September 2012 Newsletter


I love photography. You already knew that of course, but I think it bears repeating that I can’t get enough of this crazy pursuit. I appreciate the challenge of coming up with something unique and I love overcoming the difficulty of weather I can’t control. A few weeks ago I was on a trip to Ocean Shores in Washington State. The weather that was severe clear, meaning that there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. As an outdoor photographer, I know that bright sunny weather hardly ever results in beautiful landscape photographs.

Nikon AW100 Waterproof Point and shoot.

Nikon AW100 Waterproof Point and shoot.

I took my trusty Nikon D800 along with all my f2.8 lenses on the trip, but didn’t feel like lugging it around with me at the beach. So, instead I took along a Nikon AW100 point and shoot just in case anything interesting came up that I needed to shoot.

When we got to the beach, I found large flocks of Western Snowy Plovers flying up and down the coast. I ended up shooting video of the migrating flocks of plovers as they plied the beaches looking for food. The tiny AW100 camera was great fun to shoot and was the perfect solution for a “severe clear” day when traditional landscape photography was out of the question. Even though my results were less than stellar, my enjoyment of scene was heightened because of my attempts to capture the event with my camera.

C’T Digital Photography

C'T Digital Photography Facebook Page

Recently, I’ve been asked to be a contributing author for a new magazine called C’T Digital Photography. C’T creates a top-notch print magazine and also has a burgeoning online presence. They’ve asked me to be a contributing author for their web-presence and I’ll be submitting a few articles every month.

Here are links to three recent articles.
Listen to the Kid
Should I Bring a Tripod on Safari?
Change Your Mindset.


New Workshops

Iceland Photography Workshop

The last two months have been very busy with a variety of private workshops, travel, and business activities. The next three months will be equally as crazy with photo trips and workshops in Galapagos, New Mexico, Atlanta, and San Diego. We’ve also started posting our 2013 workshop schedule with workshops in Florida, Iceland, and Tanzania. Over the next month, I’ll be posting additional workshops across the USA.

I have available seats for workshops in these cities:
Atlanta November 1 – 4, 2012

San Diego December 4 – 7, 2012

Orlando/Kissimmee January 10 – 13, 2013

Fort Lauderdale January 17 – 20, 2013

Iceland July 29 – August 6, 2013
We are going to Iceland in 2013 and would love to have you along. We’ll be collaborating with Tim Vollmer, a photographer and tour operator based in Iceland. He’s been coordinating these trips for years and really knows his stuff. You’ll love this trip.

Tanzania November 4 – 15, 2013
We’re already half-full for this trip, so don’t wait too long to decide. If you’ve ever wanted to photograph one of the most amazing wildlife spectacles on earth, then this your opportunity. We designed this trip specifically for photographers, so you’ll fit right in!

Stuff I Like This Month

Winston Hall's new video

Winston Hall’s new video training DVD. Learn, Capture and Express Yourself with the Nikon D800/D800e.


PicoSteady makes a great little support for small video cameras and cell phones.

1. Winston Hall has a new video titled Learn, Capture and Express Yourself with the Nikon D800/D800e camera. This 12-disk set includes over eight hours of content designed to help you learn everything about your D800/D800e. As many of you know, Winston is a colleague of mine and teaches workshops with me at the Nikonians Academy. I’m really proud of Winston for creating this extensive training video. Buy now at and tell him Mike Hagen sent you.

2. The Picosteady has been fully funded through their Kickstarter campaign. This little camera stabilizer is just the right size for small video cameras and smart-phones. It is inexpensive and easily adjustable. Check it out here: The Picosteady.

3. ControlMyNikon is a really cool application for Windows computers that allows Nikon owners to fully control their cameras from their computer. The software is fairly extensive and useful for all sorts of applications from HDR to focus stacking to interval shooting and everything in-between. Best of all, the price is low at $29.95. Check out their website here:

4. GIMP is a freeware image manipulation program that many photographers use in place of Photoshop. GIMP has always worked just fine on Windows computers, but for years, in order to use Gimp on a Macintosh with OS X, you’ve had to install X11. Now, Gimp is available for Mac as a standalone application. Simply go to this site, download the DMG and drag the app to your applications folder. Simple. Gimp Download Site.

