Greetings photographers!

Greetings photographers and welcome to the December Out There Images, Inc. Newsletter. It is the last month of the year and there is still a lot of time left to create some great images before the year is out. I�m still working on many of my 2010 photo goals and will keep shooting until December 31st.

December is always the month where I make my personal goals and business goals for the upcoming year. I�ve already written down my photographic goals for 2011 and have a fairly ambitious year planned. I�ll be writing books and eBooks that cover topics such as on-camera flash, Lightroom 3, night photography, Digital Asset Management and much more. I also have written plans to begin creating video-on-demand training for photography. I can�t wait to get started and I�m incredibly excited to see a bunch of these projects come to fruition.

November marked our last bit of �workshop� travel for the year and we capped it off in spectacular fashion. I took a group of 11 intrepid Nikonians Academy photographers to Tanzania for a two-week photo adventure. During that time we photographed wildlife in some of Africa�s most amazing National Parks. We also went to a local Masai villiage in the Loliondo region of Northern Tanzania.

During this photo safari, I took about 16,000 images on three different cameras; the Nikon D700, D300s and Nikon D90. I�m just now starting to go through those images to pick out the best ones so I can start producing them as prints, books and on my websites.

16,000 images is a quite a slew of photos, but I still feel like I should have taken more. When I travel to Africa, I always feel like time is so short and I want to do everything in my power to maximize the photo experience. My next trip is scheduled for November 2011 and my goal is to take over 20,000 images. All of them will be just perfect of course!

Until I get more photos sorted, I�ve posted some of the images from our visit to a Masai village on the blog here:

Nikon D7000 Book through Wiley Publishing
I just finished up as the technical editor for a new book on the Nikon D7000 camera. The book is titled Nikon D7000 Digital Field Guide and covers all the menus, screens, buttons and knobs of this amazing new camera. It also has a number of extra chapters on how to use the D7000 in the field for situations such as portraits, landscape photography, travel, flash, etc. You can pre-order a copy of the book at

Think Tank Bag Giveaway
Thanks to the generosity of Think Tank Camera, we were able to give away a free Airport Airstream during the month of November. As we mentioned last month, anyone who signed up for our mailing list was automatically entered into the competition.

The winning person was determined by random number generation from our mailing list database. The winner is � wait for it � Carl Milliken from Texas, USA. I hope Carl gets years and years of use out of his new Think Tank Airport Airstream.

For those of you who didn�t win, here�s a link to Think Tank�s website to find more information on the bag:

Also, don�t forget that we have a special discount code for readers of this website who want to buy your own Think Tank gear. The secret code is: WS-015. If you enter this code when you purchase a bag from Think Tank, you�ll receive your choice of free gear (choose from Cable Management 20, Pixel Pocket Rocket, Modular Pouch, Camera Strap or the Security Tag). Alternatively, you can click on this link to directly access the code:

Happy shopping!

Nikon D7000 Setup Guide Posted
I�ve posted a new setup guide for the Nikon D7000 camera here:

Scroll down until you see the D7000 icon and then click to download.

PetaPixel, A Favorite New Blog
As a professional photographer, I�m always working at staying on top of my game by learning, exploring and trying new techniques. Therefore, I tend to read a lot of books, blogs, and websites. I also attend webinars and watch numerous videos on the web. Over the last month, I�ve really come to enjoy reading the Peta Pixel blog ( for all their high quality links. By reading the articles and watching the videos on their site, I�ve learned new methods, been inspired by others and have been entertained. Check it out. I know you�ll like it.

GOAL on Flickr
Our monthly GOAL Assignments (Get Out And Learn) have become very popular. For example, last month�s GOAL assignment on shooting at night with ambient light had all kinds of responses from readers around the world. I had a great time looking at everyone�s photographs, but the problem was that I was the only one who got to see the pics!

To foster creativity and encourage more participation, I�ve started the Out There Images � GOAL Assignment Flickr Group photo stream. The purpose of this Flickr group is for readers of our newsletter to be able to show off their GOAL Assignment images with the rest of the world. If you are willing, I�d love it if you posted your GOAL Assignment photos to the Flickr group we can all see and be inspired by your images.

