Greetings all! It has been a month full of photography for me and I hope that you�ve also been out shooting. This month, I�ve photographed beaches, hiking trails, sand dunes, bridges, boats, family portraits, Minor League Baseball and lighthouses. Whew!
I�ve also been pretty busy with my other job as Director of the Nikonians Academy (www.nikoniansacademy.com). I have hired three additional instructors to teach our workshops around the USA. These guys are all professional photographers and are also some of the best photo instructors in the country. I am proud to have them on board as partners. They are:
– Winston Hall (www.tunerphotography.com)
– Darryll Schiff (www.schiffphoto.com)
– Carmine Picarello (www.picarellophoto.com)
We�ve expanded our Nikonians workshops to a huge number of cities all around the USA and Canada. Topics include D200, D80/D70, iTTL Flash, D2X, Nikon Capture NX, Digital Printing and Fine Art photography. In addition to the new photographers and workshops, I�m also putting together some larger trips such as African safaris and European photo tours for our 2008 Nikonians Schedule. We are going to have great fun travelling around the globe together!
In other news, I am continuing to make progress on my new book titled �Digital Asset Management for the Rest of Us�. It should be published at the end of summer/beginning of fall. This book will be written to help you determine the very best way to organize, file, keyword and store all your digital images. You�re going to like it!
July 2007 GOAL Assignment: Getting Sharp Action Photos
Last month, I asked you to shoot some action photos with the goal to get sharp images. The purpose was to shoot a series of pictures of something running towards you or away from you. A number of you wrote me and sent me links to the images you took. It is exciting to see how many of you participate in the monthly Get Out And Learn assignments! Some of the shots you took were great. Others � not so much. But that�s part of what makes learning so fun! We get to try, and then try some more until we achieve success.
So, how do we photograph great action sequences? Here are some of my thoughts and recommendations.
There is a direct interaction between your camera, your lens, your mind and your body. I know, I sound like some kind of self-help guru, but it�s true. You have to coordinate your mind with your hand as well as fully understand the technology you are working with.
One of the misconceptions about autofocus is that it should just work as long as you point it in the direction of your photo. The truth is that autofocus doesn�t work well at all, unless you understand its limitations.
Autofocus modes these days generally come in two varieties, �Continuous Servo� autofocus and �Single Servo� autofocus. Continuous servo allows the camera to continuously track your subject as it moves. It never stops focusing and continuously changes with your subject�s distance from the camera.
Single servo focuses on an object and then stops focusing. Single should be used in situations where you want to focus and then recompose. For example, maybe you are photographing a flower and want to place it on the left side of the picture. You focus on the flower, lock the focus and then re-aim the camera so the flower is on the left. You don�t use Single Servo autofocus for shooting action sequences.
Since Continuous Servo will continually track a subject, it is obviously best suited to sports or action photography. For example, let�s say that you are photographing a baseball player running down the first base line. Continuous servo will track him as he runs towards you. The focus motor (i.e. servo) continually rotates and keeps the baseball player focused. Look at the photos to the left to see a sequence of shots taken in Continuous Servo autofocus.
Choosing continuous servo on a professional camera body is easy since there�s almost always a switch or button on the outside. For example, the D200 and D2X have a switch on the bottom of the camera marked C, S, M. The C stands for continuous. On pro-sumer camera models, you�ll generally have to go into the camera�s menu system and choose either �AF-S� or �AF-C�. Again, the C stands for continuous.
The next thing that helps us get good action photos is using a lens that focuses fast. In general, f2.8 lenses acquire focus extremely quickly and are able to track focus very well. When photographing action sequences, I�m almost always using my f2.8 lenses. I�ve done a great job of tracking action with slower f5.6 lenses too. The key is to make sure that your subject is in bright light and that your subject contrasts nicely with the background. If your subject blends in with the background, such as a green jersey against green grass, then you�re going to have problems with autofocus tracking.
Another thing that really helps your lens focus fast is a silent wave motor. Most lenses these days have either a mechanical drive motor or a silent wave motor. The mechanical drive autofocus lenses are actually powered by the camera body. They have a little gear that engages with the camera that then turns the focusing ring on the lens. This system can sometimes be a bit slow and can cause your image to become out of focus because the camera can�t keep up with the action.
Silent wave motors are actually built into the lens itself and are very quick to focus. Most professional sports photographers use these lenses because they are so quick. Nikon lenses use the �AF-S� designation and Canon uses �USM� designation to indicate that the lens is silent wave. So, what are you to do if you don�t have an AF-S lens? Learn to use what you have and fully understand its limitation. You�ll just have to make sure the subject is in focus and the camera has had enough time to lock on before you start taking pictures.
The next topic to consider for getting sharp action sequences is shutter speed. You could have done everything right up to this point but still come away with soft, blurry shots because your shutter speed was too slow. Perhaps your lens was focused properly, but the subject moved while the shutter was open which created a blurry photograph. For example, I was shooting photos at a Minor League Baseball game last week and wanted to get some shots of the players during the action. I made sure that my shutter speed was at least 1/500 sec. Even then, I noticed motion blur, so I ended up increasing my ISO to 400 in order to get shutter speeds up to 1/1250 sec. It was only then when my shots started to look really crisp. At the other end of the spectrum, I took some shots at 1/15 sec of the pitcher as he threw the ball that came out looking pretty neat. The pitcher was in focus, but his motion caused the blur.
