Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
This is truly a season for joy and happiness and I hope this newsletter finds you enthusiastic about life. We have so much to be thankful for and my wish for you is that you take this time to express your thanks for all the good things in your life.
Many good things have been happening here at Out There Images, Inc. As lots of you already know, an organization called the Nikonians (www.nikonians.org) has hired me to serve as their managing director for North American operations. This means that I�ll be creating their new workshops and operating a new training center called the Nikonians Academy (www.greaterphoto.com). This is an exciting opportunity and I am enthusiastic to take on this new challenge. My duties start on December 1st and will continue as long as they feel I�m doing a good job.
I will still be running and operating Out There Images, Inc. and will continue to run workshops in my own company. Anyone who has signed up for our 2007 workshops (flash workshops, camera workshops, digital workflow, Art of Travel, etc.) can still count on those events taking place. I guarantee they will be better than ever and will continue to be among the best workshops possible!
Are you looking for a great Christmas gift? Why don�t you buy your spouse or friend a workshop gift certificate! Contact us at [email protected] to buy one or find out more details.
On another topic, if you are looking for a place to print your Christmas photos, I�d like to give a plug to a great photo printing lab called Color Incorporated (www.colorincprolab.com). The owners, Tim and Deanna Kasberger have a great business philosophy and treat their customers with ultimate respect. They print with the newest technology equipment and will help you solve just about any problem you come across. Their website is easy to use and they offer fast turnaround with excellent professional quality.
I�m sure you all did your GOAL (Get Out And Learn) assignment from last month, right? The only way to learn is to practice, so my hope is encourage you do something every day to keep learning.
November�s GOAL assignment was to come up with some methods to get saturated colors in your photographs. I wanted you to take photographs of a flower, a landscape and a person while ensuring that your photos were fully saturated with color.
What a lot of photographers don�t realize is that colorful photos take a lot of work to accomplish. Most snapshots just don�t have the pizzaz that we expected to see. There are many reasons for this, so let me go through some of them and provide some solutions as well.
1. One of the first reasons for flat colors in your images has to do with atmospheric haze. The more atmosphere (air) you shoot through, the lower the contrast and color intensity in your photographs. In the little town where I live we have a great view of a mountain called Mt. Rainier. It is perfectly situated so that it forms a magnificent backdrop over the small harbor full of fishing boats, sail boats and yachts. It is the quintessential travel shot, however I�ve had a heck of a time getting just the right combination of light and haze-less days to take the photo. During the summer months, there are many cloudless days, but there aren�t that many haze-less days.
Haze is frequently the most common shot killer and almost always robs the scene of its saturated colors. So, what are the solutions to this? Quite simply, the answer is to wait for a haze free day. This normally happens after a big rain storm blows through or after a major shift in weather. I know from experience that the day after a rain storm will produce crystal clear skies. I also know that I have to act fast to take my photos, because two days after the rainstorm, the haze levels in the sky increases to the point where I can�t get great colors. So, the next time you see a shift in the weather, get out and take your mountain photo!
2. A decent workaround for hazy days is to use a polarizer filter. A polarizer does a number of things for your photographs. The first (and most obvious) is to give more contrast between a blue sky and white clouds. The second use is to reduce reflections from surfaces such as plants, windows and water. The third thing a polarizer does is help eliminate the effects of atmospheric haze. I recommend adding a circular polarizer to your camera bag right away. I personally use B+W brand and the Moose filter (http://www.thkphoto.com/products/moose/index.html). For those of you who want a more detailed look at polarizers, I recommend this site: http://www.mat.uc.pt/~rps/photos/filters_uv_pol/.
3. Another recommendation to saturate your photographs is to get closer. Frequently when I�m traveling, I�ll find a great building or landmark to photograph, but I know that I can�t photograph it from a mile away if I want the colors to be saturated. Rather, I need to get right up close to it. For example, I was in Japan a few years ago and was taking photos of Tokyo harbor (see images to the left). I wanted to capture the environment and some of the boat colors, however I was quite a distance away from the greens and reds of the boats. They just didn�t come through in the final image. Later in the day, I found a nice red building in front of green plants and decided to get close them for the shot. Notice how the reds and greens really pop! Think �30mm lens� rather than �300mm lens.�
4. It is well known to many professional photographers that if you want to saturate the colors in your image, then under expose a little bit. In the Mt. Rainier photograph to the left, I metered for the clouds but decided to under expose them by about 2/3 of a stop from where they should have been exposed. If I had exposed 2/3 of a stop brighter, the shadow detail might have come out a little better in the trees, but the nice pink sky would have been washed out.
5. Photograph flowers on an overcast day. Macro photographs really benefit from the light on overcast days. If you allow direct mid-day sun to fall on your flowers, parts of it will be totally blown out and parts of it will be lost in shadows. Overcast lighting illuminates everything evenly and help your colors really shine through.
