Hello friends –

I�m leaving tomorrow for a three week workshop series in New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C with the Nikonians (www.nikonians.org). It�s going to be fun seeing the other side of the country for a while and I�ll be sure to take lots of photographs while I�m there. Looking ahead to November, we have one more workshop with the Nikonians in Chicago, and then two remaining portrait photography workshops in Seattle and Portland (www.outthereimages.com/portrait_workshop.html).

Last month we held our Art of Travel Photography workshop in Mazama, Washington and had a fantastic time photographing in Washington State�s North Cascades. Ten people spent four days with me in one of the most beautiful locations on planet earth. Many times we woke up at dawn and photographed well past sunset. Some folks even stayed up all night long to shoot star trail photos. The energy and enthusiasm at this workshop was contagious and I can�t wait to do more like these in 2007.

This newsletter is going to be dedicated to some new gear reviews. I went on a spending spree last month and purchased a bunch of new lenses and a Nikon D80 camera from Samy�s Camera (www.samys.com). I also have purchased two new camera bags from Think Tank Photo (www.thinktankphoto.com) that I think you�ll be interested in. I�ll review them below after the GOAL solutions and new GOAL assignments.

GOAL Assignment:
September 2006 GOAL Solutions: Last month, your assignment was to find three different methods to expose for a subject that is in front of a dark background. The photo I used as an example was taken in front of a bright window. In this scenario, it was a person, but the technique is the same if you are photographing a flower, a vase or even a landscape.

Here are a number of solutions to the problem:
1. Spot meter on the subject in Manual exposure mode. Set your light meter to spot. Set your exposure mode to Manual. Now, aim your camera�s light meter at your subject and take a meter reading. Dial your exposure so that it is properly adjusted for your subject (i.e., their face). If you are photographing a Caucasian (lighter tonality) face, then set exposure to +0.7. If photographing Latino, Persian or Indian (medium tonality) face, then set exposure to 0.0. If photographing African American (darker tonality) face, then set exposure to -0.7.

2. Using the AE-L button. In an auto exposure mode like Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, or Program you have to lock the exposure on your subject. To do this, decide the proper tonality of your subject (see above) and dial that into your exposure compensation control. Next, fill the camera�s light meter with your subject�s face and press the AE-L button with your thumb. Keep holding the button with your thumb and then step back to your shooting position. Now take the picture. If you are using the spot light meter, then it is easy to fill the light meter with your subject. If you are using center weighted light meter or matrix meter, then you need to zoom your lens or physically walk closer to your subject to properly meter.

3. Just overexpose using Matrix Meter. In the example to the left of the raccoon, I didn�t have a lot of time to specifically meter in the raccoon�s face. Since I was using matrix meter, I dialed in plus exposure compensation to prevent the background from biasing the exposure too dark.

4. Use fill-flash. This method allows you to balance the subject and background by using flash. Set the camera for Slow Rear sync and Matrix (multi-pattern) meter. Set the flash for TTL and then dial down the flash output power to -1.0 or so. The camera generally will do a good job of automatically balancing the subject and the background. The photo at the left shows how fill-flash worked very well for a photo at the beach with the bright background of the sky.

5. Use a hand-held light meter such as the Sekonic L-358. In this situation, you hold the light meter in front of the subject and aim the dome of the light meter towards the camera. You then take a meter reading and set your camera to that exposure value in Manual mode (i.e. f4 at 1/30s). This is the most accurate way to set your exposure, but not necessarily the fastest!

6. Fix it later in software. Most of you know that I work extremely hard to get the photograph perfect in the camera, but sometimes you miss the shot and have to fix it later on your computer. I�ve been using Nikon Capture NX (www.capturenx.com) lately for a lot of my post-processing fixes and have been really impressed with its easy interface. To fix an underexposed face, just click on the face with a �Control Point� and brighten it up. It�s that easy!

October 2006 GOAL Assignment:
This month we are going to work on our backgrounds. As you know, the background of your image is sometimes more important than the subject itself. For example, if you take a photograph of a flower against a cluttered background, then it will be difficult to visually distinguish between the two. Your GOAL (Get Out And Learn!) assignment is to find at least three ways to make your background clean while keeping your subject in clear, sharp focus like the flower photograph to the left. There are lots of ways to do this, so get going! I�ll post answers in November�s newsletter.

