Welcome to the April edition of the Out There Images, Inc. Newsletter.
I’ve been studying hard over the last few months learning new techniques and trying to stay current in this crazy world of digital photography. Seems like every week there’s a new piece of software or a new gadget to try out that ‘will change the world.’ Sometimes these new products are just fluff and other times they are worth their weight in gold. In this month’s newsletter, I talk about two new products from Phase One and Tether Tools I’ve been working with and explain why I like them so much.
Along the same theme of learning new techniques, I want to teach you a new autofocus technique called back button focus. I’ve been using this method for about four years and I think you should take some time to learn it as well. Check out the section at the end of this newsletter called Photo Techniques: Back Button Focus.
I’ve also been posting new topics and photos over at the blog, so if you haven’t been over there for a while, check out the posts from March including:
- – Removing jet contrails with Photoshop Content Aware Fill
- – Blue Hour Photography in Old Mill District ‘ fong, OR
- – Using Bleach Bypass from Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0
- – Guest artist Luc Villeneuve’s 360 degree panoramas
Last month I was able to spend an evening with an awesome group of people who run a charity called the Northwest Furniture Bank. Bill and Jolene Lemke created the NW Furniture Bank to serve people who don’t have the means to buy beds, couches, tables or chairs for their homes. They serve victims of domestic abuse, people suffering loss from fire, foster homes and families coming from transitional housing who are trying to rebuild their lives.
Each year, they run a fundraiser called the Chair Affair that helps raise money for their warehouse and furniture charity operation. The cool thing about this event is that over 70 local artists create chairs and donate them for an auction. Each chair is an original piece of art and the chairs range from hand-crafted Adirondacks, to wildly-painted rockers, to whimsically-themed loungers, to stadium seats.
The event was held at Dale Chihuly’s Tacoma Museum of Glass (http://www.museumofglass.org/), and it was fun to photograph the event against this very cool backdrop. The organizers are always looking for more artists to contribute, so if you are interested in creating a ‘seated masterpiece,’ then put next year’s event on your schedule. You can see photos of the event on my Facebook page here.
Nikon D7000 BIN file uploaded
I’ve added my D7000 *.BIN setup file to the website so you can download it directly to your camera. Follow this link to find the setup guide and the *.BIN file (scroll down the page until you see the setup guides): www.outthereimages.com/publishing.html
Also, here’s a link to the instructions for how to install the *.BIN file to your camera: http://www.outthereimages.com/08_06_newsletter.html
SWPJC: Inspiration to Tell Stories
During the first weekend of March, I spent a few inspirational days at the Southwest Photojournalism Conference (SWPJC) in Fort Worth Texas (www.swpjc.org/). My goal was to learn from some great journalists as well as get a feeling for how photographers are using journalism to shed light on important issues around the world.
While there, I had the fantastic opportunity to personally meet some excellent photographers. People like Stephen McGehee, Jeremy Cowart, Melanie Blanding, Scott Kelby, Bill Fortney, Bruce Strong and Louis DeLuca.
This year’s overriding theme was how important ‘story’ is in our photography. Each of these photographers are passionate about their photography and wanted to show how they incorporated people’s stories to effect change. It is story that compels us to take action. Story that tugs on our heartstrings. Story that helps us understand the plight of a family or an entire people. Telling stories helps the viewer understand simple questions like, ‘Where do they come from?’ or, ‘Why do they look like that?’ or ‘What is their situation?’
I came away from the conference energized and excited. I was greatly encouraged to continue pushing my photography to the next level by telling stories through my images. So, I ask you ‘ what stories are you telling with your camera? I encourage you to share the stories of your life through your camera. Use your camera as a gift to others who aren’t able to tell their own stories. Your photography can shed light on places and subjects that most other people will otherwise never know about. You have the unique ability to work with people you know and tell their story to anyone who will listen.
One final shout-out. SWPJC is organized by a team of excellent photographers that include people like Stanley Leary and Gary Fong of Genesis Photo Agency. Their goal each year is to bring together some of the top photographers in the USA to share their experiences and inspire others to do great things with their cameras. Thanks guys for a great conference!
March GOAL Assignment: Triptychs
The GOAL (Get Out And Learn!) Assignment for March was to create some triptychs with your photographs. A triptych is a picture, carving, or painting in three independent sections that appear together as one combined piece of art. The three sections are designed to appear side-by-side and are connected to each other by a common theme. The theme might be a subject like ‘flowers,’ or a specific color like ‘red,’ or even a particular concept such as ‘texture.’