6. Optimize your camera�s menu settings for saturated colors. Most cameras have a menu item in them called �Optimize Image� which allow you to change the Color Mode and Saturation levels. Typically you can choose from Color Mode I, Mode II or Mode III. Each of these Modes relates to color saturation. Mode III is the most color saturated of the three choices, so use this one if you want that color to come through. Beyond that, your camera frequently will allow you to choose �Enhanced Saturation� in the optimization menus. Use this to add even more punch to your colors.
There you have it! Six simple ways to add saturation to your images. Now get out and take some saturated color pics!
December 2006 GOAL Assignment
Whenever I photograph a new subject, I like to force myself to find the picture within the picture. I try to not be satisfied with my first shutter click and always force myself to look for more. I look for more detail, better lighting, better composition and better backgrounds. I do this by changing my lenses, changing my position, changing my height and even waiting until a different time of day.
For example, on a recent trip to an outdoor museum, I found this old Ford sitting under a carport. I photographed it in its environment and the shot came out pretty well. However, after a little bit of searching, I found a shot I liked better. The second photograph here is of the front grille. I like the colors, the saturation and the simplicity. This is what I call finding a picture within a picture.
Your GOAL (Get Out And Learn) assignment for December is to find three pictures within a picture. Look in your backyard. Look at the Christmas tree. Look on your favorite hiking trail. I�ll post the results of my �picture within a picture� photo adventure in next month�s newsletter!
Photo Techniques: Why Won�t My Hand-held Light Meter Work with My TTL Flash?
Over the last few months I�ve led six workshops that deal with flash photography. In every workshop there has been quite a bit of confusion about how to properly meter for flash photography. More specifically, people want to know how to meter for TTL flash photography. Lots of people are noticing that TTL flash doesn�t always give the best final exposure. In fact, many folks are finding that they are getting very dark images or very bright overexposed images when they use their TTL flash.
Understanding flash photography can be a daunting challenge. I remember when I first started photography, I�d put my flash on my camera and hope that somehow the camera would figure everything out. I also remember doing early assignments for magazines where I would show up for the photo shoot and confidently hook my flash up to a cable, place it behind an umbrella in TTL mode and snap away. On the outside I exuded confidence, but on the inside, I was biting my finger nails because I had absolutely no idea how my flash was working. I didn�t know if I should expect overexposed, underexposed or perfectly exposed photos.
Now, many years down the road (and lots of embarrassing photos later), I have come to the conclusion that there is no room in professional photography for winging it and hoping that the camera gets it right. Winging it is a quick path to the poorhouse. Flash photography is like anything else in life, if you want excellent results, then you have to work hard at achieving excellence.
Since TTL flash photography can be confusing, many people have asked why you can�t just use a handheld light meter like a Sekonic L-358 (see image to left) to figure out the TTL flash exposure. The answer is, you can�t! It is not possible to use your handheld light meter to tell you the correct shutter speed and aperture for your camera when your flash is in TTL (or TTL BL) mode. Why?
The first thing you have to understand is that TTL flash mode is an automatic flash mode where your camera tries to figure out the correct flash output for every scene. The TTL exposure system�s purpose in life is to give you a medium brightness exposure. In other words, if you were photographing a medium brightness scene like a granite rock or a small patch of green grass, then the flash exposure system would work really hard to expose it for medium brightness. In other words, it would give you a histogram in the middle of the graph. Look at the photo to the left of the gray card. You can see that the histogram is smack dab in the middle of the graph. The TTL meter did a great job!
In fact, the TTL system will try to expose most everything as medium brightness. For example, if you photograph a brighter object like a Caucasian�s face, then the TTL system will sometimes expose it as medium brightness (gray). If you photograph a dark brown suit, then the TTL system will sometimes expose it as a medium brightness brown suit.
Now that you know the TTL system automatically tries to figure out the exposure, you need to understand how it figures it out. Most TTL systems do this by sending out a preflash before the camera�s shutter opens. This preflash bounces off the subject (Uncle Fred) and then back to the camera�s metering system. The camera�s exposure system measures the brightness of the reflected light before the shutter opens and then uses that to quickly recalculate how much flash it needs for the real photograph. At this point, the shutter opens and the camera fires the real flash. If everything went well, then your TTL system gives you a properly exposed photograph. More precisely, it gives you a medium brightness photograph.
It is the preflash that throws a wrench in the hand-held light meter�s decision process. Let�s say that you want to use the hand-held light meter to perform some flash measurements. In TTL mode, the camera sends out the pre-flash and then the real flash. In other words, it sends out at least two flash pulses. The handheld light meter doesn�t have any way to determine which of those flashes it was supposed to measure. So, it just adds all the flash pulses together. All the light that the flash meter �saw� was added to its calculation. In camera�s final picture though, only the secondary pulse of light from the flash was added to the picture.