New Gear Reviews:

I�m a big advocate of using what you have until you find an actual need for new gear. Lots of photographers get into the trap of thinking �If I only had that lens, then my photos would be better� or �that newest camera body will make my photos better.� The unfortunate truth is that the single most important thing to invest in is your knowledge. Once you reach a certain aptitude, then the gear starts to make a bigger difference.

Even though I subscribe to this train of thought and continually push myself to learn new methods and techniques, I still like to mess around with new gear just as much as the next photographer! With that in mind, I purchased a bunch of new gear in September and have spent some time putting it through its paces. Here are some thoughts on the new Nikon D80 SLR, the Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VR, The Nikon 50mm f1.8, the Tamron 28-75 f2.8, the Think Tank Airport Security and the Think Tank Speed Racer .

Nikon D80
My first Nikon digital SLR was the D70 and since then I�ve purchased the D2X and the D200. The D80 started shipping in September of 2006 and I purchased mine the first week it was available from Samys Camera in Los Angeles (www.samys.com).

The D80 is physically smaller than the D70 yet packs a powerful imaging system into that small package. In fact, it has the same image sensor as my D200, so the resulting quality is fantastic. I took the D80 into Washington State�s North Cascades to see how the camera would respond in the real world. In short, I was very impressed with how easy it was to use and configure for my style of shooting.

One of the gripes I always had with the D70 was that you had to go into the menu system (CSM 02) to change the autofocus from single servo to continuous servo. My D2X and D200 have a switch on the outside of the body that allow me two toggle between the two modes. The D80 solves this problem by placing a button on the top of the camera that allows me to go between AF-S, AF-C and AF-Auto. I haven�t used the AF-Auto function yet (it is supposed to automatically determine if your subject is moving), but am very pleased with the ability to quickly switch between AF-S and AF-C. This places the D80 into the realm of semi-professional use as far as I�m concerned.

The battery of the D80 is the same as I use in the D200, so that means I don�t have to carry another battery charger around in my camera bag. Battery Life in the D80 is better than the D200, but not as good as the D70 or D2X. I find that when shooting with the D200 I have to change batteries about once every 4 hours. With the D80, I went almost an entire day on one battery. Pretty good, but still not as good as the D70 or D2X. With both of those cameras, I can shoot 1 1/2 to two days on one battery.

If you are looking at buying a D80, be sure to know that it uses SD memory cards rather than CF cards. Some folks think that�s a demerit for the D80, however I disagree. I purchased some 1 GB SD cards for a very low price and they are so small that they fit just about anywhere in my camera bag. Now that I�ve been using the SD cards for about a month, I find that I like them a lot! I actually hope that more cameras start using this smaller format. It makes for a smaller camera body and you don�t have to dedicate as much space in your camera bag for CF cards.

The D80 has all the same metering and exposure modes that the D70 and D200 have, with the exception of the matrix meter. Nikon has installed the 420 element matrix meter rather than the 1005 element matrix meter found in the D70, D200 and D2X. I don�t think it is a big deal and enjoyed great results with the D80�s metering system last week. The great thing about the D80 is that it uses the 2nd generation matrix meter (matrix meter II) and does a superb job judging exposure.

The viewfinder on the D80 is large and bright compared to the D70. Any of us who are getting older (that�s all of us, right?) know how valuable it is to be able to accurately focus and compose our photos. The D80 makes this so much easier with the larger viewfinder. Thank you Nikon!

The playback screen is nice and large with good color and fidelity. One of the new features I like is the zooming function. To zoom in on the picture with other Nikon bodies, you have to push one button and rotate the command dial in order to zoom. Now with the D80, all you have to do is press the �Plus Zoom� button to go in closer or the �Minus Zoom� button to zoom out. It is intuitive and easy.

