Greetings photographers! September has come and gone and now the trees are changing color in the Great Pacific Northwest. I�m looking forward to crisp air, beautiful colors and stunning photography.
I spent eight days in September at Denali National Park on the 9th Annual ANPAT with the Nikonians Academy. We really had a wonderful time and were blessed with astounding weather. In fact, we saw Mt. McKinley every single day that we were at the park. Most of the park personnel tell us that you are lucky to see Mt. McKinley once in a month, so we were very fortunate. In this issue of the newsletter, I have written an article on the logistics of photographing in Denali National Park. If you are ever planning on going there for a photo adventure, this article should help you plan your trip.
In other news, we have been regularly updating our blog, so be sure to head over there for more photo related topics. We have lots of new photos, software reviews and photography tips. In fact, yesterday I posted about a new HDR software product called HDRtist that Mac users might find intriguing. Our blog is located at www.outthereimages.com/blog.
I take off for New York and Washington DC in a few days to run some photography workshops and capture some fall color photographs. I�m hoping for great weather and colorful trees. Should be great fun and I�m really looking forward to seeing some old friends.
November will bring a trip to Maui for scouting future workshops in the rain forests, coastal regions and mountains. I�m really looking forward to spending some quality time building my stock photo files while also enjoying the warm weather.
September GOAL Assignment: Point and Shoot Challenge
I�ve really enjoyed the GOAL assignment for September. It has pushed me to spend more time with a point and shoot camera, rather than lugging around my larger SLRs. I was encouraged to use my point and shoot more frequently on a recent trip to San Diego for a family vacation. There were a couple of days during our vacation that we went to Sea World to watch Shamu. I didn�t want to lug along my Nikon dSLR cameras, so I decided to go fast and light with a little point and shoot digital.
I found the smaller camera to be incredibly liberating. In fact, my photography with the point and shoot camera in San Diego was much more whimsical and carefree than when I used my dSLR. I tended to be less formal and freer to try an odd angle or a strange shape. I played more and I took more �fun� photographs. It was a good reminder for me that I should never take photography too seriously, and that the reason I do this is because I thoroughly enjoy it.
I was reminded of another great thing about point and shoot cameras: folks are much less intimidated by a small camera than they are of a D700 with a 70-200mm f2.8 attached. When approaching my kids or even strangers, they very rarely shied away from the camera. Instead, everyone struck a pose, put on a big smile and enjoyed the moment.
Currently, my main point and shoot is a Canon G9. Its two generations old now, but I�ve been very pleased with its performance and its 12 MP resolution. Also, these higher end Canon cameras have the ability to shoot RAW (CR2) files which really increases their flexibility. I know that I can shoot professional caliber images and have great control in post production.
I find that taking high quality images with a P&S camera takes a little more work than I normally expect. For example, many times I am tempted to hang my point and shoot �out there� with one hand for a quick grab shot. In those cases, I invariably come away with blurry shots and poor composition. To get professional photos with a P&S requires that I approach my images in the same way as I would with an SLR. I find that when I spend the time to adjust the exposure, compose the shot, and hold the camera steady (with both hands!), I can get results that rival my pro bodies.
With these thoughts in mind, here are a few things you always need to think about when shooting with a P&S:
– Timing your shots. Shutter lag is an issue, so anticipate how long it will take for the shutter to click and prepare for the delay. This will definitely improve your keeper ratio.
– Pre-focus. If you pre-focus ahead of time, this will also decrease the amount of time it takes for the shutter to click.
– ISO settings. The smaller sensors in P&S cameras don�t perform very well at higher ISOs. For example, on the G9, I start seeing significant noise at ISO 400 and it gets dramatically worse the higher you go. Therefore, I work hard to keep sensitivities down between ISO 80 and ISO 200.
– Shutter speeds. A result of using lower ISOs is that your shutter speeds will be pretty long. I get waayyy too many blurry shots with my P&S cameras due to motion blur. Therefore, ask your subjects to hold still, use your camera�s image stabilizer, and learn how to pan your camera if your subject is moving.
– Get closer. Most digital point and shoots are limited in their zoom range. Therefore, you frequently need to �zoom with your feet� in order to get frame-filling images. Get closer and your photographs will be better. Guaranteed!
So, pull out that little point and shoot camera for a day and enjoy the freedom it will bring to your photography!
