Hello folks! This month marks a change to our newsletters. You�ll notice when you go to our newsletter page that each month will have its own page. I�m starting with September 2007 and will slowly work on archiving the previous pages over time. This will make them easier to read, download and print out. I know lots of you have been asking me to do this for quite a while. It�ll take me a few weeks to organize the content in this format, so please be patient.
Can you believe that it is September already? Seems like we were just talking about the lazy, hazy days of summer. Now, it is time to shift our focus to Fall and Winter photography. This month will bring me to Connecticut, Portland, Oregon and Washington�s North Cascades National Park. In Connecticut I�ll be working with a new photo instructor I�ve hired for the Nikonians Academy (www.nikoniansacademy.com). Down in Portland, I�ll be speaking at the Portland Metropolitan Photographer�s Association on September 13th as well as leading a private workshop on sports photography. Up in the North Cascades, I�ll be leading an �Art of Travel Photography� workshop based out of Mazama, Washington.
I�m always excited to travel and challenge myself to take great photographs. I can�t wait to see what great photos await me this month!
Here are some other noteworthy items I�m working on right now:
– I�ve been asked to be the Technical Editor for a new book on Photoshop Retouching. The book is being published by Wiley Book Publishers and should be completed by the end of this year.
– I�ll be leading an African Photo Safari from November 11-23, 2008 in Tanzania. Details will be posted soon at www.nikoniansacademy.com. This workshop will sell out pretty quickly since we are only going bring 12 participants. Please email me if you�d like to be placed on a waiting list and I�ll send you some more information right away. I already have seven (yes, 7) people on the waiting list.
– Our book on Digital Asset Management is still progressing. Should be ready to go this fall.
– Our 2008 workshop schedule is being planned right now. I�m hoping to have this published sometime this month. We�ll have lots and lots of cities as well as new topics.
August 2007 GOAL Assignment: Shooting After the Sun Sets
Last month I asked you to go out and take photographs after the sun has set. For me, this is one of the neatest times of day to take photos. It is always a magical moment when I take a long exposure of a very dark scene and it renders as bright as mid-day.
The key to getting great photographs after the sun sets is to fully understand what exactly it is you want to meter on. There is such a wide variety of brightness values that you can really mess up the photo by using the wrong exposure meter. For my work after dark, I rely on two meters: the matrix meter or the spot meter.
I use my matrix meter if the area I�m photographing is mostly the same brightness. For example, if the sky is consistently deep blue and the subject is about the same brightness as the sky, then Matrix meter works very well. The photos of the bird silhouette, the Space Needle and the Moonrise are examples of where I used the matrix meter.
Alternatively, if I have something that is really bright against something black, then I switch to spot meter. For example, the lunar eclipse photograph or the fireworks photos. These are high contrast photographs and will fake out your Matrix meter. It is much better to aim your spot meter at the highlight and meter on that.
The photo of the bird silhouette and the moon was taken down in Texas a few months back. I was at the end of a day hike when I noticed a huge congregation of turkey vultures flying above me, directly in front of the moon. The sun has set about twenty minutes before, so I decided to try and get a silhouette of a bird in front of the moon. When I was initially just watching the vultures, they were flying in front of the moon at the rate of about one every few seconds. Then, as soon as I brought out my camera, they refused to fly between me and the moon! So, I spent the next thirty minutes sprinting around like a mad-man trying to line up a vulture with the moon.
After a very frustrating and unfruitful photo session, I told myself that I�d just line up separate photos in Photoshop later on. So, that�s what I did for this photo. It is a composite of two separate frames. Both shots were taken at a focal length of 280mm with my D2X.
Another great type of photo to capture at night is a lunar eclipse (see photo). Last week we had a total lunar eclipse that was visible here in Washington State. We were able to watch the entire progression from full moon to full eclipse and back to full moon. The only downside of the whole event was that it took place between 2am and 5am! Being the good father that I am, I woke up my seven year-old son early in the morning so we could go out and photograph the event. He was very excited and I gave him a pair of binoculars to use while I photographed the eclipse.
