Happy April folks. I sincerely hope you have lots of wonderful plans for photography this month. Getting out and taking lots of photographs is too much fun.
I�ve been hard at work leading photo workshops all around the USA over the last few months. Many of you wowed me with your generosity and kindness while I was teaching in your home towns. Last month brought me to Austin, New York and Philadelphia. April will bring me to Los Angeles, San Francisco and the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. Whew! It is going to be a busy few months. If you are looking for a last minute photo adventure in April, we still have a couple spots open on our annual Columbia Gorge Art of Travel Photography trip, April 23-27. Give me a ring if you are interested.
Over the last week, I�ve had in my hot little hands a Nikon D3 camera to test out. Let me just say that the D3 is unbelievable. I mean, it just exudes confidence and vibrates excitement. Press the shutter release button and it goes. The D3 is simply the most advanced camera I�ve ever held in my hands. I have coupled it with the new 24-70mm f2.8 and have been running around town testing out the system. Noise at ISO 6400 is almost not even there. Autofocus is fast and precise. Ergonomics are perfect. This camera is ready to work.
Unfortunately, I have to send this body back to Nikon since they are only letting me �try it out� for a bit. Below, I wrote a little bit of my experiences with the camera. I�ve placed some photos up on the newsletter page and I also have a You Tube video that shows the AF tracking and fast frame rate. Check it out at the website: www.outthereimages.com/newsletter.html.
Also, for all you D3 owners out there, I�ve added my D3 setup guide to the website for download. You can find it here: www.outthereimages.com/publishing.html.
March GOAL Assignment: Photograph People Working
Last month�s Get Out And Learn (GOAL) assignment was to go photograph people at work. My intent was to encourage you to mix it up with people who you might not know. Anytime you get the opportunity to make new photos at the same time you make new relationships, you should consider it to be a good thing.
Lots of you wrote in last month to talk about the photos you took for this GOAL assignment and it was neat to see all the photographs you are taking. One person in particular caught my eye: Colleen McCloskey. She took some photographs of people at work in a glass blowing studio. Look at her great pics here:
When I asked Colleen if I could link to her pics, she said, �Please do! I’m having a lot of fun with your photo ‘assignments’. I don’t remember homework ever being so much fun!� I agree. Homework should always be this fun.
The photos I show here all have to do with people at work or people waiting for work or people avoiding work. Sometimes I talked to the people at work and other times, I just snapped away without them knowing I was there. In all instances, I was given a quick glimpse into their lives.
The first two pics are of grounds keepers at Safeco Field in Seattle where the Mariners baseball team plays. For both of these images I used a long lens to isolate the people as they pulled wide rakes across the infield. I was really looking for some graphic elements that are different than typical baseball shots.
The next photo of the fisherman here was on a dock by the Edmonds Washington ferry terminal. He and his buddies were doing a little line casting before work and were hamming it up. I talked with all of them and they all proudly showed me their catch. I asked them when they were going to work and they all laughed � �Work? We�re fishin�!�
Public food carts are a great place to talk to people at work since the owners/employees are always interfacing with the public. I asked this food vendor in the Boston area if I could photograph him inside his well-decorated hot dog stand. He said, �be my guest� and so I did.
Ann Curry at work on the Today show in New York. She was out shaking hands and greeting guests while her producer (in the background) was hard at work trying to corral her, Matt Lauer and Al Roker back to the cameras before the TV show went live again. In this photo, Ann was talking to someone who had a new baby and couldn�t be torn away. Her producer had to grab Mrs. Curry by the arm and pull her away.
New York is a great city to catch people at work. It truly is the city that never sleeps. You can be downtown at midnight and the buzz is just as crazy as it is at high noon. However, if you look hard, you can find brief moments of solitude even in a bustling city like NY. Here, a taxi cab driver is quietly waiting for someone to come by and ask for a ride while people, cars, buses, bikes and birds all speed by.
