Greetings and Visual Adventures Website Update

I’ve spent a good portion of the last month spending time just hanging out with my family. Since I travel so much, my wife and I scheduled some downtime into my summer schedule so we could be together as a family. So, we went on a road trip (more on that below), had a few BBQs, did some yard work, played some tennis, and just hung out. It was wonderful.

As I announced last month, we’ve just launched our new business name Visual Adventures along with our new website The website is still in progress and we continue to add more content while refining details such as layout and overall design.

The blog is up and running and we have new posts since last month’s unveiling. We are also adding a search utility across the site so you’ll be able to search our extensive archives of newsletter articles going back to 2005. This search function is slated to go live during the last week of July, 2012.

Many people email to ask me about the gear I use and recommend. Therefore, I’ve added a page dedicated to gear with links to affiliate partners where you can also buy the same items. Here’s the link to my recommended gear page: Mike’s Recommended Gear.

Prize Winners: c’t Photography Subscription and iTTL CLS Flash Book

Last month we ran a contest in conjunction with Rocky Nook and c’t Digital Photography for subscribers to our newsletter. The Grand prize was s a one-year subscription to c’t Digital Photography Magazine, back issues collection (Issues 3, 4, 5, 8), and a free copy of my newest book The Nikon Creative Lighting System, Using the SB-600, SB-700, SB-800, SB-900, SB-910, and R1C1 Flashes. The runner-up prizes include back-issue collections of c’t Digital Photography Magazine issues 3, 4, and 5.

Without further adieu, here are the winners:

Grand Prize Winner

Bruce Foster

Runner-up Prize Winners

Grover Randle
John Wells
Sabroto Mukherjee

Road Trip and Photos

My family and I went on a whirlwind road trip a few weeks ago throughout Washington, Oregon, Nevada and California. We visited friends and family along the way while also spending time adventuring in Yosemite NP and San Francisco.

I love these types of trips since they really challenge me as a photographer. Most of us photographers struggle to create great images when traveling with friends and family since it is difficult to juggle photography with everything else you are doing on the trip. A few months back, I wrote an article on traveling with non-photographer companions and I sure needed a dose of my own advice on this trip.

For this photo adventure, I brought along my Nikon D800, Nikon 24-40mm, 14-24mm, and 70-200mm. As a backup camera, I brought a D300s but ended up not shooting any significant images with that camera. For support, I took a Joby GorillaPod Focus and used it every single day. I love this little tripod and am impressed with its versatility.

For carrying the gear, I used my Think Tank Speed Racer with a couple of extra side pouches. This bag was perfect for my style of travel since it is easy to hike with while simultaneously providing fast access to my camera gear. I took the bag climbing, hiking, shopping, exploring and even out to dinner. I can’t recommend this bag enough.

Check out the blog for some pics from our road trip: Hagen road trip.

Stuff I Like This Month

1. Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 was officially announced and is now shipping. I was on the beta testing team and can confidently say that the new version of software produces far more realistic HDR images than the first version. I’ll do a full write-up over at the Visual Adventures blog in a few days.

2. For those Nikon shooters looking at a new wildlife or sports lens, Nikon has just announced the new 800mm f5.6. The monster lens will be unveiled at Photokina this September 18-23. I don’t even want to guess how much it will cost.

3. If you’ve ever wondered how different cameras compare in overall size, check out this great site called Camera Size. Idan Shechter created this website to help photographers visualize the differences in popular digital cameras. While you are at it, you might as well check out his other website called Camera Image Sensor.

4. A while ago I wrote an article for Nikon Rumors on making an aerial photography monopod. Here’s an article by Enrico Cinalli on a mechanical system attached to a vehicle that allows him to raise his camera more than 30 feet into the air. Check out his Luminous-Landscape article titled Photographing Tuscany – A Unique Approach.

Digital Tidbits: Three Ways to Edit a JPG Like a RAW

To get the best quality photographs, most people know that you should shoot RAW image format. However, many photographers like to shoot JPG files because of the smaller file size and overall ease of use.

For you JPG photographers out there, I wanted to show how you can still get some of the benefits of RAW by utilizing a specific image editing programs. In this article, I’ll walk though how you can use these RAW processing programs to edit JPG image files.

