Greetings Folks! I hope you’ve been out taking lots of photos. For me, last month was a fantastic blend of photography, workshops, travel and family. Going back through my photo archives for the month I have lots of new baseball images of my children, interspersed with photos of parades, people, travel and landscapes.
My kids’ last day of school was last week and now it is summer vacation. I remember my own last day of elementary school just like it happened yesterday. As a child, I couldn’t hardly believe that I had two months with nothing to do other than play outside, lay in the grass and catch frogs down at the swamp.
I have vivid memories of watching big puffy clouds float by overhead while trying to make out shapes of pirate ships, sharks, tanks and soldiers. Summer vacation was full of exciting adventure and I wanted to savor every moment. Now that my own children are on summer vacation, I feel obligated to put them into YMCA camp, tennis camp, soccer league, and cooking class.
If they spend a full day just hanging out and playing outside, I feel like I’m not doing my part to stimulate their continued learning. How soon I forget that summer vacation is supposed to be fun and free of responsibility. I think I’ll just hand my kids a camera and tell them to go explore the world in the backyard.
Speaking of exploring, I just got back from exploring the Dallas � Fort Worth and Portland, Oregon areas while running photo workshops. As always, it was great fun to meet new people who are excited and enthusiastic about photography. We had people attend from all around the USA and I was honored to be able to demonstrate new photography techniques to them all. What fun!
Just a reminder that I have published a number of setup guides for your Nikon digital SLR cameras. I get a lot of requests from photographers asking how to configure their menus for different shooting scenarios like sports, nature/travel, portraits, etc. The setup guides are written for specific camera models and are available as a free download.
Each is designed to be printed front/back on a piece of paper, then laminated. Once you do this, you can put the setup guide into your camera bag for future reference. We also have the laminated cards for sale if you would rather not do the printing and lamination yourself.
The setup guides are posted here: www.outthereimages.com/publishing.html
We continue to receive great feedback on our books. Customers seem to like the easy to read format and the well-explained descriptions. Here are a few happy customer emails from last week:
I have your books, The Nikon Creative Lighting System and Nikon Capture NX 2: After the Shoot. Both are very well written in a way that is easy to understand and apply. I especially like the format of the Capture NX2 volume with its hints and references to other parts of the book. Not only does the photographer learn how, but also why things function the way that they do. I am thoroughly enjoying both books and have found them to be very helpful. I�m sure that I will refer back to them often.
Thank you for your efforts.
Dear Mike: Today I received your book through Amazon in Germany. Ever since I got it this morning I can’t put it aside. For the first time I start to understand how the Nikon CLS works and what one can do with it.
The manuals by Nikon are difficult to understand especially when it comes to just getting photos taken (for instance – they talk about the SU-4 and how to operate the flash in that mode, but nobody explains that the SU-4 is an additional device). So – most of the pictures were more or less the result of learning by doing. And that was already giving me some really good shots.
With your book this is going to change. I can plan the result form now on. And that is exactly what I wanted to achieve. Thank you very much for your excellent book. Absolutely great!
All the best from Germany
I found your book very very clear and written in a style that was easy to understand. The Flash Theory chapter has given me an understanding I never had before. Page 219-220 have also helped and I am currently experimenting with what I learned there. In need to be able to force the camera to use a high shutter speed while I can still choose my own aperture.
You can buy both of our new books here: http://www.outthereimages.com/publishing.html
We ship books the same day they are ordered and if you order from our website, then we’ll send an autographed copy.
Our blog is updated on a regular basis over at http://www.outthereimages.com/blog. I post technique, commentary, and newsworthy items that are useful for photographers. Check it out and make a few comments of your own!
June GOAL Assignment: Exercise Your Depth of Field
Depth of field control is one of the most important things a photographer needs to master. A photograph’s depth of field really makes the difference between a stunning image or a run-of-the-mill snapshot. Sometimes a shallow depth of field is preferable and sometimes a great depth of field is better. It always depends on the subject and your desired intent.
First of all, let me define depth of field (DOF) as it relates to photography. DOF is the portion of a scene that appears sharp in the image. A lens can only focus on one point (or distance) in a scene. However, the decrease in sharpness in front and in back of that focus point is gradual. You can determine how rapid the sharpness drops off by choosing different lens apertures. If you use an aperture of f/2.8, then the sharpness drops off very rapidly. If you use an aperture of f/22, then sharpness drops off slowly. In other words, f/22 allows more of the photograph to appear in focus, even though you only focused on one point.
Photographers often creatively use depth of field to help isolate a subject from its background. Look at the examples to the left of the poppy flower and also of the dock line. Both show what a photograph looks like when taken with a different depth of field. In the photo of the flowers, I used f/2.8 for the first image and then f/11 for the second. Even though the composition of the two images are almost identical, the resulting �look� is entirely different.
It is clear that in this first image, the flowers are completely separated from the background. I have isolated their position from the rest of the scene by using f/2.8. In the second image of the flowers, I chose to show more of the background by using a smaller aperture. I used f/11 to include more of the environment, which helps place the flowers into the context of the larger scene.
