The new year is here and it is wide open for photo adventures and new creative pursuits. I can’t wait to embark on my 2012 photo projects and I hope you’ve also thought of projects to challenge yourself this year.

The last few months of 2011 were extremely busy for me as I’m sure they were for you. Mine involved lots of family, business travel, house projects, vacation, holidays, children’s theater, two books, photo jobs and watching the occasional college football bowl game!

October through December were a complete whirlwind and looking back, I can hardly comprehend how quickly the time passed. My photo adventures took me to Zion, Bryce, North Cascades, Virginia, Africa and Arizona. In between all those trips, I was rapidly completing two book projects that will both be published in 2012. As crazy as it sounds, I love being busy and I welcome the chaos. I’m sincerely grateful to have a job that allow me to pursue my passions of teaching, travel and photography.

Our trip to Tanzania in November 2011 was wonderful. I’ve led a number of safaris to this region now and the experience continues to get better and better every time. This time around, we had 11 travelers from all walks of life. All had an exciting and intrepid spirit that allowed them to soak in the sights, sounds and smells of Africa in a profound way. Beyond the images we took (which were amazing), the experience was one that they will cherish for the rest of their lives. I’ve posted lots of photos to various galleries on the blog, our Facebook page, and our Google+ page. More to photos to come!

Prior to Tanzania, I led a great photo adventure to Zion NP and Bryce Canyon NP with about 30 Nikonians. These two National Parks should really be on every photographer’s list simply because of the overwhelming beauty. The landscapes are out of this world and the photo opportunities are truly endless. Since these parks are so popular, it is hard to capture images that are unique, but that shouldn’t stop you from going and trying to create your own interpretations of the landscape. I posted some pictures from the trip to the blog.

I already have the first few months of 2012 workshops planned out for Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Los Angeles. My Nikonians Academy instructor team and I have added lots of new workshops that include Lightroom 3, Urban Photography, and Video Production as well as our highly successful Master’s Series on Camera Gear, Lighting Equipment and other software. 2012 is definitely shaping up to be a great year of photography. Check out all of our workshops at Nikonians Academy!

Thousands of Images, Now What?

After a long wait, my publisher (Wiley & Sons) and I are close to wrapping up the work on a new book titled Thousands of Images, Now What?. Our goal is to have the book ready to go during early 2nd quarter, 2012.

Thousands of Images is designed to help photographers create and organize their image libraries. I discuss the differences between image browsers and database programs while helping the reader understand how to manage their digital assets in a sustainable way.

Most new photographers save their digital images to hard drives without putting much thought into the design of their system. Thousands of Images details how to take your image collection from chaos to organized. As always, my writing style is simple and jargon-free so you’ll be able to take the information and immediately put it to use.

You can see our pre-order page over on Amazon!

Stuff I Like This Month

1. Nikon D4

The new Nikon D4 was announced a few days ago after a long wait and lots of speculation. The camera is a stellar system and incorporates many new features for multi-media photographers including 1080p video capture, Ethernet connection, and a new wireless control module. Additionally, the camera uses a completely new metering system, improved autofocus, faster frame rate, bigger buffer and higher ISO performance. In short, it’s a doozy of a camera. Check out Rob Galbraith’s excellent write-up on the D4 here.

Also, here’s a link to the D4 brochure.

2. Tiffen Dfx 3.0

The Tiffen Dfx 3.0 software is a great new editing program for digital photographers. A colleague of mine at Tiffen asked me to try it out and I put it through the paces. I also attended a webinar from Tiffen on the software’s highlights. I can say that the program is excellent and really impressed me. There are hundreds of filters that do everything from simple enhancements to very complex masking and cut-outs. Dfx 3 can work as a stand-alone product or as a plug-in for Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture. I highly recommend it. Readers of this newsletter can receive a 10% discount by using our promo code: outtheredfx

3. The Passionate Photographer by Steve Simon

Steve Simon’s book, The Passionate Photographer, continues to receive great press. I’ve read it through a couple times now and learn more each time. Check out this great review on Digital Photography Review.

4. Nikon Flash SB-910

Nikon released a new flash, the SB-910. I’ve been shooting with it for about two weeks now and really like it. The flash is an upgrade to the SB-900 with some solid improvements to the user interface. However, I don’t think it is substantially different enough from the SB-900 for you to go out and replace your SB-900 with a SB-910. If you are buying a new flash because you need one, then buy the SB-910. Otherwise, keep your SB-900 and be happy!

5. Photographer’s i

The Photographer’s i Magazine is a new iPad publication designed to bring you into the minds of photographers who are at the top of their game. The content is excellent with articles that are thorough and well illustrated. They’ve also imbedded audio and video content to further enhance the articles. The first issue preview is free and future issues are priced at $1.99 each.

