Mike Hagen – Visual Adventures – January 2016 Newsletter

Nisqually River

Nisqually River in the winter. Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington, USA. Nikon D750, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8. Seven frame panorama processed and stitched together in Lightroom CC.

In This Newsletter

– Greetings
– Instagram
– Stuff I Like This Month
– Workshop Updates
– Our Newest Book: The Nikon Autofocus System
– Book Review: The Digital Negative, 2nd Edition
– Book Review: Jay Maisel, Light, Gesture & Color
– Long Term Gear Report: Naneu K5 v2 80L Backpack
– Workshop and Business Updates


As we usher in a new year, our photography gear keeps getting better and better. This week at the Consumer Electronics Show, companies like Nikon, Canon, Sony and Fuji announced new photography products that are sure to empty our wallets faster than we can say, “shoot.” I’ll talk about some of the new Nikon gear below.

All of this new gear is cool, but the truth is that your mind is the most important thing when it comes to improving your photographs. More time practicing and more time learning will do more for your photography than any brand new camera, and that’s the truth.

As most of you know, I love writing books and teaching photography. It is my passion to share knowledge and to help others achieve their dreams. That said, I also aspire to improve my own skills by learning from other photographers who know more than I do.

It seems like no matter how much you know, there’s always more to learn. To that end, I’ve just finished reading two books on photography that I think you’ll enjoy. I’ve included the reviews down below. The first book is by digital processing legend Jeff Shewe and the next is by photographic legend Jay Maisel. Both teach different skillsets in their own, unique way.


I’ve been building our Instagram account over the last few months and have added a few hundred photographs. Our focus right now is on wildlife and landscape photography from different areas of the world. I’d love to have you follow our account and share our images.

Instagram account: @mikejhagen

Web address: https://www.instagram.com/mikejhagen/

Mike Hagen Instagram

Stuff I Like This Month

New Nikon Gear

Nikon recently announced an awesome new DX camera at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show called the D500. As many of you know, the D300 and D300s were Nikon’s last fully professional DX cameras and we’ve been waiting 6 or 7 years for a replacement. The D500 is that new flagship DX camera and shows that the DX format is back with a vengeance at Nikon. They are releasing it at the same time as their new professional full-frame camera, the new Nikon D5. Most of the features of the D5 are also included in the smaller and less expensive D500.

In addition to these cameras, Nikon announced a new SB-5000 radio-triggered wireless flash, and a new adventure camera called the KeyMission 360 that shoots 360-degree panoramic 4K video.

Check out my blog post on these new toys here: https://visadventures.com/nikon-d5-d500-sb-5000-keymission-360/

Winners of National Geographic’s 2015 Photo Contest

As always, National Geographic knows great photography and they’ve just published the winners of their 2015 photo contest at http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/contest-2015/. The top images is a very dramatic photograph of a tornado taken by James Smart.

Photography Mishaps

Sometimes, being a photographer is tough work. Here’s a video showing over 10 minutes of photographers falling, dropping gear, getting yelled at by pastors, falling in water, and sacrificing their bodies in the pursuit of the perfect image.

Direct link to video: https://youtu.be/dANmjV1uqe8

Zeiss Lenses for Smart Phones

Zeiss just announced a new line of lenses they’ll be producing for smart phones. They are partnering with Fellowes and ExoLens (https://exolens.com) to create a lens set and frame mount that works with the newest iPhone series smartphones.

The kit is set to launch during the second quarter of 2016. Zeiss and ExoLens are initially supporting the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S, and 6S Plus. Support for other devices may come in the future.

More information and sample photographs here: http://lenspire.zeiss.com/en/zeiss-and-fellowes-brands-launch/

Zeiss phone lenses

Zeiss is planning a variety of lenses for their launch in the second quarter of 2016.



National Geographic’s 2015 photography contest winners.

Zeiss and ExoLens

Zeiss lenses using the ExoLens mount for iPhone 6 models.