Which image is better? As always, that depends on what your purpose for taking the photo was. If your goal was to show what a poppy flower looks like, then the first (narrow DOF) image is better. If your goal was to show a flower in a surrounding field, then the second (greater DOF) image is better. Aesthetically, I tend to like the narrow DOF image. My wife on the other hand tends to like the greater DOF image.
For the dock line photograph, the same general principles apply. The first image was taken at f2.8 and the second at f/8. For this scene, my goal was to show more of the harbor, therefore I like the greater (f/8) DOF image. I think it provides the shot with a much needed sense of place. In this case, the greater DOF image wins.
Keep in mind though, that there are many times when too much depth of field can ruin a shot. Poor depth of field control usually results in your subject being lost in the background clutter, like the airplane photo shown to the left. In this case, a Cessna 180 float plane was landing in Gig Harbor so I grabbed my camera to get some shots just before it settled down on the water.
As you can see from the photograph, the airplane blends in with the background and is almost completely lost in the scene. I used a smallish aperture of f8, which increases DOF when compared to f/2.8. To make this shot look better, I should have been much closer to the airplane while also using a larger aperture like f/2.8. Ideally, I would have used a long focal length like 200mm or 300mm as well.
As a general rule, if the background in your photo is busy or very bright, like the houses behind the airplane, then it is generally advantageous to use a narrow DOF such as f/2.8 or f/4.
If you are looking to take your photographs to the next level, I’d highly recommend purchasing a really fast lens such as a small 50mm prime. You can find great prices on used 50mm prime lenses from eBay to Amazon to Craigslist to your local camera store. In fact, Nikon currently has a 50mm f/1.8 lens that sells for about $130 USD brand new. It is sharp, contrasty and the big aperture will really help with your narrow DOF images.
Ok, that’s it for June’s GOAL assignment. In summary, use your lens’ aperture to help control the look and feel of your images. Narrow depth of field to isolate your subject. Greater depth of field to show the environment.
July GOAL Assignment: Starbursts and Sunbursts
Your GOAL (Get Out And Learn) assignment for July is fairly straight forward. I want you to create starbursts in your photographs. Yes, that’s right. Aim your camera at a light source (sun, light bulb, headlight, etc.) and create cool star patterns. Next month, I’ll give a bunch of tips and tricks to creating beautiful starbursts and sunbursts in your photos. To get you started on the right foot, I’ll give you a quick hint: use f/22.
Maha Imdeion Battery Report
Like all photographers, I use a ton of different types of batteries for everything from cameras to flashes to headlamps to GPS units. Just managing them all can lead to cranial overload! My Nikon flashes all require the use of AA batteries and I have been using various forms of NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydroxide) rechargeable batteries for many years. I use the NiMH AA cells in my Nikon SB-900, Nikon SB-800, and Nikon SB-600 flashes.
Recently though, my older batteries have been failing on me at the rate of about one battery every month or so. I found that after I charged up a set and then put them in my flash, that I’d only get 20 to 30 flashes before the batteries needed to be changed again. After pulling out the old batteries and putting them in my charger, one cell would be almost entirely dead while the other three were just fine. That single cell was defunct, so I’d recycle it and replace with a new one.
I’m not entirely disappointed, however with the performance of my older NiMH cells. I’ve had the same cells for many years and have used them extensively. Eventually, everything comes to the end of its useful life. So, I found myself with the need to purchase new AA rechargeable batteries. I’ve been reading quite a bit over the last year about a new type of NiMH cell called a Low Discharge NiMH.
These new low discharge cells will retain their charge over a long period of time, even if you don’t use them. Older NiMH batteries actually lose a large percentage of their capacity over time when they are stored. For example, if you charge up a standard NiMH battery and then let it sit, the battery will slowly discharge at a consistent rate. In just a month or so, they will have only about 75% charge remaining. After 12 months, they will be down to 0%.
For some photographers, this isn’t a big deal because they use their batteries so much. They’ll charge the batteries one night and then use the batteries the next day. However, this does become a problem if you charge your batteries and don’t end up using them for a few weeks. This happens to me a lot since I have so many sets of batteries. I’ll charge a set, and then end up not using them for a month while I’m using other batteries in my camera bag. Then, when it comes time to use that group that I charged a month ago, it only has 70%-80% charge remaining.
To get around this, I’d have to be continually recharging my batteries just to make sure they are fresh and ready to go. In fact, I would do this before leaving on longer trips. I’d end up spending a few hours topping off all my NiMH cells which was always a drag. I looked at purchasing either the Sanyo Eneloop or the Maha Imedion batteries. I finally decided on the Imedion series because I have had great experiences with other Maha products in the past. I bought my batteries from Thomas Distributing:
They are currently running a sale on these batteries. $9.95 for four AA cells. That’s a good deal.
I’ve been using the new Imedion batteries now for many months and have been pleased with their performance. All have stayed charged just like they advertised. Also, performance in the flash has been very good. I find that my flash recycle times are just as fast as my previous batteries, but that I get slightly fewer pops per charge. I expected to get fewer pops per charge because the batteries have a 2100 mAh capacity versus the 2700 mAh capacity on my other rechargeables.