Also, since your camera is working in TTL mode, every shot that it takes it is trying to modify the flash output to give you a medium brightness photograph. In other words, the flash output changes from shot to shot depending on your composition. Even small changes in the scene can result in changes in flash output. Let�s say that you are taking a photograph of Michael Jackson for his new Christmas music album. On the first shot, Michael�s hand with the white glove is showing but in the second shot, all you see is his black dance outfit (no glove). Since the photograph with Jacko�s hand reflects more light than the photo without his hand, then the flash output will be less on the �hand� shot and more on just the dance outfit shot.
You can see how taking a light meter reading on one photo and then hoping that is the correct meter reading on another photo is just not plausible. If you were able to take the TTL meter reading and then set your camera to the aperture and shutter speed that the meter tells you to, and then Michael Jackson pulls his hand out of his pocket, you�ve got problems because the camera recalculates a new baseline for medium brightness.
Long story short: you can�t use your handheld flash meter when your flashes are in TTL mode. The only way it really makes sense to use your meter is when you are in Manual flash mode. In this setting, your flash only puts out one pulse of light and the flash meter will then give you the appropriate shutter speed and aperture. (There are some other applications for using the flash meter when your flash is set for Auto Flash or Auto Aperture mode, but we won�t go into that here.)
In Manual flash mode, the flash output is always constant, so you aren�t chasing a moving target. The assumption is that your flash is fixed in a single spot and your subject is the same distance away from the flash for every photograph. In this situation, when you take your meter reading from the handheld light meter, you can set your shutter speed and aperture and be done with it. This is very accurate and probably the best way to meter a scene, but doesn�t allow any movement. TTL allows for quick, automatic exposures, but they aren�t the most accurate.
One more discussion point for flash meters. Those of you who use the new Nikon wireless flash system might know that you can set your wireless flashes to operate in �Manual� mode. What this means is that your Commander flash is telling your Remote flash to always put out a fixed amount of power. For example, if your Commander flash told your SB-800 Remote flash to fire at 1/64th power, then the Remote flash would fire at 1/64th power. Simple right? So, since we can set up a Nikon wireless flash in manual mode, then it should follow that we can now use the handheld flash meter to judge the exposure. Right?
The Nikon wireless flash system uses pulses of light to communicate between flash units. It operates kind of like a Morse code system and each flash in the system sends signals back and forth between the Commander and Remote flashes. If you look at the picture to the left, you will see the firing sequence of the Commander flash as it �speaks� to the Remote flashes. If you were using a Remote flash in manual mode, then it still sends out the Morse code communication to hand shake with it and get it to fire. You can see that a handheld light meter again wouldn�t be able to figure out which pulse of light to measure and would end up just adding up every pulse of light to give you a shutter speed and aperture.
Again, a hand-held flash meter is only operable if your flashes are in the most basic Manual mode. Not wireless manual or TTL mode. Manual. Manual. Manual!
For more information on using your Nikon flash, I encourage you to take a look at our Nikon flash book here: www.outthereimages.com/publishing.html
We have finalized our 2007 Out There Images, Inc. workshop schedule and are looking forward to another year of great photography and even greater workshops!
Nikon iTTL Flash Workshops
These are some of our most popular workshops and we�ve set up a few of them for 2007. 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
We are going to be offering topics such as D80/D70, D2X, D200, Nikon Capture NX and Nikon iTTL wireless flash through the www.nikonians.org. We�ll be running them in cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Las Vegas, Houston, Dallas, Boston, New York, Washington DC and Chicago. Throughout the year we�ll also be adding more topics and cities as we add qualified instructors. Our dates are posted here: www.greaterphoto.com.
D80 and D70 Workshops
We have now combined our D70 and D80 workshops for 2007. We�ll be offering these in the Seattle, WA and Portland, OR areas through Out There Images, Inc. Additionally, we�ll be offering these through the Nikonians (www.nikonians.org) in cities all across the USA. Go here for more details: www.outthereimages.com/D80_workshop.html or www.outthereimages.com/D70_workshop.html.
Nikon D200 Workshops
The D200 is an extremely popular camera and for good reason! It is one of the nicest cameras I�ve ever used. We are going to offer D200 workshops in Seattle, WA and Portland, OR and are also offering an extensive workshop schedule with the Nikonians around the USA. Our first D200 workshops in the NW are scheduled for January 2007. Go here for more details: www.outthereimages.com/D200_workshop.html
The next Digital Workflow Workshops is scheduled for February 16th, 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/digital_workflow.html
The Art of Travel Workshops
Join us for a photographic adventure in 2007! Learn how to turn your next vacation into an artistic event with our Art of Travel Photography Workshops. The locations we have right now are Columbia River Gorge waterfalls and spring bloom 4/26/07 ~ 4/29/07. North Cascades NP and Mazama 9/20/07 ~ 9/23/07. Beyond these travel workshops, we are considering adding more throughout the USA in other pretty locations. Go here for more details: www.outthereimages.com/travel_workshop.html
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.
We love photography and are happy to share our passion with you. If you ever have questions or need any assistance, please feel free to contact us at any time! We are always happy to help.
Have a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
Out There Images, Inc. – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335