I like being busy and January was one of the busiest months I’ve had in a long time. In-between traveling and running photography workshops in Florida, I was simultaneously finishing up two new book projects (more on those below). I’m more convinced than ever now that writing books is an activity that only crazy people should undertake. Right at the point you think you are done with the book, there are suddenly twenty more things to do. The term “final version” doesn’t actually mean final. It means, “the starting point for revisions.”

Because of the travel and the books, I didn’t shoot as many photos in January as I would have liked. I’ll have to make up for lost shooting time during February and burn through some pixels in quick order. I’m still holding myself accountable by trying to take a photo every day and I hope you are doing the same. Taking lots of pictures is one of the best ways to improve your photo skills.

January was a big month for camera announcements from Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Fuji, Olympus, Sony and Sigma. It seemed like the camera manufacturers announced a new camera every single day of the month. On the Nikon side, there are a slew of new Coolpix point and shoots as well as two new professional SLRs in the D4 and the D800. Fuji announced a very compelling rangefinder called the Fuji D-Pro1 that is going after the Leica rangefinder market, but at a much lower price point. It is a wonderful time to be a photographer and the technology is taking us to incredible places.

Thousands of Images, Now What?

The Wiley & Son’s editorial team and I have just finished up all the back-and-forth editing for our new book titled Thousands of Images, Now What? Our goal is to have the book ready to ship during April, 2012.

The purpose of this title is to help photographers learn how to better manage their digital image collection. So many people have contacted me over the years wondering how to best organize their digital images. They want to know how to get out of the chaos of images they currently have and transition to a system that is organized, structured, and easy to use.

Thousands of Images, Now What? is specifically written for photographers who need to learn the ins and outs of digital asset management. I don’t use a lot of jargon in the book, but provide real-world approaches that will help you safely organize, save and back up your photographs.

You can pre-order autographed copies of the book from us here.

Alternatively, you can order a copy from Amazon.

The Nikon Creative Lighting System – 2nd Edition

After months and months of effort, the 2nd Edition of our very popular flash book is finally at the printer! Our goal is to have the hard copies of the book ready for distribution around the 3rd week of March, 2012.

This brand new book has been updated to cover the newest Nikon flashes, so I’ve added chapters and new information to cover the SB-700 and the SB-910 speedlights. The book includes detailed information on how to setup Nikon flashes for both on-camera operation and wireless flash operation using the Nikon iTTL CLS. I have detailed information on how the flashes integrate with Nikon cameras, setting preferences, maintaining batteries, sample setups, menus, and so much more.

As with all of my books, I write in a way that easy to understand, without a bunch of mumbo jumbo. I start out at a basic level then progress to more advanced concepts as the book progresses.

You can pre-order autographed copies of the book from us here.

Or, buy from Amazon.

Stuff I Like This Month

1. New Nikon Cameras

Nikon is on a winning streak with two incredible camera announcements almost back to back. Nikon’s first pro-camera announcement was the new D4 and they soon followed with the new D800/D800E. Each of these cameras are pro-level systems aimed a specific market segments. The 16 megapixel D4 is designed to be the low-light king for sports and action photography while the D800 is the new high-resolution champion with 36 megapixels! I have a few blog posts about the D800 here and here.

Use these affiliate links to order if you are in the mood for buying!

2. Lightroom 4 Public Beta

Lightroom 4 public beta has been announced and the program includes some excellent new improvements. The image-processing engine has been thoroughly enhanced with better overall color rendering and enhanced local adjustment tools. One of the things I think is really neat is LR4 will have to ability to selectively apply white balance to different areas of the image. For example, if one half of a person’s face is illuminated by daylight and the other by tungsten light, then you’ll be able to paint in the same WB for both sides. You can download your own beta version of Lightroom 4 here.

3. Hasselblad TV is a new video website from Hasselblad offering education, training, and inspirational videos from some of the best photographers on the planet. The website hosts multi-language that are arranged in different channels. Hasselblad considers the website to be a work in progress and they are drawing from photographers far and wide to submit their best work.

4. Funny YouTube Videos

Stuff Photographers Say and Shtuff People Say to Photographers. For those of you in the photo industry, there are lots of buzzwords we throw around and lots of misconceptions about what photographers actually do. Here are two very funny videos titled “Sh*t Photographers Say” and “Schtuff People Say to Photographers”. Both are rated G and will keep you laughing for the rest of the day.

Sh*t Photographers Say

Schtuff People Say to Photographers

January GOAL Assignment: Fill the Frame

Your GOAL (Get Out And Learn!) Assignment last month was to fill the frame. In previous GOAL Assignment I had you take images that minimized the subject, but this month I wanted you to maximize the subject. Filling the frame is one of the best ways to capture the true essence of a scene. Whether it is a person’s smile or an architectural detail, filling the frame helps your viewers immediately know what is important in the image.