April GOAL Assignment: Minimize the Icons to create a sense of place
I was watching the movie The Bourne Ultimatum the other night and was very much impressed with the cinematography. They frequently showed the characters in the movie as they frantically traveled through large European cities. However, what they didn�t do was plunk down the actors directly in front of the main icon in the city. For example, they were in Paris but they didn�t put the actor directly in front of the Eiffel tower as a way to show the location. Instead, the director placed the characters in the grander scene with just enough info to let you know that they were in Paris. In other words, they didn�t club the viewer over the head with the visual icon. Instead, they were much more subtle about it.
As I watched the movie, it got me thinking about my photography and how I approach famous travel locations. Do I simply snap a picture of the visual icon (Leaning Tower of Pisa, Golden Gate Bridge, Hollywood Sign), or do I create a photo that has a much more refined sense of place? I know my inclination is to plunk my camera down at the standard photo vista and take the picture. However, I know that I can do better.
Our GOAL (Get Out And Learn) assignment this month is to take some photos that are more subtle in the way they convey the location. Don�t club your viewer over the head with the location. Rather, use the visual icon to help create a sense of �place�. Use the visual cues to draw the viewer into the scene to explore the photograph. I�ll be doing the same thing this month and will show my results next month.
Digital Tidbits: New Photoshop CS3 Black and White Conversion Tool
Photoshop CS3 is a wonderful software package for doing all sorts of work to your photographs. Adobe has integrated a few very good new tools into the software package that make my work much easier as a photographer. A few months ago I talked about HDR images and how well Photoshop works with those files. This month I want to talk about the new Black and White Conversion tool.
In the past, my favorite way to do black and white conversions was by using Photoshop�s Channel Mixer. This tool still exists in Photoshop, however it has been vastly improved upon by the new Black and White Adjustment Layer tool. First, let me show you where to find it and then I�ll show you how to use it. I guarantee you�re going to like it!
Once your photograph is open in Photoshop, you can access the Black and White conversion window by clicking on the black/white yin yang button at the bottom of your Layers palette. When you do so, you will open a sub menu with 17 options. Choose �Black and White�. Another way to activate the Black and White tool is to go up to the text menu at the top of the Photoshop main window and choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer � > Black and White�
After you select the Adjustment layer, Photoshop throws an automated black and white conversion at the photo. I hardly ever like what they give me out of the box, so I get to work creating a piece of art with my own settings.
To start with, you can just go in and move the sliders around to make different color regions brighter or darker. If you can remember the original color of your photo in a certain area, then you can adjust the corresponding slider to make that area darker or lighter. A more exciting way to do the conversion though, is to use a brand new feature that allows you to simply click on the photo where you want to make the change. The neatest thing about this tool is that you can simply just click in the region you want to change and then make the adjustment right from that spot. There�s no need to move your mouse back to the adjustment layer window. To make the photo brighter, you move the mouse to the right. To make it darker, you move it to the left. It is simple and fun!
For example, in the palm tree photo here, I wanted to brighten up the palm fronds. I simply clicked on the palm fronds, held my mouse button down and then moved my mouse to the right. When you do this, everything in the photo in that color range also increases in brightness. So the plants along the ground brightened up as well. Next, I wanted to darken down the blue sky to make the photo a bit more dramatic. So, I clicked on the sky and moved my mouse to the left. Simple. Done.
Quicker than ever, the photo is done and ready to print. In all, it took me four mouse clicks to create a great black and white conversion of this palm tree photograph. Here were the steps:
– Click one: choose adjustment layer icon (yin yang symbol)
– Click two: choose Black and White
– Click three: click on palm frond and move to right (brightening)
– Click four: click on sky and move left (darkening)
Seriously, it is that easy to use this tool. Everything in life should be this easy. Taxes. Marriage. Kids. Imagine if Adobe could create a tool that would let you make four clicks to getting a perfect kid. I digress�
Here�s another photo of some tree roots I photographed in Yosemite a few months back. I took the image with the intent of converting it to black and white later on. My approach during the Photoshop conversion was to darken the tree roots and then brighten the leaves on the ground. After that, I added a light Gaussian blur to give the photo a mild glow. I printed it on my HP B9180 on Artist Canvas paper at 13�x19�. The whole conversion process took eight steps.