October GOAL Assignment: Incorporate Video into Your Photography
We are at a crossroads in digital technology where still photography is quickly merging with video. Many new dSLR cameras from Nikon, Canon, Pentax, and Sony produce HD video. Also, most point and shoot cameras, mobile phones, and iPods have the capability of capturing some form of video.
Incorporating video with your photography is a great way to tell a visual story. For example, on the left side of this page, I�ve embedded a short video that I captured a few weeks ago in Alaska�s Chugach National Forest. This footage was taken with the Nikon D300s and edited in the free iMovie software.
Your GOAL (Get Out And Learn) assignment this month is to capture video along with still photography for a short project. Next month, I�ll give you some easy and quick tips for incorporating Video into your own photography. Now get out there and shoot some video!
Photo Techniques: The Logistics of Photographing in Denali National Park
Denali NP is an incredible destination for anyone, but an especially beautiful destination for photographers. In order to properly film Denali�s amazing flora and fauna, you�ll need to bring along a wide variety of lenses, cameras, tripods and gear. However, getting around the park with all your gear isn�t as simple as most of us would like. In fact, it takes quite a bit of planning and preparation in order to maximize your stay.
There are a number of ways to get to Denali NP. Most people start their trip in Anchorage, Alaska, and then take a train, car or airplane the rest of the way to Denali. Our group took the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Denali. We booked tickets for a specific train car that was operated by Holland America, called the McKinley Explorer. It is a domed car that gives really fantastic panorama views along the entire trip. This car also has viewing platforms at the front and back so you can take photos without having to shoot through the windows.
The neat thing about taking the train is that it is a very unique and fun experience. If Mt. McKinley is not obscured by clouds, then you�ll have plenty of viewing opportunities along the way. Photographically though, you don�t have any opportunity to stop the train if an image strikes your fancy. There were many times that I wanted to spend more time composing a photograph, but I was limited by the constantly moving train.
Now that I�ve taken the train to Denali, I�m going to make sure my next trip is by driving my own vehicle along the highway. There are lots of chances to pull over along the way and this will allow me to spend more time in scenic areas while quickly passing through the less scenic spots.
Once you�ve arrived at the Denali park entrance, you�ll need to determine where your base of operations will be. If you decide to stay outside the park, there are a number of lodges, chalets, hotels, RV spots and camp spots close by that you can reserve. If you decide to camp inside the park (tent or RV), then you�ll need to reserve camp spots ahead of time with the Wilderness Access Center. Our group stayed at the McKinley Chalet Resort) by the Nenana River. It was a great property and I recommend it.
Getting from one place to another inside Denali National Park takes a tremendous amount of patience. You generally start your day at the Wilderness Access Center where you purchase tickets on the Denali NP bus system. Entrance to the park costs $10.00 which gives you access for a total of seven days. You�ll then need to purchase a reserved ticket for a bus ride to your chosen destination.
Bus fares cost anywhere between $24.70 to $46.70 depending on how far into the park you want to go. There is only one road in the park, a 91 mile road that goes between the entrance and Kantishna. The first 15 miles are paved and the remaining 76 miles are dirt. Your bus ticket gives you permission to take a park service bus as far as the destination listed on the stub. If you want to, you can step off the bus to go explore the park on foot at any time. In fact, the park staff and the bus drivers highly encourage you to get off the bus to enjoy the great outdoors.
When you get off the bus, you�ll need to take everything with you. You�ll need to be completely self sufficient in the park since there are very few places to get water or services. The trick for photographers is figuring out how to pack all your camera gear while still bringing enough food, water, clothing and survival gear to last all day.
I took along a fairly large photo kit because I wanted to be prepared for animals as well as landscapes. Each day in the park, I took along the following equipment:
– Nikon D700
– Nikon D300s
– 12-24mm f4
– 28-75mm f2.8
– 70-200mm f2.8
– 200-400mm f4
– 1.4x TC IIE
– SB-900 flash
– Gitzo 1327 tripod with Markins M20 head
– Polarizers, cable release, batteries, card wallet
– REI Gore-Tex jacket, gloves, Outdoor Research Seattle Sombrero
– Nalgene water bottle
– Flashlight, compass, Leatherman
I packed most of the photography equipment in the Think Tank Pro Modulus belt system. The 200-400mm f4 doesn�t fit in this belt setup, so I packed it separately in the Nikon nylon shoulder bag that ships with the lens. All of my food, water and clothing I packed into a small REI backpack. So really, I required three �bags� in order to make it all work. The Think Tank Pro Modulus was probably the best decision I made for carrying the camera gear. This allowed me to have everything out and ready at a moment�s notice.