I used my Gitzo 1327 CF tripod as a nice stable platform and set up my D2X with lens on top. I took all the photos with my cable release to keep camera vibration to an absolute minimum. I metered the photo with my spot meter aimed directly at the moon. One of the most difficult aspects to photographing this type of scenario is that the moon is moving fairly quickly across the sky. If you shoot an image any more than about 1 second long, then you�ll get a blurry moon! So, I set up my exposure at ISO 200 and my shutter speed at 1/2 second. I purposely underexposed the shot by one stop in order to get the faster shutter speed. My plan was to brighten the exposure when I converted the image in the RAW software.
Here�s another tip to consider when taking photos after the sun sets. Make sure the sky has something interesting in it other than just a big expanse of blackness. My habit is to try to minimize the sky if it is entirely black, otherwise it turns into a big blob of funky negative space. Unless that negative space is artistically composed, then it just looks bad! Take the fireworks photographs for example. The shot where the sky is just black in the background tends to lack drama. It is technically ok, but very boring. Instead, I chose to compose a shot near the horizon so that the city lights illuminated the sky behind this house. The orange colored sky provides something much more interesting to look at than a big expanse of black.
The Space Needle photograph was taken in Seattle, Washington last month about 40 minutes after sunset. I was leaving a Seattle Storm WMBA game and was heading to my car when I looked up and saw the Space Needle etched against the beautiful blue twilight sky. Since I take a camera everywhere I go, I was ready for the shot. I used my D80 with a very small 80-200mm f5.6 lens to frame up this pretty exposure. Since the sky is mostly all the same brightness, I used Matrix meter. Because I didn�t have a tripod, I bumped the ISO up to 800 and then I propped the camera against a fence. My shutter speed was 1/5 second, so I fired off six frames in a burst with the hope that one of them would come out sharp.
I hope you see that shooting at night can be a lot of fun. Lots of people put their cameras away once the sun sets, but now you know otherwise. You can get some incredible photos if you keep your camera up at night!
September 2007 GOAL Assignment: Shooting the Sun
Last month I asked you to take photos after the sun has gone down. This month, I want you to take photographs that incorporate the sun into the photo itself. Take a shot at high noon. Take one at sunset. Take one in a rainstorm. Create a sunstar. I�ll give some great tips in next month�s newsletter about shooting the sun.
New Cameras: Nikon D3 and D300
The long awaited new SLR cameras from Nikon have finally been revealed! It really looks like Nikon has listened carefully to input from photographers and has created two new systems that really are professional level tools. Rather than simply adding more pixels, they spent a good bit of resources on improving sensor sensitivity (ISO) and dynamic range. Both of which are very important to us photographers!
The D3 will use a 12.1 MP sensor that is essentially the same dimensions as 35mm film. Nikon is calling their full-frame sensor the �FX� sensor. As you know, their previous smaller sensors were designated �DX� sensors. The big advantage of the full-frame chip is that the sensor sites (pixels) are larger, so noise is much lower. A D2X has the same number of pixels as the D3, but the difference is that the D2X sensor is on an APS-C chip. Each pixel on the D2X is approximately 5.5�m wide. However, on the D3 each pixel is about 8.45�m wide. The larger size simply means that you can collect more light (photons) per pixel and the signal to noise ratio is much greater. The result is images with much lower noise (grain) than before! Nikon shooters have been asking Nikon for a solution like this for a number of years.
The new Nikon D3 will be able to shoot great looking images at ISO 3200 and 6400. That is amazing! Also, you’ll be able to push the ISO to 25,600 for somewhat usable photos in near darkness. There are a ton of other features on the D3 that make it appealing, such as faster frame rate, better wireless connectivity, a “level horizon” display inside the viewfinder, 51 autofocus sensors, better metering, better white balance and a real-time image view on the camera�s LCD.
The D300 has quite a bit going for it as well. The D300 will also be a 12 MP camera, however it will use an APS-C sized sensor (DX). One of the neatest innovations with this camera is that the sensor will be self-cleaning. Hopefully, this will negate the need for manually cleaning our sensors with swabs or brushes. The autofocus sensors increase to 51 with a 15 of them being cross-type sensors. It will shoot at up to 8 frames per second if you use the optional vertical grip. I consider the new D300 to be a �mini-D3� and can�t wait to give it a try in the real world.
So, the big question everyone has been asking me is �Are you going to buy the new cameras?� I have already put in my order for a D300, but am going to wait a bit on the D3. Both cameras will be available starting in November.