Workshop Updates

I have four international trips planned for 2016. Each is designed around a beautiful photographic destination and is tailored specifically for enthusiast photographers and their spouses.


We are almost sold out for this fun adventure. I charter an 82-foot expedition yacht and we spend a week exploring the incredible wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. We depart from Guayaquil Ecuador, so fly in a day or two early to explore this warm coastal city.

Dates: September 17-25, 2016

Sign Up: https://visadventures.com/galapagos-photo-adventure-2016/


I’m returning to one of my favorite places on planet earth for another year of birds and landscape photography. My co-leader Tim Vollmer and I are Iceland veterans who have a proven track record of leading top-notch trips. We travel during late July in order to maximize light and photograph during the best weather. One of our goals is to photograph nesting puffins during their prime baby-feeding season. Although the timing is not always predictable, we’ve been able to hit the prime puffin photography in most of our previous trips.

Dates: July 17-24, 2016

Sign Up: https://visadventures.com/workshops/iceland-landscapes-and-birds-photo-adventure-summer-2016/


2016 marks my 10th trip to Tanzania. A place where wildlife is abundant, people are friendly, and the landscapes are stunning. We’ve already met the minimum number of people to run this trip, so sign up today for a slot on this photo adventure. I have reserved new lodges and luxury tented camps that are located inside the national parks. I use these locations because their proximity allows us spend more time in the park which means more photographs in better light.

Dates: November 4-15, 2016

Sign Up: https://visadventures.com/workshops/tanzanian-wildlife-photo-safari-2016/

Czech Republic

My co-leader for this trip, Tim Vollmer, is now a resident of the Czech Republic and knows this beautiful area of Europe like the back of his hand. We’ve put together an itinerary that covers the best that Bohemia has to offer during the beautiful autumn colors. We’ll be photographing castles, forests, old towns, and lots of culture. We’ve reserved fabulous hotels with wonderful food. This trip is going to be fun.

Dates: October 9-16, 2016

Sign Up: https://visadventures.com/workshops/czech-republic-and-prague-in-autumn/

Visual Adventures Trip Map







Our Newest Book – The Nikon Autofocus System

Our newest book, The Nikon Autofocus System went to market in December and is available for order on our website, at Amazon.com, or at our publisher’s website (link below). To celebrate the completion of the book, I published seven articles on autofocus to help you improve your skills with this somewhat complicated camera system. For the articles, I included both Canon and Nikon camera examples. Here are the links to the book and the articles.


Book Ordering Information


1. Autofocus for Portraits


2. Live View Autofocus


3. Autofocus and Hyperfocal Distance for Landscape Photography


4. Autofocus for Theater and Stage Productions


5. Autofocus for Panoramas


6. Dealing With Interference


7. AF-S Lens Mistakes


Nikon AF cover

Book Review – The Digital Negative, Raw Image Processing in Lightroom, Camera Raw, and Photoshop, 2nd Edition

The Digital Negative

In my mind, Jeff Shewe’s book, The Digital Negative is an indispensible guide for any photographer who aspires to be the very best at editing RAW files. His breadth of knowledge and attention to detail separate this book technically from others I’ve read on the subject. He writes in a very matter-of-fact manner and keeps the focus of the book squarely on RAW processing in Adobe imaging software.

Many sections of the book read as a history lesson straight from the offices of Adobe. Schewe has a good rapport with the Adobe Photoshop and Camera RAW teams, and it is quite fun to learn the history behind decisions for many of the things we take for granted in their products.

Lightroom brush

Here, Jeff shows how to use the brush tool to selectively increase sharpness and clarity.

Beyond the history lesson, this book is chock-full of excellent wisdom for working with digital RAW files. After introducing Lightroom and Camera RAW processing in the early chapters, Schewe goes through the entire list of processing functions in the software in great detail. He also describes the process he uses when working on images, and shows examples of images to illustrate his slider choices.