Before I get into the details, let me mention a few points about working with JPGs in a RAW processing program:

  1. Editing a JPG in many programs means that the changes you make to the image are baked into the image after you save the file. In other words, once you save changes to your JPG, you don’t have the ability to undo the action. This is different than editing a RAW file since the changes you make to RAW files are only temporary and can always be undone.
  2. Most RAW files are captured as either 12-bit or 14-bit per color channel. JPG files are captured at 8-bits per channel. Your JPG will stay as an 8-bit file even when editing it in RAW processing software.
  3. When using RAW processing software to edit JPGs, many programs allow the use of most RAW controls with the significant exception of white balance. Since white balance isn’t an option for JPGs, many programs like Lightroom will allow you to change “temperature,” which is very close to white balance.

Here are three ways to edit JPG files while retaining some RAW editing benefits:

Edit JPG in Adobe Camera RAW

Not many people know that you can open a JPG in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). The process is actually quite simple and is a revelation for many photographers. If you are using Bridge, then select the image and type Crtl/Cmd + R on your keyboard. Alternatively, if you are opening the image directly from Photoshop, choose File –> Open. Then, from the menu at the bottom of the page, choose Format –> Camera Raw.

Now that the image is open in ACR, you have full access to most of the Camera RAW sliders and adjustments. This includes settings like Clarity, Recovery, and Lens Profile Correction. Also, you’ll be able to modify the color balance of the photo using the temperature slider or the white balance dropper tool. I’ve used both of these many times in the past on JPGs that I photographed with the incorrect white balance.

When finished with your image in Adobe Camera Raw, you’ll click on the Open Image button to transfer the file to Photoshop. At this point you’ll work on the image just like any other file in Photoshop. When you are ready to save the image from Photoshop, save the image as a PSD file to retain any layers you want to keep. If you save the file as a JPG with the original file name, then you’ll overwrite the original image. I recommend saving the JPG as a different name so you keep the original file.

Edit JPG in Lightroom/Aperture/Capture One

Lightroom, Aperture and Phase One’s Capture One 6 are non-destructive editing tools. This means that the changes you make to an image can be reversed, regardless if you are working on JPG or RAW files. This is great news for JPG shooters because this feature allows them to edit with many of the same benefits that RAW shooters use in their workflow. Two main differences though are that JPG files are 8-bit images, and you aren’t able to make true white balance changes.

These three editing programs are excellent and I can personally recommend each one. I’ve used them all to work on JPGs, TIFFs, and RAWs with great results. It is my general recommendation to do your photo editing and enhancement in a program like these simply for the reason that they treat all your images the same. All edits are saved as instructions that can be modified or altered at a future time. Again, this gives JPG shooters a lot of flexibility and maximizes their somewhat limited file sizes.

As I mentioned before, you won’t be able to change white balance settings on a JPG, but each of these programs have extensive temperature adjustment tools that approximate white balance. After you are finished working on your image in a program like Lightroom, you don’t “save” the file, but rather just close the program. Each of these programs keep a running history of all the changes you make to your images.

Edit JPG in Nikon Capture NX2

The cool thing about editing JPGs in Nikon Capture NX2 is that you can actually save the JPG file as a new NEF (Nikon raw file) and it will keep all your settings/edits in the new RAW file. A few details:

  • – The new RAW file will still be 8-bit.
  • – The file retains all adjustment steps such as color control points and selective adjustments.
  • – If you want to work on the actual NEF in the future, you need to open it in Nikon Capture NX2. In other words, the adjustments can only be “seen” in Capture NX2. To work on the file in another program, simply “Save As” and choose TIFF or JPG as the file type.

eBook Review: Creative B&W Processing Techniques, Using Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop

Guy Tal is well-known for his beautiful landscape photography. He has been sharing his knowledge for years through his website, blog, workshops and eBooks. Guy’s most recent product is his brand new eBook titled Creative B&W Processing Techniques Using Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop.

I thoroughly enjoy black and white photography and I continue to read as much as I can on the topic in order to improve my skills. Guy’s new book is focused on post-processing images using the tools available in Photoshop and Lightroom. I’ve tended to rely on plug-ins like Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 to do my B&W conversions, so learning alternate methods is very helpful in my overall understanding of the digital process.

As the title indicates, Guy’s book is mainly focused on post-processing of digital images. He talks a bit about capturing the image in the field, but that isn’t the purpose of the book. His goal is to demonstrate some excellent ways to produce high quality black and white photos in Photoshop and Lightroom.

Throughout the eBook, Guy includes exercises for the reader to complete. The purpose of the exercises is to test the reader’s comprehension while also encouraging the reader to think about the most important elements in image processing. I think his approach is a good way to get important points across to the reader. Conveniently, the answers to the exercises are given in the back of the book for those who want to cheat!

