries and my book The Nikon Creative Lighting System. We drew the winner from our newsletter database and Mike Angelo from Florida won the prize. Congratulations Mike and enjoy the books!
Blog Up and Running
Our blog is going strong at www.outthereimages.com/blog. I post new information whenever I have access to internet service. The blog is a great place for me to give quick updates or other tips and tricks related to photography. Feel free to check in to the blog every once in a while for tips, tricks, encouragement and a few nice photographs!
One of my favorite posts so far was a link to a photographer friend of mine, Lloyd Smith, who has been taking on some great self assignments. As you know, I am always encouraging the readers of this newsletter to get out and challenge themselves photographically. Lloyd has taken amazing initiative and has been photographing homeless people near his home town on a regular basis. Here are a couple links to his web galleries. I think they are great and really show dedication on his part.
Mike & Nancy
Tawnee & Black
I’m writing this month’s newsletter from a little village called Unalakleet, Alaska. Unalakleet is on the central west coast of Alaska on the Norton Sound. There is a crew of people here from Gig Harbor, WA that are working on construction projects at a youth camp for CYAK (Covenant Youth of Alaska) http://www.cyak.org/. My team is working to drill a water well while other crews are repairing existing structures, installing lighting and remodeling the kitchen. The weather here is pretty chilly for this time of year with temps bouncing between 30 F and 40 F. Yesterday, we were out working on the well and noticed that some white stuff was falling from the sky. Snow! In fact, it has been spitting snow just about every day we’ve been here. Isn’t it June already?
I brought my Nikon D700 and Nikon D90 to the camp as well as a few lenses. I also brought along an Olympus LS-10 audio recorder, my MacBook Pro and a little Gitzo 1157 CF tripod. All of my camera gear fit in my Think Tank Photo Speed Racer and I packed my laptop separately in a small backpack.
Getting to the camp requires that you fly out of Anchorage, Alaska on a small airplane directly to Unalakleet. Then, once you are in Unalakleet, you generally have to take a jet boat up the North River to the camp, which is approximately ten miles out into the tundra. The other way to go to camp is to drive ten miles along an old dirt road that used to be a supply line for the old Air Force White Alice Communications System from the 1950s (whitealice.net and Wikipedia). This White Alice communications system became obsolete in the 1970s by satellite communications, but the old dirt road is still there.
There’s only one road that leads away from camp, so when the locals are looking for something to do on the long summer days, they’ll generally take a trip out the road to the old White Alice base for a few hours. The road is old, rough, pot-holed and decrepit. In fact, there are many places where it is very close to being washed out from the fast flowing North River or other streams.
This year the river is running very high and has been flooding the banks on sunny days when the melting snow from nearby mountains fills the river beyond capacity. At camp, we generally have three to four hours of flooding each day as water gushes through our trail system. Getting around requires sloshing through running streams in our tall rubber boots and more than a few of us ended up falling into the muck when our boots became stuck in the mud!
It is amazing to watch spring rapidly appear in a place like this. It is a process that happens very quickly and you can see plants jumping to life almost before your eyes. One day a tree looks lifeless and the next day there are buds forming. It is as if the cold spell of winter was instantly cast away and the next moment all the plants and animals decided to wake up. Song birds have arrived and the mornings are full of cacophonous sounds of chirps, tweets and the deep thumps of ptarmigan wings. Rabbits are bouncing through the woods and the moose are showing their presence everywhere by their sounds and their sign. In fact, we watched a moose in the tundra from about 30 feet away just a couple of days ago.
The big news at camp this year however had nothing to do with spring, or floods, or kids, or our work teams. The big news was about our resident grizzly bear.
For the last few years, we’ve had an Alaskan brown bear that has been tearing up camp in the most destructive ways. The bear likes to eat any and all extra food that is remaining and does its best to find the food by ripping apart doors, walls, windows and anything else standing in its way. Whenever people leave camp, even for just a day, we frequently find signs that the bear has visited. The �signs� are ripped off doors, broken windows, torn apart siding and candy wrappers strewn about the area!
Since the bear usually strikes soon after people leave, this means that it is lingering just outside of camp, waiting for the opportunity to come in and raid whatever it can get it’s paws on. Obviously, bears and kids don’t mix very well and there is a lot of concern from locals about the possibility of a violent bear encounter.
Each year, when the camp staff departs for the season, they board everything up with big, thick pressure treated lumber. They attach the lumber to the building with massive lag bolts and then screw the lumber to the doors and windows with big wood screws for added measure.
None of these �enhanced security measures� seem to slow down the grizzly bear at all. The bear is so strong that it just rips the lumber from the building like it was made out of Tinker Toys. We’ve even installed steel doors on the building but the grizzly just punches holes through them with its claws as if you were poking at styrofoam. It is amazing to see! Last year, just two days after everyone left camp in August, the grizzly tore apart the buildings in search of a lone jar of peanut butter that was left behind.
The local eskimos have come up from the village on many occasions over the last few years to hunt the grizzly, but it has remained elusive. Finally, this last January, a few young men from Unalakleet came up and staked out the youth camp in the hopes of finding the bear. They hunkered down on a dirt pile and waited for the big animal to come out of the woods. This time, they were lucky and happened to be in the right spot at the right time. They heard some loud crashing, snorting and grunting in the trees about a hundred yards away and held their breath.
