Howdy folks! It�s been another amazing month for photography and I hope that you are outside enjoying taking photos. I�ve been so busy leading workshops around the USA and traveling that I haven�t been able to write the June newsletter until just now! Many of you have written to make sure that I�m still alive and kickin� and the answer is, yes! There are just too many pictures to take and not enough time to fit it all in.
I have recently returned from leading workshops in the New York and Boston areas. The experience was excellent and I was able to spend a few days up in Maine taking images of the lighthouses and small harbors. I even enjoyed a succulent lobster meal in a small town called York, Maine. Oh man was that good stuff. Lobster, clams and a bowl of chowder. Heaven. I�m going back the first opportunity I get!
Additionally, I just returned from 9 days volunteering up in a little village in Alaska called Unalakleet at a summer camp. My purpose was to create photography and video material that they can use in their fundraising efforts. What great fun it has been to meet lots of new people, take photos in new locations and enjoy the amazing scenery. It was an amazing opportunity to swat some mosquitoes, take amazing photos of the midnight sun and work with Alaskan youth.
I wanted to thank you all for the great response to our September Art of Travel Photography workshop. We are sold out and have formed a waiting list. We�ll soon be publishing dates for our 2008 workshop schedule which will include a number of travel workshops and some exciting new topics. Stay tuned, it�s going to be fun!
Over the next couple months I�ll be working on completing a couple of new book titles. One of which will be called �Digital Asset Management for the Rest of Us.� Additionally, I�ll be working on updating our website, creating new workshops and most importantly, taking lots of photographs!
May GOAL Assignment: Create Beautiful Photos at High Noon
(see images to the left) Your Get Out And Learn assignment for May was to see if you can take beautiful images at high noon on a bright and sunny day. As I mentioned, one of the common excuses photographers make is that we can only take pictures in �pretty light� such as the time around sunrise or sunset. I agree that the very best images happen during those golden hours, however with a little bit of effort we can take great images at any time of the day.
Being the eternal optimist that I am, I constantly tell myself that it is possible to create beautiful images at all hours. I refuse to relegate my photography to only those hours of the best light. I also work very hard to be at the right spot at the right time. if you�ve ever been on a travel photography workshop with me, you know that we wake up well before the crack of dawn so that we can capture the sunrise.
So, assuming that we can�t get out until after sunrise or wait until sunset, what are we to do when we photograph in the harsh sunshine of mid-day? Below are some of the issues we come across and some tricks I�ve used to solve those issues.
1. Extreme Contrast
Really, the biggest issue when photographing at mid-day is the very high contrast between the highlights and the shadows. For example, let�s say you are taking a landscape photograph when the sun is out. The amount of brightness difference between the light shining on the top of the trees and the light in the shadows can be as much as 10 stops or more! Your digital camera can only expose for a range of about 4 or 5 stops at best. What that means in the real world is that the highlights will probably be blown out and the shadows will be solid black. When you print this landscape photo, the shadows will end up being black blobs and the highlights will be completely white with no texture. Nice, eh?
So, how do we solve this issue? From a physics standpoint, we can�t! However there are some good electronic and software tricks we can employ to get around the limitation of our digital sensors.
One of the neatest ways to do this is to take a bunch of photographs of the same scene at different exposures and then overlay them in Photoshop. Photoshop CS, CS2 and CS3 each have a function called �Merge to HDR� which creates a high dynamic range (HDR) photograph out of a bunch of individual exposures. It is quite an amazing process to watch the first time you do it (even the twentieth time you do it)!
In order to make this process work, it is best to use a tripod so that pixels remain aligned. Next, bracket your exposures from really dark to really light. I typically bracket each photograph by about 0.7 stops and use my shutter speed to change exposures. The number of exposures you take can vary from three to ten, but I find that I end up using around four or five for most of my HDR photographs. Look at the examples to the left. The first photo shows the end result. Notice how there is detailed information in the dark water as well as detailed information on the light house and also in the clouds. This was merged together with a total of four images. The last two images show the darkest and the lightest images in my bracketed series of four.
Another way to get similar results as above is to take your image in RAW and then process it three or four times in your RAW conversion program. Each time you convert your file from the original, save a separate TIFF. Take that same image and make one conversion very dark. Make the next one medium dark. Make the third one medium and the next medium bright and finally the last one brightest. Now that you have a few TIFFs, you can use the �Merge to HDR� function to get similar results. The downside to this is that your shadows might have a bit more noise than in the first example. However, it will still be better than just taking one picture and trying to print it with blown highlights and lost shadows.
2. Hazy Skies and Unsaturated Landscape Colors
Look at the two photographs of the church (left). These two photos were both taken right at 12:30pm and the light was very hard. The first photo shows the image as it was taken with a wide angle lens and no polarizer. The photo is �good� but it really lacks punch. The second photograph looks much better because I used a polarizing filter to saturate the sky and cut any atmospheric haze.
A polarizer works best when the lens is aimed at 90 degrees to the sun. One of the easiest ways to know if your polarizer will be effective or not is to hold your hand out in front of you and make your fingers into the shape of a gun. Point the thumb at the sun. Then, rotate your hand around your thumb and anywhere your index finger points will be a candidate for polarization.
3. Raccoon Eyes on People
When taking pictures of people at mid-day, you can generally expect to see dark raccoon eyes. Here are some simple solutions for photographing people on bright sunny days: – Use fill flash. The best settings for this are to dial down your flash power to about -0.7 EV so that your flash works as a �fill� and doesn�t compete with the sun.
– Turn the person away from the sun. If you don�t have a flash, then simply turn your subjects away from the sun. Probably the easiest way to meter for this situation is to use spot meter on their cheek.
