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February 2008 Newsletter
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GOAL Assignment (see text)

January GOAL Assignment: Show Off Your Images

Here's a recent book I designed using a company called MyPublisher. The results of the book were fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed the process. This book was a photo summary of my recent trip to Maui. I included many of my landscape shots as well as some great people photos.


MyPublisher shipped the package in a well-protected box.


They further protected the hard-cover photo book with a plastic envelope.


The full color front cover is a nice touch.


The images were printed very well. Colors were saturated and quality was very high.


Here's a shot of the design software. The interface was simple and easy to use. In all, the MyPublisher book was an excellent product and I highly recommend it.



At the same time, we created a photo book of my daughter's recent birthday party. We created this with Shutterfly's online design software.


We found the quality of the book to be lacking. The colors were washed out, the pages felt flimsy and the whole product really felt "cheap".


Shutterfly's design software was easy to use and had a myriad of templates, artwork and fonts to choose from. Even so, I wouldn't order another book from them in the future.




February GOAL Assignment: Shoot With the Eyes of a Child


Your GOAL assignment for February is to track down a kid and let them shoot with your camera for a few hours. Walk along side them as they snap pictures to see what they see. I think you'll be surprised and inspired!

Book Review: The HDRI Handbook



HDRI stands for High Dynamic Range Imaging. This book is an amazing resource for learning the ins and outs of HDR photography. I liked the book and recommend it for those of you interested in this emerging photographic field.


Here's an HDR photo I took in Maui a couple weeks ago. It is compiled from four different exposures of the same scene. Each photo was taken at a different exposure and then compiled into an HDR image file. For output, I used tone mapping software to compress the data into an LDR (low dynamic range) file. Without HDR imaging, this photo could only have been exposed for the clouds or for the foreground rocks. Now, we get the best of the highlights with the best of the shadows!


Here's a sample file from the DVD provided by the book. It is an HDRI image showing the highlight information in the reflection of the phone booth. By combining the details from this image and the next two, you can "tone map" a final image such as the one at the bottom.




The finished image from the HDRI Handbook. Notice how there is highlight detail in the reflections of the telephone booth as well as shadow detail underneath the chairs and tables. This type of image is only possible with High Dynamic Range photography.





Mike Hagen - Out There Images Newsletter - January 2008

Greetings and salutations from the land of photography! Oh man did I have a good time last month taking photos in Maui. It was an absolute blast running around with my Nikon D300 snapping pics of the beautiful island. I was there for about two weeks and spent time in Ka’anapali, Makena, Haleakala, Hana and all points in between. When it was time to leave, I had to be pulled from the island with my fingernails digging into the sandy beach. Sigh. I’ll have to head back there soon.

Our workshops with Out There Images are selling well. We have just a couple of remaining seats open for our April 24th photo trip to the Columbia River Gorge (www.outthereimages.com/travel_workshop.html) and our Portrait Photography workshop in July is also filling quickly ( www.outthereimages.com/portrait_workshop.html).

Keep reading the newsletter for lots of photo inspiration!

January GOAL Assignment: Show Off Your Images
In last month’s GOAL (Get Out And Learn) Assignment I challenged you to find new ways to publish and display your photographs. I was amazed at how many people wrote me to talk about your new projects. I received emails from people all around the world who were challenged to get their photos off of their hard drives and into the eyes of their adoring fans!

For example, one person decided to start selling images in their community. Another began posting the pictures they took of their son’s wrestling team so the other parents could buy prints. Others made slide shows set to music for their family. Others made community presentations and Power Point shows. Another wrote in about photos she wanted to show her Grandmother on her television. Wonderful!

So, here’s what I did this month to show off my images.

Like most of you, my spouse is always asking me to print out the images I take. I decided to check out online book printing companies to see if their products were everything they advertised. A number of years ago, I tried out an online book made by one of the big online photo printers. I was sorely disappointed, so I figured that it was high time to give it another whirl!

My wife and I tackled two book projects to see which company and format we liked best. The first was a book of images from our recent trip Maui and the second was a book of my daughter’s recent birthday party. Let’s start with the Maui Book.

After a little bit of research, I decided to make a hard-cover photo book from a company named “My Publisher”. Their website is www.mypublisher.com/. I downloaded and installed their design software to my computer and then set about creating the book from cover to cover. I opted to design an 8.75” x 11.25” book with 20 pages and a linen cover.

