March is one of those odd months in the Pacific Northwest where the weather is constantly arguing with itself. One day is sunny and warm while the next is cold and snowy. Like you, I’m itching for some good weather to stick around for a while.

One thing’s for sure, all this crazy winter weather has photographers itching to buy new camera gear! Every day I receive phone calls and emails from newsletter readers asking about the Nikon D800and Nikon D4 cameras. Many photographers are not quite sure which one meets their needs. Both cameras are expensive, with the D800 costing $3000 and the D4 costing $6000, so making the right choice is important.

I’ve been telling folks that they should consider the D800 to be more of a studio or landscape camera because of its high-resolution 36MP sensor. The D800 is a new class of camera for Nikon and wasn’t designed to replace the D700. I don’t recommend this camera for sports or action because the frame rate tops out at 4 frames per second.

The D4 on the other hand is designed for photojournalists and sports photographers. It will shoot at 10 frames per second and at incredibly high ISOs, so is really designed for speed and action. The D4 is the direct replacement for the Nikon D3s and will continue the legacy as one of the top professional cameras ever made. The D4 will not disappoint sports and action photographers and is the best choice for photographers in this genre.

So should you upgrade? I always tell people that they should only upgrade if the new gear solves a specific problem for them. If the D4 helps your sports photography, then it makes sense to upgrade. If you need the high resolution of the D800, then it makes sense to upgrade. If your D700 or D300s or D3 is still serving your needs, then don’t buy the new camera, rather invest in some new lenses.

Los Angeles

I just returned from running sold-out photography workshops down in Los Angeles, California for the Nikonians Academy. Samy’s Camera store generously hosted our workshops on Adobe Lightroom, iTTL wireless flash photography and Nikon cameras. Samy’s is next door to a neat outdoor shopping area called The Grove, which is a great place to take pics. I spent a few evenings snapping images at The Grove with my D7000 and posted a few at the blog: Out There Images Blog – The Grove.

Galapagos Seats Open

We’ve just had two seats open up for our Galapagos Photography Adventure from September 14-23, 2012. It’s going to be a wonderful trip on our own expedition yacht. Each day, we’ll photograph the wildlife and landscapes of the Galapagos Islands. Sign up here: Nikonians Academy Galapagos 2012 Trip

New Lighting Workshops

We are excited to announce an entirely new workshop series in conjunction with Profoto lighting equipment company. Profoto makes some of the best studio lighting gear in the industry and they have supplied us with all kinds of equipment for studio lighting workshops. Our first workshop date will be in Fairfield, New Jersey hosted at Unique Photo camera store. You can sign up for this workshop, as well as our Lightroom 4, D800/D700/D3/D4 In Depth, iTTL Wireless Flash at the Nikonians Academy website.

Two New Books Shipping This Month

After many months of writing and waiting, we will be shipping two new books at the end of this month (March, 2012). The first is titled “Thousands of Images, Now What? Painlessly Organize, Save, and Back Up Your Digital Photos” and was written to help photographers understand how to organize and manage their ever-growing digital photo libraries. If you have been struggling with how to deal with your digital pictures, then this is the book for you. You can pre-order autographed copies of the book from us at our website

Alternatively, you can order from at this link:

The next book is the 2nd Edition of our very popular title The Nikon Creative Lighting System, Using the SB-600, SB-700, SB-800, SB-900, SB-910, and R1C1 Flashes. I have fully updated the content for the newest Nikon flashes and Nikon equipment. There’s a brand new chapter for the SB-700 flash and I’ve added SB-910 operation to the original SB-900 chapter. You can pre-order autographed copies of the book from us at our website

Or, buy from at this link:

Book Giveaway

We’re giving away a free book this month. Join the drawing by posting an image to our GOAL Assignment Flickr group ( for the March GOAL Assignment (below) and I’ll randomly pick one person to win. The prize is Amanda Quintenz-Fielder’s book Ten Photo Assignments to Develop Your Photographic Skills.

Stuff I Like This Month

1. Scott Kelby has a new, free app for the iPad. He goes through 12 photographs and talks through the details on how he created each one. The app is very helpful, plus you can’t beat free! Here’s the link: Download Scott Kelby’s iPad app.

