Thank you for reading this month’s newsletter and I hope it inspires you to get out and take some amazing photographs. I’ll be shooting like crazy and my wish is that you’ll join me in in pursuing this passion of ours.

My August and September are dedicated to writing photography books. I’ve just finished an update to our very popular book The Nikon Creative Lighting System. This edition has a new chapter dedicated to the Nikon SB-700 flash and has been fully updated for the most current Nikon dSLR cameras. Look for this book at your local book store, our website or on Amazon.

The next book to complete is titled Thousand of Images, Now What? It is focused on helping photographers find the best way to manage our vast image libraries. Finding our digital pictures was easy back when we had just a few images, but that has all changed now that we all have thousands upon thousands of images. The book gives concrete and specific methods for storing, organizing, finding and backing up all of our photos. We’ll add more information as we get closer to publication!

Art of Travel Photography 2nd Week of October

October kicks off my Fall photo workshop season and I’d love to have you join me on a photo adventure. Our trip to Zion/Bryce is completely sold out and so is our African Photo Safari, but we still have space for our annual Art of Travel Photography workshop in Washington’s North Cascades.

This trip is specifically designed to teach travel photography in one of North America’s most beautiful locations. We travel with a small group, eat incredible food, and photograph amazing scenery. It is truly a wonderful opportunity to learn travel photography. I’ve posted a few photos from last year’s Art of Travel Photography workshop at the blog.

Click for more information!

Stuff I Like This Month

1. The Chobe

Gura Gear has a new camera bag called the Chobe. I currently use the Gura Gear Kiboko and love it for handling all my photo equipment hauling needs to places like Africa. Gura Gear’s new bag works like a briefcase, shoulder bag and messenger bag all in one. It isn’t cheap, but excellence rarely is! chobe-19-24l

2. VR

Nikon has a new website dedicated to VR technology and VR operation.

3. Camera Stickers

Peta Pixel has new camera stickers. What will you do with them?

4. Saving JPEGs

Speaking of Peta Pixel, they have an interesting discussion on the correct quality settings for saving JPEGs. They recommend not saving your JPGs at quality level 7.

5. Joe McNally Blog

Joe McNally is always an inspiration and he’s completed a 10-year photo oddyssey with his Faces of Ground Zero project. Check out his posts, Scenes From A Show and Faces of Ground Zero.

August GOAL Assignment: The Doors

Last month’s GOAL Assignment was to simply photograph doors. Doors represent a lot of things in our culture. They can mean opportunity or exploration. They can also mean hidden secrets or denied access. When I travel around the world, I really enjoy photographing doors simply because of their mystery and diversity. I know doors are a travel photography cliche, but it is still fun to capture them on film, so I keep trying.

Here are a few door pictures to show you what interests me.

Last month, many of you posted your favorite door pictures to our Flickr group. Check out our Flickr page to see what others have posted or to post your own door pics!

September GOAL Assignment: Serenity

Photography should be used to convey the emotion and feeling of a scene. This month’s GOAL (Get Out And Learn) Assignment is to take images that convey serenity. Serenity is the state of being calm, peaceful and untroubled.

As you are composing your photographs, think about color, shape, subject, time of day, activity and mood. Your images may be of any subject such as water, people, landscapes, books, travel, trees … whatever. In next month’s newsletter, I’ll write about shooting photos with the intent to convey “serenity.”

I’ll be posting some of my images to the Flickr group and you should too!

Photo Techniques: How to Capture Great Images in Flat Light

Photographers are a difficult group of people to please. We want beautiful light and stunning subjects everywhere we photograph but the reality is that these things very rarely come together while we’re shooting. In fact, the opposite seems to rear its ugly head all too often; it seems that many times when we travel, we are faced with dull gray skies and washed out colors.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to a new location only to be confronted with flat, hazy light. Ugh. I’ve traveled thousands of miles to get there and I’m stunned by the drabness of the scene. More often than not, I’m left wondering how in the world I’ll ever come home with shots worthy of sharing with others.

When faced with flat light, there are some tried and true methods you can employ to come home with great shots. Many of the techniques have to do with modifying your approach while you are at the location.