It was a lot of weight to carry around, but I ended up using every single thing that I brought along, so I was happy I packed it all. There was one point in our trip that a few of us were stalking some caribou in the Toklat River valley. We ended up hiking for a few miles, and I found myself cursing all the gear I brought along. However, on this same hike, I used my 200-400mm f4, my 12-24mm and my 70-200 f2.8. What are you going to do?
One of the main difficulties of getting off the bus is that you have to find another bus with open seats in order to travel to your next destination. Unfortunately, there were many cases during our trip that we had to wait for many hours until a bus would come by with empty seats. It became very discouraging after a while, as two or three buses would rumble by with signs that said �Sorry � Full Bus.� Again, one more reason to be fully self-sufficient; you never know how long you�ll be out in the back country.
Another logistical issue that you�ll need to work through is the fact that it takes a very long time to get from point A to B when riding the park buses. For example, just to ride the bus to Wonder Lake and back to the Wilderness Access Center takes over 11 hours round trip; and that�s if you don�t get off along the way. If you wanted to take photographs at Wonder Lake, then you�ll need to plan on at least 5.5 hours to get to the lake and three hours to hike from the bus stop to the prime viewing areas. Then, you�ll need to hustle it back to the bus stop before the last bus of the day departs for the 5.5 hour return trip to the park entrance. In all, you�ll end up leaving first thing in the morning and won�t be back to the Wilderness Access Center until 11:30pm. It works out to be a very long day riding a bus for just an hour or so of photography.
Obviously, if you really want to produce incredible photography in Denali National Park, then taking daily trips into and out of the park on the bus system isn�t going to work. Rather, I highly recommend camping in one of the many campgrounds in the park and spending multiple days in the back country. This really maximizes your time and allows you to experience the true wilderness in a way that most people don�t. You are also much more apt to see wildlife and beautiful light when your base of operation is back in the park, since you can be in the prime areas in the mornings and evenings.
You can camp at any of the developed campgrounds such as Wonder Lake, Igloo Creek or Teklanika River, or you can get a back country permit and camp anywhere you want in the park. Both are good options, but the established camp grounds have more services and more people should you ever need help.
There are a few options for getting around in the park in your own vehicle. First, you can apply for a professional photographer�s permit. This allows you access to the park in your own vehicle for the duration of your permit. To secure a photographer�s permit, you first have to prove to the park staff that you have been published in large magazines or other media. Then, you enter your name into a lottery for a chance at a coveted permit. Very few of these permits are offered and the demand is high.
The second option is to wait until the end of the season and then apply for a general road permit. Each year at the end of the season, the park operations close down and they open the road up to a limited number of public road permits. The applications are drawn in a lottery and up to 400 permits per day are allowed into the park. The locals refer to this time as �road lottery� and the park only allows four days for this event. Application for road lottery costs $10 and is non refundable.
The third option for accessing the park in your own vehicle is to get an RV permit. This will allow you to drive your RV about 29 miles to the Teklanika River camp ground where you�ll be required to stay for a minimum of three days. If you want to go farther into the park, you can reserve tickets on the park bus system for specific days during your stay.
Photographing Denali National Park is something that should be on every photographer�s list. However, you�ll need to plan carefully in order to maximize your time. Since you are limited in your transportation options, I highly recommend camping inside the park and using the campgrounds as your base of operations. This will save a tremendous amount of time over staying outside the park entrance and driving to/from each day.
Digital Tidbits: Nikon D300s – One Month On
I�ve been using the new Nikon D300s for about one month now and can happily report that it is a fantastic camera. The camera made the trip with me last month to Denali NP and I found it to be a worthy photographic companion. In fact, I�ve solidified my previous opinion that the camera is a significant improvement over the Nikon D300 for five significant reasons.
First, the faster frame rate of 7fps is very welcome for sports, wildlife and action photography. I�m really appreciating the faster speed without having to add the vertical grip with different batteries. Coupled with the excellent autofocus system, the D300s can be a great sport photographer�s primary camera or it can serve as an excellent backup to a Nikon D3.
