| April 2010 Newsletter
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New Article on Africa
Check out the newest issue of the Nikonian Magazine for an article on which gear to pack for Africa. Here's the link.
Third Printing of our Nikon Creative Lighting System book
We've just completed the third printing of our Nikon Creative Lighting System book from Rocky Nook. The book continues to sell well!
Travel Photography Guides Published
I've just finished up working as the Technical Editor on four new travel photography books from Wily & Son's Publishing. Three guides are shown here: San Francisco, Washington DC, and Yosemite. New York will be published in the next few weeks.
April GOAL Assignment: Wide Angle Lens
Your Get Out And Learn assignment for February is to take as many wide angle lens photos as you can. Try some portraits, landscapes and interior shots. Next month, I'll post a bunch of my own wide angle lens photos while sharing some tips for creating compelling wide imagery.
Product Review: Scott eVest Evolution Travel Jacket
The Scott eVest Evolution Travel Jacket holds a ton of gear while still looking great.
When you buy the jacket, each pocket comes with an instruction card explaining how to best utilize the pocket.
Product Review: Lexar Pro Dual Card Reader
This is a great card reader. Fast, tough and small. It is perfect for life on the road.
Product Review: OWC Mercury Elite AL Pro eSATA Disk Drive
Here's what the quad interface looks like. You can use USB, Firewire 400, Firewire 800 or eSATA to connect the drive to your computer.
In order to use the fastest eSATA connection, you'll need to purchase an additional adapter for your computer. In my case, I chose an Express34 adapter from OWC.
Photo Techniques: Focus Point vs. Depth of Field
In this photo of the flowers, you can clearly see that I was most interested in the focus point. I focused directly on the flowers and used a big f2.8 aperture to minimize depth of field.
For a landscape photo, you'll typically want to use something called the hyperfocal distance. Here, I focused beyond the plant and used a small aperture of f22. This maximized depth of field, even though I didn't really focus on a "thing" in the composition. Rather, I focused on a "distance".
For a shot like this of Multnomah Falls in Oregon, you don't necessarily need a great depth of field, so you can simply focus at (or near)infinity.
Here's a sample DOF table from DOFMaster.com. Click on the table for a larger view.
Mike Hagen – Out There Images, Inc. – April 2010 Newsletter
In this Newsletter:
- Where’s Mike?
- Nikon Creative Lighting System: 3rd Printing
- Magazine Article for Travelers to Africa
- New Travel Photography Books are Published
- April GOAL Assignment: Wide Angle Lenses
- Product Review: Scott eVest Evolution Travel Jacket
- Product Review: Lexar Pro Dual Card Reader
- Product Review: OWC Mercury Elite AL Pro eSATA Disk Drive
- Photo Techniques: Focus Point vs. Depth of Field
- Workshop Updates
Greetings folks! Hope you are doing well and that you are having a great time with your photography. I have a bunch of updates for you this month regarding books, photography and workshops. But first, some encouragement!
If you are anything like me, it is a constant struggle to balance your time between life and photography. I know, it sounds funny that a professional photographer struggles to find time to take photos, but that’s the truth. Office tasks, business, taxes, travel, family, children’s sports, marriage and photography all have to fight for my time. So, what’s the best way to keep your photographic skill level up? Take your camera with you everywhere you go. I mean everywhere!
A few nights ago I went to dinner with a friend and I took my camera with me. He asked why I brought it and my response was “In case anything interesting needs to be photographed.” Even if you don’t end up taking photos, at least your mind is thinking about taking photos. I’m always looking for compositions or new locations for portraits. Yesterday, I went out to lunch at Panera Bread and snapped a few pics of the interesting architectural details with my Nikon D700. Today, I did my laundry and snapped a few pics of the laundry machine. Why not?
The best thing about taking photographs in these random locations was that I exercised my mind while keeping photographic concepts such as white balance, exposure and composition fresh in my head. I always try to stay keen for new photographic opportunities that might come along. So, my encouragement to those of you who “can’t find the time for photography” is to simply place your camera’s strap over your shoulder and take your camera with you wherever you go. You’ll be happy you did. Trust me.
