Greetings folks! I hope you are all working very hard at taking photos and learning new techniques. Business is still going well and there is no drop-off whatsoever in our workshops. We are seeing just about everything selling out and I don’t see it waning for 2009 either.

Thank you for all who wrote during October to ask if everything was ok around here! Most of you know that I wasn’t able to write a newsletter for October. The reason is that I’ve been extremely busy with projects/workshops and haven’t had a moment to spare. Since I’ve last written, I’ve travelled all around North America leading workshops and meeting new photographers in places like Lincoln Nebraska, Darien Connecticut, Mazama Washington, New York and Washington DC. I’m going to have lots of air miles to spend next year, that’s for sure.

Our annual photo workshop in the North Cascades at Mazama, Washington was a fantastic success and we had quite a good time. You can see from the photos to the left that the weather spanned everything from sun to rain to snow. As I always say, “Bad weather makes great photographs!” The intrepid adventurers along on the trip all woke up with me before the crack of dawn each day and stayed up late into the evening taking unbelievable photographs. We even had the obligatory flat tire at the top of a snowy mountain road. We changed the tire when the temps were well below freezing and the wind was blowing sideways about 30 mph! We build up quite a camaraderie between the ten of us and I can’t wait to do it again next year.

New Books

During September and October I have been diligently completing work on two new books, both of which should be ready to go right around Christmas and the New Year.

The first book is a rewrite of our very popular Nikon Creative Lighting System eBook. It will be published by Rocky Nook as a hard copy (rather than eBook) and will cover the SB-600, SB-800, SB-900, SU-800 and R1C1 systems. The title of the book is The Nikon Creative Lighting System: Using the SB-600, SB-800, SB-900, and R1C1 Flashes. You can pre-order it now from Amazon by following this link:
Nikon Creative Lighting System

The next book is titled Nikon Capture NX After the Shoot and is being published by Wiley & Sons Publishing. This will be a complete guide to Nikon Capture NX 2 and is written in a format that will allow you to take it with you on location and use it with your laptop. You can pre-order this as well from Amazon at this link:
Nikon Capture NX ATS

Finally, a great colleague of mine named Mark Fitzgerald ( has recently finished up a how-to book on using Adobe Lightroom 2 along with Photoshop. He asked me to be the technical editor and we completed work on this over the last couple months. His title is called Adobe Photoshop Lightroom & Photoshop Workflow Bible by Wiley. It is already in print and can be found here:
Photoshop Lightroom Workflow Bible

Headed for Africa

We are leaving for Africa next Saturday for two photo safaris and will be gone for a month. That’s right! 30 days photographing Tanzania’s majestic animals and landscapes. I’ll be leading two safaris and we’ll be photographing from Land Rovers as well as taking some game walks through private game reserves. It is going to be an incredible journey and I am excited for the adventure. Our hope is to have multiple African safaris each year, so keep your eye on our schedule for new announcements.

New Workshops Planned for 2009
I have many new workshops posted for 2009 and we are still making plans for the second half of the year. We will be running our Columbia Gorge workshop April 30 � May 3rd, 2009 and our North Cascades workshop September 24 � 27, 2009. Both of these workshops are shown here:

We also have plans for a few other workshop locations such as Hawaii, the Olympic Mountains and Glacier National Park.

For those animal lovers out there, I have a really fun workshop planned for the Triple D Game Farm in Montana from May 11 � 14, 2009 ( We’ll be photographing all the new baby animals such as wolves, foxes, cougar, lynx, bears, tiger and every other animal under the sun. Imagine three days photographing the cutest little baby animals under natural settings, just a few miles from Glacier National Park. It is going to be a hoot! You can sign up for this workshop and my standard camera, flash and software workshops at Nikonians Academy.

September GOAL Assignment: Keep Your Horizon Level
The last GOAL (Get Out And Learn) assignment I had you work on was to improve your skills at keeping the horizon level in your photographs. Over the last couple months, many of you have written to ask about what methods I use for level horizons and vertical trees. Since so many of you asked about it, I figured I’d write to give my recommendations. Here are seven recommendations for better horizons:

1. Use the grid view in the camera. Most cameras these days have a grid overlay that you can turn on inside your viewfinder. The grid overlay usually adds a four vertical lines and a four horizontal lines to your viewfinder focusing screen that assist you with aligning objects in the scene. The examples on the left show the menu item to activate the grid lines as well as a sample gridline view.

To keep the horizon level, just line up the grid line with the horizon. Simple. Here are the menus in various Nikon cameras where you would go to activate Grid Lines.
– D70: CSM 08
– D80: CSM 08
– D90: CSM d2
– D200, D300, D700: CSM d2

2. Use a tripod. A tripod with a ball head is a great way to ensure level horizons. They force you to slow down which improves your ability to properly align the camera. Also, since you are going through the extra effort of setting the tripod up, you feel guilty if you don’t go through the extra step of aligning your camera with the horizon. Yup, sometimes guilt is a great motivator!

3. Use a level. One of the easiest ways of ensuring a level photograph is by using a Spirit Level such as the Hama 2 model available from L. L. Rue Enterprises ( These units fit into the accessory hot shoe on the top of your camera and allows for both vertical and horizontal compositions. It is a perfect tool for composing landscapes or architecture shots when you are using a tripod. The level is almost impossible to use if you are hand-holding your camera, since you can’t look through the viewfinder at the same time you are composing a photograph. There are some tripods that have levels built in to the plate, but I have found that the Hama 2 spirit level is easier and more intuitive to use.

4. Use your camera’s Live View mode. Newer cameras from Nikon, Canon, Sony and Olympus now have a Live View mode that lets you take your eyes from the viewfinder and view your composition on the camera’s LCD screen. I have found this view to be helpful sometimes when I am shooting macros near the ground. Rather than having to crouch down and get my eye close to the viewfinder, I can now stay back from the camera and compose the shot from a comfortable position.