As I worked through the design software, I found it incredibly simple and intuitive to use. Changing page formats was a breeze. Swapping photos was simple. Cropping, correcting and arranging images was quick. Swapping page backgrounds was no sweat. After I finished the design, I used the software to upload the book to the My Publisher website and then ordered with my credit card. The book cost $30 and shipping was $6.99. However, since it was my first order with them, they gave a big price discount.

It took about 8 days for the book to be delivered from the time I ordered. It was delivered via FedEx and came in a nice package and was wrapped in protective plastic. The instant I picked it up, a smile appeared on my face! The build quality was excellent and the print quality was fantastic. Colors were spot on and I just couldn’t believe how nice the book looked for the money I paid. I couldn’t have been more impressed. I have shown the book to a number of people and everyone has said “wow!”.

Ok, so how about Shutterfly? My wife designed her book through Shutterfly.com as a keepsake for my daughter’s recent birthday party. She decided to make a soft cover 5”x7” book.

The Shutterfly book design was all completed on-line (in contrast to the My Publisher model where you design the book with software on your computer). She uploaded all the photos she wanted to use and then used their templates and design pages to create the final product. She liked all the creative page templates available. For example, my daughter is absolutely in love with the color pink, so my wife found every single bit of pink available in a myriad of choices. Pink backgrounds, pink words, pink captions, pink clip art, pink flowers, etc. I used the Shutterfly software too, but found the options for cropping, sizing and arranging were more limited than the My Publisher software.

The Shutterfly book cost $15 plus shipping and was delivered to our house in about 5 days. Their service was speedy, but the quality of the book wasn’t that great. Both my wife and I were sorely disappointed with the book. The colors were washed out, the pages felt flimsy, the overall quality was pretty low. It really felt like they took a bunch of printed paper and slapped the pages together for a student art project. We both agreed that we wouldn’t order from Shutterfly again.

So, what’s the summary? My Publisher did an amazing job. I highly recommend them and wouldn’t be afraid to give these books as gifts or show them to a paying client. Shutterfly’s product was chintzy and low quality. I’m embarrassed to show the book to anyone. Now that I’ve had a chance to see a couple of online book printers, I have decided that I like the method of designing with software on your computer rather than using web-based designs. It was faster and seemed to offer more control of the whole process.

Having a printed book of your own images is a great way to show off your photography. I’ve used lots of formats to show off my work in the past: slide shows, presentations, videos, DVDs, websites, wall prints, etc. However, I think there is something very gratifying about printing your own book and sitting down in your armchair to enjoy it under a reading light. It is a tactile and cathartic experience that is hard to repeat with other forms of digital output. I guarantee that I’ll be making more picture books for my own enjoyment in the future and I think you should try it too!



February GOAL Assignment: Shoot With the Eyes of a Child
The other day I was working in my office and my young daughter came in to see what I was doing. I was preparing some new content for a workshop and she saw my Nikon D300 sitting on a tripod. Since the tripod was down low to the ground, she picked up the whole contraption and started taking photos of my office. My first inclination was to ask her to put the camera down, but I decided against it and watched what unfolded.

She started taking photographs of things in the office that intrigued her. Things like my filing cabinet, the floor, my pens and pencils. Pretty soon, I was feeling inspired to take photos of exactly the same things. In fact, I liked some of her photos better than mine!

So, your GOAL (Get Out And Learn) assignment this month is to give your camera to a child for a few minutes and see what happens. Look at the images they take and see where it leads you. Who knows, you might actually be inspired! Next month, I’ll share some stories of great photos I took that were inspired by kids.



Travel Information: New Battery Restrictions and Camera Checks Through TSA
As you may have heard, last month the TSA in the United States issued a new requirement for travelling with lithium-based batteries. A number of people have written in to me to ask how this new requirement changes what photographers take with us on our flights. Since the announcement, I have flown a few times and haven’t had any issues with the new requirement.

The new TSA battery requirement is basically that you have to pack your lithium batteries in your carryon luggage rather than pack them in your checked luggage. This isn’t a burden for most of us since we all carry our cameras and batteries onto the plane anyways. If you keep your extra batteries with you, rather than in your checked luggage, you’ll be just fine.