To post photographs, head over to this link:

Obviously, you�ll need to have a Flickr account, but these are free and easy to use. Simply upload your photographs to your Flickr account and then share them with the GOAL Assignment group. You can comment on your own photos as well as comment on other people�s photos. I can�t wait to see what images you post.

November GOAL Assignment: Less is More
Your Get Out And Learn (GOAL) Assignment for November, 2010 was based on the theme of �Less is More.� I wanted you to take photographs in such a way that you boiled them down to their bare essence. I wanted you to exclude anything other than items that are essential to getting the point across.

As photographers, we often try to get as much information into the photo as possible. We do this because we think that putting in more things will better tell the story of a particular scene. How often have you gone to a place like the Grand Canyon and were overwhelmed by the grand landscape unfolding in front of you. The light was gorgeous and the canyon stretched from horizon to horizon. The color was astounding in the evening light, so you put on your 14mm wide angle lens and snapped away, trying to fit everything from the left to the right into the frame.

However, later when you look through your photographs, you were disappointed because the photos didn�t capture the grandness or the essence of the scene. Why didn�t the photo capture the essence of the scene?

Like most things in life, too much of a good thing is often simply too much. To be more specific, in photography, trying to include everything in your photo is a recipe for a photo disaster. Rather, including just the essential elements of a scene frequently results in a much more powerful image.

Look at the first image I have shown here of the snow scene. This was taken in late November, 2010 in Mt. Rainier National Park. I was exploring the mountain with my daughter when we came across a small valley scene with trees and big humps of powdered snow. My goal was to photograph the interesting shapes in front of me, but as you can see, it took a bit of effort to finally arrive at a decent image.

At first, I thought that the snow shapes would look good in the context of the overall wooded scene. So, I mounted my 12-24mm lens on my Nikon D90 and snapped a few wide-angle pictures. To be honest, the pictures were extremely boring and lacked any visual interest. There were too many trees, the lighting was flat and the composition was weak.

So, I started to think more about what made the snow interesting. I determined that I really liked the soft/diffused morning light as it landed on the rounded edges of the powdered snow. I looked a bit deeper into the scene until I found a simple snow hump and a simple background. Then, I switched out my lens to an old 80-200mm f4.5 � 5.6 and composed a couple images that zeroed in on just the snow. Finally, the result was much better.

I use that basic approach quite often in my photography. For those of you who are checklist people, here�s my �Less is More� approach for reducing a photo to its fundamental elements:
1. Ask yourself, what is the subject?
2. Ask, what specifically defines this scene? Is it the light, the landscape, the person, the expression, the shape, the color?
3. Choose your perspective and your lens to capture the answers to the above questions.
4. Take a photograph.
5. Look at the resulting image in your camera�s LCD.
6. Ask, what elements in the first image distract from the essence of the scene?
7. Reframe the photo or shoot from a different perspective to eliminate the distractions.

I find myself repeating this list time and time again until I arrive at a great photo. The harder you are on yourself, the better your photography will be. If I go through this process three times for every scene, I find my resulting images are far superior to my first attempt.

This approach to your photography is particularly important for famous subjects that have been shot over and over again. For example, when you photograph subjects like Yosemite, Paris, African wildlife, pop culture or pets, I recommend working extra hard to boil the scene down to its simple elements. Keeping your composition clean and simple will almost always result in a better photograph.

I have a few more photo examples to the left that show how I used this same approach to create a better image. The first example is the Point Wilson Lighthouse in Port Townsend, WA, USA. The day was foggy, dreary and chilly. I took my first images of the morning with my 14-24mm wide angle lens on my Nikon D700. I was literally trying to capture everything in the scene. I thought that the flowers and the logs and the grass and the lighthouse and the fog would all come together to create a great landscape image. However, as I looked at my images on my LCD, I found that I wasn�t happy with the photographs. Hmm. Back to the process of defining the scene:
1. Subject = lighthouse
2. What defines the scene? The fog around the lighthouse.
3. Choose a long lens (200mm) to isolate the lighthouse from the landscape.
4. Take photograph.
5. Review.
6. Are there any elements that distract from the core image? No? Yes?
7. Reshoot if necessary.