Basically, there are two ways to fill the frame with your subject: zooming with your lens or by zooming with your feet. Let’s look at both approaches.

1. Zooming with Your Lens

This approach allows you to stay a fair distance away from your subject by using longer focal lengths such as 100mm or 300mm. Many times people feel uncomfortable having their picture taken, so using a longer lens makes it much more comfortable for your subject. Also, some animals and bugs will spook if you approach, so use the longer lens to maintain your distance.

When you can’t physically approach the subject, then use the long lens as a tool to fill the frame. An example of this type of photo is the bridge at sunset image shown here. I was working at a street ministry feeding the homeless and saw the sunset sky behind this bridge in Tacoma, Washington. I zoomed in tight to capture just the cables, which simplified the composition.

2. Zoom Tighter with Your Feet

Specifically, this means using a wider-angle lens between 14 – 50mm and just walking closer to the subject. Getting close physically to your subject takes the most courage, because you are often invading someone’s or something’s personal space. This approach just doesn’t feel right to most people, so new photographers rarely use this approach.

The neat thing about zooming tighter with your feet though is that you can use the wider lens to provide a totally different perspective. These lenses let you almost fill the frame with your subject, while also showing a bit of the surrounding to provide a sense of place. If you look at many of the best photojournalism photos, you’ll see they were taken with wider-angle lenses while the photographer was very close to the action.

An example of the “zoom with your feet” approach is shown to the left in the image of the young man with a baseball cap. Here, I came in close with a 50mm lens but also included another gentleman behind. The image shows just enough of the surroundings to give an indication of the environment.

February GOAL Assignment: Purposeful Distortion

This month I want you to work hard to create obvious distortion in your photographs. Create images by exaggerating a roofline or someone’s face. Shoot with your camera pointed up so the trees and buildings converge. The goal here is to create something that just isn’t quite right by using distortion.

There are a few ways to create distortion in your images such as using wide-angle lenses, odd camera angles, post processing in software, etc. I’ll go through some tools in next month’s newsletter. Between now and then, take some shots and see what you come up with. As always, you can post your images to our Flickr Group to see what everyone else is doing.

Tether Tools Wallee iPad Mounting System

With all the new photo-tethering apps out there to connect your camera and your iPad, it was only a matter of time for the iPad accessory market to catch on and create tools for using iPads in the photo studio. For a few years now, Tether Tools has been creating top-quality tethering solutions for photographers. I regularly use Tether Tools’ Aero table when shooting on location and have thoroughly been impressed with their setup.

About six months ago, I contacted Tether Tools to ask if they had any iPad mounting solutions. Their response was, “Hold on for a few months. We are creating a new line of iPad mounting accessories and we know you’ll be happy.” As promised, after a couple months they sent out a new iPad mount for me to test and I’m proud to say that I’m happy! Tether Tools created an excellent new product called the Wallee Modular iPad System.

The Wallee is ingenious in its overall simplicity. The basis of the system is the Wallee Modular Accessory Case, which allows your iPad to quickly switch between the different connection options from Tether Tools. The Modular Accessory Case attaches to the outside of your iPad and contains an open X bayonet mount that attaches to each of the interchangeable accessory options in the Wallee line.

I’ve been using three items from the Wallee system including the iPad case, the Pivot desktop stand and the Connect mounting bracket. I’ll explain each of these in more detail below. In addition to these three items, the Wallee system includes a Wall Mount, a hand mount called the Glove, a monitor arm mount called the VESA, a car mount called the Headrest, and lightweight iPad stand called the Kick.

The iPad case forms the basis for “all things Wallee” since it serves as the interface between the mounting hardware and the iPad. Wallee accessories attach into the open X pattern on the back of the case to form a solid mount to the iPad. The open X design allows the case to rotate, so rotating the iPad to a vertical or horizontal position is simple and quick. As an added bonus, the iPad 2 smart cover works perfectly well after you’ve installed the case, so you can barely even tell the Wallee case is there when you are hand-holding the iPad.

For desktop users, the Pivot stand is the perfect solution since it holds the iPad horizontally or vertically. I use this stand all the time when reading books on the iPad or browsing the web. Obviously, it has just as many uses in the studio and can be placed anywhere there’s a flat surface including desks, tables, counter tops or the floor. I’ve even used the Pivot outside and set it on the dirt or in the grass when I needed the iPad for a shoot. It is a very versatile product.

The Connect mounting bracket allows you to mount an iPad on just about any studio equipment you own. This includes light stands, tripods, magic arms, super clamps, Justin clamps, brackets, ball heads, and backdrop stands. The bottom side of the Connect has three ports; a 1/4×20 thread, a 3/8″ thread and a 5/8″ hole for mounting on studio stands, super clamps, etc.