At around 1am, the grizzly bear crashed out of the woods and was meandering in their direction. It was so focused on finding food, that it didn’t notice the young men until it had come within 100 feet. The bear raised his head, stopped what it was doing and looked right into their eyes. After a brief second, the bear went right back to what it was doing and kept coming straight towards them with its head down and nose to the ground.
When it came within about 70 feet away, one young man raised his 30-06 rifle, steadied his aim and squeezed the trigger. It was a bitter sweet ending to this long story and the legacy of the camp bear. It had caused a lot of worry for the area and had caused a bunch of damage to the camp buildings. The bear’s actions over the last few years had elevated it to an almost mythical status for all of us who help out at the camp. In fact, the grizzly was always the focus of conversation when you’d talk about camp with people from the Village or with people back home. People would ask, �is the bear still roaming around camp?� or �Has anyone found that bear yet?� or �What did the bear eat this time?�
Life in Alaska is entirely different than down in the lower 48. Eskimos live off the land and are constantly trying to balance traditional methods with the newer Western influence. Kids struggle with whether they should learn the ways of YouTube, MySpace and iPods versus the ways of the camp elders and traditional dance. Everyone recognizes the conveniences of modern culture but the difficulty is understanding how much to let it influence their traditions.
It was very interesting for me to talk to one of the young Eskimos who shot the bear. He spoke about the bear with reverence and respect. He saved and used everything from the bear including the skin, meat and skull. And at the same time, he was showing me a slide show of his digital images on his Macintosh laptop computer in the middle of the Village. My, how times have changed.
May GOAL Assignment: Capture the Small Things
Your GOAL (Get Out And Learn) assignment last month was to capture the small details that we tend to walk past every day. I live in a picturesque little town called Gig Harbor, Washington that has a stunning view of Mt. Rainier from one end of the harbor. The view creates such an iconic photograph, that photographers come from far and wide to capture this beautiful scene. In fact, many times when people think of Gig Harbor, they have a hard time envisioning anything else.
I have taken hundreds and hundreds of photographs of this specific shot of Mt. Rainier in front of all the fishing boats. A few are pretty good, but most of my shots are just so so. Even though I continue to search for an even better photo, I know that I am missing thousands of other details around town.
Gig Harbor has so much more to photograph than just the mountain and the boats. Recently, I’ve been working hard to find other things around town to photograph so that my �visual story� of Gig Harbor can be better illustrated. Last month, I was walking down along the water front with a friend during lunch. We went to the spot where you take the famous Mt. Rainier shot, but I decided to do something different for a change. Instead of trying for another icon photo, I started looking for the small things that paint the bigger picture. I thought for a moment and made a mental list of subjects that define Gig Harbor:
– Bow lines
– Spring flowers
– Boutique shops
– Big waterfront homes
I then set about photographing a few of these things during lunch. By looking harder, I found things that I never noticed before. Take for example the ladder with the hanging buckets. This was propped up against a wall about 50 feet from where the famous overlook was located. The boutique store had put out all kids of interesting photographic subjects including milk cans, planter boxes and benches. I spent a few minutes exploring all the little details.
As I continued walking, I found other small details such as flowers, waterfront homes, and coiled lines from boats moored at the docks. Honestly, I had more fun photographing the little details than I’ve had in months of trying to get another iconic shot of Mt. Rainier.
I’ve found that when I go on a photo trip, the harder I work at finding the small details, the better all my photographs become. The search for details really exercises my mind and helps me with composition, form, shape, color, contrast and subject.
Another benefit of hunting for details is that it helps me interact with other people who I’d normally just walk by. As I’m taking images of an interesting item, people stop and ask questions. That becomes my opportunity to talk to them and learn even more about the area. Sometimes, it even becomes an opportunity to include them in a photograph.
One thing to remember about photographing details is that they rarely can tell the visual story on their own. All stories require the use of an opening scene (the icon shot of Mt. Rainier) as well as detailed scenes to fill in the blanks.
I’m still working on my detailed scenes of Gig Harbor. In fact, I know I’ll be taking these photographs for many years to come. Perhaps some day I’ll have enough to tell a story. Until then, it’s back to the camera for more images.
June GOAL Assignment: Exercise Your Depth of Field
There are many times that a little depth of field will go a long ways to help or hinder the look of your photographs. Take these two example photos of the poppy flowers that I snapped two weeks ago in a Tacoma Washington parking lot. The first photograph has a very limited depth of field and was taken at f2.8. The next image of the same flowers was taken at f11.
Both have a very different look and feel. Which one to you like best? Your GOAL (Get Out And Learn) assignment for June is to take the same multiple photographs of the same composition with different depth of field each time. I’ll give some great tips for using depth of field to your advantage (or disadvantage!) in next month’s newsletter.