Finally, I wanted to pass along news that Nikon is updating its image browsing software. I�ve been using Nikon View for a number of years because it shows previews of my files very quickly. I love the program for its simplicity. The same day Nikon released info on the new cameras, they also announced that they will be updating the browsing program to Nikon View NX. The greatest thing about this new software package is that it is free! This software should be available soon from Nikon�s software download site at www.nikonusa.com. I can�t wait to see what they have in store for us.
Digital Tidbits: Microsoft Sync Toy
I�ve finally found it, a software package that meets my data backup needs. And it is free!
For my business, I have three external hard drives that I use to save, backup and archive all my digital files. Each of the three drives store exactly the same data, with Drive 1 being my primary, or working drive. Drive 2 is the backup of drive 1 and Drive 3 is the off-site backup of Drive 1. As you might imagine, I am constantly working at keeping my drives updated with the correct information. Unfortunately, it has become a fairly time consuming process to backup hundreds of gigabytes of data.
Each time I change a file or add photos, I have to remember to backup that change to my other drives. I�ve looked at lots of different software solutions to help me organize my digital life. There are some very good backup/recovery utilities out there but I�ve never found them to work the way I wanted them to. They were either too restrictive, or wouldn�t transfer the data without putting it through a compression algorithm. Because I couldn�t find a simple solution, I ended up doing it all manually.
Last month, I resumed my search for a solution and I came across a great software package by Microsoft called �Sync Toy.� It is a simple utility that helps you move forward (or echo) changes that you make on one drive to another drive. I installed it on my computer and started using it to backup each of my hard drives right away. I have found it to be an excellent tool that does exactly what I need.
For example, let�s say that I open up some pictures from my working drive (Drive 1) and make a bunch of changes to the files. After I�m finished, I would normally copy all the new files over to my backup drive (Drive 2) so that my work was saved in two places. Then, about once per week, I�d bring in my off-site drive (Drive 3) and copy the data once again. Hopefully, I didn�t forget any files or folders in the process!
Now, with Sync Toy, I simply tell the software package to find anything that�s changed on Drive 1 and copy it over to Drive 2. It is as simple as clicking �Run.� Sync Toy will automatically synchronize the hard drives so that the data on Drive 1 is identical to the data on Drive 2. If I delete files from Drive 1, then it automatically deletes them from Drive 2. It�s just too easy.
Sync Toy is also very configurable and you can set it up to accomplish most any combination of copy, paste, delete actions you desire. I have three different sync actions that cover all my data needs:
1. I have the first action set up to copy all the personal and business files (spreadsheets, emails, invoices, etc.) from my computer onto Drive 1. This action is set to �Contribute,� which means that it only adds new info, but doesn�t delete anything from Drive 1. I run this action once per day.
2. The second action is my backup action that synchronizes Drive 1 with Drive 2. This action is set for �Echo.� In other words, it echoes everything from Drive 1 to Drive 2 and makes them identical. If I download new photos, delete photos or change files, then it echoes these changes to Drive 2. I also run this action once per day.
3. The third action is for my off-site backup and this is also set to �Echo.� It echoes everything from Drive 1 to Drive 3. I run this action about once per week.
Sync Toy will take a few hours to run the first time you synchronize hard drives. The reason why is that it has to index all your data and then completely synchronize each drive. After that, each time you update disks, it takes about five minutes to complete.
The whole setup process is incredibly easy to use. You just choose the disk drives and folders you want to sync, and then press the Run button. I�ve been using Sync Toy for a month now and it has become an essential part of my workflow. I can�t imagine being without it now and I highly recommend it for you MS Windows users out there. The best part is that it is free!
You can download Sync Toy here: Sync Toy
Photo Techniques: Taking Pictures in Extreme Environments
(note: see images to the left)
In mid-August I was able to take part in the filming of a TV show for PBS/Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB). My good friend Matt Bannon and I have been going on adventures together for close to twenty years and have spent quite a bit of time doing a sport called canyoneering. The goal of canyoneering is to find the skinniest, steepest, deepest canyon around and then rappel down the waterfalls from the top of the canyon to the bottom. Some canyons can be miles in length and trips can take anywhere from 4 to 20 hours!