So, here are the steps to getting sharp action sequences:
1. Set your camera to continuous autofocus (also called AF-C).
2. Use a fast shutter speed around 1/500 or 1/1000 sec.
3. Aim your camera at the subject and acquire focus before the action sequence starts. Do this by pressing the shutter release or AF-ON button and holding it down.
4. Keep your finger on the shutter release (or AF-ON button) during the entire sequence.
5. Keep your active autofocus sensor directly on the subject. Think of your autofocus sensor as your gun sight. If you move the sight off the target, you miss the shot.
6. Pan at the same rate as the subject and follow through with the motion even after you have stopped shooting.
7. Hold your camera very steady. No wobbles or shaky movements.
8. Learn to anticipate the action. Start focusing early because most of the time your camera won�t be able to acquire focus if the action has already started.
August 2007 GOAL Assignment: Shooting Landscapes After Sunset
Your Get Out And Learn assignment this month is to take some photographs after the sun sets! This is one of the most magical times of day to take photographs and can never get enough of it. Next month, I�ll give you some great tips and tricks for getting stellar shots after the sun has gone to rest. Check out the seascape image to the left to see what I�m talking about!
Photo Techniques: Losing my creativity. Going stale. What to do about it?
(note: see images to the left)
A gentleman who had attended one of my workshops a few years ago wrote me an email last week that went something like this: �Mike, I�ve improved at my photography, but feel like I�m getting stale. I love to take pictures, but am bored with the images I�m currently shooting. I�m losing my creativity. What do you suggest?�
Surprisingly, I�ve received a number of comments like this from people over the years and I think that just about everyone suffers from this malady every once in a while. Keeping yourself motivated and enthusiastic about photography can be an uphill battle; especially since technology is changing so quickly and we all feel the need to keep up with the Joneses.
One of the best ways I�ve found to get out of my �Stale Mode� is give myself a new goal. For example, years before I had become a professional photographer, I also felt like my photography didn�t have a purpose or a focus. I was tired of shooting the same old thing, so I gave myself a goal to publish a photograph in a magazine or newspaper by the end of the year. This goal set me in motion in a way that I hadn�t experienced before. All of a sudden I had to do a critical review of my portfolio and I had to prepare images to show magazine editors. It added excitement, urgency and a sense of accomplishment to my photography. It gave me a reason to improve and a reason to keep trying.
If you aren�t interested in getting published, then find another goal that appeals to you. For example, offer to donate some pictures to a local charity or take pics of your neighbor�s pets.
It could also be something as simple as just photographing a different subject matter. For example, rather than take landscape photos, I�ll decide to focus entirely on portraits of people on the street. Perhaps I�ll take photos of shoes or mushrooms. Or I�ll grab some flowers from my garden and bring them into the kitchen. Take studio shots. Go down to the old lady’s house at the corner and ask her if you can take photos of her while she’s gardening. Better yet, do some gardening for her and ask her if you can take images of her flowers. Then, give the photos to her as a gift.
Photography needs to be fun in order for us to keep our interest. Most photographers don�t rely on photography to pay their mortgages, so the reason they do it is to provide excitement and pleasure to their lives. If photography has stopped being fun for you, then it is time to reassess your motives. It is time to try to understand why you are doing it. For me, it is a passion. I do it because I enjoy the challenge of creating art. I enjoy the perfect blend of art and science.
As an example of a new subject I�ve been working on lately, I�ve started taking photographs of the industrial and cargo shipping areas of Tacoma, Washington. Why? I don�t know. Just because it helps keep my interest in photography and I enjoy finding new photo subjects. See the photos to the left to see some new shots of the Foss Waterway in Tacoma.
By trying something totally new or out of your comfort zone, it forces you to learn a new technique or method. It also forces you to be creative in a different way. There are a million ways to expand your mind with photography; all it takes is a tiny bit of motivation to try something new. You might be surprised with the results!
Digital Tidbits: Recovering from a Salt Water Dousing. Last week I was out taking photographs of the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge and had a bit of a run-in with some salt water and my camera equipment! The brand new suspension bridge was just completed a few days prior and over 50,000 of my closest friends had celebrated the opening by walking over it. A couple days after the opening ceremony, I went out in a boat to take photos from the water for my stock files. The weather was perfectly calm and the water was smooth as glass.
As we made our way towards the bridge, I noticed a really big tug boat motoring by and decided to take some stock photos of it. The shots were decent and we continued our tour of the bridge without paying any more attention to the tug boat. A few minutes after the boat passed, we encountered the tug boat�s wake. Not just any wake, but the WAKE! One thing you should know about really big tug boats is that they make really big waves! We turned the boat towards the wake to take it on at the standard 45 degree wake attack angle (also known as WAA as you�ll see in a minute).
