I�m down in Galveston, Texas writing this month�s newsletter and having a great time enjoying the Gulf Coast region of the USA. Even though it is only spring, the temps are in the 90�s and the humidity is also above 90%. You learn really fast that if you want to go outside, then you better do it in the mornings and evenings. Everyone here tells me that �You ain�t seen nuthin� yet�, and that the heat becomes almost unbearable in July/August. I believe them!
Galveston was hit hard by Hurricane Ike in 2008 and is slowly on the road to recovery. I was saddened to see how many businesses are closed and how many homes are shuttered. Many people I talked with said that emergency recovery funds from the US government haven�t been distributed to individuals and businesses. Therefore, most of the repairs to local homes and businesses have been completed with people�s own hard-earned cash.
As I walked through historic downtown Galveston, it was amazing to see the high water marks above my head. You could just imagine the devastation and suffering. Even so, I was inspired to see how much work has been done to turn the town around. Many businesses have reopened and cruise ships are departing weekly from the Port of Galveston. The human spirit is just amazing.
During my few days there, I decided to take photos that focused more on the beauty than on the pain. Here are a few blog pics from the trip: www.outthereimages.com/blog/?p=668
On to other news. Our African photo safari with the Nikonians Academy (www.nikoniansacademy.com) has completely sold out for November, 2010. This is great news and is a good sign that our economic recovery has begun. I�m looking forward to our next safaris in November 2011 and I�ll have details posted soon. 2011 will be here before you know it, so it doesn�t hurt to start planning now for the adventure of a lifetime!
I�ll be leading two more travel photography workshops in 2010. The first is our annual Art of Travel Photography workshop in September, 2010. We�ll be photographing in the North Cascades area of Washington State in the mountains, alpine lakes, granite spires, and old-Western towns. It is a beautiful area and an incredible journey. I�ve posted a few of the images from previous workshops on this page. www.outthereimages.com/travel_workshop.html
The second travel photography workshop is an adventure to Olympic National Park from September 11th � 18th, 2010. This trip is called the ANPAT and is operated through the Nikonians Academy. Every year we run the ANPAT (Annual Nikonians Photographic Adventure Trip) as a service to our devoted members. In this case, we�ll be photographing the Hoh River Valley, Pacific Coasts and Hurricane Ridge as well as taking a killer whale photography trip out towards the San Juan Islands.
May GOAL Assignment: Everyday Art
I had a great time this month shooting pictures for May�s GOAL Assignment (Get Out And Learn Assignment). As you know, the plan this month was to take photos of everyday items and try to turn them into artistic images. I wanted you to find things around you that take on a special visual appeal after closer inspection.
My everyday art photographic adventure included shooting pictures of spoons, plants, buildings, dressers, closets, water bottles and playground equipment. What a great way to keep my creative juices flowing!
One of the best ways to make everyday items appear abstract is to get very close and isolate them from their environment. This approach will make small, obscure objects, all of a sudden appear very big in the final image. There are many ways to get close to an object such as zooming with your lens, zooming with your feet, using a macro lens or using a close-up filter such as the Canon 500D.
One of my favorite methods to get frame filling shots is by using extension tubes. They are extremely low cost but allow you shoot macro with almost any lens you own. I�ve used mine so much that I finally broke my 12mm autofocus extension tube that I purchased back in 1998.
It is time to buy a new set, so I�m looking at a couple of models that allow for full metering and autofocus. The first is the Kenko Extension Tubes. Second is the Pro Optic brand. Both of these extension tube sets allow full autofocus and auto metering capability. I�ve owned the Kenko tubes for years and have been extremely happy with them, so I�ll probably end up buying the Kenko tubes again, even though they cost about twice as much as the Pro Optic brand.
Almost all the close-up photos that I posted to this page were taken with my Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 lens and the 12mm Kenko extension tube. This setup allowed me to explore on a macro level all the everyday items in my house. What I found was that the more I looked for everyday art photos, the more I found. It was like a rolling snowball effect. Soon, I found that I had to force myself to put my camera down so I could get back to �real work�.
However, the neat thing about taking short everyday photo journeys is that you find that the skills you learn directly apply to your �real� photos. For example, I was taking photographs of silverware last month and paying close attention to how the light created hotspots on the convex areas of the spoon. That�s a point of knowledge I can use when photographing the chrome on an automobile or a piece of jewelry for a store. I learned something photographically significant for each photo I shot for the everyday art GOAL Assignment.
Taking your camera with you everywhere you go is a fantastic way to develop your photographic skill set. If you only take your camera with you on your vacations, then that doesn�t give you enough practice to really hone your skills. You�ve heard me say this before, but taking photos each and every day is the only way to stay on top of your game. I encourage you to spend more time creating everyday art!
To see a few more pics from my �Everyday Art� adventure in May, follow this link to my blog.