2. Guy Kawasaki just finished up his new book on Google+ titled What the Plus! (Link: What The Plus!) I’ve read through the book and gleaned an incredible amount of information on how to better use the new social media site. Even though I think Google+ is inherently better than Facebook, I’ll still be using both for the foreseeable future. Google+ is an amazing resource for photographers and I strongly encourage you to sign up there just to gain inspiration. If you are a Google+ user, then check out Guy Kawasaki’s G+ page here: Guy’s G+ Page or my G+ page here:

3. Adobe has just released Lightroom 4 and they priced it at an amazing $149. If you are upgrading from a previous version, then their price is an even more incredible $79. I’ve been using Lightroom for years and love the program. My Nikonians Academy team and I have just updated our Lightroom workshops to version 4 and will begin teaching these classes in April 2012. My next Lightroom 3/4 workshop is scheduled for May in Fairfield, New Jersey at Unique Photo. Here’s a link to sign up: Nikonians Academy Lightroom 3/4 Workshop.

4. SmugMug just announced a new iPhone and iPad camera app called Camera Awesome. Within just a few days of its release, they logged over 2 million downloads! Unbelievable. Download the free app here: Camera Awesome Download at iTunes.

February GOAL Assignment: Purposeful Distortion

Last month’s Get Out And Learn assignment was to create some wild and crazy distortion with your camera. Most of the time as photographers we work hard to show the world as realistically as possible. We put all kinds of money and effort into buying lenses that don’t have pincushion or barrel distortion, while we also labor to keep our horizon’s level and trees vertical.

Sometimes though it is fun to go off the deep-end and put some crazy distortion into our pics. One of the best ways to create purposeful distortion is by using a super wide-angle lens. During February, I took my wide-angle lenses out and put them to the distortion test. The three images shown here are examples of how including purposeful distortion in an image can be visually dynamic, while also being a heck of a lot of fun.

The first image example to the left is a roof over the outdoor elevator at the Tacoma Museum of Glass. I used a 12mm focal length on my little Nikon D7000 to get as much distortion as possible. To create the feeling that the roof was looming overhead, I laid down on the ground and pointed my camera slightly upwards.

To capture the second image of the bank of telephones at LAX International Airport, I used a Nikon D700 and a 14-24mm lens. Since this lens is on a full-frame camera, the angle of coverage is much more extreme than if it was on a DX camera with the same focal length. The wall where the telephones were mounted was curved which further exaggerated the distorted look.

The final image of my daughter was created with a 12mm focal length on a D7000. Again, the wide-angle and close proximity created a very skewed look to the shot. This particular lens and camera combination (12mm and D7000) shouldn’t normally be used for portraits, but if you are trying to create a funny-looking shot, then it makes sense. By the way, don’t tell my daughter I posted this picture of her. She’ll never let me take another picture of her again!

So, what are the techniques for purposefully adding distortion to your photos? Here are three simple tips while using your wide-angle lens:

1. Position your camera as close as possible to the subject.

2. Get the camera low (lay down on the ground).

3. Point the camera upward or downward.

For DX frame cameras like the D7000, D300s, D90, and D5100 I recommend using lenses that are at least 12mm wide. Better would be lenses in the 8mm – 10mm range. There are quite a few super-wide zooms available from Nikon, Tamron, Tokina and Sigma. Here are a few I’ve personally used and can honestly recommend:

– Nikon 10-24mm
– Tamron 10-24mm
– Tokina 12-24mm

I took the black and white photo to the left of the Tacoma Museum of Glass with the Tokina 12-24mm f4 and have always had excellent results with this lens. I’ve used the Nikon and Tamron lenses I show above as well. All three companies produce fine lenses in this focal range.

For FX (full frame) cameras like the D700, D800, D3, and D4 cameras, I recommend lenses between 14mm – 20mm. My favorite lens in this genre is the Nikon 14-24mm f2.8, but a close second is the Nikon 16-35mm f4. I really have enjoyed using the 14-24mm lens and it definitely rates as one of my favorite lenses of all-time. It is razor sharp, versatile, and built like a tank. This is the ultimate in wide-angle quality.

If you didn’t take any distorted photos last month, then I encourage you to try again this month. Adding purposeful distortion your suite of photo-tricks is a lot of fun and can lead to some wonderful new images.

March GOAL Assignment: Walking Zoom

Your GOAL Assignment for March 2012 is to literally take a march with your lens! What I want you to do is to start your GOAL Assignment by shooting a scene from a far-off distance. Then as you walk closers to your subject, continue taking a sequence of images that become more and more limited in view. This process will help you understand the power that you have in your feet! The first shot should be somewhat loosely composed while the final shot should completely fill the frame with your subject.

Don’t be afraid to zoom in on the tiniest of details either. For example, if you see a small flower or bug in the scene as you finish the walk, then use that as your final shot. Target shooting at least 8 to 10 images in the sequence and try to end the sequence with a frame-filling shot that is a simple composition.