5. Use the Virtual Horizon feature in your pro camera. Both the Nikon D3 and D700 have a build-in Virtual Horizon to help you compose shots. The Virtual Horizon uses very sensitive gravity sensors to give real-time feedback about the orientation of the camera. It shows the display on the back LCD panel (see example to the left) and also shows a horizon guide inside the viewfinder. It is a great tool when you need some extra assistance leveling your camera when your scene doesn’t seem to have anything in it that is vertical or horizontal.

6. Scan all the edges of your frame. Many times you will find that your horizon consists of mountains or hills, so doesn’t necessarily have anything that is “level” along the bottom of the frame. In this situation, use the side of a building or a tree and line up the vertical subject with the vertical edge of your viewfinder. If the buildings are vertical, then it is a safe bet that the horizon will be level.

6. Keep your head straight up and down. If you are composing a vertical photograph, then make sure your head is straight up and down while looking through the viewfinder. I don’t know why photographers to this, but many times when we are composing vertical shots, we rotate our head sideways while looking through the camera. I see people doing this all the time at my workshops and I think it is just a sub-conscious thing. We must think that our heads have to be cocked to the side if our cameras are cocked to the side. If you simply keep your head straight up and down while looking through the camera, then you’ll easily be able to judge whether or not the camera is lined up properly with the scene.

7. Slow down. One of the biggest causes of crooked horizons stems from our frame of mind while we are taking the shot. In today’s frenzied life, we don’t allocate the time we need to properly compose the photo. Rather, we point the camera at the scene and quickly click the shutter. By taking an extra two seconds before tripping the shutter, you can almost guarantee level horizons.

November GOAL Assignment: Photographing the Pattern of Life
Much of the world around us is organized into patterns and textures. If you look closely in your home or around your town, you’ll quickly see patterns that you never knew existed. I often look for patterns to help me tell a visual story about the place I live or places I’ve visited. This month, your GOAL (Get Out And Learn) Assignment is to identify those patterns and use them to tell a visual story about your city or local town. Next month, I’ll give photographic tips on how to photograph patterns as well as some things you should look for while searching them out.

Digital Tidbits: What to Buy Your Favorite Photographer this Christmas
Christmas is right around the corner and lots of you have written in to ask questions about digital gear for the holidays. Here are my “must have” recommendations for your favorite photographer.

– Nikon D300. Probably the best camera for speed, performance and cost.
– Nikon D90. Excellent quality camera with most of the features of D300. And it has video capability.
– Nikon D700 if you need full frame and super high ISO performance.
– Canon G10 if you are looking for the best point and shoot on the market today.

– Nikon 24-70 AF-S f2.8 for the ultimate in sharpness
– Nikon 14-24 AF-S f2.8 for wide angle
– Nikon 18-200 for a good all around “lazy” lens
– 50mm f1.8 for a fast bargain lens that is very sharp.

– Lexar Pro UDMA cards. 4 GB or 8 GB.
– SanDisk Extreme IV cards. 4 GB or 8 GB.
– Western Digital Passport 320 GB USB 2.0 drives for storing photos on the road.
– Western Digital My Book 1 TB drives for office.

Laptop Computers
– 15″ Mac Pro with 4GB RAM, 2.5 GHz Core 2 Duo processor.
– 15″ Dell Precision with LED monitor. 4GB RAM and dual hard drives.

– Adobe Lightroom 2.0.

– Nikon Capture NX 2.
– Nik Silver Efex Pro black and white conversion software.”
– Photomatix Pro HDR software.

Odds and Ends
– Lens Coat lens protectors for your long 200-400mm, 500mm or 600mm lenses.
– Hama 2 Spirit Level.
– Gitzo 6X Carbon Fiber Tripods.
– Markins ball head.
– Better Beamer flash extender.
– Datacolor Spyder 3 Elite screen calibration equipment.
– Flash Diffusion Box from Harbor Digital Design.

Workshop Updates
Workshops are a fantastic way to learn and we continue to put together the very best learning experiences out there. Our class sizes are small and we teach on all the current topics. Part of our 2009 schedule is posted already and we’ll be posting more very soon.

Our workshops are run through Out There Images, Inc. ( as well as the Nikonians Academy ( Check out the information below for specific topics and dates.

The Art of Travel Photography Workshops
Join us for a photographic adventure in 2009! Learn how to turn your next vacation into an artistic experience with our Art of Travel Photography Workshops. We have two Art of Travel workshops planned in 2009. Our Columbia River Gorge workshop will be from April 30 � May 3rd, 2009 and our North Cascades NP/Mazama September 24-29, 2009. If you are thinking of signing up, contact us immediately in order to be placed on our signup list. Go here for more details:

Nikonians Academy Workshops
We have more classes than ever for 2009. Topics include Nikon D300, Nikon D700, Nikon D3, Wireless Flash, Capture NX 2, D90, D80, D60, D40 and more travel workshops than you can shake a stick at. We�ll be teaching great photographic subjects all around the USA as well as some international destinations.

Our topics include:
– Triple D Game Farm baby animals
– Photo trips to Moab, Yosemite, Big Sur and more
– Nikon D300
– Nikon D700/D3
– iTTL Flash
– Capture NX 2
– Nikon D90, D80, D60, D40

Find out about all of our workshops here:

Private Tutoring
Private instruction is a very popular 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.

Thanks for reading this month’s newsletter. Keep shooting and Get Out and Learn.

Best regards,

Mike Hagen
Out There Images, Inc. – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335
[email protected]
office: 253-851-9054
mobile: 360-750-1103
fax: 206-984-1817

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