Over the last few months I’ve been doing quite a bit of traveling for photography workshops. Atlanta, Orlando, Los Angeles, New York and Boston. Next week, I take off for California where I’ll be running a couple of photography workshops in conjunction with the Triple D Game Farm (http://www.tripledgamefarm.com) and their wildlife models. The first workshop I'm running is called Day on the Ranch, where we'll be photographing cowboys, horses, a cattle drive and everything else associated with life on a ranch. The next workshop is four days of photographing the Triple D Game Farm's wildlife models in natural environments. Finally, after all the fun of photographing animals and cowboys, we take a quick photo excursion to Yosemite. Can’t wait!
There are still a few seats remaining if you want to take a last minute trip to California with us. Here’s the link.
After the Triple D Game Farm workshops, I am leading Nikonians Academy photography workshops in Seattle from 4/16 – 4/19. Our D300 class is already sold out. We have remaining seats in our Nikon D90/D80 class, our iTTL Wireless Flash class and in our Capture NX2 class. Here’s the link
Then, for those of you in Texas, I have workshops in Houston and Dallas this May. They begin on 5/20 for Houston and on 5/28 for Dallas. Link.
Magazine Article for Travelers to Africa
Many of you have written over the last month to ask about lenses and gear you should take on your photo safaris to Africa. I just finished up writing an article about gear for photo safaris for the Nikonian Magazine. Here’s a link:
It is fun to see people traveling again, even though we are still technically in a recession. Many of you are hopping into airplanes and heading to far flung places. Even if you aren't heading to Africa, check out the article for a little bit of armchair travel.
Nikon Creative Lighting System – 3rd Printing
That’s right. Our book, The Nikon Creative Lighting System, Using the SB-600, SB-800, SB-900, and R1C1 Flashes has just completed its third printing. This is great news that the book continues to sell well and is a popular guide for learning how to use your wireless Nikon flashes. Here’s a link:
New Travel Photography Books are Published
I just finished up working with Wiley & Son’s Publishing on four new books in their Digital Field Guide series. I was the technical editor for this excellent series and the first book has been printed, called Photographing Yosemite Digital Field Guide, by Lewis Kemper.
Many of you know of Lewis Kemper because of his long and illustrious career as a professional photographer. You can see his website and the new book here:
Right now, there are four books in the travel photography series: Yosemite, San Francisco, New York and Washington DC. Yosemite is the first one to be printed and the next three titles will be printed over the next few weeks. Each of the books has been designed to show you the best spots to create photographs in each of these locations. For example, the Yosemite book has chapters on photographing icons such as Half Dome, Yosemite Lodge, Horsetail Fall, and Tuolumne Meadows.
Finally, one of the neatest things about these new books is they all have a companion iPhone app for each area of photography. The iPhone app allows you to plan, map, shoot and share your photos with one easy interface. Great stuff.
April GOAL Assignment: Wide Angle Lenses
Your Get Out And Learn (GOAL) assignment for April is to take as many photos as you can while only using your wide angle lens. Try to do some portraits with a wide angle lens. Try some macro work with the wide angle. Try some interior architecture shots. The goal is to see what kind of crazy shots you can find while using “wides”.
I think you'll be surprised at how difficult it is to come up with compelling shots when using wide angle lenses. Next month, I’ll post my efforts as well as some great tips for using wide angle lenses in the real world.
Product Review: Scott eVest Evolution Travel Jacket
We photographers put a lot of thought into the gear we use. We obsess about the size, fit, capacity, look, and utility of everything. Even the clothing we wear has to be functional.
Over the years, I’ve purchased so many articles of clothing for my photography that half of my closet is filled with unused vests, hats and pants that just didn’t quite work out. Some of the worst purchases I've made have been different iterations of photo vests. Photo vests have their proper place in my photographic wardrobe, but they are always bulky and, well, look like a photo vest. In the right situation, they say “I’m a pro”. In other situations, they scream “TOURIST,” and it is hard for me to blend in to the local scene. This is especially true at places like museums or events where I don’t want to necessarily look like a photographer.
So, for the last few years, I’ve been looking for something that has the utility of a photo vest, but the look of a traditional city jacket. I wanted something that looked slick on the outside, yet functional on the inside. After showing my wife a photo of a neat looking jacket I found from Scott eVest, she thoughtfully purchased one for me as a gift for Christmas. The jacket is called the Evolution Travel Jacket and so far, I absolutely love it.