Why the new rule? There is a fear that lithium batteries can catch fire under the right conditions (such as shorting out the metal contacts while in your suit case). If they catch fire in the cargo hold of the airplane, then no one is around to extinguish the flames and bad things can happen. If they catch fire in the main cabin of the plane, then the airplane staff is better able to see the fire and can quickly put it out with a fire extinguisher.

The TSA says on their website (http://safetravel.dot.gov/whats_new_batteries.html) that there is no limit to the number of batteries you can take in your carryon luggage as long as they are for your accessories. You can also take up to two spare laptop batteries in your checked luggage. They have a nice spreadsheet there to show you what you can and can’t bring with you.

Something else that’s been happening to me lately in my travels is that the security agents have been asking me to remove my camera gear from the camera bag before the x-ray machine. When I asked for clarification, they wanted me to remove the camera body, but I could keep all my lenses in the bag. So now when I go through the security line, I have a total of five bins/trays to pass through the x-ray machine. One for my shoes/coat/keys, one for my laptop computer, one for my brief case, one for my camera bag and one for my DSLR camera bodies. I feel like a freight train with all of my trays on the long conveyor belt.

When I pass all the stuff through, I’m pretty diligent about trying to prevent theft so I put my least expensive items through first. I keep my laptop and cameras with me until the security guard calls me through the metal detector. As soon as I get through, I pack up my camera gear and laptop into their bags. I get my shoes and coat last. I figure that if someone runs off with my shoes, I can always buy a new pair at that nice duty-free store around the corner!

Yes, the new rules do add some complexity to the security process, but as long as you keep a smile on your face, everything should go just fine.



Book Review: The HDRI Handbook by Christian Bloch
Holy smokes, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I opened the cover of The HDRI Handbook. I’m a technical guy and have worked quite a bit in the high tech world. I also have a Mechanical Engineering degree, so even though my expectations for a book on High Dynamic Range Imaging (HDRI) were pretty high, I had no idea that the book would challenge my skills and give my brain a run for its money!

So, what is HDRI? High Dynamic Range Imaging is a method of photography that enables you to digitally capture and edit all the light in a scene. Most of our cameras can only capture a limited range of brightness; however our eyes can register quite a range of brightness. For example, if you are looking at a scene with a river in the canyon, you can easily see the sky and the river at the same time. However, when you photograph it, you’ll notice that the sky blows out and the canyon turns almost black. HDRI techniques allow you to take a number of exposures so that you capture all the highlights, midtones and shadow detail. After capturing the images, you compile them as a whole in a special digital HDR format. Once your images are compiled in a HDR file, you then go through a process called “tone mapping” to output them in a print or display them on a computer. After you’ve finished tone mapping, you now have a really great looking LDR (Low Dynamic Range) that shows details in the highlights and shadows.

In his book, Christian brings in numerous experts from the photographic field including Uwe Steinmueller, Dieter Bethke, Bernhard Vogl and Greg Ward. Their contributions are excellent and serve to greatly enhance the content and usability of the book.

As with learning any new technology, the devil is always in the details. This book is full of details that help fully reveal the world of HDR imaging. Before reading this book, I had no idea how far along HDRI imaging has come nor had I understood how sophisticated the software is currently. My direct experience with high dynamic range photography had been taking a few exposures and then using Photoshop’s “Merge to HDR” feature. I found out very quickly that I was just barely scratching the tip of the iceberg in my modest attempts at HDRI. Photoshop, as well as many other programs, are far more capable than I ever knew. This book goes through numerous software choices and even shows you how to use some of the more mainstream software tools.

The author has included a DVD with full versions of software as well as trial versions of some of others. Additionally, he has included numerous test files, images and samples for you to practice with. For example, one of my favorite chapters was on how to capture HDR panoramas. This involves a huge amount of work and the author goes through all the technical information you need in order to create HDR panoramas. He shows methods for capturing the images, how to process them in your computer and how to compile the final product. He even includes a few panorama photographs on the accompanying DVD that allows you to practice the technique.