Before I get to the tips, let me define “flat light.” Flat light is often the product of cloudy, overcast, hazy or foggy skies. The photographic result is usually an image that lacks contrast and visual punch. Frequently, photos taken in flat light don’t appear very colorful or vibrant because there isn’t any direct light from the source (like the sun) to provide intensity. Also, photos taken in flat light often don’t take on a three-dimensional look because light from the hazy sky is evenly distributed around the subject. In other words, light on the left side of the subject is the same as light on the right side, so the image appears flat.

Some Tips on Creating Great Images in Flat Light:

1. Get Close

As mentioned above, flat light is often the result of haze or fog in the atmosphere. For better photographs, just don’t shoot through all the haze. A better approach is to walk physically closer to your subject before taking pictures. Being closer eliminates the atmosphere and results in much brighter colors with more contrast in the subject.

For example, you can see what a dramatic difference being close makes to a photo by looking at the soccer images here. The first image was taken with the players at one end of a soccer field while I was at the other end. It was a foggy day and I realized that my shots weren’t going to be anything special. So, I quickly moved my position on the field in order to get closer to the players. The closer proximity eliminated much of the atmosphere between the players and my camera, which resulted in a clearer image.

2. Go Macro

A corollary to the first point is to shoot Macro photos on days with flat light. When grand landscape photos just won’t work, then look down to the ground for some great close ups. Flowers, plants, patters and critters all work great for this scenario.

Often, when I return from a trip after being confronted with flat light, I find that my close ups quickly become my favorite shots of the trip. These smaller details can sometimes be more dramatic and interesting than the big scene.

3. Seek Out Texture

If the light won’t help you create dimension in the photo, then find subjects with lots of texture built in. In flat light, I’m always looking for things like craggy rocks, tree bark, rusty metal or repeating patterns because the texture helps make up for the poor lighting conditions. After I get back to my computer, then I can use software like Lightroom, Photoshop or Capture NX2 to help pull out the contrast.

4. Use Fill Flash

This is one of the greatest techniques to use in flat light since it allows you to add your own lighting for the foreground subject. In the example to the left of the cannons, all of the cannons were in the shade and the color wasn’t popping like I wanted. I added just a bit of fill flash from a wireless SB-800 remote to give the foreground canon some color and life. This also helped brighten up the foreground so that I could simultaneously hold detail in the clouds.

5. Silhouette

If the light is bad anyways and the sky is a solid gray, then try shooting for a silhouette look and see what happens. A few weeks ago I posted this image over at my 500px gallery of two ibis birds against a drab, gray Tanzanian sky. The silhouette is much more powerful than a full color image of the same subject.

6. S-curve in Photoshop

After you’ve taken the picture, add contrast in post processing with a simple S-curve. This technique is as old as dirt, but it is still effective! The S-curve adds contrast to a scene and is incredibly easy to do. Here’s a full article on using the S-curve.

7. Process as a Single Image HDR

If you’ve only taken one image of a scene and you wish it had more contrast, then try processing that single image in your favorite HDR software. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and is often used to pull details out of the shadows while still holding details in the highlights. I frequently use single image HDR to add a little bit of punch to images.

This image of my hometown, Gig Harbor, WA is a perfect example. I was out shooting early in the morning and wanted to get nice sunrise photo. When I arrived at the scene, I was faced with gray haze. I took the photo knowing that I wouldn’t be happy with the initial result, but hoping that I could pull something out of it in HDR software. I opened the image in Nik HDR Efex Pro and processed the pic to add contrast and color.

8. Use Nik Color Efex Pro Tonal Contrast

Another great post processing software tool is Tonal Contrast in Nik Color Efex Pro. Check out this aerial photograph I took over San Francisco back in 2005. I used a Nikon D70 and 24-120mm to photograph the city from the window of a Boeing 737. The light was very poor because of all the atmospheric haze. Back at my computer, I processed the image with Color Efex Pro Tonal Contrast and viola!

9. Don’t Take the Picture

Honestly, sometimes the best response to bad light is to simply not take the photo. The mark of a true professional is one who knows when to not take a picture. I know, it is hard, but who wants to see drab gray photographs of your vacation? Often the best approach is to stop into the coffee shop and read a newspaper while sipping a cup of joe.

So, there you have it. Nine steps to better photography in flat light. Try these methods on your next vacation to come home with some awesome images, but don’t use step 9 very often!

Book Review: The Passionate Photographer, Ten Steps Toward Becoming Great by Steve Simon

Full Disclosure: Steve Simon is my friend and colleague. He also runs photo workshops in another business I operate called the Nikonians Academy.