Product Review: Beta Shell ™

Waterproof. Crushproof. Bombproof. As a guy who spends a lot of time outdoors, I like these words, but am skeptical when a company uses them to describe their products. Like many consumers, I’ve been burned too many times by advertising that claims to be something it isn’t.

Beta Shell gear protectors.

Beta Shell gear protectors.

A few months ago, I started a dialog with a company called Beta Shell. They make photography gear cases and have some pretty outrageous claims on their website. For example, they show a few videos with vehicles driving over their products and even have a video showing a motorcycle doing burnouts on top of their cases.

I had to give these purported “indestructible” gear cases a try on my own terms, so I spoke with their staff and they sent me three units to test. For the last few months, I’ve been using the Beta Shell cases during my hikes, photo excursions and outdoor adventures.

The truth is that Beta Shell really does make some of the toughest gear cases I’ve ever used. They are extremely durable and definitely live up to the claim that they will provide the ultimate protection for your photo and video gear. They are created for photographers who travel to the harshest locations on the planet. They are constructed of hard ABS polymer and designed as cylinders for overall durability. Each case has a twist lid complete with a heavy-duty o-ring seal to keep out moisture, sand, dirt and anything else you might be wallowing in.

Wenatchee River Leavenworth Washington

Wenatchee River Leavenworth Washington. Nikon D800, 14-24mm f2.8, Gitzo CF tripod.

Honestly, when I first started using the product, I wasn’t sure they would fit my style of photography while adventuring. I’m a big proponent of keeping my cameras out and accessible in any type of weather. Even if it is pouring down rain, I still keep my camera out of the camera bag because I know that I won’t take photographs if they are safely stowed. It is already a big pain in the rear to take off my camera bag, set it in the mud, unzip it, pull out the camera, zip up the bag, put it back on, then start snapping photos. Add to that one extra layer of protection with the Beta Shell cases, and I was sure I wasn’t going to be a happy camper. I thought that if I had to go through this rigmarole each time I wanted to change lenses, then I would just end up not doing it.

Once I started using the cases, I found that my fears were unfounded. Yes, I still had to remove my backpack to get at my lenses, but the Beta Shell cases opened with great ease. In fact, it only took a few seconds to grab the case, open the lid and change the lens. The overall process wasn’t a big issue at all and I found myself changing lenses regularly, just like I always do.

Beta Shell offers at least 14 different models to fit most of the lenses in our camera kits. I tested three cases, Model 5.220, Model 5.140 and Model 5.90C.

Model 5.220 fit my Nikon 70-200mm f2.8.
Model 5.140 was perfect for my 24-70mm f2.8.
Model 5.90C was a match for my 50mm f1.8.

If you are considering purchasing Beta Shell cases, then it is best to buy a case for each specific lens. You don’t want to use a big case for a small lens, since that will take up too much space in your backpack or duffel bag.

Each Series 5 case comes complete with a Fit & Trim kit that allows you to customize the interior of the case for specific uses. For example, you can store a Canon G12 point and shoot inside a case or even a small video camera by cutting and shaping the foam inserts. On numerous occasions, I stored my video camera in the 5.140 unit with great results.

Beta Shell Trim Kit

Beta Shell Trim Kit

During my tests, I found the cases fully lived up to all the Beta Shell claims. They were waterproof, crushproof, and bombproof. The lids are designed extremely well and were easy to take off or put on. The design of the cases is excellent and the craftsmanship is top notch. Without a doubt, Beta Shell makes professional equipment for people who require the ultimate in gear protection.

The only downside I can come up with regarding the cases is that they are a bit bulky. The truth is, they have to be a bit bulky in order for them to be strong or they wouldn’t do their job of protecting your expensive photography gear. If you need the protection, then you’ll put up with the bulk and plan your packing accordingly.