Just getting to the top of the canyon is often an adventure in itself. You end up trudging through a few miles of trails and then bushwhacking through the deep forest until you find a spot where you can rappel into the canyon. Many times, you can�t see down into the canyon where you�ll be landing, so rappelling over the edge can be a big leap of faith! Once you are in the canyon, you pull your rope down behind you and are fully committed to go to the end. These are one-way trips, so hopefully you don�t make any mistakes because there�s no going back once you start.
The PBS (Public Broacasting Stations) subsidiary OPB runs a TV series called Oregon Field Guide and they wanted Matt and me to be the subjects of a show on canyoneering in Oregon. Never one to be shy about a new promotional opportunity, I quickly headed down to an undisclosed spot in Oregon to meet the TV film crew, producer and other staff. I�m sorry that I can�t tell you where we were, but it was a great spot for canyoneering!
The premise of the TV show was to simply tell the story of two guys (Matt and I) who enjoy being in the outdoors and enjoy doing extreme sports. They also wanted to work in my professional photography business to show how I get photos in the outdoors.
When I go on adventures like these, I like to pack as little camera gear as possible. For this trip, I brought my trusty Nikon D80 camera with two lenses; the 12-24mm and my 24-120mm. Neither one is a �fast� lens, so I had to use higher ISO values to compensate. Most of my shots were taken wide open at f5.6 or f4 and my ISO settings were between 400 � 1200 depending on the amount of light in the canyon.
Deep down at the bottom of the canyon, it can be very dark, so your shutter speeds will be long. Many of my shots were at shutter speeds between 1/4 second and 1/30 second. If you are trying to hand-hold your lens at 120mm, then you can pretty much guarantee blurry photos! Although I didn�t bring a tripod, I used every bit of natural bracing possible. I built up rock piles, braced against trees, pressed against fallen logs and held my breath.
Another technique I used for getting sharp pictures was to take bursts of images. While hand-holding my camera and I�d take five photos in a quick burst. When doing this, there is a pretty good probability that one of the five photos will come out sharp. I did this for all of my shots that had shutter speeds below 1/60 second.
To keep the camera gear dry between shooting, I used a Pelican 1300 waterproof case (http://pelican.com/cases_detail.php?Case=1300) loaded with my camera, lenses, two batteries and three memory cards. While rappelling down the waterfalls, I stuffed the Pelican case into my backpack. Immediately after I finished the rappel, I pulled the camera out of the Pelican case and began photographing Matt as he came down the canyon.
Of course, immediately after emerging from the water, everything is completely wet, including my backpack, wetsuit, rope, gloves, hands, hair, harness and waterproof Pelican case. In order to get my gear out of the case for the photos, I just shook off my hands, face and body to get the big drops of water cleared away. Then, I held my camera as normal and take shots in the spray of the water.
As we continued down the less extreme portions of the canyon, I kept my camera out so I wouldn�t miss any shots along the way. This included walking through the river in waist deep water, climbing over logs and twisting around boulders. As always, I find that if I keep my camera nice and safe in my camera case, then I don�t come home with decent photographs. I have to keep that camera around my neck for it to do any good. Yes, my camera got wet, but it�s a Nikon and it can handle it! If you don�t get your gear out into the elements, then you�re not going to get the shots.
If you�ve ever used a Pelican case before, then you know that it is critical that it seals properly each and every time you use it. After I finished the second rappel of the day, I unhooked my harness from the rope and took out my camera. Immediately, I noticed standing water at the bottom of the Pelican case. I picked up my lenses, batteries and camera body to find that each had been lying in water! Grrr. The problem was that I hadn�t double checked to see if the case was sealed before dunking it in the waterfall. Unfortunately, my camera strap was pinched between the back hinges of the Pelican case and that provided a gap for water to get into the case! Memo to self: double check the seal next time!
I wiped off the water and continued shooting. The little D80 camera didn�t miss a beat! Amazing.
So, the long and short of photographing in extreme environments is to protect the camera during the most extreme portions, but then to keep it out during the manageable portions. As you might know, there are a few products you can use for wet photography such as the photo housings by Ewa Marine (www.ewa-marine.com). I think these are great products for situations that have lots of water spray, sand, or dirt.
The OPB show should air sometime next spring. You can find out more information on Oregon Field Guide by going to their website at www.opb.org/programs/ofg/.
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 wildlife safaris, travel workshops, 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