Next month, I’ll talk through this process and give you some great tips on how to use this approach in your daily shooting to achieve better photos. Since this GOAL Assignment was inspired by a chapter in a book titled Ten Photo Assignments, I’ll be giving away a free copy of the book to a reader who submits images to our GOAL Assignment Flickr account. You can add images to our Flickr account here:

Digital Tidbits: What Camera Settings Affect RAW?

Earlier this month, a newsletter reader named Paul D. sent in a great question about RAW and JPG photos in our cameras. His question deals with the similarities and differences between RAW and JPG files and how camera settings impact the final result. Read Paul’s question below.

Mike, one reads everywhere that RAW image files ignore some menu settings … but not all of them! The implication is that a RAW file captures pure data, etc. etc. etc.

I know RAW does not ignore the Nikon Picture Control settings because I did a JPG/RAW comparison and the 4 Picture Control settings (Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome) exist in both formats. Furthermore, the Picture Control settings show up when the two files are compared side-by-side. By the way, I’m using a Nikon D300 and D700 and used Capture NX2 to open this test files.

So, my question is: What other setting does RAW accept/act on? And what settings do they ignore? It seems that RAW is not just RAW and can be impacted by menu settings.

This is annoying. Please help.


Answer: The great thing about shooting RAW is that most of the menu settings from your camera are stored in the RAW file but not “acted on” until they are converted in software. Even though these settings are kept in the RAW file, they don’t necessarily have to be used in your final image. For example, if you set the camera’s white balance to incandescent, then you can change the value in the RAW file later in your computer to cloudy white balance. The initial setting is always stored in the RAW file, but you can easily change it to something different with almost all modern image processing software. This capability gives RAW files far more flexibility than JPG files.

Most camera manufacturers like Nikon and Canon have proprietary settings in the menu system that only affects their RAW files. Nikon cameras use settings called Picture Controls while Canon cameras use Picture Styles. These settings allow the user to enhance their images with choices like Portrait, Landscape, Vivid, Neutral and Standard. These are analogous to adding contrast and saturation in Photoshop, but are done right in the RAW file.

Although these settings reside in the RAW file, they are only usable (or visible) if you open the RAW file in that company’s software. For example, in the Nikon world, you have to open the RAW file in Nikon Capture NX2 or Nikon View NX2 to fully utilize the Picture Control Settings. If you open the exact same Nikon RAW file in Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture, then you won’t see the effects of the Picture Control settings in the file. The reason for this is Nikon only has the “keys” to its own proprietary settings and they haven’t allowed other software manufacturers to utilize these specific settings.

Look at the illustrations to the left that show a RAW and JPG opened in different software. In the top example, the Nikon RAW file and Nikon JPG are opened side by side in Nikon Capture NX2. The files look identical because Nikon Capture NX2 can “see” all the RAW settings from the camera. In the lower example, both the RAW and JPG are opened side by side in Photoshop. In this case, the RAW file looks unsaturated and flat while the JPG looks saturated and contrasty. The reason for this is that Adobe’s RAW processing tool can’t directly translate the Nikon RAW settings. If I added saturation and contrast in the RAW processor (ACR), then it would start to approach the original RAW settings, but they are only an approximation of the Nikon Picture Control settings.

So, to specifically accurately answer Paul D’s question, you have to know what software you are using to look at your RAW files. If you look at RAW files in Nikon Capture NX2, then they will look just like the JPG files because the Nikon software “reads” all the RAW settings. If you look at exactly the same image in Lightroom, Photoshop or Aperture, then it the RAW will look different from the JPG because these programs can’t read all the Nikon RAW settings.

As you take photos, remember that all of the menu items impact your RAW files (and this is a good thing). In fact, it is impossible to take a RAW photo without something affecting it. There’s no such thing as an unaffected RAW file since things like exposure, and ISO are being applied in real time, while other settings like white balance, Picture Controls and noise reduction can be changed after the fact. The long and the short of it is that your software determines which settings in the RAW file can or can’t be used.

Book Review: Ten Photo Assignments to develop your photographic skills

Back in the 1980s and 1990s when I was teaching myself photography, I used a very methodical process to learn exposures, composition, colors and overall camera operation. To learn exposure my method was to literally go through every combination of shutter speed, aperture and ISO setting until I fully understood the interplay between the three. For composition, I would frame my scenes every which way possible until I understood what worked and what didn’t. For focal lengths, I tried every combination of lenses that I owned on the same scene until I understood how each impacted the final photo.