I spend a lot of time talking about photography gear in my newsletters, blogs, and workshops. People are always interested in learning how to get the most out of their cameras or which lenses to use. Gear is an important part of our photography, but improving our creative skills is of equal or greater importance. For many people, figuring out how tto improve their creative skills can be extremely difficult, so they keep pushing them under the rug. For these folks, it can be much easier to buy a new lens than to diligently work at becoming a better photographer.

Personally, I don’t have any desire to be a “good” photographer; I want to be a great photographer. I’m always looking for ways that push me to the next level and Steve Simon’s new book titled, The Passionate Photographer, Ten Steps Toward Becoming Great provides a well designed path to great photography.

Steve wrote The Passionate Photographer to inspire us to take a critical look at our own work and then use that knowledge as a foundation for growth. His book helps us take our passion for photography and translate it into strong images through ten specific actions that range from assessing your skills, improving composition, following the light to increasing your shooting volume and sharing your images.

Warning: Following Steve’s plan will not be easy. If you seriously embark down the path of the ten steps, you’ll spend a significant amount of time working on your craft. These ten steps aren’t for the faint of heart or the semi-committed. Steve wants you to get serious in order take your photography to the next level and his book is dedicated to help you get there.

Every chapter is richly illustrated with Steve’s own photography from his journalistic and editorial career. He discusses his time-proven methods with segments called “Lessons Learned” and he also peppers the book with anecdotes from other great photographers such as Jay Maisel, Yousuf Karsh, and Jim Brandenburg. In addition, Steve includes significant tips on exposure, white balance, autofocus, and fill flash.

One of my favorite points in the book from Steve is “… following the Ten Steps means working every image, every session, and then ruthlessly editing it down to the very best.” This short sentence is a great distillation of what it takes to become great. It takes hard work, tons of dedication and then ruthlessly editing so that only your best work is allowed to see the light of day.

I read a lot of photography books. Most are good, but few are great. Steve’s book is great. All photographers should take the opportunity to learn from Steve and his great book.

Go to Amazon to order your copy of The Passionate Photographer.

Also, head on over to Steve’s new Passionate Photographer blog.

Workshop and Business Updates

Art of Travel Photography in Mazama, WA

Join us this October, 2011 for the Art of Travel Photography workshop to Washington State’s stunning North Cascades. Based out of Mazama, WA we’ll be photographing landscapes, mountains, and the Old Western town of Winthrop. The goal of this trip is to teach photographers how to take better travel images in unfamiliar territory.


Our November 2011 Safari to Tanzania Africa is completely sold out. We leave on 11/4 for two weeks of adventure. If you are interested in a photo safari, then we have two more planned for 2012. Our next trips will be May 2012 and November 2012. Both photo safaris will travel throughout the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Parks in our specially modified Land Cruisers.

These are trips of a lifetime and provide a wonderful opportunity to check another item off of your bucket list!

May 2012 will include the Wildebeest rut during the Great Migration. November 2012 will include the Mara River crossing in Northern Tanzania. Click to find more information on these amazing adventures!


Our photography adventure to the Galapagos Islands is scheduled for September 14th – 23rd, 2012 and is already close to selling out. At this point, we only have four seats remaining. The workshop is posted here:

The trip includes three nights in Quito Ecuador and seven nights on our expedition yacht in the Galapagos Islands. Prices range from $5700 – $7000 depending on your cabin choice. Join us for the trip of a lifetime.

Staying Current

You can stay current with our newest workshops by watching for news to be posted on the Out There Images Blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Custom Group Trips

If you have a group and want to arrange a custom photo safari or photo trip, contact us and we’ll put together an incredible itinerary just for you. Simply email or call and weill give you all the details for how to go about creating the trip of your dreams.

Private Tutoring

Every month I run 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.


Thank you for reading this month’s newsletter and for continuing to work on your photographic skills. I love hearing from readers, so feel free to drop me a line or comment over at email, Facebook, or Google+.

If you need more photo encouragement during the month, be sure to check out for regular updates, news, tips and commentary.

Best regards,
Mike Hagen

Out There Images, Inc – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335

email: [email protected]

office: 253-851-9054
mobile: 360-750-1103
fax: 206-984-1817

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