The Maha Imedion cells have no memory effect, so you can top off the charge at any time. Also, their product literature states that you can charge the Imedion cells up to 1000 times before they need to be replaced. If you charged them once per week, then this would give you 19 years of use before they had to be recycled. Not bad!
So, the upsides are better long-term storage performance. The downside is that the capacity is lower than standard NiMH batteries. But, given the fact that the older type NiMH batteries always lost charge over time, I bet that I was already using them at 2500mAh or 2100mAh anyways, so the newer 2100mAh batteries aren’t that much different than I am used to using.
In short, I highly recommend the Maha Imedion NiMH batteries.
Hoodman HoodLoupe 3.0 Review
Now that it is summer here in the northern hemisphere, I find myself taking photographs on bright days more and more. One of the frustrations of photographing on bright days happens when you try to review your images on your camera’s LCD panel. I’ve used lots of different devices and tricks over the years to get a better view of the screen, including screen protectors, LCD flip hoods, and my hat, but I haven’t every been happy with any of them.
At my travel workshops, many students have started to bring along a new product called the Hoodman HoodLoupe. This is a small loupe that shields the screen while you look through the eyepiece at your photograph on the LCD screen. I used one a few times and was so impressed with its performance and ease of use that I decided to get one for myself.
I bought one a few months ago from hoodmanusa.com for $79.99 and have been regularly using it with great success. I love it because it is so simple and easy to use! The loupe has a lanyard that allows you to simple hang it from your neck while shooting. Then, when I want to inspect my image, I hold the loupe to the back of my screen for a beautiful rendering of my photo.
The new lanyard features a quick release so you can hand the loupe to your buddy when you want to show them your photograph on the back of your camera. Taking the loupe off the lanyard prevents those uncomfortable personal space intrusions that always seem to happen when you show people your photographs. I’ve had a few inadvertent cheek to cheek experiences in the past, so I know the quick release feature will get a good workout from me.
If you don’t want to keep the HoodLoupe around your neck, then you can simply stow it in a pocket and pull it out as you need it. Some people don’t like having a bunch of stuff dangling from their neck, so keeping it in a pocket is a good approach. Also,the storage case has a belt clip that allows you to store the loupe on your hip while shooting.
Hoodman recently released the Hoodloupe 3.0 which is used for the newer, larger 3� LCD monitors on cameras such as the Nikon D90, Nikon D300, Nikon D700, and Nikon D3/D3X. The HoodLoupe 3.0 uses a lens that you can adjust to your own needs via a +/- 3 diopter adjustment. One of the advantages of using the Hoodman Loupe is that it shows you your LCD screen in a 1:1 ratio. In other words, it doesn’t magnify the image in any way but still allows you to see from edge to edge with perfect clarity.
Now, with the advent of shooting HD video in our dSLR cameras, I’ve been using the HoodLoupe 3.0 as a video eyepiece for my Nikon D90. I place the D90 on a tripod or on a shoulder stock and then look through the HoodLoupe as I’m shooting video. The Hoodloupe attaches to the camera with a rubber band system called the Cinema Strap. The setup is just a little bit hokey looking but it actually works pretty well. It doesn’t permanently attach to the camera like some other, higher priced solutions, but considering that the alternatives such as the Z-Finder from Zacuto costs $350 (Zacuto.com), I’ll gladly pay an extra $20 for the Cinema Strap.
Overall, the HoodLoupe 3.0 gets two thumbs up.
It’s time to think about Autumn and what your photography schedule looks like. I have a wonderful Art of Travel Photography trip planned for Mazama, Washington, where we’ll be photographing in and around North Cascades National Park, Winthrop and the Methow Valley. This workshop runs from 9/24/09 to 9/27/09 and still has openings available. Call or email if you’d like to reserve a position on this trip.
We run workshops all around the USA and the world through Out There Images, Inc. Our workshops are run through Out There Images, Inc. (www.outthereimages.com) as well as the Nikonians Academy (www.nikoniansacademy.com). Check out the information below for specific topics and dates.
We continue to add workshops to the Nikonians Academy and now have the entire second half of 2009 filled out. Most of the workshops I’m leading are almost sold out. This includes Dallas, Portland, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, New York and Washington DC. Our topics include Nikon D90/D80, HDR Photography, Advanced iTTL wireless flash, D700/D3, Nikon D300 and more. Our next workshops are scheduled for Cincinnati, OH, July 23-25 and Philadelphia, PA, July 30 � August 2nd.
I have posted two new African Photo Safaris for 2010. The first will be in May 2010 and the second will be in November 2010. Both of the photo safaris will be operated in Northern Tanzania in locations such as Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti NP, Tarangire NP and Lake Manyara. You can find more information here: www.nikoniansacademy.com.
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 was 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
– Nikon D300
– Nikon D700/D3
– iTTL Flash
– Capture NX 2
– Nikon D90, D80
Find out about all of our workshops here: www.nikoniansacademy.com.
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.
That’s it for this month. Get out there and take some photographs!
Out There Images, Inc. – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335