Here’s the link for the Evolution Travel Jacket
Here’s the link to Scott’s daily sales page
Scott eVest Daily Deals
My first real field use of the Evolution Travel Jacket was on a recent photo shoot down in Cocoa Beach, Florida. The weather was chilly and wet, so I took the jacket to keep warm during an early morning hike along a nature trail. I filled the pockets of the Evolution with photo equipment, my wallet, my smart phone, keys, a water bottle, a notepad, pen, hotel key card, Leatherman and some other random stuff. When it started raining, I was pleasantly surprised to see the water beading up in little droplets on the surface of the coat. My first adventure with the coat left me impressed with its comfort, fit and carrying capacity.
On another photo shoot, I was taking pictures at a theater while watching a play. I didn’t want to carry my camera bag into the theater, so I loaded my Evolution Travel Jacket with a Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 lens, CF card wallet, Nikon SB-900 flash, SC-17 TTL Cable, extra batteries, diffusion dome for the flash, car keys, billfold, smart phone and an energy bar. Over my shoulder, I carried a Nikon D300s with a 70-200 f2.8 lens. The cool thing was that I had only used about half the pockets. Even with a big 24-70 f2.8 in one of the pockets, it didn’t look like a photo vest! Since the jacket is black, it went with my nice slacks & shoes. I blended in to the local crowd without looking like a photographer.
The first time I wore the jacket, I have to admit that I was a little overwhelmed because I wasn’t quite sure what to do with all the pockets. I mean, obviously you put stuff in the pockets, but each pocket has been designed for a specific purpose. Fortunately, Scott’s jacket came with instruction cards for each pocket. No joke. Inside each pocket was a small instruction card to explain how the pocket works and how to get the most utility out of it. For example, I found out that the main pocket for your right hand has a strap to hold a water bottle in the upright position. I also found that there’s a specific pocket on the inside that is designed to hold your sunglasses. It even comes with a chamois cloth attached to a clip so you can keep your glasses clean.
I bought the jacket before the new Apple iPad was announced, but one of the “media” pockets in the jacket is the perfect size to hold an iPad. This is awesome.
After using the Evolution Travel Jacket for three months, I can proudly say that it is one of the best products I’ve purchased. Well designed. Looks good. Perfect fit and finish. I wear it just about every day. In all, I highly recommend it for photographers who need to carry their gear in something other than a bulky photo vest.
Product Review: Lexar Pro Dual Card reader
Here's a quick review on a new card reader I purchased a few months ago. As a pro, I need a fast reader that lets me to transfer photos and video from my CF and SD cards. I need something durable that will travel well, yet small enough to easily fit in my carryon luggage. In my never ceasing quest to find the perfect reader, I recently (and unfortunately) bought a generic brand 14-in-one reader from Fry's Electronics. However, this reader broke after the first few weeks on the road and left me in the field without a way to download my photographs. Grrr.
So, I kept shopping and found the Lexar Professional UDMA CompactFlash and SD Reader (Model No. RW035-7000). I purchased the card reader from B&H Photo Video. Here are some links:
At $33.50, the price was right, but more importantly, the performance is excellent and the durability has been perfect. I've been using the reader now for three months and it hasn't failed me once.
Using the card reader is very simple. Simply push in the side buttons with your index finger and thumb and the card reader pops open. This pop-up feature is what makes the reader so durable. The reader's shell works as a protective case when it is closed. After the reader is popped open, simply plug in the USB cable, then insert your memory card. Viola! Another benefit of the reader is that it has small rubber grippy feet on the bottom that keep it from sliding around in the field.
The card reader is a UDMA reader, which means that it is capable of transferring data at 35MB/s with the right speed memory card and computer combination. It has now travelled with me all around the USA and has reliably downloaded many, many gigabytes of data. I give it two thumbs up.