Traditionally, the outer frames of the triptych are subordinate to the center frame. In other words, the center frame is most important and is often the focal point. The outer two frames support the main work in the middle by adding additional information.
Even though triptychs have some vague rules to adhere to, it often works best to break the rules. For example, rather than creating a triptych horizontally, you can create one vertically. Or perhaps you can create a triptych from one single photo by breaking it up into three sections like the ones shown to the left. There are many ways to create triptychs and some of the neatest ideas I’ve seen were from the artists at redbubble. Follow this link to see some really great triptych ideas:
I created a total of six triptychs this month and really enjoyed the process. I was able to pull up some older photographs and combine them in a new way. I also re-taught myself some Photoshop techniques for compositing the triptychs onto one digital frame.
As a parting thought, I encourage you to go through images from your last photo shoot and select the top three images. See if they work well in a triptych. If not, ask yourself why, and then pick a different three that will work together. Creating a triptych with your pictures can be a great way to boil down the images from your shoot to those that matter most. The triptych concept will help you cut out the mediocre photographs and show only the best of the best.
For more information on triptychs, check out this article on Wikipedia.
April GOAL Assignment: Point of View Photography
Photography should be fun, so this month’s GOAL (Get Out And Learn!) Assignment is to take photos from the ‘participant’s’ point of view. In other words, I want you to shoot pictures from the point of view of someone walking on a path, jogging on a trail, piloting an airplane, riding a train, or driving an ATV. Try to include a unique perspective or some motion blur to show action.
Next month, I’ll give some tips for photographing from moving objects as well as talk about some of the gear that makes POV (Point of View) photography easier.
During the month, I’ll be posting pics to the Flickr Group for Out There Images, Inc. and would love to see your shots there as well. Flickr is free and easy, so don’t be afraid! Here’s the link to the photo-sharing group. www.flickr.com/groups/out_there_images/
Product Review: Tether Tools Aero Platform
Like you, I’m continually on the lookout for photo products that make my shooting easier. This month, I want to introduce a couple of new products that have made their way into my workflow for studio photography. The first is Tether Tools’ Aero platform and the second is Phase One’s Capture Pilot.
I’ll start with Tether Tools. These guys make purpose-built platforms and arms for studio or location-based tethered photography. Tethered shooting involves connecting your camera to your computer via a cable or wireless connection. Usually, you’ll plug in an USB cable to both the camera and the computer, and then use a software package like Capture One Pro 6.0 or Lightroom 3 to download the images. The Tether Tools products are designed to securely hold your computer, cables and monitors while you take photographs.
Tethered shooting is very efficient because images are immediately downloaded to your computer system and everyone involved in the shoot can see the pictures on a computer monitor. People don’t have to huddle around the small LCD panel of your camera to review the pics and can comment in real time on the images.
This new type of shooting, unique to the digital age, has fundamentally changed the entire workflow of many photographers. We can quickly show images to the model/client to show what is working well. If we want to make changes mid-shoot, then we can all make the decision together. Immediately after the shoot is over, the photographer can then copy all the files to a disk and hand it to the client on the spot. No more snail mail or email or FTP!
Tethered shooting isn’t all wine and roses though. Shooting with a camera attached to a laptop can sometimes be a real pain since there are cables running all over the place. It is common for people to accidentally trip on cables or just bump them so they become disconnected. I’ve had many times when the USB cable became dislodged from my camera causing the connection to the computer to become inactive. In this situation, you think you’re tethered, but the photos mysteriously disappear into the ether.
Fortunately, Tether Tools (www.tethertools.com/) creates all kinds of products specifically designed to solve these issues. They’ve created platforms for computers, variable arms for monitors, and devices for managing cables so that your mobile studio is locked down solid. Their entire system works together to ensure all your gear is secure.
Tether Tools sent me a few products to test for this review. The first was the Aero platform. This is simply an aluminum platform that holds your laptop computer. The base of the Aero uses a device called the LAJO 3 ProBracket which allows the table to attach to any 5/8′ light stand mount or ” x 20 thread tripod mount or 3/8′ thread tripod mount. This simple device is brilliant, because it works with just about everything in your photography kit that has been designed to support camera gear. The LAJO 3 ProBracket will attach to most photo brackets, light stands, tripods, Magic Arms and clamps. Genius.