Beta Shell cases next to backpack.

Beta Shell cases next to my backpack.

The Beta Shell designers have created a truly great product that I’m happy to recommend for photographers who need extreme gear protection. I would recommend Beta Shell cases for photographers who backpack, kayak, white water raft, mountaineer, 4×4, and mountain bike.

For some more perspective on the Beta Shell gear, I created a video showing their cases in the field. I shot this video while on a recent hiking trip to Leavenworth, WA along the Wenatchee River:


YouTube Video of Beta Shell Cases.

For more information on Beta Shell, check out their website here:

September GOAL Assignment: Finding Faces

Your GOAL (Get Out And Learn) Assignment for the month of September is to find faces in every-day items. Look for smiles and frowns in clouds, cars, houses, buildings, trees and puddles. Once you start looking, I think you’ll be amazed at how many faces you find.

Post your results to your Flickr page and leave a link on our Visual Adventures Flickr page.

Face car

Workshop and Business Updates


Our Visual Adventures website is the new hub of our business operation. You’ll find links to everything we do including our books, workshops, products, newsletter, blog and photo galleries. For now, our previous website will stay put in its present form, but we won’t be adding new content there.


I am actively preparing new workshops to locations such as Olympic NP (June 2013), Iceland (August 2013), Alaska Photo Cruise (August 2013), Galapagos (2013), Africa (November 2013) and much more. 2013 is going to be a great year for travel and adventure photography.

At the Nikonians Academy, we continue to add new workshops to our schedule. My instructor team and I are busy running and preparing new photo workshops in North America and all around the world. Read below for more info.

Camera and Flash Workshops

Our Nikonians Academy camera and flash photography workshops have all been completely revamped to include the Nikon D800 and Nikon D4 cameras as well as the Nikon SB-910 and SB-700 flashes. Our workshops include:
– Master Nikon D800/D4/D700/D3/D3s/D3x
– Master Nikon D300/D300s
– Master Nikon D7000/D90/D80
– Master Nikon iTTL Wireless Flash

Master Adobe Lightroom 4

Adobe has just released Lightroom 4 and it is one of the best software programs out there for digital photographers. We’ve just updated our Lightroom workshops for LR4 so if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to leverage the power of Lightroom in your workflow, then this is the right workshop. I’ll be running these all around the USA through the Nikonians Academy in two versions:

Lightroom 4 Essentials and Lightroom 4 Advanced.


I leave for Galapagos on 9/12/2012 for a 12-day journey through the islands and Quito Ecuador. We’ll be scheduling another adventure to Galapagos in the near future.

Find more information here.

Staying Current

You can stay current with our new workshop by watching for news to be posted at the blog, on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Custom Group Trips

Private photo tour

This August, I ran a custom trip for six photographers who wanted to improve their nature photography. We spent a few days in a beautiful national park working on photography techniques and learning new skills. Next year, I’ll be running a custom trip for a small group of people to Tanzania.

If you have a group and want to arrange a custom photo trip similar to this, contact us and we’ll put together an incredible itinerary just for you. I run custom trips for people all around the world on topics ranging from nature photography, landscape photography, urban photography, location portraits, and just about anything else you can imagine. Simply email or call and we’ll give you all the details for how to go about creating the trip of your dreams.

Private Tutoring and Consulting

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, Photoshop, Aperture, Capture NX2, wedding photography, 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.

If you have questions about private tutoring or business consulting, call (253) 851-9054 or visit our site here.


Thanks for taking the time to read this month’s newsletter. Now, get out there and take some photographs!

As always, if you need more photo encouragement during the month, be sure to check out the blog for regular updates, news, tips and commentary. Also, I encourage you to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+

Best regards,

Mike Hagen
Visual Adventures (previously Out There Images)
PO Box 1966, Gig Harbor, WA 98335
twitter: @MikeJHagen
email: [email protected]
office: 253-851-9054
mobile: 360-750-1103
fax: 206-984-1817

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