The 321-page book is broken up into six well-researched chapters:

Chapter 1 – What Is A Digital Negative

Chapter 2 – Adobe RAW Image Processing: An Overview

Chapter 3 – Fundamentals of Lightroom and Camera RAW

Chapter 4 – Advanced RAW Processing Using Lightroom or Camera RAW

Chapter 5 – Deploying Photoshop to Perfect Your Digital Negatives

Chapter 6 – Creating an Efficient Workflow

Lightroom masking

Jeff’s examples are very well done. Here is one page of many where he describes how masking works in Lightroom.

Each chapter has full-color photographs and illustrations. All are essential to the text and are laid out in such a way to aid the learning process. For example, the illustrations from the section on dealing with gradients and brushes are extremely helpful for those trying to understand the nuances of these tools. Also, his examples in Chapter 5 are very helpful for those who process images in both Lightroom and Photoshop.

In my mind, the book is the best on the market for understanding the detailed operation of every single RAW processing option in Adobe’s imaging software. If you are willing to put the time and effort into really learning the software, then this is the right book for you. On the other hand, if you just want to know how to get stuff done, without learning the technical side of things, then you might choose Scott Kelby’s book, How Do I Do That In Lightroom? http://amzn.to/1TFk4lt.

I give the book two thumbs up. Highly recommended.

Buy your own copy: The Digital Negative


Book Review – Jay Maisel, Light, Gesture & Color


Jay Maisel is one of the legends in the photography industry. With a career spanning more than 60 years, he’s seen it all, and done it all. He started his career before the advent of color film and was one of the early converts to digital photography, which he still uses to this day. Even now in his 80s, Jay is constantly shooting, always pushing himself to get better.

The goal of Light, Gesture & Color is to teach us mere mortals how to see. Every example is designed around instructing the reader how to think about three important elements of photography – light, gesture, and color. After spending a few pages describing what each of these terms mean, Jay dedicates the remainder of the book to showing photographic examples of the concepts.


The layout is simple, with a photograph on the right and Jay’s sage comments on the left.

The book is very simply laid out with one photograph on the right page and a description on the left page. In these descriptions, Jay drops some of his wisdom as it relates to that specific photograph. What to think. What to ignore. What to see. How to solve photographic problems.

One of the main themes throughout the book revolves around not forcing your photography. When discussing how to “get” light, gesture, and color in your photography, Jay says, “The aggressive search for them (light, gesture, and color) is counterproductive. It makes it less likely that you will perceive them.” He says, “Don’t make plans to photograph color. You’ll walk past great color while you’re trying to complete your plans.”


In reference to light, one of my favorite lines in the entire book shows up on page 2. Jay is talking about how photographers complain constantly about light. Jay says, “There is no bad light. There is spectacular light and difficult light. It is up to you to use the light you have. … You work with the hand you’re dealt.”

Great photos can be made in any light and we shouldn’t close our mind to making an image just because the light isn’t what we wanted. Jay says later in the book, “There is no one solution to all problems. It’s the problem itself that can lead to the solution.” In other words, use the existing conditions and find a way to make the photo in that light. Don’t give up.

While reading through the Light, Gesture, and Color, one of the things that struck me is how Jay allows his mind to be changed, even though he’s been shooting forever. He tells a story about posing subjects for photographs and how he hated posed images early in his career. Then one day, he took a photograph of a karate master who posed for his shot, even though Jay wanted it to be a candid. Jay ended up loving the photo and realized he was missing opportunities because of his closed mind.

San Cristobal

Here, Jay talks about the gestures of the father and son, the colors of the wall and the soft light.

Now, he says, “I even take pictures of people who are posing for other people.” The most instructive element here is that we shouldn’t lock ourselves into a photographic dogma. There are always other solutions and other ways to get great photographs.

The cool thing about Jay is that he’s always pushing himself and others to get better. His approach is start with the easy stuff, then work on the next harder thing. For example, when photographing gesture in street photography, master gesture with one person. Then, when you get good with one person, move to capturing gesture with two people. Then, when you get good with two, move to three. As Jay says, “Don’t stop at easy.”