One of the most ingenious aspects of the Connect mounting bracket is that Tether Tools created the base of the device so it fits with the Arca Swiss standard ball head quick releases. This means that you can mount the Connect directly to your Really Right Stuff, Kirk, Markins or Arca Swiss tripod heads and use your tripod as an iPad stand. Ingenious!

As with everything Tether Tools makes, their Wallee system is manufactured with the highest quality materials. Their anodizing and finishes are excellent, and overall look is very professional. Everything looks professional and looks good with other technology.

I’ve been using the Wallee system for at least three months now and I love how easy it is to transition my iPad from the desktop stand, to my briefcase, to my studio equipment. In fact, I bet that I’ve used the Connect or the Pivot just about every single day since it arrived a few months ago. If you’ve been looking for a practical and durable iPad mounting solution, then I can’t recommend the Wallee Modular system enough. It gets two thumbs up in my book.

Click here for more information on the Tether Tools Wallee.

You can order the Wallee products directly from Tether Tools website or from these B&H Photo Video affiliate links:

Photo Techniques: Should I Take My Big Camera on Vacation?

Over the last few weeks, a big topic of conversation from readers of this newsletter has been whether or not they should take their big dSLR cameras on their vacations. A few people have contacted me about their family trips to Costa Rica, Europe, and the Middle East, but they just aren’t sure they should bring their “big cameras.”

Their fears include:

For example, here’s an email from a reader last week…


Hi Mike,

I went to one of your D-70 workshops years ago, and have since purchased a Nikon D300. We are traveling to UK, Italy, and France in May for a fast moving 2+ week trip. I am hesitant to take my D300 due to the weight and worry of having it stolen if I am not constantly wearing it. I am thinking about buying a small digital camera … looking at Nikon, Sony, or Canon. Do you think I would be happy with the photo quality of a point and shoot, or will I regret not having my D300? I will be traveling with my husband and son and they will not be very patient with me as I take photos.

Thanks for any feedback!
– C. L.


I fully understand the hesitancy for people to bring along their big camera while traveling because I have the same concerns. I often wonder if it would be easier to bring along a small camera for the sake of my family’s sanity and the health of my lower back. However, I always remind myself that these types of trips are exactly why we have our big dSLR cameras. As travel photographers, our goal is to make beautiful images in far-flung places. Our travels provide some of the best opportunities to create stunning images whether they are in a rain forest canopy or deep in the heart of Paris.

Us travellers shouldn’t think of our dSLR cameras as pristine objects that must be protected. Rather, we need to think of them as tools. We bought these beasts of burden to use, so they might just get dirty. They might break. Someone might steal them from under our noses. However, never forget that the purpose of our camera is to create visual memories and the camera is only a tool. A conduit. The camera isn’t the thing; rather it is the method for achieving the thing. In our case, the “thing” is the stunning imagery from the trip.

Since my goal when traveling is to create photographs, I find that having my dSLRs along for the ride is the best way to achieve this goal. I always make sacrifices so I can fit in at least one dSLR and one lens on my trips. If I can manage, then I will take two dSLRs and at least two lenses so I’m covered when something breaks or stops working.

With modern lenses, it is easy to put together a very small and compact dSLR kit. A kit that includes a body, lens, batteries, charger and memory cards will easily fit in a small camera bag and weighing as little as 5 pounds. If size and weight are your primary concern, then I recommend using a small camera body like the Nikon D5100 or Canon T3i with an 18-55mm kit lens.

Point and shoot cameras have their place in travel photography. In fact, I use point and shoots all the time. I own point and shoots and I love bringing them on my trips. But I also know that they just don’t perform as well as full-blooded dSLR cameras. I’ve taken some great images with my small cameras, but I’ve taken much better images with my larger dSLRs. Use point and shoots as backups to the dSLR should something break or your battery dies. Also, use point and shoots when you’re at dinner or other places where it is difficult to bring along the dSLR camera.

Regarding theft, you should recognize that theft can occur no matter what kind of camera you bring along on your trip. For example, if you leave your cameras in your hotel room while you are out to dinner, then a point and shoot is just as likely to be stolen as a dSLR. Therefore, keep your cameras with you at all times. If this isn’t practical, then leave the camera with the front desk or in your hotel’s locked safe.

Take the usual precautions of hiding your camera when walking through tougher neighborhoods and keeping your camera slung over your body rather than hung over a single shoulder. I have a friend who was taking pictures in South America with a point and shoot. As she held the camera out to take a shot, someone zoomed by on a moped and swiped the little camera out of her hand! Keep that strap secured to your body.