The second device Tether Tools sent was the SecureStrap. In a nutshell, the SecureStrap holds your laptop to the Aero platform. Again, this is a simple product, but works extremely well. It has rubber coated flat hooks that grab the edges of the Aero platform and an adjustable elastic band for different sized computers. It mounts right at the hinge of your laptop, which prevents your computer from falling onto the floor if someone trips on a cable.
The third product I tested were the JerkStoppers. These incredibly handy devices secure your cables to your computer and to your camera body. JerkStoppers come in all shapes and sizes for different cable types such as Ethernet, Firewire, and telephone, but the ones I used were for USB connections. Again, the genius of the product lies in its simplicity. JerkStoppers plug into an open USB port on the computer, while the other side has a plastic clamp that grabs the USB cable. If someone accidentally yanks on the cable, then the force is transferred to the frame of your computer, rather than the cable itself.
On the camera side, the JerkStopper threads through the camera strap eyes, then a clamp attaches to your USB cable. Again, if someone yanks on the USB cable, the force is transferred to the camera body, rather than the cable.
Tether Tools is always developing new products for the ever-changing arena of digital photography. One of their new, but un-released, products is a stand for the iPad. In the next product review (below) for Capture Pilot, I talk about how I’m using the iPad in studio photography for remote viewing of images. I’m confident that Tether Tools’ iPad solution will work just as well as their other products.
I said it earlier, but I’ll say it again. The genius of Tether Tools’ products lies in the simplicity of their design. As everybody knows, the best solutions to our problems are the simple solutions, and Tether Tools has cornered the market on simplicity. I’ll continue using Tether Tools products in my photography because they work so well.
Product Review: Phase One’s Capture Pilot for iPad
Tethered shooting to a laptop is cool, but tethered shooting to an iPad is awesome! Phase One’s new software called Capture Pilot allows wireless tethered shooting to the iPad and I love the experience.
Phase One is known worldwide for their persistent dedication to high-end photography. They manufacture some of the finest medium format camera systems in the business and also create excellent software for professional photographers. Their marquee software product is Capture One Pro 6.0 and they also sell the excellent DAM (Digital Asset Management) program called Expression Media.
Tethered shooting involves hooking up your camera to your computer with a cable (or wireless connection) and then immediately downloading the images to the computer’s hard drive. This type of photography is very common when there are many people involved in a photo shoot. In situations like family portraits, fashion, group directories, and corporate events, everyone wants to see the photos in real time. Showing them on the computer can be the best way to judge whether or not the photos meet everyone’s expectations.
One of the downsides of tethered shooting is that people tend to gather around the computer while the photographer is working hard at taking pictures. It gets pretty crowded around the shooting area and you are not able to freely move around to get the best shot. It’s hard to have five or ten people standing around the tripod and laptop and light stands while trying to keep a sane mind!
Enter Capture Pilot! Phase One has created a new software application called Capture Pilot that allows anyone with an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch to remotely view the photos from a tethered shoot. Capture Pilot immediately displays photos from the shoot as they are downloaded to your computer through Capture One Pro 6.0.
The neat thing about Capture Pilot is that people can hold the iPad in a different area of the studio, but still have access to the images in real time. In addition, everyone viewing the images on their iOS device can rate or rank the photos. That means the collaboration between photographer and client is faster than ever before. It also means that the stakeholders in the shoot feel very much a part of the process. They are included in the creative decisions and can actively contribute via the iPad interface.
The Capture Pilot software is actually quite simple, yet ultimately profound. I recently put the software to the test at a hotel in Bend, Oregon. I was at a family wedding and had a few hours in the morning to do some photography. I called over a bunch of young kids who were also in town for the wedding and put together a quick tethered photo session in one of the hotel rooms. I asked a few of the kids to hold the iPad with Capture Pilot while I photographed the others against the drapes.
It was quite fun to watch the kids work with the iPad as images downloaded from the host computer. Without any input from me, they immediately understood how to navigate to new photos, how to rank with star ratings, and how to zoom in/out. Immediately, they held the iPad up to show me something they liked and we brainstormed new ideas for photos. We’d shoot a few more pics and they’d come up with more ideas.
The collaboration between the kids, the iPad, and me was something I hadn’t experienced before. It was a brand new creative process and exciting to be involved in this new way to shoot. I can’t wait to do more of this type of shooting with other clients.
Here are some other things you should know about Capture Pilot:
- 1. There are Capture Pilot apps for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.