Iteration and repeated attempts are what helped me arrive at the image I liked best from this photo shoot. If I stuck with my first inclination of �getting everything into the photo,� I would have come away with a bunch of drab shots.

Finally, the last example is a single image taken in the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, Washington, USA. For this pic, I determined that the core elements of the scene were the four tree trunks with moss. Rather than shooting a wide angle shot of the entire forest, I narrowed my field of view down to the trees. I eliminated the ground, the sky and other trees resulting in a simple image that describes a mossy, wet forest.

The last thing I�ll say is that your skill level with defining a scene will improve over time. If you are a new photographer then I encourage you to go through this written process step by step. This will build discipline into your photography. However, after a while, this process will become second nature. When it does become second nature, then you�ll truly understand what I mean by �Less is More.�

December GOAL Assignment: Pan Blurs
For this month�s GOAL Assignment (Get Out And Learn Assignment), I want you to work on creating deliberate motion blur in your photographs. Instead of trying for sharp and crisp images, let�s go for the more ethereal and soft kind.

To create an effective blur in a photo, often you need to pan your camera along with the movement of the subject. It can be quite difficult to get all the elements to come together, but with practice, you can do it! I�m headed out to the mountains in a couple days with my son to photograph in the snow and plan to do a few pan blurs while I�m there. In next month�s newsletter, I�ll go through the techniques I used to create pan blurs. I�ll also share my mistakes and successes along the way.

By the way, don�t forget to post your GOAL assignment results (good and bad) on our Flickr page here:

Photo Techniques: Don�t Put Your Camera Away Until You�re Home
One of the best photo techniques I know doesn�t have anything to do with ISO, apertures or tripods. This technique is simple to use, fundamentally free and guaranteed to result in more great images.

So, here�s the big tip: keep your camera out of the camera bag until you�ve arrived back home. That�s it. Simply keep your camera out and ready to go until you walk through the front door of your house. What�s the big deal about this tip? Let me explain via a recent example. Last weekend, I took my daughter on an adventure trip up to Mt. Rainier National Park. During our three day trip, I took hundreds of really nice scenic photographs of the snow-covered landscape. Of course, I also took lots of images of my daughter snowshoeing while she enjoyed the winter wonderland.

After our long day of playing in the snow, we went back to my truck, took off all our snow gear and prepared for the drive back to our room at Whittaker�s Bunkhouse ( Rather than putting my camera away, I kept it out and available on the seat next to me just in case any surprise photo opportunities came about.

Sure enough, about ten minutes into our drive home, we noticed two vehicles stopped ahead of us on the road. Behind one of the SUVs, was a red fox trotting around in the snow! The fox stopped and posed for a few seconds while he stared at the people looking at him! He quickly did his best James Dean and then scampered off into the woods.

Fortunately, I had my camera sitting next to me and I was able to fire off about 50 photos of the fox before he turned tail and disappeared. If I had to dig through my bags to pull out the camera, I never would have been able to get the shot.

The photograph of the fox was a lucky find. But, Ansel Adams always said that �Luck befalls the prepared photographer.� How true it is.

In my career as a photographer, there are many examples of images I�ve captured after the �official� shooting was done for the day. I learned this trick of keeping my camera out many years ago when I first started backpacking and mountain climbing with my college roommates. Back then, I would stuff my Pentax K1000 and a few rolls of film into my backpack for the weekend�s adventure. About half-way through the weekend I would realize that I hadn�t taken any photographs. So, I�d take off my backpack, ask everyone to stop, strike a cheesy pose and then put my camera back. The process of taking my camera in and out of the camera bag was such an ordeal, that I just wouldn�t take that many photos. Also, the photos I did take never really conveyed the true sense of �being there� since they were all posed shots.