One of the neater things about the D80 is that it has a programmable Function button like the D200. Specifically, you can program this button to do one of many things such as activate your spot meter, turn off your flash, change your autofocus mode or display your ISO inside the viewfinder. Right now, I have mine programmed so it changes my meter to spot meter mode when pressed.

Finally, the only major flaw I see on the D80 is that I can�t immediately change aperture or shutter speed on the camera after taking a photo. The reason for this is that the command dials allow you to quickly jump through the different playback screens (histogram, highlights, etc) and photographs by rotating them left and right while the picture is being shown on the camera. There are two ways around this. First, you can just press your shutter release button to clear the playback screen. Second, you can turn off the playback function all together in CSM 06. This isn�t a deal breaker, but it is frustrating since all my other Nikon digital cameras allowed me to do this.

All-in-all, I am very impressed with the D80 and have already recommended it to lots of people. In fact, the D80 that I just purchased is going to be used by my wife in her photography. She finds that the smaller body size fits perfect with her hands. I�ll be stealing it from her when I need a super-light-weight camera that packs a punch!

Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VR
Oh man, what a nice lens this is. I�ve owned the 80-200 f2.8 lens for a number of years and have always been impressed with it. However, even with the f2.8 speed, I was always finding situations where I needed to operate without a tripod and hand-hold the shot. So, succumbed to the pressure and purchased the new 70-200 f2.8 VR.

VR stands for Vibration Reduction and allows you to hand hold the photograph at a shutter speed much lower than you normally would be able to. For example, in the past, if I was handholding my lens at 200mm, I�d need to make sure my shutter speed was at least 1/250sec or faster to ensure a sharp picture. Since purchasing this new lens, I�m routinely taking shots down to 1/60sec (sometimes slower) and getting good results.

This lens also works very well with the Nikon Teleconverters. I have the TC1.4E and the TC2.0E. The 1.4x makes this lens behave like a 100 – 300mm f4 and the 2.0x makes it behave like a 140 -400mm f5.6. Of course, you still get the VR capability and the fast focus of the AF-S (silent wave motor). I photographed some snowy plovers flying around on the Oregon Coast last month and the lens focused very well when they were in flight.

This lens is awesome.

Nikon 50mm f1.8
For the price, this has to be the best lens deal on the planet. I paid somewhere around $110 and haven�t regretted it since. There are many times in photography when you need an extremely narrow depth of field or you need photograph in very dim ambient light. This lens does both of those very well due to its f1.8 aperture.

In the few weeks I�ve owned it, I�ve taken some great portraits as well as some nice street photos. It is incredibly small, and when placed on the Nikon D80, it makes for a camera that feels like a point-and-shoot after lugging around a D2X all day!

The optical quality is superb and the autofocus is fast. The only thing that might get in the way of consistent results is that the front of the lens barrel rotates when you are focusing. That�s nothing new, but since the lens is so short, it is sometimes difficult to hold the camera with your left hand and not impede the auto-focusing system.

Tamron 28-75mm f2.8
I like to travel as light as possible but I also like f2.8 lenses. For me, I�ve always tended to opt for the lighter weight lens over the f2.8 lens just so I don�t have to pack as much weight around. For many years, I�ve been using the Nikon 24-120mm lens as my main travel lens, but I�ve missed quite a few shots because it wasn�t f2.8.

Nikon has some superb f2.8 lenses in the 17-55 and 28-70 range too, however they are very large. For example, the Nikon 28-70mm f2.8 weighs two pounds!

I�ve always wished someone would find a way to make lighter f2.8 lenses. Now with the APS sized CCDs used in Nikon�s cameras, lenses don�t have to have as much glass in them to cover the image plane. Tamron recently has created a new 28-75mm f2.8 lens that weighs just 1 1/4 pounds and uses a smaller 67mm front filter. I tried the lens out at the store, and then bought it to see how it works in the real world.

So far I�ve been impressed with its optical performance and its fast focusing speed. It is a great lens for traveling and the f2.8 speed is excellent. I�ve replaced my older 24-120 with this new 28-75 and have made some great low-light shots that I normally would pass by.