By the way, Rob Galbraith has a really neat speed test of this reader as well as a whole host of other memory card readers currently on the market at this link:
Product Review: OWC Mercury Elite AL Pro eSATA Disk Drive
For many years I’ve been using a variety of disk drives to archive my photographic files. I’ve mostly been using network drives (NAS) or USB 2.0 drives in order to save, read, and write data. However, these drives have always been just a little bit too slow for my taste. USB drives work great because they have easy plug and play connectivity. However, whenever I needed to transfer large amounts of data or perform video work, they are just plain slow.
So, in my search for fast, reliable external hard drives, many people recommended that I try Other World Computing (OWC). Their website macsales.com has an impressive array of memory solutions from RAM to internal drives to external drives for Macintosh and Windows computer systems.
Being that I wanted the best read/write speeds possible, I decided to go with one of their eSATA drives. Specifically, I chose the Mercury Elite AL Pro Quad Interface drive. The quad interface means that I can connect the drive using four different methods: USB 2.0, Firewire 400, Firewire 800 or eSATA. Of the four methods, eSATA is the fastest of all, allowing a theoretical transfer rate of 3 GB/s. That’s fast! Also, the fact that the drives work with just about any Mac or PC operating system made my decision an easy one.
In order to capitalize on this speed, I also needed to purchase an eSATA adapter for my MacBook Pro, called an Express34 SATA II adapter. There are a bunch of different models and brands, but I opted for a relatively inexpensive unit that was less than $50. The unit plugs directly into the 34mm expansion slot of my MacBook Pro and allows me to easily connect the external drive to the computer.
When I first started looking at the eSATA drives, I wasn’t exactly sure what products I needed to make the whole system work, so I called OWC on the telephone. Amazingly, I actually talked to a PERSON who was intelligent and asked me questions about what I was doing with my system. After about 10 minutes of discussion, she recommended a couple of options. What a nice surprise to talk to someone who speaks English, who wasn't rushing to get me off the phone, and who genuinely wanted to help. I'll buy from OWC as often as I can from now on.
I haven’t done any formal speed tests on the hard drive transfer rate, but I can say that I’m blown away by the speed of the drive. I can scan through images in Photo Mechanic (http://www.camerabits.com) as fast as the mouse will drag the preview window slider bar. Photos upload to my software faster than I’ve ever seen and save times have dropped to almost an almost imperceptible blip in time.
I know you’ll like OWC and their products. Here’s the link for the OWC Mercury Elite AL Pro Quad Interface disk drives:
Mercury Elite AL Pro Drives
Photo Techniques: Focus Point vs. Depth of Field
At many of my photography workshops, people get confused about the difference between the focus point and the depth of field. This query is generally brought up when we talk about using the autofocus system and multiple autofocus points. In fact, over the last two weeks I ran eight different photo workshops and this question came up in every single class.
A common question that people ask is, “If I use more focus points, does that mean that more of the photograph will be in focus?” It is a good question, but the answer is; No, your aperture controls how much of the photo appears to be in focus.
Let me explain. The focus point is defined as the distance from the camera that you've focused on. For example, if you are taking a picture of a flower that is three feet away from your camera body, then your focus point will be three feet. If you take that flower photo at f2.8, then you'll have a very narrow depth of field and everything behind (and in front of) the flower will appear to be blurry (see photo example to the left). If you took the same photo at f22, then the image will have a greater depth of field, and more of the photo will appear to be in focus.
For portrait photography we always have a very specific focus point: the subject's eye. Aperture then controls how much of the person's face is in focus. At f1.4, just the eyeball will be in focus, but the ears and nose would be out of focus. We use this narrow depth of field to help direct the viewer's eyes to a specific element. In this case, the subject's eyes. Similarly, we use a specific focus point for subjects like bugs and macro photography.
Other types of photographs like landscapes and architectural photography require a slightly different approach to your focus point. In these types of images, we are interested in having everything in the photo appear to be in focus. Therefore, we need to set our focus point so that it maximizes depth of field. We don't necessarily focus on a “thing”; rather we focus on a “distance”.
This distance is called the hyper focal distance. It can be calculated for any lens and any aperture. The approach is to determine how far away each element is from your camera. For example, let's say that you were photographing the interior of an office building with a 20mm lens. Let’s also say that the closest thing to your camera is a desk that is three feet away and the farthest thing from your camera is the back wall that is 30 feet away. In this case, your goal is to ensure that everything from 3 feet to 30 feet appears to be in focus. Consulting a hyper focal distance table for these factors (24mm lens, 3 feet minimum, 30 feet maximum), it says to use set your lens' focus ring to 5 feet and then use f/11.