Unfortunately, as the photo shoot progressed that morning, I had placed all my camera gear out on the seats of the boat so I could switch lenses quickly. Using my Nikon D200 camera, I was switching between my 12-24mm, 28-75mm and my 70-200mm lenses. I also had my 1.4x TC and a few other items out as well. Additionally, I left my camera bag wide open too, so I could quickly get to any other filters or memory cards if needed.
So, there I was with all my camera gear lying on the seat of the boat while we approached the WAKE! I�ve been boating for years and have never been swamped from a boat wake, but this time, my luck ran out. As we crossed the waves, a wall of salt water crashed over the bow and doused all my camera gear. It wasn�t just a �splash� of salt water; it was a behemoth gob of salt water. I�m talking gallons and gallons of salty, corrosive, camera killing salt water! Just like the waves in Deadliest Catch. Well, not really, but it sure felt that way after I looked down at my camera gear! Everyone in the boat was dripping wet and of course, all my camera gear was sporting a nice new layer of salt water too.
A wave of panic quickly swept over me while I contemplated $5000 of ruined gear. I started to get grumpy, then I snapped out of it and instantly began cleaning off the equipment. Fortunately, we had a bunch of towels in the boat, so I used the dry corners of the towels to wipe off all of the lenses and the D200 camera body. I then peered into my camera bag and noticed a few inches of standing water in the bottom, so I took out all of its contents and dumped the water over the side of the boat.
After wiping everything down, I set all the gear back on the seat to inspect it piece by piece. It appeared as though the water hadn�t made its way into the camera body or lenses. I was amazed to see the results of Nikon�s excellent weather seals. Also, I was amazed to see that the camera was still functioning properly. I hadn�t turned off the camera during my cleaning and so it was still turned on. I decided to take a picture to find out if it would short out and to my relief, it worked! So, I continued taking pictures for the rest of the boat ride. Awesome.
As soon as we docked the boat, I headed for home to do the second round of cleaning. I set all my equipment out on a big table and used a number of cotton towels to further wipe down the lenses and camera. The first towel was soaked with fresh water and I wiped it across all the exteriors of each piece of equipment. I then immediately took a dry towel to wipe off the residue and drops of water. I did this sequence twice for each item and then let them all air dry for the rest of the day. Additionally, since my camera bag had been filled with salt water, I thoroughly wiped it out and dried it two times.
Now, one week after the salt water event, all my equipment is still working and I am relieved! I learned a few lessons from this episode:
1. Professional Nikon gear is tough and the weather proofing on the D200 works! Who would have guessed that drowning a modern digital camera with salt water would result in no damage? Kudos to Nikon for making such great equipment.
2. I got the shot! I tell people all the time that your equipment needs to be out and ready at all times. We shouldn�t be afraid to expose our camera gear to the elements, otherwise we miss great shots. Our cameras are tools and we shouldn�t be afraid to use our tools in bad weather or crazy elements. Granted, salt water isn�t the friendliest of elements, but keeping your camera gear with you at all times is the only way to get great shots.
3. Use filters. I keep filters on all my lenses when I�m out on my trips. I take the filters off when I want ultimate image resolution/quality or when I need to reduce lens flare, but in this case, I had filters on my lenses because I knew I might get salt spray on the front elements. If I didn�t have filters on this trip, all my lenses would have had buckets of salt water poured all over the front elements and that would have been bad. When I returned home, I took all my filters off and washed them and cleaned them with my lens cleaning equipment.
4. Don�t fret. Yes, losing a bunch of camera gear would have been a big bummer, but there are more important things in life to worry about. After the event, I quickly shook off my frustration and continued shooting. I got some of my nicest shots of the day after the water fiasco!
Almost all the workshops I am leading for the rest of this year are completely sold out! That is exciting for me, but frustrating for many of you who have contacted me about the next series of workshops. I am now putting together a schedule for 2008 that will have more workshops and more cities. Additionally, I have hired on a number of excellent instructors for the Nikonians Academy (www.nikoniansacademy.com) that will be teaching my curriculum all around the USA during the remainder of 2007.
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 various cities.
D80 and D70 Workshops
We have now combined our D70 and D80 workshops for 2007. Our remaining workshops this year are offered through the Nikonians (www.nikoniansacademy.com) 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. All remaining D200 workshops in 2007 are being run through the Nikonians (http://www.nikoniansacademy.com). Go here for more details on class content: www.outthereimages.com/D200_workshop.html.
Nikon iTTL Flash Workshops
These are some of our most popular workshops and sell out quickly wherever we run them. 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. The remaining workshops in 2007 will be offered through the Nikonians Academy (www.nikoniansacademy.com) More info on class content at: www.outthereimages.com/ittl_workshop.html
Private instruction is a very popular and affordable way 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, exposure theory, and more. Many of our customers have requested specific topics and we have tailored our private tutoring to their needs. Call (253) 851-9054 or email ([email protected]) if you have questions about this option.
Get out there and take some great shots this month. As always, feel free to contact us at any time if you have questions or need assistance.
Out There Images, Inc. – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335