This is definitely not a book about gear, or even technique for that matter. It is all about helping photographers capture the interaction between light, gesture and color in our images. It is about seeing, or perhaps more specifically, developing the proper mindset for seeing.

Highly recommended.

Buy your own copy here at Amazon: Jay Maisel, Light, Gesture, Color. http://amzn.to/1TFiGPJ

Long Term Gear Report: Naneu K5 v2 80L Backpack

Naneu K5

The Naneu K5 v2 80L camera backpack is a well-designed bag designed for backcountry photographers.

Back in 2013 I tested a prototype version of the Naneu K5 v2 photo backpack based on a request from the company’s president (here’s my initial report on the pack – https://visadventures.com/naneu-k5-v2-field-test/). At the time, I liked it and thought it was perfect for my outdoor backcountry adventures. I had to send that prototype bag back to the Naneu, but I’ve owned the final production version of the bag for about a year now.

Last week, I went to Mt. Rainier National Park to enjoy the copious quantities of snow we’ve been getting here in Washington State. At one point during our three-day trip, a group of eight of us hiked a 1,300’ elevation gain trail in snowshoes. I took along the Naneu K5 v2 camera backpack for our hike up the Rampart Ridge Trail (http://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/rampart-ridge-trail.htm) near Longmire’s National Park Inn.

Naneu snow

Here I’m wearing the K5 v2 80L with the backpack and the front camera bag. I’m wearing the camera bag low so the weight is carried by my hip belt. When hiking more technical terrain, I generally wear the camera bag higher on my shoulder straps.

The K5 v2 is an 80-liter backpack with a detachable front camera bag. The system is designed for the photographer who is going on a multi-day backcountry hike and needs a way to carry camping gear and camera gear. Any backpack will carry camera gear, but the biggest design challenge is finding a way to keep the camera gear accessible without having to take off the backpack.

Nisqually River

A winter photograph of the Nisqually River taken just outside of Longmire in Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington, USA. Nikon D750, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8. Seven frame panorama processed and stitched together in Lightroom CC.

Naneu solved this problem by devising a system to attach the camera bag to the backpack with buckles. The camera bag clips into place using mounts fixed to backpack’s hipbelt and the shoulder straps.

I loaded the front camera bag with a Nikon D750, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, and a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8. In the main compartment of the backpack, I stuffed snow clothes, an avalanche shovel, tripod, GoPro, water, food, and emergency supplies.

Group shot

Getting shots while everyone is hiking is easy because the front camera bag is so accessible. Here, we are at the high point of the hike. Not much of a view :-(

Accessing the camera bag while hiking is very easy. Just zip open the main compartment and lift out the camera. It is literally right at your waist, so getting to the gear is fast and efficient. The bag is also very deep, so it will easily work with a full-size professional body like the Nikon D5 mounted to a 70-200mm f/2.8. You’ll have to turn the lens hood backwards when stowing the camera and lens, but that’s pretty normal for most camera bags anyways.

Another cool feature of the Naneu K5 v2 are the integrated stowable waterproof nylon covers. During our Mt. Rainier hike, it was snowing quite profusely when we departed, but it quickly let up so I didn’t use the waterproof covers this time. However, Washington gets a lot of rain so I use these waterproof covers quite frequently on my trips.


My frequent climbing buddy, Dave and I. You can see how the camera bag attaches to the main backpack.

When not being used, the camera bag can be stowed inside the main backpack in it’s own cubby. This allows you to hike without the camera bag in the front, if you decide to stop taking photographs (who would do that?). Also, the camera bag portion transforms into its own mini backpack for times when you leave camp to go on short exploratory outings without the big backpack.

The larger 80 liter backpack is very comfortable when fully loaded. Everything is adjustable including the shoulder straps, torso length, hip belts, and side stabilization straps. I really like how easy it is to move with the front camera bag in place. It attaches and detaches very quickly, making it easy to take the backpack on and off.

