| November 2007 Newsletter
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GOAL Assignment (see text)
October GOAL Assignment: Shoot with an Agenda
This old Ford truck took some effort to isolate from the crowded surroundings. To the left was a bunch of yard clutter and to the right was a modern sedan. I had set out on this trip with the purpose of finding old cars.
To try something else, I used two Nikon flashes to balance the truck with the bright blue sky.
Since I was on the lookout for old cars, I spotted this Triumph at a local hotel. Its owners were checking in to their room and came out while I was photographing their car. They politely stayed to the side while I snapped off a couple shots.
Nikon D2X, 70-200 f2.8, handheld.
On the last day of our photo shoot, I found this beautiful Chevy. If you look really carefully, you can see black flames over the black glossy paint.
On a recent trip to Washington DC, I went with a plan to photograph a large panorama of the WWII Memorial. Quite a bit of planning went into the shot, but I don't know that I would have succeeded unless I spent time in preparation before hand. Because I went with a specific agenda, I came back with a beautiful image. Click the image for a larger 2500px wide view of the panorama.
Nikon D200, 28-75 f2.8, Gitzo 1327 tripod, Markins M20 ballhead.
To merge the panorama together, I used the Photomerge function in Photoshop CS3. Here's a screen shot of all the individual images before the merge.
Once the images are selected in Bridge, go to the Tools menu and choose Photoshop then choose Photomerge.
Finally, tell Photoshop CS3 which preferences you want for the photo (I just chose "Auto" and "Blend Images Together") and then click OK. When you are finished, Photoshop will produce a layered file as a PSD that you can now flatten and print.
November GOAL Assignment: Light Painting
Your GOAL (Get Out And Learn) assignment this month is to shed some light on your subject with a flashlight. Go find someplace dark and interesting. Set your camera to Manual exposure, open your shutter and then paint the scene with a flashlight or other light source. Next month, I'll give some more tips on how to make this work!
Book Review: Photoshop Lightroom Adventure
Photoshop Lightroom Adventure by Mikkel Aaland and O'Reilly Publishing. This is a fantastic book to help you learn Lightroom. I highly recommend it!
I have been using Lightroom for a few months now, but needed to know more about the software and how it fit in my workflow. Mikkel Aaland has done a great job explaining the program in plain english - just the way I like it.
Digital Tidbits: Printing Online – Use sRGB color space
The first step in getting great prints from the lab is a calibrated monitor. You'll need to spend about $250 for a good calibration tool.
Second, tell your software to edit your pictures in sRGB color space. This is what the screen looks like from Photoshop CS3.
Third, have the lab turn off their automatic color correction. Here's the "options" screen from the Costco.com website that allows you to turn off "auto color correction." If your screen is calibrated and your color space is sRGB, then tell the lab to keep their system "neutral" by turning off the auto color correction.
Mike Hagen - Out There Images Newsletter - November 2007
Greetings folks! What a month it has been. Great workshops, lots of photography and a huge stash of fresh candy from my kids’ Halloween adventures! Nirvana. I’ve just returned from New York and Washington DC leading workshops and am leaving next week to Chicago for another week of workshops. After that, I’m headed out to Tennessee to do some photography near the Smokies. November is going to be a great month!
I had mentioned a few months ago about a TV show I was working on with PBS. It was a story about Canyoneering in slot canyons “somewhere” in Oregon. I had great fun being a TV star for a day and was awarded my 15 minutes of fame. The show has finally been broadcast on PBS and you can see the video here:
Also, you can see more details from their programming here:
We have a few workshops to announce for 2008 and are still working on the rest of the schedule. I know that we are late on posting our 2008 workshops, but there is a lot to coordinate with some new instructors, new business opportunities and new book projects. Sigh. I’ll get it all ready to go “soon”. How about by Tuesday? Any Tuesday.
We are going to run our very popular Art of Travel workshop in Washington State’s North Cascades in October ‘08. Specifically, the dates will be October 2nd – 5th, 2008. Additionally, I have scheduled our Columbia Gorge Travel workshop for the May 1st – 4th, 2008. We’ll be running an Olympic Peninsula workshop as well in the month of August (dates still to be determined). We have two African Safaris planned in November/December ’08.
The North Cascades and Columbia Gorge workshops will be run through Out There Images, Inc. (www.outthereimages.com/workshops.html). The Olympic Peninsula and African Safari trips will be run through the Nikonians (http://www.nikonians.org). In addition to these workshops, we’ll be offering more workshops than you can shake a stick at all around the USA. These will be on topics such as the new Nikon D300, Nikon D200, Nikon D80/D70, Capture NX and iTTL wireless Flash. Some of these workshops have already been posted at www.nikoniansacademy.com. I’ll be posting many more over the next few weeks.