June GOAL Assignment: Light Throughout the Day
One of the neatest ways to understand the play of light on the land is to photograph the same scene at different times of the day. Your GOAL (Get Out And Learn) Assignment for June is to photograph the same scene at least three different times in the same day: morning, noon and evening. If you are feeling a bit more motivated, then try photographing the scene 45 minutes before sunrise, at sunrise, mid-morning, high noon, late afternoon, sunset, 45 minutes after sunset, and then at night.
I guarantee you�ll be amazed at the differences in each your images. Next month I�ll show my photos while discussing how light dramatically affects the landscape at different times of the day.
Digital Tidbits: Creating Animated Photos in Photoshop
I took a group of photographers to Yosemite National Park this April and we had some amazing light for photography. One of the most popular locations in the park to photograph from is Tunnel View. From this spot, you have a commanding view of Yosemite Valley. At sunset, the light fills the valley with warm evening light, and if you are lucky, then the afternoon thunderclouds will even put on a show for you.
In our case, our group set our tripods down at the Tunnel View location a few hours before the best light, so I decided to set up my Nikon D700 for a time-lapse photography sequence. My goal was to put a number of photographs together in a final animated image to show the motion of the clouds across the landscape. I set up the camera to take a photo of the Valley every minute for a total of 100 shots. This gave me 100 frames of a �movie� that I planned to put together in Photoshop using the Animation capabilities of the program.
Let me go through how I set up camera and then how I processed the photographs in Photoshop. Here�s my step by step approach.
1. Set up the camera�s interval timer to take one picture every minute or one picture every 30 seconds. On cameras like Nikon�s D300, D300s, D700, and D3 systems, you simply go into the �Shooting Menu� to adjust the frequency of photos and the total quantity of photos. The more photos you take, the longer your movie can be. Most videos need to run at a frame rate of at least 24 frames per second. Therefore, if you take just 100 frames, then your entire sequence will only be about four seconds long. A 1000 frame sequence will be about 42 seconds long.
2. Set your image quality to JPG. I like to shoot JPGs for these types of photographs because they are easy to work with when I�ve loaded them into my animation or movie software. If you shoot RAW images, you�ll need to convert them to JPGs before working with them in your software package.
3. Set up your camera in Manual exposure mode. This prevents the exposure from jumping around when the sun comes out or when the sun hides behind the clouds. Your final �movie� will look much better. Since you�ll be on a tripod, I recommend using a low ISO such as ISO 200 as well as a middle aperture such as f11 for good depth of field.
4. Don�t shoot in Automatic white balance, rather set your white balance for the current lighting conditions. Doing this means that your colors will be consistent from shot to shot. Using Auto white balance will allow your colors to shift from shot to shot and this will be very noticeable in your final movie. A good choice for white balance is Sunny or Shady, depending on the lighting conditions.
5. Set your camera�s focus mode to �manual�. This prevents the camera from having to re-focus before every shot. If your camera tries to focus before every picture, then every once in a while you�ll get blurry images. For these types of photo sequences, I generally set my focus ring to infinity.
6. After you�ve taken your images, the next step is to download them into your computer. Then, you�ll need to sort them by �time captured� so they are in chronological order for the animated movie.
7. Use your favorite batch processing software package to resize the images for your final movie. For example, if you are going to show this animation on an HD TV or a high resolution monitor, then you�ll want to size the photos to about 1080 pixels high. For viewing on a website, a size of approximately 400px by 600px will work just fine.
8. Now that your pictures are sized, you�ll need to open Photoshop CS4 or CS5 and then activate the Animation window. In Photoshop CS4, do this by clicking the menu Window –> Animation. In Photoshop CS5, you�ll just click on the Motion button on the upper right hand side of the program.
9. Next, you�ll need to create a layered file with all the images as an independent layer. You do this by using Photoshop�s Photomerge automation utility. To access this from inside Photoshop, you�ll go File –> Automate –> Photomerge. Tell the Photomerge dialog window where your photos are located. Be sure to uncheck the selection �blend photos together�. This will allow each image to be on its own layer. Now, press the OK button. This process will take a long time, so be patient.
10. After Photoshop merges all the images into one file with multiple layers, you�ll now need to create the animation. In the animation window, you�ll see a small pull-down menu in the upper right. Click on this menu and select �Make Frames from Layers�. This makes individual movie frames from each layer of your image.
11. Adjust your frame rate by clicking on the little triangle (twirly) at the bottom of each frame. The best way to adjust the frame rate for all the images is to click one and then choose Cmd A or Ctrl A. Then, after all the frames are selected, you can click on one menu to set all frames. I recommend choosing the �Other�� menu choice and setting the delay to about 0.04 seconds. This equates to approximately 24 frames per second which is a cinematic frame rate.
12. Next, you�ll need to export your image as an animated GIF. To do this, go to File –> Save For Web & Devices� Then, make sure that the image type is set to GIF.
13. That�s it. You�re done with the animation. To test your resulting animated GIF, simply drag the image to your web browser. Or, you can open the image from your web browser. Either way, you�ll be able to see if the image plays properly in your favorite browser.