– Step one: choose adjustment layer icon (yin yang symbol)
– Step two: choose Black and White
– Step three: click on roots and move to left (darkening)
– Step four: click on leaves and move right (lightening)
– Step five: Select background layer from layer stack
– Step six: duplicate background layer (Ctrl+J)
– Step seven: Gaussian blur with 25 pixels
– Step eight: Reduce layer opacity to 26%
Very fast and very easy. Printing was a snap and now I have a beautiful black and white image to hang on the wall.
I encourage you to give the new Photoshop CS3 Black and White conversion tool a try. Like I said before, I know you�ll like it.
Digital Tidbits: A quick test drive with the Nikon D3
The Nikon D3 and D300 are truly a match made in heaven. They complement each other better than any camera combination I�ve used in the past. I�ve been using the D300 for quite a few months now and am very impressed with its capability. I can confidently say that the D300 is much more capable than my older Nikon D2X and as such, I haven�t used my poor D2X for three months (it�s for sale if anyone wants to buy it). I�ve been so happy with the D300 that it is pretty much my main camera these days.
As good as my D300 is however, I�ve been wondering how well it holds up to the Nikon D3, so I asked for a sample D3 from Nikon to test out for a bit. The verdict? In short, the D3 is a giant leap beyond the D300 in just about every category. Speed, file quality, ISO noise performance, battery life, ergonomics – everything. It had better be for $5,000!
I said in the introduction to the newsletter that the camera simply exudes confidence. Everything about it has been designed for performance. For example, here�s a quick slide show that demonstrates the amazing speed of the Nikon D3. This is a series of 168 photographs taken in Continuous High (CH) at 11 frames per second (fps). The D3 will take 130 frames in a row until it stops and then you have to let your finger up and press down on the shutter release to take another 130 photos. These photographs are of a toy car that my son has, as he rotated it around in a circle. The total duration of the sequences is approximately 15 seconds long.
You Tube Link
I was just blown away at the camera�s speed and responsiveness. I set the camera to AF-C (continuous autofocus) and Dynamic Area 21-points. Additionally, I had the camera set for no delay in the �Lock On� menu (CSM a4) so that it would jump to focus the instant the scene changed. Almost every camera struggles with low contrast subjects and this photo scenario is no different. As my son rotated the car around, I noticed that the side doors of the car were very low in contrast and I expected the camera to begin hunting for focus. However, the D3 did an admirable job as the car rotated around and actually maintained AF through the majority of the shooting cycle. In this test, you can see that when the car drops a bit out of the center of the frame, the autofocus system instantly switched to the background. As soon as the car was brought back to the center, the AF reacquired focus instantaneously. For this scenario, a better focus setting would be to change menu CSM a4 to a �Long� delay.
When I took the camera outdoors, I was amazed that the D3 nailed the focus on the first try every time.
Just to keep trying out the D3, I did something I never do in my normal photography. I set the camera for �Auto Area Autofocus.� This is the setting on the back of the camera where you set the AF switch to the big white box. This setting is designed so that the camera automatically chooses the AF point(s) based on a number of factors such as scene recognition, the 3D matrix meter, contrast and some other fancy algorithms. In most of my previous cameras, the Auto Area Autofocus generally disappointed me, so I had totally written it off. On my other Nikons, it seemed that no matter where I pointed the camera, it would always pick the wrong thing to focus on. So, while I was on a short hike at Kopachuck State Park today, I tried out Auto Area Autofocus to see how it would do.
To my utter amazement, it focused exactly where I wanted it to on every try. In fact, I even tried to mess it up by rotating the camera 45 degrees or by creating some weird compositions, but it didn�t faze it. Every time, the D3 lit up the AF areas over exactly the thing I wanted to focus on. I�m still not ready to give up my tried and true method of using Dynamic Area autofocus, but this brief test has me wondering if I might be using the setting more often in the future with the D3.