October GOAL Assignment: Shoot with an Agenda
Last month I asked you to think about what photos you want before you get to your destination. The reason I do this is that it helps me be alert for photo possibilities that I might normally miss. Also, it helps me focus my energies which prevents me from wandering aimlessly in a new area.
The photo I posted last month of the old Ford truck was a result of thinking ahead of time about they types of photos I wanted to come home with. I knew that I was going to an old Western town for the weekend and in my mind I formed some mental pictures of what an old town looks like. I thought of cowboys, horses, tractors and old cars. So, I made it my goal that day to find as many old vehicles as possible. I didn’t find as many as I expected, but when I did find an old car, I spent extra time getting a great photo of it.
Sometimes when I see an interesting subject, it is easy for me to just snap a couple of pics and then walk to the next photo spot. However, I find that if I stick around for a few more minutes, I can get a much more pleasing photo. In other words, keep trying and something will happen!
In the case of the old Ford truck, it was stored in an open carport on the side of a house. To the left of the truck was a mishmash of trees and power lines and to the right was a new 1990’s sedan. Not the most appealing picture. I took a few shots and then started to work hard to find an angle that showed the vehicle but didn’t show the modern elements. I shot telephoto, medium, wide, macro, far, close, high and low. I even added a fill-flash to see if I could balance the deep shadow of the carport with the bright blue sky.
To expand on this concept of “shooting with an agenda,” I wanted to show a picture I took earlier this month while in Washington DC leading workshops. For a while now, I’ve wanted to take a panorama of the WWII memorial after sunset. The memorial is beautifully lit at night with a big double water fountain as a center piece. I started making detailed plans for the shot almost a month before leaving. I researched the moonrise time and to my delight, found that there would be a full moon that would be about 15 degrees above the eastern horizon about 30 minutes after sunset. Oooh. That’s good. I figured out what settings I’d use for my camera, which camera to use, which lens, which tripod, etc. I also checked out a Google Earth satellite view of the area to see if there was anything specific I wanted to include or exclude from the surrounding area.
The afternoon of the photo, I took the Redline train down to the Smithsonian subway stop and then spent a few hours before sunset walking around, taking some photos of the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. I also scouted some potential tripod spots for the WWII Memorial panorama that I’d be taking a few hours later. After all the preparations, test shots and planning, all I had to do now was wait.
As soon as the sun set, I set up my tripod at the memorial. I turned my camera to all manual control and set my aperture to f8 and white balance to 6200K (same as Cloudy -1). I leveled my tripod and then panned my camera around 360 degrees to make sure my horizon was level in each area of the photo.
At about 25 minutes after sunset, I started taking photographs. Each panorama I shot was a combination of 15 photos that added up to 360 degrees. I overlapped each picture by about 20% with the next one and used a cable release to trigger the shutter. A few times, I asked people if they would move a few feet to the side while a snapped the shot.
The best series of photos came at just about 40 minutes after sunset. Unfortunately, as you can see in the example photograph to the left, the clouds came and the full moon was obscured. Oh, I guess you can’t have it all!
So, why was this shot a success? I think it was because I spent a lot of time planning for it. I knew what subject I wanted. I knew where I wanted to be. I knew when I needed to be there. I tested before hand. I executed well.
Next time you go out for a photo shoot, I challenge you to go with an agenda!
November GOAL Assignment: Light Painting
Your Get Out And Learn (GOAL) assignment this month is to try some light painting! The essence of light painting is to illuminate elements in your photograph with a flashlight or some other type of light. You’ll need to take your photo in a dark room or after the sun goes down. Try different white balance settings, different ISO values, different shutter speeds and apertures. Also, try different types of light to see the colors generated by incandescent, fluorescent, LED, etc. Next month, I’ll give some tips and tricks on the method.
Book Review: Photoshop Lightroom Adventure
Like the rest of the digital photographers in the world, I’ve been using Photoshop Lightroom over the last number of months. And, like most of the photographers in this world, I know I haven’t really used the program to its fullest. I’ve really wanted to learn the details of this great software package, but I’ve been “busy” and haven’t spent the time to learn it to its fullest extent. I had wanted to truly understand how Lightroom fits in my workflow. So, I decided to find a book to help me use the program like a pro!
So far, one of the best books I’ve found on Lightroom is written by Mikkel Aaland and is titled “Photoshop Lightroom Adventure, Mastering Adobe’s next-generation tool for digital photographers.” It is published by O’Reilly and you can find lots more details here: http://digitalmedia.oreilly.com/adventure/.