Book Review: The DAM Book, Digital Asset Management for Photographers
Three years ago I had the good fortune of briefly meeting Peter Krogh (peterkrogh.com) at a PMA show down in Las Vegas. At the time, I was testing out a program called iView Media Pro and was really enjoying the interface and flexibility. I knew that Peter Krogh was also a big user of the program and that he had written a book called the DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers. I obtained a copy of his first book and quickly found that I appreciated his approach to managing digital files since we were doing many of the same things. I also learned an amazing amount of new information that I previously did not understand.
Since that first book came out, there have been many innovations in digital photography including software, hardware, storage, media, computers, websites, etc. Peter has rewritten The DAM Book to address all these new technologies and I have just finished reading his second edition. Here’s a quick review of his book.
One of the biggest changes to Digital Asset Management over the last few years is the wide array of software now available for organizing and cataloging images. Lightroom, Aperture, Expression Media and many other products are all competing for your hard earned money. How are we supposed to know which product will work best for our workflow? Peter does a good job of really explaining how each of these programs operate so that you can do a better job of figuring out which ones you should purchase. He has entire chapters dedicated to popular programs such as Adobe Lightroom, Bridge, ACR, Expression Media and a host of browsing tools.
Peter has a new section in this book on GPS tagging your images. He discusses how this new metadata set can help you organize your images in a new and compelling way. I like how he details the methods you should use to coordinate your images with track logs, Google Earth, MS Virtual Earth, Flickr and other mapping utilities.
One of the best chapters in the book is CH 4 which goes into great detail on how to best organize and name your files and images. This is one of the most often asked questions at my workshops and Peter has some excellent recommendations for file structure, naming conventions and system organization. My approach is very similar to Peter’s approach, so naturally I think his method is pretty good!
In Chapter 5, Peter spends a significant amount of time detailing the best methods for saving your images to disk. He goes into great detail to explain the differences between Network Attached Storage (NAS), RAID, eSATA, USB, Firewire, Tape, DVD, etc. His descriptions are very helpful for those of you who are trying to choose between these different storage approaches.
Peter also goes into a fair amount of detail to help us all understand file formats such as NEF, CR2, DNG and others. He is a big proponent of saving all your images as DNG files so that your system will be future-proof. He has a good point and makes several convincing arguments for keeping your archive saved as DNG. I however have chosen to keep all my images as NEF (Nikon Raw) since I spend a lot of my time working on them in Nikon Capture NX 2.
The only downside to buying The DAM Book is that it is very thorough. Peter really covers every nuance surrounding a photographer’s digital archive and I think the book can be too detailed for the casual photographer. Many readers will question the need to be as diligent as he recommends. It takes a lot of time, effort and money to set up a data archive that works well and is robust. However, I feel strongly that if you want to save time and trouble in the long run by having the best data archive possible, then you would do yourself a big favor by implementing the methods he describes into your system. I use most of Peter’s methods in my own image management system and I feel confident that my digital photo archive is ready for whatever the future holds in terms of software changes, system failures, theft or calamity.
In all, The DAM Book has 12 chapters and 476 pages with full-color illustrations and photographs. It is well written, thoroughly researched and cleanly laid out. I highly recommend The DAM Book and will refer back to it many times over the next few years.
We run workshops all around the USA and the world through Out There Images, Inc. Our workshops are run through Out There Images, Inc. (www.outthereimages.com) as well as the Nikonians Academy (www.nikoniansacademy.com). Check out the information below for specific topics and dates.
We continue to add workshops to the Nikonians Academy and now have the entire second half of 2009 filled out. Most of the workshops I’m leading are almost sold out. This includes Dallas, Portland, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, New York and Washington DC. Our topics include Nikon D90/D80, HDR Photography, Advanced iTTL wireless flash, D700/D3, Nikon D300 and more. Our next workshops are scheduled for Dallas Texas, June 18-21 and Portland, Oregon, June 25-28.
I have posted two new African Photo Safaris for 2010. The first will be in May 2010 and the second will be in November 2010. Both of the photo safaris will be operated in Northern Tanzania in locations such as Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti NP, Tarangire NP and Lake Manyara. You can find more information here: www.nikoniansacademy.com.
The Art of Travel Photography Workshops
Join us for a photographic adventure in 2009! Learn how to turn your next vacation into an artistic experience with our Art of Travel Photography Workshops. We have two Art of Travel workshops planned in 2009. Our Columbia River Gorge workshop was from April 30 � May 3rd, 2009 and our North Cascades NP/Mazama September 24-29, 2009. If you are thinking of signing up, contact us immediately in order to be placed on our signup list. Go here for more details:
Nikonians Academy Workshops
We have more classes than ever for 2009. Topics include Nikon D300, Nikon D700, Nikon D3, Wireless Flash, Capture NX 2, D90, D80, D60, D40 and more travel workshops than you can shake a stick at. We�ll be teaching great photographic subjects all around the USA as well as some international destinations.
Our topics include:
– Triple D Game Farm baby animals
– Nikon D300
– Nikon D700/D3
– iTTL Flash
– Capture NX 2
– Nikon D90, D80
Find out about all of our workshops here: www.nikoniansacademy.com.
Private instruction is a very popular 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.
Have a wonderful month of photography. Get out and take some amazing images.
Out There Images, Inc. – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335