- 2. You can use more than one iOS device during a shoot. For example, five people with iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches could be viewing the shoot simultaneously.
- 3. The images from the shoot aren’t loaded onto the iPad. Rather, they are loaded to your computer’s hard drive and Capture One Pro 6.0 acts as the server.
- 4. The Capture Pilot app is free. But, in order for Capture Pilot to work, it has to interface with Capture One Pro 6.0 which currently costs $399.00.
If you are looking for a neat way to improve the experience for your clients during your next photo shoot, then I can’t think of a better way than using Capture Pilot. I hate to call the experience magical because that would just sound too ‘buzzwordy’, so I’ll simply call the experience delightful.
Capture Pilot is fun and simple to use and once you begin incorporating it into your photography, your interaction with clients will never be the same.
For more information on Capture Pilot, Phase One and Capture One Pro 6.0, head over to Phase One’s website here: www.phaseone.com/
If you want to read more about Capture Pilot and setting up the interface, check out a similar article I wrote for the Nikonians at this link:
Nikonians Capture Pilot Review and Setup
Photo Techniques: Back Button Focus
In my photo workshops I teach a technique called ‘back button focus’ that is entirely different from the normal way of focusing your camera. I’ve been using the back button focus technique for three or four years now and am really enamored with the method. I want you to know about this method because it is so good, you might actually want to give it a try.
On many of Nikon’s dSLR cameras, there is a programmable button on the back that allows you to focus when you press it. On the higher end models such as the D300s, D3 and D700 cameras, the button is called AF-ON. On the pro-sumer cameras such as the D90, D80 and D7000, the button is the AE-L/AF-L.
Before I go into how to use back button focus, I want to give some background to explain the standard way of focusing with the shutter release.
As you know, most photographers use the shutter release button to focus. This approach is fairly straightforward and simple since it is the first way we all learned how to focus.
The process is:
- 1. Point the camera at the subject
- 2. Half-depress the shutter release for focus
- 3. Fully-depress the shutter release to take the photo
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this approach, we’ve been doing it since the dawn of autofocus back in the film days. But! This approach can sometimes be a bit cumbersome, especially in sports and action scenarios. In these situations, you often set your camera to focus continuously while it tracks the subject’s motion. This autofocus mode is called AF-C, which stands for Autofocus Continuous.
As an example, let’s say that you are photographing a bird in flight and tracking it with AF-C. You push down half-way on the shutter release button and the camera tracks focus continuously as the bird flies through the air. Then, let’s say that the bird lands on a branch. As any good photographer will do, you recompose the photograph so the bird is on the right or left of the frame. Everybody knows that a centered composition is a boring composition! So, you recompose the photograph and what does the aufocus sensor do? That’s right, it focuses on the clouds behind the birds. If you move the autofocus sensor off the subject (bird) then it instantly focuses on the new thing (cloud). In other words, in AF-C mode, you can’t lock focus.
So, to solve the focus problem, you switch your autofocus servo to AF-S. This stands for Autofocus Single. In this mode, the camera will focus on the subject and then ‘lock’ focus while you recompose. Of course, you’ll need to keep your finger on the shutter release button to keep the focus locked.
Ok. Excellent. Decent focus technique. But, the downside to this is that every time the bird is moving, you need to switch your camera to AF-C. When the bird is stopped, you need to switch to AF-S. That’s a pain, and honestly, you’ll forget to switch it back and forth, which will cause you to miss shots.
There’s a better way and it is called back button focusing! As I stated in the opening paragraphs, it requires using the AF-ON button or reprogramming the AE-L/AF-L button on the back of your camera to activate focus. The only way it works is to reprogram the AF-ON or AE-L/AF-L button so that it is the only button on your camera that activates focus. You don’t want the shutter release button to activate focus.
To reprogram these buttons, you’ll need to go into your camera’s menu system. The setup is different depending on the type of Nikon camera you own, so I’ve broken out the instructions in two groups below.