Mikkel has done an excellent job of laying out the features of the program in a very logical and easy to understand way. The chapters of the book are organized by modules in the software program, so it is very quick and easy to find specific items you want to study. For example, Lightroom has modules called Organize, Develop, Slideshow, Print and Web and Mikkel devotes entire chapters to each of these subjects. I found that each chapter perfectly explains how each module works, how to set up the preferences and all the shortcuts to help me use the program faster. I’m a shortcut nut, so I appreciate Mikkel’s focus on demonstrating all these time-saving tips.
One of the neat aspects of the book is that it was written from the perspective of a big Photography trip that Mikkel and a number of other Professional photographers took to Iceland last year. He showed how Lightroom was used to catalog, organize, enhance, prepare and work on all the photos from the trip. I like learning in a way that is practical, and this book definitely hit the mark in that accord. When someone shows you “how” they do it for themselves, then it is easy to see how you’d use it in your own workflow.
Each page of the book is set up with the text on one half page and representative screen shots on the other half page. That means that you don’t have to flip between pages to see an illustration. It's all right there in front of you.
The chapter on using Lightroom’s Library Module is excellent and demonstrates how you use Lightroom to organize your images. I thought his subsection on “Editing a Day’s Shoot in Iceland” was just perfect and it showed me how to best use the program to quickly cull the best images from thousands of shots.
In another section of the book, Mikkel shows off a bunch of recipes for finishing your photographs in Lightroom. The great thing about these recipes is that the photographers are well-known professionals who are sharing some of their secrets. People like Michael Reichmann of the Luminous-Landscape, Angela Drury and Peter Krogh have all contributed to the making of this book and their photographs are spectacular. Which brings up another reason why I like this book so much, all the photos included are in full color and many are full-page and double-page spreads. There’s no squinting to see the differences between images. Nice work!
One of the great features of Lightroom is how it helps you publish your work. Adobe knows that we present our photographs in lots of different media and hence need a tool to help us output in print, web, presentations, etc. Mikkel shows us in Lightroom Adventure how to use the Slideshow module to create great presentations. He goes into great detail on the Web module to explain how to make HTML galleries as well as Flash galleries. Also, he spends considerable space going through the Print module to explain color management, multiple image printing and specific print setups.
Mikkel’s book is well written and I wholeheartedly recommend it if you are looking for something to explain all the features of Lightroom in plain English. His writing style and presentation match mine, so it was a perfect match for my learning style. As with most programs, there is so much hidden beneath the surface that isn’t revealed until someone else shows you the ropes. Mikkel not only shows you the ropes, but he shows you how to make the program sing. Mikkel is a great writer and I’m hoping to get to meet him one of these days to shake his hand on a job well done.
Find out more info here: http://digitalmedia.oreilly.com/adventure/
Lightroom Adventure retails for $39.99, but you can buy it at Amazon for $26.39.
Digital Tidbits: Printing Online – Use sRGB color space
Every month, I receive lots of questions from people about printing their digital images at the lab. Quite a few people are having problems getting consistent colors and are wondering what they can do to improve their chances of success. A number of months ago in my newsletters, I talked about the method and approach for printing at places like MPix, Costco or Snapfish. Since so many people still have questions about it, I thought I’d cover it in some more detail this month. In fact, just two days ago I received another question that I’m sure many of you have had. Here’s the question from one of my readers (edited for clarity):
Mike – I remember you saying that you send out your pictures out to the lab to have them printed. I have had mixed results with various print houses. York Photo has done pretty well for me, but sometimes the prints don’t come back quite the way they should. I am a bit concerned especially if I do shots for other people and they want to see the photo come back looking like it looked on my computer screen. I was very disappointed with Sam’s Club and also Ritz Camera/Wolf Camera and probably won’t use them again. I shoot in Adobe RGB and save this as the embedded ICC profile. It’s also the profile I use in Capture NX and also Photoshop CS3. Do you have any recommendations on print houses that you would or do use, and also what I should be doing to make sure what I see on the screen is what I get on the print?
As with everything in life, there isn’t one quick answer. Color management is a process and should be tackled step by step. The first thing to note here is that just about any lab out there will produce excellent results as long as your system is set up properly. I’ve printed stunning images at Costco, Target, Sam’s Club, Ritz Camera, WalMart, Rite Aid and everything in between. In fact, I’m continually amazed at how good these places actually are! The reason that my prints come out well isn’t because I used an expensive lab, it is because I’ve spent the time to make my digital workflow compatible with all the mini-labs out there.
Since I get great results with my system set up for lower-end mini labs, then imagine how good my results are when I use higher end labs like MPix, Buckeye Color or Color Incorporated!