Guy talks extensively about using color filters in Photoshop and how they impact the black and white conversion process. I appreciated Guy’s detailed description of how to use a Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer below the Black & White Adjustment Layer to improve the filtering accuracy of specific color ranges. As I worked through the process he outlined in the book, I found myself learning new techniques that I can immediately apply to my own photography.

One of the most important things a black and white photographer can learn is how to visualize how real-world colors will translate into tones. Converting color into black and white requires a great understanding of how specific colors will digitally map to grayscale. Guy does a good job of helping the reader fully understand this digital process with a great description and a bit of math. Learning this requires a little tenacity to work through the details, but it isn’t beyond the grasp of a dedicated learner.

Guy also talks about “visualization-driven processing.” In other words, thinking about what you want the final photo to look like before you start working on it in software. Over the years as I’ve taught Photoshop and Lightroom workshops to photographers, one of the first questions people ask me is “Where do I start?” Often, my answer to their question is “What do you want the final image to look like?” Guy understands this approach and writes about it well in the book.

The section of the book I appreciated the most was Guy’s chapter showing how he processed a black and white image from start to finish. This is a very good chapter and shows the reader the thought process as well as his step-by-step iterations on a single image. He walks through curves, filters, adjustment layers, masks, dodge/burn layers, noise reduction, vignettes, toning, and dust removal.

Guy is very detail-oriented and as such has taken great pains to thoroughly discuss the topic of B&W processing in Photoshop and Lightroom. You won’t be disappointed with the amount of information in the book and I know you’ll pick up a number of new approaches for your digital darkroom.

I read the eBook on both my laptop and my iPad. In both situations, it was very easy to use the PDF tools such as search, page markers, hyperlinks, viewing options and zoom. Also, the eBook utilizes a new template designed to accommodate a wide variety of eReader devices, including the new retina display of the Apple iPad 3.

No good book review would be without a couple of criticisms. I would have liked Guy to spend a little more time on local adjustments, including local adjustments in Lightroom. Also, the layout of the book felt a bit crowded since he packed a ton of information into a tight space. Adding a bit of white space around the text would greatly help with overall consumption of the content. Honestly though, these are very minor criticisms since the book is excellent.

I give the book two thumbs up and am happy to recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their black and white digital darkroom skills. You won’t be disappointed.

Creative B&W Processing is 59 pages and available from Guy Tal’s book website.

You can find Guy’s main website here.

Workshop and Business Updates


Our Visual Adventures website is the new hub of our business operation. You’ll find links to everything we do including our books, workshops, products, newsletter, blog and photo galleries. For now, our previous website will stay put in its present form, but we won’t be adding new content there.


I am actively preparing new workshops to locations such as Olympic NP (June 2013), Iceland (August 2013), Alaska Photo Cruise (August 2013), Galapagos (2013), Africa (November 2013) and much more. 2013 is going to be a great year for travel and adventure photography.

At the Nikonians Academy, we continue to add new workshops to our schedule. My instructor team and I are busy running and preparing new photo workshops in North America and all around the world. Read below for more info.

Introduction to 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.

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

Master Adobe Lightroom 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 in two versions:

Lightroom 4 Essentials and Lightroom 4 Advanced.


We still have two seats open for our photography adventure to the Galapagos Islands scheduled for September 14th – 23rd, 2012. 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. We will also be spending two days in Quito Ecuador photographing this beautiful, historic city.

Find more information here.

Staying Current

You can stay current with our new workshop by watching for news to be posted at the blog, on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Custom Group Trips

Private photo tour

This August, I’m running a custom trip for six photographers who want to improve their nature photography. We’ll be spending a few days in a beautiful national park working through the process of learning photography from the ground up. Next year, I’ll be running a custom trip for a small group of people to Tanzania.

If you have a group and want to arrange a custom photo trip similar to this, contact us and we’ll put together an incredible itinerary just for you. I run custom trips for people all around the world on topics ranging from nature photography, landscape photography, urban photography, location portraits, and just about anything else you can imagine. Simply email or call and we’ll give you all the details for how to go about creating the trip of your dreams.

Private Tutoring and Consulting

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, Photoshop, Aperture, Capture NX2, wedding photography, 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.

If you have questions about private tutoring or business consulting, call (253) 851-9054 or visit our site here.


Thanks for taking the time to read this month’s newsletter. Now, get out there and take some photographs!

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

Best regards,

Mike Hagen
Visual Adventures (previously Out There Images)
PO Box 1966, Gig Harbor, WA 98335
twitter: @MikeJHagen
email: [email protected]
office: 253-851-9054
mobile: 360-750-1103
fax: 206-984-1817

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