6. Humorous Canon vs. Nikon Video

For my last installment in this list, here’s a little mirth. A YouTube video showing a “hostage rescue” between Canon and Nikon cameras. I like the part where they use a lighting umbrella as a shield. Funny stuff. Link: Canon vs. Nikon.

January GOAL Assignment: Fill the Frame

This month’s GOAL (Get Out And Learn!) Assignment is called “Fill the Frame” because I want you to practice making your subject prominent in the final image. Many photographers have a fear of approaching their subject and therefore end up with images that don’t fully show emotion or content. I want you to completely fill the frame, edge to edge with your subject. Obviously, not all pictures should to be composed this way, but having the boldness to get in close will build a skillset that all photographers should possess.

In next month’s newsletter, I’ll talk a bit about some tips and tricks for filling the frame. Until then, why don’t you post some of your pics in our GOAL Assignment Flickr group? I’ll be posting mine!

Book Review: Sketching Light by Joe McNally

Most of us shooters have photo heroes and one of mine is Joe McNally. For three decades, he’s been producing top-notch images all around the world for publications like National Geographic, Life Magazine and everyone else under the sun. Joe has an incredible wit and selflessly shares his extensive knowledge with the rest of world through his blog, books, workshops and training videos.

McNally’s newest book, Sketching Light: An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash, is a perfect example of his generous and prodigious sharing efforts. At 417 pages, it packs a wallop and each page contains more information on flash photography than should be legally permissible. Joe’s book is like a Master’s class in lighting technique. No wait. It IS a master’s class in lighting technique.

One of the neatest aspects of the book is how he thoroughly narrates each photo concept. You get to go into his mind (a dangerous place) and listen to his musings as he creates the shots from scratch. In his staccato, stream-of-consciousness style, Joe gives you all the details you need to know about the personalities, the gear, the settings, the trial & error and most importantly, the final result.

McNally illustrates most of the photo setups with his patented free-hand sketches showing light placement, notes, and silly comments. He’s serious enough to get the point across but light enough that you don’t get tired of the incredible detail he includes.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is how honest Joe is about his photo successes and failures. One story that sticks out is when he was photographing an interview between Barbara Walters and former First Lady Mrs. Eisenhower. The story includes a very humorous scenario involving Technicolor motion sickness, the ABC television network and getting chastised by the first lady about his photo methods. The first lady telling the photographer how to take the shot!

Whether he’s photographing Michelle Pfeiffer, a roller derby star or a newborn baby, Joe’s attention to detail is amazing. He puts 100% effort into every one of his shoots and highly respects everyone in the same way. He has a penchant for capturing just the right expression while somehow creating the perfect lighting scenario for the scene.

Sketching Light is broken up into 41 separate sections. Some are instructional, some are inspirational and others are just plain funny. Most have behind the scenes images as well as outtakes that show the image creation process. There’s also a complete section at the beginning of the book where McNally photographs models with different light modifiers to demonstrate how to use each one.

Joe’s the man, and Sketching Light is worth every penny. I highly recommend this book. Click on the link to order on Amazon.

I also urge you to check out Joe McNally’s blog.

Digital Tidbits: Evernote Service as a Photography Tool

Photography continues to open up my visual world and is a source of never-ending inspiration for new ideas. My photography to-do list continues to get longer and I’m not sure I’ll be able to accomplish my photo goals even if I was granted five lifetimes. In fact, just this last week, I came up with at least five new projects I want to complete that involve photo projects, prints, books and videos.

Like any good entrepreneur, I religiously write down my ideas in fear that I will forget them and they’ll be lost forever. In the past, I would write these thoughts down in a paper notebook and carry it with me wherever I went so I’d be able to reference them at any time. Trouble is, carrying a large-ish notebook was always a bit cumbersome. Now days, with smart phones, we can write our notes in the phone and access them at a moment’s notice. Plus, the phone easily fits in a pocket.

One of the best tools I’ve found for helping keep track of my notes is a free software product called Evernote Service. The advantage of Evernote Service over a standard electronic note system is that it will store my notes on remote data servers in the cloud. This means that I can access Evernote on all my electronic devices including my computer, my iPad and my Android smart phone. If I change or add something on my phone, then Evernote automatically syncs it with my other devices so that everything remains current and up to date.