After a few more trips, I finally decided that I would always keep my camera out in the open rather than stuffed away �safely� inside my backpack. Guess what happened? Yep, lots and lots of photos. Whenever a photo presented itself, I didn�t have to decide whether or not to take off my backpack. Rather, I would just lift my camera to my eye and take the photo. I also found that the photos I captured were much more authentic since they were being taken in real time.

The specific event that solidified this practice in my mind was on one of our climbing adventures to the Bugaboos mountain range in British Columbia Canada ( my climbing buddies and I were driving along a twisting dirt road and came across a beautiful brown bear. It stopped for a while and stared at us while I was rabidly digging through my backpack, trying to find my camera. I found my camera and raised it to take the photo, only to find that the bear had slinked away into the forest. I missed the shot because my camera wasn�t at the ready.

Here are a couple of other recent examples where keeping my camera out until the last minute resulted in great images. The first happened last month when I was running a photo safari in Tanzania. On one of the days, we took the safari group on a bush walk where we searched for game while on foot. We hiked about two miles and saw a bushbuck, some wild birds and a few wildebeest in the distance. After the hike was over, many people put their cameras back into their camera bags as we walked the path back to our cabins. However, one of my participants from Singapore and I decided to keep our gear out and keep shooting as we returned to the lodge.

Along the way, we found a simple acacia tree at sunset and spent an extra ten minutes shooting it from all angles until the sun went down. If our cameras were put away in their bags, I can guarantee neither of us would have taken the time to photograph the acacia tree. Since they were out and ready, we both came home with some great images of an African icon.

On the last day of our Tanzanian safari I was reminded again about why I always leave a camera out and ready. We were a few kilometers from our airport in the Serengeti and were getting ready to take off and head back home. However, I kept out a camera with a long lens attached just in case we came across any final wildlife. Sure enough, along the final kilometers we found a two cheetah, two klipspringers and a beautiful lilac breasted roller (photo to the left). I didn�t put my cameras in the bag until we were getting ready to board our plane.

I have a couple of corollaries to this rule that I should share. The first corollary is to have your camera out before you think you�ll need it. Having it out and waiting for any potential photo surprises can also result in great images. Look at the shot of the Superb starling that I took at a rest area outside Tarangire National Park in Tanzania. Our safari group had just left the main highway and were waiting to get our park permits for entry. Directly behind me were about 10 Toyota Landcruisers, 40 people and a bunch of Park Rangers. I had my D300s, 200-400mm lens and 1.4x TC ready to go and was able to pick up the camera and take a few images before we drove into the park.

The second corollary is to keep a camera body out and available even when you are home! Earlier this summer, I was working in my office when a couple of deer walked right by my window. I grabbed my Nikon D300s with 200-400mm f4 lens and popped open the window to snap a few pics (photo to the left). Awesome.

So, that�s it. By simply keeping your camera out and ready at all times, you�ll stack the deck in your favor.

Workshop Updates
We�re done with workshops for 2010 and on a break until early 2011. I�ve already posted our first workshop of 2011 for Orlando, Florida for January 20 � 23, 2011. You can find this workshop posted at the Nikonians Academy website ( We�ll be posting more workshops for 2011 soon. Look for news to be posted at the blog ( and on Facebook/Twitter.

Private Tutoring
Every single month I run private workshops for people who want to learn in a one-on-one environment. These are great for folks who want to focus on specific topics related directly to their interests. Topics have included product photography, learning your camera, Lightroom, Capture NX2, wedding photography, Photoshop, color management, nature photography, digital workflow, macro photography, location portraiture and many others. I also regularly consult with businesses, schools, organizations and museums to assist with their photographic and digital workflow needs.

Call (253) 851-9054 or email ([email protected]) if you have questions about private tutoring or consulting.

The purpose of these monthly newsletters is to keep you motivated and taking lots of photos. The only way to get better as a photographer is to keep practicing and just do it. Thanks for reading this month�s newsletter and I hope to see you again next month! If you need more photo encouragement during the month, be sure to check out for regular updates, news, tips and commentary.

Best regards,

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

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