Here are the steps for cameras such as the Nikon D300, D300s, D700 and D3:
- 1. Press Menu button
- 2. Navigate to Custom Settings Menu (pencil icon)
- 3. Navigate to AF Activation
- 4. Choose AF-ON only
- 5. Press OK
- 6. Set camera’s autofocus to AF-C
Here are the steps for cameras such as the Nikon D7000, D90 and D80:
- 1. Press Menu button
- 2. Navigate to Custom Settings Menu (pencil icon)
- 3. Navigate to Controls
- 4. Choose Assign AE-L/AF-L button
- 5. Choose AF-ON
- 6. Press OK
- 7. Set camera’s autofocus to AF-C Now, your camera is set to activate focus by pressing the back button (AF-ON or AE-L/AF-L) with your thumb. Also, understand that the shutter release button will no longer activate autofocus. In fact, the focusing capability has been moved from the shutter release button to the back AF-ON or AE-L/AF-L button.
Now, to understand how to use this new technique, let’s go back to the bird example. While the bird is flying, press your thumb on the AF-ON button (or AE-L/AF-L button) to continuously track the bird and keep it in focus. At any time, you can take pictures by pressing the shutter release button.
When the bird lands on the branch, stop focusing by letting go of the AF-ON (AE-L/AF-L) button. That’s right, you stop focus by letting go. This ‘locks’ the focus since you aren’t currently pressing the button Now, you can recompose your photograph and take pictures with the shutter release button without the camera re-focusing every time.
When the bird starts moving again, press the AF-ON button (or AE-L/AF-L button). When the bird is stationary, don’t press the AF-ON button. At any time, you can take pictures with the shutter release button and the camera won’t refocus.
On paper, this new approach doesn’t sound all that great. I mean, you’re just changing a button, right? However, in the real world, it will completely change your photography. This change makes you much more efficient and you are able to track action like never before. It is as simple as pressing the AF-ON button to focus and releasing the AF-ON button to ‘lock’ focus. No more switching between AF-C and AF-S. No more accidentally refocusing when you press the shutter release button.
You are in full control and focusing is now a deliberate act that you initiate with your thumb. I encourage you to give this method a try. If you like it, then practice the approach for a few weeks in order to become proficient. It will take some time for you to get used to it, but if you’re like me, you’ll never go back to the old way of focusing.
C’mon and join the growing crowd of back button focusers!
Workshop and Business Updates
You have just one more week to sign up for workshops in Los Angeles. The first class is sold out, but we still have seats available for shooters who want to learn the Nikon D300/D300s, Nikon iTTL Wireless Flash system and the Nikon D700/D3/D3s/D3x cameras. I’ll be holding the workshops at Samy’s camera (www.samys.com) in North Hollywood, CA from 4/14/2011 to 4/17/2011. You can find these workshops posted at the Nikonians Academy website (www.nikoniansacademy.com).
Photoshop Workshop in Seattle, WA
That’s right, we’re bringing back Photoshop workshops to the Seattle, WA area this June 24th and June 25th. We’ll have two days of Photoshop for Photographers. You should bring your own computer loaded with Photoshop CS3, CS4, CS5 or Photoshop Elements. The skills I teach will be transferrable to any of these software versions. Here’s the link to sign up:
The November 2011 Safari to Tanzania Africa now only has three seats remaining. Our group of intrepid adventurers will be traveling throughout the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara and Tarangire NP in our specially modified Land Cruisers. It is the trip of a lifetime and a wonderful opportunity to check another item off of your bucket list! Here’s the link for more information about the Tanzania, Africa photo safari: Tanzania, Africa Photo Safari
These trips are so popular that I’ve added two more for 2012. The first one will be in May 2012 and the second in November 2012. May 2012 will include the Wildebeest rut during the Great Migration. November 2012 will include the Mara River crossing in Northern Tanzania. You can find more information on these adventures here: 2012 Safaris
I’m still working with tour operators in the Galapagos to get a good deal for a privately chartered boat. I’ll post it as soon as I work out final details with the boat owner and guides. We are now planning for September 2012 for our journey. Feel free to write me directly ([email protected]) if you have questions or want to sign up.
You can stay current with our new workshop by watching for news to be posted at the blog (www.outthereimages.com/blog) and on Facebook (www.facebook.com/MikeJHagen), and on Twitter (twitter.com/MikeJHagen).
Custom Group Trips
If you have a group and want to arrange a custom photo safari or photo trip, contact us and we’ll put together an incredible itinerary just for you. Simply email or call and we’ll give you all the details for how to go about creating the trip of your dreams.
Every 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.
My hope is you picked up a new technique or idea from the newsletter that you can apply to your photography right away. Now, your task is to get out there and start using it. If you need more photo encouragement during the month, be sure to check out www.outthereimages.com/blog for regular updates, news, tips and commentary.
Out There Images, Inc. – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335