The book is separated up into seven chapters (my comments in parenthesis):
Chapter 1: The Background Story (laying the foundation)
Chapter 2: New Tools (file formats, software, comparisons)
Chapter 3: Capturing HDR Images (field techniques, sensor limitations)
Chapter 4: Tone Mapping (method, approach)
Chapter 5: HDR Image Processing (using all that data, filters)
Chapter 6: Shooting Panoramic HDR Images (self explanatory)
Chapter 7: Application in CGI (using HDRI in Computer Generated Imagery)

I personally found great application in chapters 1-6 but don’t have a purpose in my work for CGI right now. Perhaps someday I’ll challenge Pixar to a duel, but right now I’m happy just snapping pictures!

I was very impressed with the level of technical detail Christian Bloch went into for his book. His descriptions of the story behind the story require careful reading and much study. However, I want to issue a warning: this book isn’t for the faint of heart. Christian Bloch doesn’t guide you by the hand through the world of HDR Imaging. He makes a lot of assumptions that you are already fairly savvy with software (i.e. Photoshop) and digital imaging in general. Even though he does a great job of showing the steps required to get from point A to point B, but he doesn’t do it in a formulaic way (i.e. Open Photoshop … go to Image menu … select Mode … Choose 16 bit … click here … do this). As long as you are able to think on your feet, you’ll do fine with the book.

So, what’s my verdict? I like the book a lot and strongly recommend it to those of you who seriously want to delve into the fantastic world of HDRI. If you are technically minded, then this book is written for you. I do not recommend it to you if you aren’t willing to put time and effort into understanding the HDRI process. As I said earlier, the devil is in the details and you have to be able to think if you are going to fully utilize the information contained in The HDRI Handbook.

Since reading through the book, I have already opened it as a reference at least ten times. On a recent trip to Maui, I took a number of shots with the expectation of turning them into HDR images. I used the techniques outlined in The HDRI Handbook to create some fantastic results (see one of the images to the left). I love the look of HDR images and I can’t wait to make more of my own using my new knowledge.

The HDRI Handbook is 344 pages and is published by RockyNook. You can find out more information on this book and others at www.rockynook.com.




Workshop Updates
2008 brings lots of workshops through Out There Images, Inc. and somewhere around 70 workshops scheduled at the Nikonians Academy (www.nikoniansacademy.com). Check out the information below for specific topics and dates.

The Art of Travel Photography Workshops
Join us for a photographic adventure in 2008! Learn how to turn your next vacation into an artistic event with our Art of Travel Photography Workshops. The locations we have are Columbia River Gorge waterfalls and spring bloom 4/24/08 ~ 4/27/08 and North Cascades NP/Mazama 10/2/08 ~ 10/5/08. Both of these workshops are very popular and tend to sell out quickly. If you are thinking of signing up, contact us immediately in order to be placed on our signup list. Go here for more details:
www.outthereimages.com/travel_workshop.html

Photoshop Level I and II
These workshops are a great way to learn Photoshop while using practical, real world examples that photographers face each day. We are offering two levels of Photoshop instruction – Photoshop I and Photoshop II. Take them one at a time or take them as a group and get a 10% discount. Our Photoshop workshop is scheduled for July 25th and July 26th, 2008 in Seattle, WA. Go here for more information: www.outthereimages.com/portrait_workshop.html

Nikonians Academy Workshops
We'll be teaching great photographic subjects in Orlando, Charleston, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Portland, Atlanta, Dallas, Washington DC, Tanzania, and more!

Our topics include:
- Two African Safaris
- Nikon D300
- Nikon D200
- Nikon D80/D70
- iTTL Flash
- Hands-on Digital Printing

Find out about all of our workshops here: www.nikoniansacademy.com.

Portrait Photography
We’ve brought back our popular Portrait Photography workshop this year. It will be scheduled for July 11-12, 2008 in Seattle, WA. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to use a flash meter, how to set up a studio, how to arrange your lighting or how to use flash, then this is the right workshop for you. It is a two-day event with lots and lots of hands-on learning and photography. Come along, you’ll enjoy it! I promise. Go here for more details: www.outthereimages.com/portrait_workshop.html

Private Tutoring
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 (mike@outthereimages.com) if you have questions about this option.

Thanks:
Photography is great fun and I really enjoy sharing with you all. Keep shooting and keep sharing your experiences with others!

Best regards,

Mike Hagen
Out There Images, Inc. - "Get Out And Learn!"
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335
www.outthereimages.com
mike@outthereimages.com
office: 253-851-9054
mobile: 360-750-1103
fax: 206-984-1817






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