So, in summary, I always recommend taking your big dSLR cameras with you on your travels. You’ll never regret having them along and your family will thank you because of the improved picture quality. Happy traveling!

Product Review: Cardsharp Folding Pocketknife

Periodically, a company will write to ask me to evaluate their products as they relate to photography. Recently, a design firm named Iain Sinclair contacted me about a new knife they created called the Cardsharp. The interesting thing about the Cardsharp knife is that it transforms from the shape of a credit card and a pocketknife by simply folding a few corners.

I always travel with a knife when I’m out shooting pics and find that having one is invaluable to my photography. I use knives to cut away weeds, open packages, cut dangling threads from camera bags, turn screws, slice apples and even spread peanut butter! So, even though a pocketknife isn’t necessarily “camera gear,” I decided to give the product good field test with the rest of my photo equipment.

The Cardsharp knife is elegant in its design and as sharp as a razor blade. Cutting is precise and accurate because the blade is very thin. Folding and unfolding the knife is a breeze and is accomplished by flipping the knife out and then folding the corners over (see video here). The product ships with a full-color instruction sheet that demonstrates how to fold and unfold the knife.

In its deployed position, the knife is strong enough to cut most things like fruits, vegetables, cords and twigs. However, I should state that the knife isn’t really designed to be a sturdy survival knife. Rather, it is designed to be an easy-to-pack safety knife that goes with you everywhere.

Even though the knife blade is made out of surgical steel, the case is polypropylene. Polypropylene is what makes the entire system so light, but I initially wondered how many times I’d be able to fold and unfold the knife before the material cracked or broke. The Cardsharp literature prominently states that polypropylene was selected because “… the polymer’s unique molecular structure allows infinite numbers of folds through 180 degrees without the hinge cracking and this feature is therefore guaranteed for life.” A lifetime guarantee is a bold statement about Sinclair’s faith in the material. The good news is that if it does ever break, they’ll stand behind their product and replace it for free.

I think that the coolest thing about the knife is that it fits in your wallet along side your credit cards. When it is in the shape of a credit card, it is only slightly thicker than your American Express card, so it easily fits in most men’s wallets as well as just about any women’s purses. Another great feature of the Cardsharp is that it only weighs 13.5 grams. Translated to English, that’s really light. I weighed my American Express credit card and it came in at 5 grams, so the Cardsharp weighs about 2.5 times as much as a credit card. Amazing.

I really like the idea of the flat storage of the knife and since it is so small and lightweight, it is a no-brainer for me to include it in my camera bag. I’ve started keeping it in the zipper pouches of my Think Tank camera cases and bags. The only thing I have to remember now is to take the knife out before I hop on a plane!

The Cardsharp costs $25 USD and is available here: I’d say that the price of the knife is a smidge high, but then again, there isn’t much else on the market today that functions like this knife. Honestly, the novelty factor of this knife alone probably makes it worth the price.

Workshop and Business Updates

2012 Workshops

I’m running photo workshops through a number of organizations in 2012 including Out There Images, Nikonians Academy and a few photo conferences. For the Nikonians Academy, my instructors and I have added a full schedule of camera gear workshops such as Master the Nikon D300/D300s, Master the Nikon D700/D3/D3s/D3x, Master Nikon iTTL Wireless Flash, Adobe Lightroom 3 and more. We continue to add more workshops every week. Check these out at

Master Lightroom 3

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to leverage the power of Lightroom for your workflow, then this is the right workshop. I’ll be running these all around the USA through the Nikonians Academy. Here’s the link: Lightroom Workshop


Our next photo adventure to Tanzania is scheduled for November 2012. Even though it is a ways off, people have already started to sign up. 2011’s trip sold out and we had a wonderful adventure. Our 2012 trip travels through Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara NP and Tarangire NP in our modified stretch Land Cruisers. Our trips are special since we only allow three people per vehicle. This allows a ton of space for your photo gear and lots of room to stretch out.

November 2012 will include the great wildebeest migration and lots of opportunities for photographing the big five. You can find more information on these adventures here:
2012 Safaris


Our photography adventure to the Galapagos Islands scheduled for September 14th – 23rd, 2012 is technically sold out, but I’ve opened a few more spots. If you are interested in coming on this year’s trip, email me and I’ll try to fit you in. I’ve already started planning for 2013 and am hoping for a September departure.

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.

Find more information here: Galapagos Photography Adventure

Staying Current

You can stay current with our new workshop by watching for news to be posted at the blog ( and 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.


I appreciate your participation in reading the newsletter as well as your interaction with our blog, social media and email. Feel free to contact me at any time with your questions or ideas. My door is always open and I sincerely enjoy your questions, comments and critques.

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]

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

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