14. Now, to show the image, you can post it to your website, blog or you can just open it up on your computer screen to show your friends and family.
There are other software programs you can use to accomplish similar animations. One of the best alternatives is to use Apple�s QuickTime Pro. This program is available for Mac OS X as well as Windows platforms. The greatest part about the software is it�s fairly low cost at $29.99. Here�s a link to buy QuickTime Pro: www.apple.com/quicktime/pro/
Book Review: Mastering HD Video with Your DSLR
The world of digital SLRs has changed dramatically over the last two years as more and more cameras now have integrated HD Video. Just about every major SLR camera manufacturer has at least one model in their lineup with HD video capabilities. I�m a Nikon shooter and Nikon has at least four SLR cameras that shoot 720p video.
Over these last six months I�ve been dipping my toes into the waters of HD video, trying to learn how to best use my cameras for producing high end video content. What I�ve found is that using my Nikon D300s or D90 as a video camera takes much more effort than I expected. I found that the little hand-held camcorder that I own has made shooting videos incredibly easy.
Since using my DLSR as a video camera is a totally different experience than I am used to, I�ve been reading just about everything possible on the topic of DSLR video. Therefore, the timing of a brand new book titled Mastering HD Video with your DSLR by Helmut Kraus and Uwe Steinmueller is just perfect.
Kraus and Steinmueller have done a great job of providing an excellent overview of the complicated world of HD DLSR video. The technology in HDDLSR cameras, software and gear is changing every single day. Therefore it is impossible to cover all the details required in a single book. However, the authors have provided enough detail and resources to get anybody started down the path to creating great video.
For example, one of topics that this book stresses is the need to fully understand capture formats, frame rates, Codecs and resolution. What many people don�t understand is that choosing the wrong frame rate or capture format can make or break your video project. If you think through these details before beginning your video shoot, then your ability to produce a good product will be much more streamlines on the back end.
Kraus and Steinmueller also do a good job of detailing the best practices we should employ when shooting HDDSLR video. The third chapter of the book, titled Shooting Techniques is one of my favorites because they talk through many of the common pitfalls that occur during shooting. For example, they talk in good detail about how to mitigate the odd looking rolling shutter effect found in CMOS sensors as well as the problem of blooming with CCD sensors.
The authors also spend a considerable amount of time in the book detailing the differences between the current camera models and brands. This information will be of great help to a person who is new to DSLR video as they try wade through the sea of camera options.
I think this book is an excellent resource for anyone who is starting out in HD DSLR video. It will help you gain an excellent foundation in the terminology, technology and capability of this exciting new world. It will give anyone who is starting out in HD DSLR Video the knowledge they need to make informed decisions on gear, software and shooting techniques.
Mastering HD Video with Your DSLR is 288 pages long and in full color. Each page has ample full-color examples that coincide nicely with the text. Uwe Steinmueller is author/proprietor of the famous outbackphoto.com website and has written numerous books in his career. Helmut Kraus has also authored a number of books on technology such as the Nikon D80 Dbook and the Nikon D200 Dbook.
You can buy the book from Amazon at this link: Mastering HD Video with Your DSLR.
Also, you can purchase an e-book version here
Portland, Oregon shooters � I�m running two workshops in your neck of the woods next week. I�ll be presenting the D300/D300s workshop as well as the iTTL Wireless Flash workshop. Here�s the link:
Portland Nikonians Workshops
Art of Travel Photography Mazama
As mentioned in the introduction, our Art of Travel Photography workshop is scheduled for September 23-26. Join our intrepid group of explorers as we photograph the towering Early Winters Spires near the North Cascades National Park. Each day will bring new photographic inspiration as we explore alpine lakes, old country western towns and waterfalls. These trips provide small class size and lots of time for field instruction in the art of travel photography. Sign up today by following this link:
www.outthereimages.com/travel_workshop.html Here are the remaining Nikonians Academy Workshops and travel adventures I�ll be running this year.
Portland 6/10 � 6/13
New York 10/14 � 10/17
Washington DC 10/21 � 10/24
Tanzania Wildlife Safari 11/4 � 11/16
I continue to run quite a few private workshops for people who want to learn in a one-on-one environment. These are great for folks who want to focus on specific topics related directly to their interests. Topics have included product photography, learning your camera, Lightroom, Capture NX2, wedding photography, Photoshop, color management, nature photography, digital workflow, macro photography, location portraiture and many others. I also regularly consult with businesses, schools, organizations and museums to assist with their photographic and digital workflow needs.
Call (253) 851-9054 or email ([email protected]) if you have questions about private tutoring or consulting.
That�s it for another month�s newsletter! I hope you enjoyed it and I hope you learned a thing or two that you can apply to your photography. If you need more encouragement during the month, be sure to check out www.outthereimages.com/blog for regular updates, tips and commentary.
Out There Images, Inc. – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335
email [email protected]