There is a great website called DOFMaster (www.dofmaster.com/doftable.html) that lets you calculate depth of field for specific cameras and specific lenses. For example, you can show the hyperfocal distance for a Nikon D300s camera and a 50mm lens. The table is very handy and simple to use. You can see a screen shot to the left.
If you pay attention to the distances on the hyperfocal distance charts, you'll often notice that the hyperfocal distance is approximately 1/3 (one third) of the way into the scene. In other words, you set your lens’ focus ring to approximately 1/3 of the distance between the closest subject to your camera and the farthest subject from your camera. The way I work as a photographer is to just estimate the hyperfocal distance, rather than bring along a calculator or a hyperfocal distance table. I just set my focus distance to the 1/3 point in the image and it comes out fairly well in the end. Of course, this is a lot faster than consulting a table, but it isn’t as accurate.
In the architectural example above, you'll notice that I didn't necessarily focus on an object in the scene, but rather a “distance.” If I shot the image at f2.8, then only a narrow zone of the photo would be in focus. So, shooting at f/11 is what gives allows more of the image to be in focus. Not using more auto focus points.
The same thing holds true for landscape photographs. The only difference is that for landscape images, the farthest distance you want to be in focus is generally “infinity”. What this means is that you want everything from the closest object in the scene to the horizon to appear to be in focus. We often call the distance of the horizon “infinity” even though it isn't technically infinity. Therefore, when using a hyperfocal distance calculation, you'll only have to determine what the closest object to the camera is.
Frequently, this closest object is a flower, plant or a rock about three feet away from the lens. If you are using a 24mm lens, then the hyperfocal distance for a photo that has elements between three feet and infinity is about 4 feet. This means you should set your lens to f22 and the focus ring to 4'. When you do this, then everything in between 3 feet and infinity will appear in focus. Simple, right?
If you'd like to have your own hyperfocal distance cards for field use, then you can simply download a free set from the Nikonians here: Nikonians DOF Tables. Feel free to print them out and laminate them if you’d like. They are a great resource.
So, remember that your focus point is different than your depth of field. Also, remember that using more autofocus sensors in your camera won't ensure that more of the photo appears to be in focus. It is the aperture that controls depth of field.
Here are the remaining Nikonians Academy Workshops and travel adventures I’ll be running this year.
Day at the Ranch photo shoot 4/5
Mariposa/Yosemite animal shoot 4/6 – 4/11
Seattle 4/16 – 4/19
Houston 5/20 – 5/23
Dallas 5/27 – 5/40
Portland 6/10 – 6/13
New York 10/14 – 10/17
Washington DC 10/21 – 10/24
Tanzania Wildlife Safari 11/4 – 11/16
Our Nikonians Academy workshops include Nikon D300s/D300, Nikon D700, Nikon D3/D3s/D3x, Nikon D80/D90, D3000/D5000, Nikon Wireless Flash, Capture NX 2, HDR Photography, travel, adventure, wildlife and more! You can find more information here: www.nikoniansacademy.com.
Also, I am running our annual North Cascades Art of Travel photo workshop, scheduled for 9/23/10 to 9/26/10. We’ll be photographing in the North Cascades of Washington State for four days while based out of Mazama, Washington. Each day brings a different set of exciting subjects such as mountain landscapes, alpine lakes and old-western charm. I’ll be running this workshop through our company Out There Images, Inc. Here’s the link: www.outthereimages.com/travel_workshop.html
I continue to run quite a few 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have questions about private tutoring or consulting.
Thank you for reading this month’s newsletter. The only way to get better in photography is to get out there and take some pictures, so take this newsletter as some encouragement to bring your camera with you the next time you leave your house. If you need more encouragement during the month, be sure to check out www.outthereimages.com/blog for regular updates, tips and commentary.
Out There Images, Inc. - "Get Out And Learn!"
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335
All images and content (C) 1998 - 2010 Mike Hagen / Out There Images. All rights reserved.