The first step, and probably most important, is you have to make sure your computer monitor is properly calibrated. Do yourself a favor and buy any of the new calibration systems from X-Rite or DataColor (Spyder 3). The $250 you spend now will save you thousands over the next few years in just reduced frustration. You should be calibrating your monitor about once per month at a minimum. As a side note, don’t do critical color corrections on your laptop screen. They just don’t cut it for critical tonal or color adjustments.
Second, you need to make sure to use sRGB as your color space if you are printing at the lab. Almost all of the labs use the sRGB color space for their printing equipment. If you send them Adobe RGB, then they will "clip" or "shift" your colors to fit into the sRGB space. This will sometimes give you a noticeable color shift and can ruin your day, especially if you are printing portraits and people.
So, how do you set up your computer programs for sRGB?
In Photoshop CS3:
1. Go to Edit --> Color Settings (Shift + Ctrl + K).
2. Set your RGB working space to sRGB
3. Set your Color Management Policies for RGB to "Convert to Working RGB"
4. Put checks in each of the "Ask" boxes.
5. Click OK
In Nikon Capture NX:
1. Go to Edit --> Preferences --> Color Management
2. Default Color Space --> sRGB
3. Click OK.
Other programs are similar; you typically go into the preferences and set the working space to be sRGB.
Depending on your computer, you may have a few different sRGB color spaces to choose from. For example, you can pick sRGB IEC61966-2.1 or Nikon RGB 188.8.131.5201 or even just plain sRGB. The truth is that any color space with the name sRGB is the same. Pick whichever one is closest to your mouse.
Now that you have chosen sRGB to be your “Working” space, what this means is that when you open your photograph in the program, it will be editing the photo in sRGB. If you had originally shot the photo in a Adobe RGB, your editing program has now transformed it into sRGB space. This is the same space that you’ll be printing in at the online photo lab. Therefore, you can see in real time the colors as you edit.
Third, tell the lab not to make color corrections during processing. Most web ordering interfaces have a check box that allows you to tell them to "Turn Off Automatic Color Correction." If you forget to check this box and subsequently allow them to do color correction, then depending on the laboratory, you might be in for a surprising color shift.
Some of the higher-end labs have actual people (yes, human beings!) who do the color correction. For example, MPix has a printing technician who makes color corrections manually. In this case, it might be ok to allow the company to do color correction for you. However, the lower-end labs (corner drug stores) don’t have people do the color correction and allow their machines to do “auto color correction”. This can be dangerous. If my pictures turn out poorly from a lab, it is almost always because I forgot to turn off “auto color correction” at the time I ordered the prints.
So that’s it. Calibrate your monitor. Edit in sRGB. Turn off the lab’s automatic color correction. Three steps to great lab prints.
Where do I print? Since I’m very close to a Costco, I tend to use them for a lot of my simple printing needs (www.costco.com). For example, I send my family snapshots and team soccer pictures to Costco.com and then pick them up an hour later. The convenience and price just can’t be beat. When I need better quality and better control for weddings, portraits and artwork, I send my prints to MPix (www.mpix.com) or Buckeye Color Labs (www.buckeyecolor.com) and then have the prints mailed to me.
The last thing I want to say about this whole discussion is that the above settings are specific to printing at the lab. If you print at home on inkjet printers, your settings will be completely different. I change my color preferences depending on what my output source is. Don’t be afraid to change your color preferences around as you change your printing locations. I change my color preferences many times per week depending on the project I’m working on at the moment.
Good luck printing!
Almost all the workshops I am leading for the rest of this year are completely sold out! We have set the dates for our two most popular workshops. The are the Art of Travel Workshops and will be held in the North Cascades and the Columbia River Gorge.
Columbia Gorge, OR - May 1st – 4th, 2008
North Cascades, Mazama, WA - October 2nd – 5th, 2008
We'll have detailed info for '08 posted soon at this site:
We've started posting our new 2008 workshops. Please go to www.nikoniansacademy.com to see all the new cities and the new topics! We are offering topics such as wildlife safaris, travel workshops, D80/D70, D2X, D200, Nikon Capture NX, Nikon iTTL wireless flash through the Nikonians. If you are thinking of signing up, then you had better hurry! Seats are selling quickly and there are quite a few workshops that are already completely sold out in various cities. Right now, Winston Hall's workshops are posted and mine will be coming soon.
Private instruction is a very popular and affordable 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have questions about this option.
I appreciate the opportunity to share knowledge with each of you. Feel free to write if you have questions. I'm always happy to help.
Out There Images, Inc. - "Get Out And Learn!"
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335
All images and content (C) 1998 - 2007 Mike Hagen / Out There Images. All rights reserved.