However, from a build quality perspective, Tamron has some homework to do. The lens feels cheap and the lens shade is difficult to take on and off. But, for the price ($380) and weight, I�ll put up with some of the inconveniences as long as it continues producing excellent quality results.

Think Tank Airport Security Camera Bag
I travel a lot and have been looking for a camera case on wheels for quite some time. I�ve also been using Think Tank Photo�s products for a while now and have been extremely impressed with their quality. So, I decided to spring for their Airport Security camera bag.

After working with it for a while, calling it a camera bag seems trite. Really, it should be labeled a �gear transport system.� The design that went into the bag is phenomenal and I�m still discovering its secrets. Think Tank creates their products with the knowledge that everyone has different needs and therefore offers infinite ways to configure the gear compartment. It was delivered with around 30 divider panels that can be swapped in and out and rearranged to your heart�s content. I spent about twenty minutes setting up the pack to fit four camera bodies, a bunch of lenses, batteries, filters, three flashes, chargers and storage devices and I still have space available inside! I guess I need to go buy more gear.

So far, I�ve been impressed with the strength of materials, the excellent zippers and the fit/finish. The best part about the Airport Security is that it doesn�t look like a camera bag! You can�t distinguish between the camera bag and my regular luggage. It all looks the same.

Some of the things I like about this bag are:
– Lockable zippers and an integrated steel cable to allow locking to immovable objects.
– Cavernous interior, yet the bag still fits in the airplane carryon compartments.
– Retractable handle for pulling the case.
– Large rolling wheels.
– The interior of the bag can be totally removed so I can use the case for other purposes.
– Exterior tripod storage.
– Handles on all sides to allow for easy manipulation of bag when stowing it.
– Waterproof nylon cover to protect contents when it�s raining!

Think Tank Speed Racer
For the last decade, my Lowe Pro Orion AW has been a staple for me on my travels. It has done an excellent job of holding a camera body, three lenses and a flash. Now that my 70-200 has come into the picture, it is longer than my older 80-200 f2.8 and doesn�t fit in my Orion AW.

So, off to Think Tank Photo I go! The Speed Racer is designed to hold the 70-200, along with a camera body, two other lenses and a flash. I used this setup last weekend when photographing my son�s soccer match and was impressed with the fit of the bag and how quickly I could access my gear. A lot of times when you are photographing on the sidelines of a game, you need to get up and quickly move to another spot. Since I like to move around, I keep the bag attached to my body most of the time. In this situation, it is important that the bag is comfortable. The Speed Racer has a large waist belt and fits superbly. It didn�t sag low and it moved well as I traveled up and down the field.

The Speed Racer also has the ability to accept all the modular cases from Think Tank�s lineup. Since my Pro Modulus bags work with the Speed Racer, that means is I can add extra capacity just by attaching additional cases to the belt. It is a very nice design.

By the way, if you want to buy any Think Tank products, enter this code on their order page: WS-015 and you can get a freebie modular case if you buy something worth $50 or more. You can buy their stuff at www.thinktankphoto.com or you can also find it in most higher-end camera stores.

Workshop Updates:

Portrait Photography Workshops
Our most recent Portrait Photography workshop was last month and we had a ball. If you are interested in learning how to take great portraits, this two-day workshop is for you. We�ll spend a lot of time covering lighting setup, gear choices, posing methods and portrait technique. This is a great hands-on workshop with lots of time dedicated to taking photos. Our last Portrait workshops for 2006 are scheduled for 11/10 – 11/11 in Portland, 11/17 – 11/18 in Seattle. Go here for more details: www.outthereimages.com/portrait_workshop.html

D80 Workshops The replacement camera for the D70 is a fantastic system. I�ve purchased a D80 for my own use and will be leading new workshops in 2007 on this great camera. Check here for more information and future dates: www.outthereimages.com/D80_Workshop.html.

Nikonians Workshops
Our 2006 Nikonians workshops are more popular than ever. We just finished up the Seattle and Vancouver, BC workshops in July and are looking forward to the Autumn workshops in New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Chicago. Sign up now while there is still space available because many have already sold out. We’ll be offering four different workshops in major cities throughout the USA. To sign up for a workshop, follow this link: www.greaterphoto.com. Our workshop offerings will be:
– Photoshop for Photographers
– Nikon Capture NX
– Nikon D70
– iTTL Flash system.