– Wait until a cloud passes overhead. Seriously. I do this a lot when I have a partly sunny day. Rather than take the pic in the harsh sun, just wait until a cloud passes to take the photo of a person.
– Put them under a tree or into the shade of a building.
– Bring them inside and shoot a window portrait.
4. Close-ups and Macros
There are many times when I�m hiking during mid-day and I find some nice flowers to take a photograph of. If you snap a shot of flowers in direct sun, the highlights will blow and the shadows will block up. So, what I like to do is to shade the flowers with my body by hovering over the spot and then take the photo while the flower is in the shade. The cool thing about this technique is that you can create shade wherever you go as long as you bring your body with you (unless you are Hans Christian Andersen�s Man Without a Shadow). Look at the photos of the cactus flowers to the left. The first was taken in direct sun. The second was taken by shading the area with my body.
In lieu of using your body to create a shadow, lots of folks bring along a diffuser screen or a simple reflector to shade the area. These work just great and allow you to move around as you take the shot rather than having to hover over the flower.
June GOAL Assignment: Serve Someone with Your Images
That�s right! You have a skill that others can use. Find a way to give away your photography in a meaningful way. Take some images down at the hospital. Give the young mother across the street some 8x10s of her new baby. Head down to the local homeless shelter and offer to take portraits for free. Supply some images for a non-profit organization that they can use in their print campaign or website. Head out on a short term mission and support those hard working folks out in the field (www.COTNI.org, www.COTNI.org )
Your Get Out And Learn (GOAL) assignment this month is to Get Out And Serve! I�ll be doing much of the same this month. In July�s newsletter I�ll show a number of examples of photos and videos I�ve recently taken in a service environment to give you some inspiration.
Digital Tidbits: Data Storage in the Field
(note: see images to the left)
Last week I was up in a remote section of Alaska working at a Covenant Youth Camp. The camp site is literally in the middle of a big river valley that flows through the Alaskan tundra. It is about as wild a place as you can imagine with regular wildlife sightings of grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, moose and caribou.
While at the youth camp, I wanted to make sure that my images were safe from any harm, so I brought along two battery powered disk drives made by a company called Wolverine. Specifically, the units I brought along were the Wolverine Flashpac 80GB units. You can find more information about the Flashpacs here: www.wolverinedata.com. I purchased the units from Costco (www.costco.com) for about $150 each.
When traveling, I think it is very important to always back up your data just in case you have an unplanned failure. After I fill up a few memory cards worth of data, I copy each of the cards to both portable hard drives so that I have redundancy. Inevitably, one of the hard drives will fail, get dropped or be stolen. Always back up your data!
Before leaving on the trip, I fully charged each of the Flashpacs so their batteries were topped off. I generally travel with one disk stored in my checked luggage and another stored in my carryon luggage. While in the Alaskan bush, downloading my photos to the Flashpacs was incredibly easy. You simply turn on the disk drive and insert your memory card. The Flashpac then asks you to press the transfer button and bingo, Your data starts transferring!
I found that it took about 45 minutes to transfer about 8 GB of data during my first download. I transferred a number of memory cards that varied in size between a 4GB CF card to a 1GB SD card. After transferring 8GB of memory, it appeared as though the battery meter on each of the Flashpacs was about 50%. That implied that I could probably transfer an additional 6GB before the batteries died, for a total of 10GB of data transfer per charge.
Honestly, I was expecting a bit more battery life. 10GB is quite a bit of data transfer, but the Flashpacs have 80GB hard drives. Obviously, if you wanted to fill up the disk on each of the Flashpacs, then you�d have to charge the batteries multiple times. If you have a steady supply of power available to you on your travels, then these Flashpacs are a great solution. If you are going somewhere for a multi-week trip without power, then you�re going to need another solution. Truthfully, most places we travel have access to regular power, so the battery life of these units doesn�t become a significant detriment. They�ll easily last for a number of card downloads until you make it to your next destination for a power source.
To put it in perspective, I was in Alaska for 9 days and took about 2700 photos. The photos were taken with the Nikon D2X and the Nikon D80. About half the shots were JPG and the other half were NEF. The Flashpacs handled this situation just fine.
When I returned to my office in Washington State, I simply hooked up one of the Flashpacs via USB cable to my computer and transferred all the information to my business storage disks. Simple and easy. All the data transferred and none of it was corrupted. Just what I expected.
So, do I recommend these little units? Yes. They performed well and I will continue to use them for backing up my data while traveling. I will definitely be bringing their charging cables along for any trip over about a week, but they will serve very well for the vast majority of my trips.
The Art of Travel Workshops
Our 9/20/07 ~ 9/23/07 North Cascades Art of Travel workshop is completely sold out and we have a started a waiting list. We�ll have many more Art of Travel workshops in 2008, so be prepared for fun, adventure and amazing photography! Go here for more details: www.outthereimages.com/travel_workshop.html
We have dramatically expanded our workshops and instructor base through the Nikonians. Please go to www.nikoniansacademy.com to see all the new cities and the new topics! We are offering topics such as Fine Art Photography, Digital Printing, D80/D70, D2X, D200, Nikon Capture NX, Nikon iTTL wireless flash through the Nikonians. If you are thinking of signing up, then you had better hurry! Seats are selling quickly and there are quite a few workshops that are already completely sold out in a few cities.
D80 and D70 Workshops
We have now combined our D70 and D80 workshops for 2007 and 2008. We are 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. Our next D200 workshops will be held in 2008 but we are also offering an extensive workshop schedule with the Nikonians around the USA. Go here for more details: www.outthereimages.com/D200_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.
I receive a lot of email from you all as you are out taking photos around our amazing planet. I sincerely thank you for reading our monthly newsletter and I hope that I can inspire you to keep shooting great images.
Now stop reading and go take some pictures!
Out There Images, Inc. – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335