While I worked through this process, I took a little notebook everywhere I went and wrote down film type, camera settings, and even atmospheric conditions so I would KNOW what was affecting my photographs. This process proved invaluable in later years since I regularly relied on the knowledge I gained and applied it to my professional photography.

I always told myself that “someday” I would write a book to take people through this process. Well, procrastination being what it is, somebody else beat me to the punch and wrote the book on exactly this topic! Author Amanda Quintenz-Fiedler has penned a concise little book titled Ten Photo Assignments To Develop Your Photographic Skills.

Amanda takes the reader through a rigorous sequence of ten assignments that are designed to help you inherently understand the fundamentals of photography such as exposure, white balance, lens selection, and composition.

The chapters of the book are broken down into five sections with each section containing two targeted assignments to help you “learn by doing.” The sections are laid out as follows:

1. You are Smarter Than Your Equipment (calibrating your camera, choosing lenses)
2. Color Counts (white balance)
3. Exposing Exposures (metering, apertures, shutter speeds)
4. Compose Yourself (composition and getting close)
5. Follow the Light (finding great light and managing the light)

Each exercise is constructed with a description, required materials, purpose and a step-by-step process for taking the images. At the end of each exercise, Amanda takes you through the images you create to help you understand what the results mean and how they impact your photography.

My favorite exercise in the book actually inspired this month’s GOAL Assignment. The process is to begin photographing a scene from a relatively far distance. Then, using your feet, slowly walk in closer to your subject while taking photos until you capture a single item. This exercise teaches composition as well as the importance of minimizing distractions in the final image.

So the big question people reading this review will have is, “Will this book help my photography?” My answer is a qualified yes. Here’s what I mean … I consider this book to be similar to a self-help program or a new diet/exercise plan. In order to see results, you actually have to participate fully in the exercise. If you are willing to put in the time, then going through the exercise in this book will help you better understand photography. Be forewarned though that the process the author lays out isn’t a walk in the park. Rather, it requires that you take notes about what you are doing and then thoroughly review your results after each task. Some of the exercises you might have to do two or more times until you finally get the intended results.

The author states in the introduction, “This book will turn you into a better photographer by leading you through a series of practical assignments that will help you better understand the capabilities and limitations of your equipment, the theories and practices of a good photographer, and how you can see the scene in front of you and ensure that you get the perfect shot.”

If you are a new photographer and you have the diligence to truly learn your camera, then I highly recommend this book. I can almost guarantee that you’ll be a better photographer after going through all of Amanda’s exercises. However, if you already have an excellent understanding of composition, white balance and exposure, then this book isn’t the right one for you.

Ten Photo Assignments is part of a new series of books from Rocky Nook called “edition espresso” that keep the content short, strong and to the point. Their small size makes it easy to pack the books in your camera bag to read in the field or on an airplane. Rocky Nook says, “Edition espresso is for aspiring photographers looking for ways to tap into their creative potential and get better results out of their photographic equipment. We’ll show you the short and direct path to better photography.”

Ten Photo Assignments is 110 pages and printed in full color. You can buy your copy at our Amazon Affiliate link here. It is available in paperback or Kindle versions.

Studio Lighting

Profoto is sponsoring a series of workshops with us to help photographers learn studio lighting. These workshops are designed to show flash photography as well as continuous light photography for still life and portraiture. We are starting off with one-day workshops and will add some multi-day portrait photography workshops later in the summer and fall. Check out the workshops here: Master Studio Lighting with Profoto.

Camera and Flash Workshops

Our Nikonians Academy camera and flash photography workshops have all been completely revamped to include the Nikon D800 and Nikon D4 cameras as well as the Nikon SB-910 and SB-700 flashes. Our workshops include:

– Master Nikon D800/D4/D700/D3/D3s/D3x
– Master Nikon D300/D300s
– Master Nikon D7000/D90/D80
– Master Nikon iTTL Wireless Flash

My instructor team and I are running workshops all around the USA on these systems. My next workshop is scheduled for Fairfield New Jersey from May 24 – 27, 2012. We continue to add dates every week. Check these out at

Master Adobe Lightroom 3 & 4

Adobe has just released Lightroom 4 and it is one of the best software programs out there for digital photographers. We’ve just updated our Lightroom workshops for LR4 so if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to leverage the power of Lightroom in 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 3/4 Workshop.

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 another newsletter from Out There Images, Inc. My hope is that it continues to inspire you to continue improving your photographic eye.

If you need more photo encouragement during the month, be sure to check out for regular updates, news, tips and commentary. Also, I encourage you to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+

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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