The dates and cities will be:

Oct 5-8 New York
Oct 12-15 Philadelphia
Oct 19-22 Washington DC (at Penn Camera)
Nov 2-5 Chicago area

Photoshop Workshops
2007 will bring a whole new series of Photoshop instruction. These workshops are a great way to learn Photoshop while using practical, real world examples that photographers face each day. We have three levels of Photoshop instruction � Photoshop I, II, and III. Take them one at a time or take them as a group of two or more and get a 10% discount. Go here for more information: www.outthereimages.com/photoshop_workshop.html (Note: If you can�t make the Seattle/Portland workshops, then you might check out our Nikonians Photoshop workshops around the country at www.greaterphoto.com.)

Digital Workflow
The last Digital Workflow workshop for 2006 was September 14th in Seattle, WA. We�re scheduling more for 2007. This workshop covers topics that every digital photographer struggles with: questions such as how to manage those thousands of digital photos, how to profile and calibrate your system and how to automate your workflow so you don’t spend so much time at your computer. This workshop provides great “nuts and bolts” tutorials in a hands-on environment to make sure you learn the topics. We�ll be using programs such as iView Media Pro, Photoshop Bridge/Browser and many other programs to manage our digital assets. I guarantee you’ll enjoy this day of learning. Go here for more details: www.outthereimages.com/D70_workshop.html

Nikon D70 Workshops
We have D70 workshops still scheduled for New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Chicago in the months of October and November. After that, we�re done until 2007 for these workshops. Updated schedules and course outlines are posted here: www.outthereimages.com/D70_workshop.html

The Art of Travel Workshops
Want to learn how to take great travel photos? The Art of Travel Workshop in September 2006 was some of the most fun I�ve had in photography. Our premier Art of Travel workshops will be expanded for 2007 and will include new locations in the USA. Our focus will be on creating stunning travel photos in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. At these workshops, we divide our time between classroom study and outdoor photography field sessions. We�ll cover digital workflow, field photography techniques, printing methods, and much, much more. Go here for more details: www.outthereimages.com/travel_workshop.html

Nikon D200 Workshops
We�ll have many more D200 workshops scheduled for 2007. This new digital camera from Nikon is a fantastic professional system. Its image quality is superb and it has an unparalleled feature set for the price. Nikon has truly hit a home run with the D200. Come to our workshop to learn all the important features so you can optimize its performance to your shooting style. Follow this link for more information: www.outthereimages.com/D200_workshop.html

Nikon iTTL Flash Workshops
If you’ve ever been frustrated trying to get your flash photography to look natural, then you need to attend this workshop. We spend all day learning the ins and outs of the Nikon’s SB600 and SB800 flashes. You’ll never again have to struggle with these flashes. More info at: www.outthereimages.com/ittl_workshop.html

Nikon D2X/D2Hs
Nikon’s flagship cameras are marvels of engineering and capable of amazing results. We have created these two-day workshops to cater to those of you looking for professional level instruction on these incredible cameras. Learn how to use the outstanding white balance capabilities, multiple exposures, in-camera photo overlays and its lightning fast autofocus system during this feature packed two-day event. More info is posted here: www.outthereimages.com/D2_workshop.html.

Private Tutoring
Each month, more and more of you are signing up for private workshops. These have become very popular and are an affordable way for you to learn specifically what you want to learn in a one-on-one environment. During these sessions, we are able to work specifically on your own photographic needs and at your own pace. Available topics are Studio Lighting, Nature Photography, Wedding photography, Photoshop, color management, digital workflow, flash photography, portraiture, etc. Many of our customers have requested specific topics and we have tailored our private tutoring to their needs. Call (360) 750-1103 or email ([email protected]) if you have questions about this option.

Keep getting out there and taking photos my friends. The best place to learn about photography is in the field, so I encourage you to Get Out And Learn!

Best regards,

Mike Hagen
Out There Images – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335
[email protected]

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