Although the D3 �only� has 12MP, there is a quality to those pixels that I haven�t seen in any of my other Nikons. For example, look at the photo to the left of the boats in front of this small island in the Puget Sound. The image was taken with my Nikkor 70-200 f2.8, but the whole scene was pretty far away. When I got back to my computer, I figured I�d do a bit of pixel peeping to see how much detail I could resolve on the boats. See for yourself! I can actually read the name of the boat, �DAGMAR�, on my computer monitor. I can even tell that the yacht tender has a Mercury outboard motor!
Other photos I took of flower and street scenes had the same amazing clarity. I really hope that this sensor technology trickles down to Nikons other cameras in the near future.
As most of you know, the D3 also performs very well at high ISO levels and the camera allows you to choose ISO settings up to 25,600. Yes, ISO 25,600. Just to try it out, I took some pics in a very dark corner of my office at ISO 25,600. The images had lots of noise, but I was able to handhold a picture in near darkness at 1/60 sec. Practically, I have found that I can easily take images at ISO 3200 or ISO 6400 and make beautiful prints.
I tried some hand-held shots with an older 300mm f4 lens to see if it would be possible to get sharp pics in a dark room. I turned on a single 60 watt light bulb for the light and set up an American flag for the test target. Sure enough, I ramped up the ISO to 6400 and was getting shutter speeds fast enough to hand-hold my 300mm f4 lens.
Look at the shadow regions in the photo to see how well it holds up to noise and you�ll find that it is simply amazing at ISO 6400. As I said before, there is a quality to the images that I haven�t seen before. The files are just beautiful.
The long and the short of it is that the Nikon D3 is a tool that is unparalleled and I whole heartedly recommend it for anyone who needs the ultimate camera. Without a doubt, it is a tool that will help you achieve photos that were never before possible. I feel a $5,000 hole burning through my pocket right now.
Don�t forget, for all you D3 owners out there, I�ve added my D3 setup guide to the website for download. You can find it here: www.outthereimages.com/publishing.html.
Workshops continue to be popular, so we keep offering them! 2008 brings lots of workshops through Out There Images, Inc. and somewhere around 70 workshops scheduled at the Nikonians Academy (www.nikoniansacademy.com). Check out the information below for specific topics and dates.
The Art of Travel Photography Workshops
Join us for a photographic adventure in 2008! Learn how to turn your next vacation into an artistic event with our Art of Travel Photography Workshops. The locations we have are Columbia River Gorge waterfalls and spring bloom 4/24/08 ~ 4/27/08 and North Cascades NP/Mazama 10/2/08 ~ 10/5/08. Both of these workshops are very popular and tend to sell out quickly. If you are thinking of signing up, contact us immediately in order to be placed on our signup list. Go here for more details:
Photoshop Level I and II
These workshops are a great way to learn Photoshop while using practical, real world examples that photographers face each day. We are offering two levels of Photoshop instruction � Photoshop I and Photoshop II. Take them one at a time or take them as a group and get a 10% discount. Our Photoshop workshop is scheduled for July 25th and July 26th, 2008 in Seattle, WA. Go here for more information: www.outthereimages.com/portrait_workshop.html
Nikonians Academy Workshops
We’ll be teaching great photographic subjects in Orlando, Charleston, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Portland, Atlanta, Dallas, Washington DC, Tanzania, and more!
Our topics include:
– Two African Safaris
– Nikon D300
– Nikon D200
– Nikon D80/D70
– iTTL Flash
– Hands-on Digital Printing
Find out about all of our workshops here: www.nikoniansacademy.com.
We�ve brought back our popular Portrait Photography workshop this year. It will be scheduled for July 11-12, 2008 in Seattle, WA. If you�ve ever wanted to learn how to use a flash meter, how to set up a studio, how to arrange your lighting or how to use flash, then this is the right workshop for you. It is a two-day event with lots and lots of hands-on learning and photography. Come along, you�ll enjoy it! I promise. Go here for more details: www.outthereimages.com/portrait_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.
I encourage you to try out some new photo techniques this month! If you need some inspiration, go back through our newsletter archive and see what we�ve been talking about over these last few years.
Until next time�
Out There Images, Inc. – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335