As a photographer and businessman, I like to be working on three or four projects simultaneously so I can maximize the use of my travel. For example, on a typical photo trip, I’ll take photos, video and audio at the same time. The photos might be used for books or print sales while the video can be used for a future training video on camera operation. When on location, I find it is much easier to keep track of my projects now that I have an Evernote copy with me on my smart phone, laptop and iPad. I’m able to actively review my ideas in my hotel room, in the field or while flying on a play. This functionality helps me stay current so the ideas remain fresh in my head.

I use the Evernote service for all kinds of other purposes beyond my business. One of the best uses is keeping track of birthday and holiday gift ideas for my family. For this year’s Christmas shopping, I kept my kid’s gift ideas on Evernote so that wherever I was, I had access to the list. When shopping at the mall, I could pull out my phone and access the list. When shopping on, I was able to access it on my laptop. When reading a magazine on my iPad, I could access the list from there as well.

I use the Evernote service to take notes on software tips that I learn from other photographers. I keep notes from Webinars I attend. I write down my honey-do list. I plan family vacations, write down meeting summaries and keep track of just about anything else that I never want to forget.

Evernote has applications and software that work on just about every platform out there. It runs on Windows 7/Vista/XP, Mac OS X, iOS, Windows Mobile, Android and there’s even a way to run it under Linux. I know Evernote isn’t a traditional photographer’s tool, but it is truly a great tool for photographers. Try it, I know you’ll like it.

Click here to download Evernote.

Photo Techniques: Dealing With Camera Condensation on Cold Days

Taking pictures in cold weather brings all kinds of challenges. Batteries die faster, fingers stop working and lenses fog up. A few weeks ago I received an email from a reader about how to deal with fogging lenses and camera condensation…



Once again I will be spending long weekends at Snoqualmie Pass taking pictures of skiers, sledders and snowball fights. I have a recurring problem with my lenses fogging up. I Googled the problem but all the answers dealt with taking a cold camera from an air-conditioned hotel room out into hot and humid beach scenes. My problem is opposite since I’ll be leaving a warm hotel room and going into a cold environment.

I tried putting my Nikon D300 into the refrigerator, but it fogged up while walking to the front door. Next I thought of putting it into a Ziploc bag, then into the refrigerator. It was fogged up before I got it out of the refrigerator.

Google mentioned desiccants but I have no idea how to use them. If you can let me in on your secret I would be forever grateful, and I would even try to sign up for one of your classes!

Thank you so very much,
Tony L


Condensation builds on a camera when the camera is cold and you bring it into a warmer area. The key preventing condensation is to keep the camera near the same temperature that you’ll eventually be using it. What happened in Tony’s case was he brought the camera out of the cold refrigerator into the warm room of the house. If he kept the camera cold and in a plastic bag, then brought it outside, he would have most likely not have run into any significant issues with condensation.

Some Solutions to Camera Condensation

1. Consistent Temperature

When you know you’ll be shooting outdoor pics in the morning, store the camera outside on the deck or in your car overnight to keep it cold. Keep it in your camera bag with all your lenses so everything is the same temperature. Also, by keeping it inside the camera bag, any condensation will collect on the surface of the bag, not the camera. You’ll get the most condensation when bringing the cold camera back indoors.

2. Cool The Camera Slowly in Your Camera Bag

If the camera is warm from being stored inside and you are headed out into the cold, then you should expect condensation. In this scenario, let the camera cool down slowly inside the camera bag. Keeping it in the camera bag will allow the cooling rate to be slow. Obviously, this means you won’t be shooting for a while, but there really isn’t an alternative.

3. Use a Ziploc

This method only works as long as you keep the camera in the Ziploc for the entire time it is warming up to ambient temperature. If you pull it out of the Ziploc to take pics and the camera is still warm, then you’ll get condensation immediately. Also, be sure to squeeze out all the air from the Ziploc. If you don’t have a plastic bag, then I’ve had good success tightly wrapping the camera in a parka. The key is to keep the colder air off the surface of the camera.

When it is cold outside, try to keep your breathing away from the camera. I try to hold my breath when the camera is near my face so the moisture doesn’t land on the body or lens. More often than not, my breath will fog up the eyepiece and make it near impossible to compose a photo.

5. Condensation Lens Caps by BRNO

There is a new product that I haven’t used before that is a condensation lens cap made by BRNO. I don’t know how well they work, but they seem to be a good solution for photographers who change temperature zones rapidly. The caps contain a replaceable desiccant pouch that absorbs moisture and turns red with it is time to change out.


I’m passionate about photography and I sincerely thank all of you who had a part in it last year. I can’t adequately express my gratefulness to those of you who participated in a workshop or bought a book from me last year. Thank you for interacting via email, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and the blog. I am going to continue to create, and I hope you’ll join me for the ride!

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

Visual Adventures – Get Out And Learn!
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335

email: [email protected]

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