Group pic.

Our group of 8 before the hike.

I also like how you can adjust how low or high the camera bag positions on your front torso. For moving around in the flats, I kept the bag lower on my hips so most of the weight rested on the hip belt. For hiking on the steep uphill, I moved the pack higher on my shoulder straps so my legs and knees had more freedom to move.

The K5 v2 is one of the best thought-out camera and backpacking gear hauling systems I’ve ever used. Everything about it is well-designed from the fabrics to the suspension system to the straps. There are so many small details they’ve included, that I’m still discovering new elements even a year later. I have nothing but good things to say about this bag because it performs so well. It is the perfect bag for someone who needs to carry lots of camping gear and their professional camera gear.

Buy your own here: Naneu K5 v2 80L http://amzn.to/1n6chTi

More information here:


Workshop and Business Updates

Iceland Birds and Landscapes

July 17-24, 2016. We’ll photograph some of the most amazing scenery and wildlife Iceland has to offer. From verdant rolling hills to rugged mountains, the landscapes of Iceland are famous for their interplay between light and sky. We’ve also included a few photo sessions with some famous bird populations to stoke your wildlife photography passions.

Info here:


Galapagos Wildlife and Landscapes

September 17-25, 2016. Over the years, we’ve formed a wonderful partnership with our charter boat operator and absolutely love our on-board staff, guides and itinerary. This photo adventure trip to the Galapagos Islands is an experience of a lifetime. Each day features a different region of the Islands. Our expedition yacht has the ability to anchor close to our attractions and our small group size means that we can be nimble while photographing nature’s splendor.

Info here:


Czech Republic and Prague

October 9-16, 2016. The best of Bohemia in 8 days. This trip is set to coincide with the fall colors. Our photography themes include landscapes, countrysides, castles and chateaus, colonnades, rural houses, forest animals, and street scenes.

Info here:


Tanzania 2016 Photo Safari

Our epic African safari keeps getting better. I continue to optimize our travel schedule so that it allows even more time to photograph wildlife in the field. Next year’s Tanzanian photo safari is scheduled for November 4 – 15, 2016. Join us for a wildlife photography adventure you’ll never forget.

Info here:


Nikon Camera Setup Guides

If you are looking for information on how to set up your Nikon camera, then check out our Nikon Camera Setup Guides here: http://visadventures.com/shop/category/camera-setup-guides/

Staying Current

You can stay current with our new workshops by watching for news to be posted at the blog, on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Instagram.


Our Visual Adventures website www.VisAdventures.com 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 old website www.outthereimages.com will stay put in its present form, but we won’t be adding new content there.

Castle at night in Czech Republic. Image courtesy Tim Vollmer.

Castle at night in Czech Republic. Image courtesy Tim Vollmer.

Icelandic puffin

Icelandic puffin.




Custom Group Trips

I frequently put together private trips for groups of photographers who want specialized instruction or guidance. For example, we recently put together a private trip for a small group of people to Tanzania.


If you have a group and want to arrange a custom photo trip to a destination, contact us and we’ll put together an incredible itinerary just for you. Our custom photo adventures are 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. Check out this blog post – What a Private Photography Workshop Looks Like.

Previous private workshops have included:

  • Product photography
  • Learning your camera
  • Lightroom CC
  • Photoshop CC
  • Wedding photography
  • Color management
  • Wildlife photography
  • Sports photography
  • Digital workflow
  • Landscape photography
  • Macro photography
  • Location portraiture
  • Street and travel photography
  • Studio lighting
  • Archiving and scanning film images

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 for details: http://visadventures.com/services/private-travel-tours/ .


Thanks for taking the time to read this month’s newsletter. Feel free to write or contact us if you have questions about our trips or articles.

If you are looking for more photo encouragement during the month, be sure to check out http://VisAdventures.com/blog/ for updates, news, tips and commentary. Also, I encourage you to follow us on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Instagram.


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