Second, the addition of HD video has proven to be very nice. The neatest thing about the video capability is that Nikon included a stereo audio input jack. The Nikon D90 only allowed audio to be captured via the built-in microphone, which resulted in lots of handling noise when moving the camera around. For example, I found that the built in microphone would always pick up the sounds of my hands as they pushed buttons on the back of the camera. Another useful improvement in the video capability is the addition of real time autofocus. Previous Nikon dSLRs only allowed manual focus while recording video.
Third, Nikon has included the ergonomic improvements from the Nikon D700 and Nikon D90 into the new D300s. Specifically, the Live View button has been positioned to the back of the camera, rather than on the top shooting mode dial. This improves the usability of Live View and makes activating the function much more intuitive. Nikon also added the ability to quickly access many of the shooting menu items from the Info Screen. This speeds up making changes such as color space, noise reduction and Picture Controls.
The fourth improvement on the D300s is the addition of a new Quiet Shooting mode. At first, I pooh poohed this idea thinking that it was just a marketing gimmick. However, I�ve found myself using it more and more in places that require you to be quiet. This mode allows me to be less obtrusive when I need to be stealthy. For example, last week I was taking photos during a church service and set the camera to Quiet mode. It turned out to be the perfect way to keep a low profile while not draw attention away from the preacher.
Fifth, Nikon has incorporated two memory card slots into the D300s. One is a CF slot and the other is an SD slot. I�ve found myself using both of them on a regular basis. I generally record still images to the CF card and record HD Video to the SD card. This makes my workflow easier when I get back to my office, knowing that each card has different types of files. I know other photographers that are using the SD card to record small JPEGs. Once the images are recorded, then they insert the SD card into their iPhone to quickly upload their pics to Facebook. That�s a great application for this new capability!
What about image quality? The truth is that you won�t see an improvement in image quality from the D300s over the D300. As far as I can tell, the images I produce with both cameras are identical. The D300s images are sharp, saturated and simply beautiful, just as you would expect from the world of Nikon. I recommend upgrading to the D300s only if one or more of the new features help you solve a problem that you�re currently having. If not, then stay with your D300 and keep shooting photos!
On a side note, I dropped my D300s on the concrete while I was in Denali National Park. I had a lens attached, and the camera fell on the upper left corner by the Playback Button. The magnesium alloy body took the brunt of the blow, but the corner around the Playback button bent just enough to prevent the button from being pressed. All the other functions of the camera work properly, except I�m unable to press the Playback Button. As far as I�m concerned, Nikon gets major kudos for producing a tough camera that can withstand major bumps and bruises and keep shooting. I�ll be sending it back to Nikon to repair the metal housing, but I�m impressed again with Nikon�s engineering.
I�m headed out to New York and Washington DC in two weeks to run a few more Nikonians Academy workshops. Only a couple of days have seats remaining, so if you are interested in attending, sign up quickly at: www.nikoniansacademy.com.
Do you have a hankerin� for wildlife photography in 2010? Come along for a photography safari designed specifically for photographers, by photographers. Every aspect of these trips has been designed to maximize photographic opportunities. We are planning to be in the right spots at the right times to take advantage of wildflowers, green foliage, animal migrations, baby animals, sunrise, and sunsets.
Here are the four wildlife photo trips I have planned for 2010:
1. Triple D Game Farm wildlife models photos “California Special” in April, 2010
2. Tanzanian Africa Photo Safari in May, 2010
3. Triple D Game Farm Baby wildlife models photo shoot in Montana in June, 2010
4. Tanzanian Africa Photo Safari in November, 2010
I�ve already started posting these adventure trips to our 2010 Nikonians Academy schedule at www.nikoniansacademy.com.
Of course, we are also scheduling quite a few traditional workshops such as the Nikon D300s/D300, Nikon D700, Nikon D3/D3x, Nikon D80/D90, Nikon Wireless Flash and more! You can find more information here: www.nikoniansacademy.com.
One of the newest and exciting workshops I am creating is a class on using Nikon dSLRs for HD Video. The class will show how to properly record video and audio while using simple software to create great video projects. These new workshops will start to crop up around the USA in the second quarter of 2010.
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.
I hope this month�s newsletter encourages you to get out and improve your photography. If you need more inspiration during the month, then be sure to check out our blog at www.outthereimages.com/blog
Out There Images, Inc. – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335
email [email protected]