Photography by Mike Hagen


One Hour Photo Featuring Mike Hagen


Lesson Info

Photography by Mike Hagen

So, you brought some images in. So, let's go ahead and start taking a look at some of the images. Sure. And so give us a little brief on maybe where this was or what we're looking at. Yeah, so the first few images I have are based on the trips that I lead and the places I love to go to. So this one is in Tanzania and this is in Serengeti National Park. This is a leopard, and one of the things about Tanzania is, specifically the Serengeti, is it's the cat capital of the world. Oh, nice. Okay. And as much as we like elephants and zebras and giraffe, it's really the cats that bring out the oohs and ahhs of people and so guy, actually this gal, is looking right in the camera. I just love the eyes, love the background. One of my favorite images from Tanzania. Yeah, I was gonna say that the background, green leafy tree in the background? I mean, that's not easy to get cause usually it's gonna be a blank sky on a sunny day. Yeah, you gotta be, you gotta work hard. I've lead now,...

what am I on my tenth safari to Tanzania and it is hard to get leopard photos in the trees with great backgrounds. Oh, yeah. I mean of all the years I've been doing this and the thousands of thousands of pictures of leopards, I found that it's very difficult to get a nice, clean backdrop like that. So, do you know what lens you shot this with? Yeah, this would be my Nikon 200 to 400 F4 and I was, this image now it's probably pushing seven or eight years old, and I probably shot that with my Nikon D700. Okay, so full frame camera. Full frame teleconverter 1.4, Okay. 400 millimeters, so. Okay. What is it, 560? Yeah, and I'm not trying to say that if you buy all that equipment you're going to get that good of shot, but as far as the distance wise. Now you and a land rover, safari vehicle, Yeah, land cruisers open top. All right, let's go to another. Yeah, so cheetah, another part of the Serengeti. Cheetahs are dwindling in numbers globally, but you're almost guaranteed to find a great cheetah shot when you're in the Serengeti. But to find a cheetah shot with the whole family of kittens, Oh, that's nice. Really hard to do and to get them all posing in a way and all together. Normally, it's like hurting kittens. Exactly. So, here they're up on a little bit of a termite mound and this mom is a pretty successful mother. Cheetahs are preyed, they're killed actually by all the bigger cats. So, it's uncommon for cheetah offspring to live to adulthood. I think, I forget the number but it's like, ten percent make it to adulthood and so the fact that there's four of them here was a really special moment and we, I remember the group that I was with on this trip, we were just in heaven. We got to photograph them for probably 45 min to an hour, which is an eternity. You would go through a lot of images. Yeah, not with the newer frame rates, ya know? Ten frames a minute or second, 12 or 15 frames per second, you come home at night, you've got thousands of pictures to go through. What's a typical day as far as the number of shots? Well, I'm a very prolific shooter. I'm very selective in the images that I finally choose. You like the sound of a motor drive, I can tell. Oh yeah, but I literally come home from a trip from Tanzania with, I'll say 11 to 12 days in the ground, I come home with 15 to 20,000 images. So, you're shooting 1500 shots a day. Yep. Now do you try to edit those down, do you just keep them around for a while, how do you? Well, I don't delete anything. Okay. But, I use what I call the elevation method. I keep all of my images. Because I write so much and I do so much lecturing and teaching, I like to use my bad images, I'm sure I shot them on purpose per bad. Yeah, I do that too. It's a thing in the industry. Yeah. We do it on purpose. But in terms of the images I actually use or show in my books, I use probably from a trip to Africa, if I come home with, I always tell the people this, if I come home with ten pictures that are great images, I'm a happy man. Ten pictures from a trip that you can actually use commercially or professionally, that's a good trip I think. Right. All right, so let's change environments here definitely. So, we're about in Africa were you for this? This is the very cold region of northern Africa, no this is Iceland and another place I go to every year is Iceland. This is in Jökulsárlón. I've been there so many times, I still can't say it. But it's the ice lagoon. Yes. Such a cool place, I photographed there, I don't even know how many times but every time I go, I just enjoy it. So this is at, well I'm going to say sunset but sunset in the summer in Iceland is like at 11:30 p.m. So, the sun was just coming over the hill and back clipped these beautiful clouds against this glacier. And this was also with the 200 to 400 millimeter lens, so I use that lens to do landscape photography. For landscaping. Yeah. I'm surprised at how much I do use the 70 to 200 or short telephoto for a landscape stuff and you get these details that are great to show, and I've seen this lake a lot of times I've been there cause I did a bike tour around Iceland. Oh. And when I was there, so many people, it's flat lighting, cause it's very cloudy in Iceland all the time and that lighting is so rare, you just gotta be going nuts. Oh, I was. I remember this night, the sunset lasted for an hour and a half because in the summer in Iceland the sun's just skimming along the horizon and I was just as a photographer and as a tour leader, I was just flipping out and I'm sure my participants were like, this guy is a little strange but I'm like, you don't understand, this is wonderful. And it is a little bit strange because when you shoot in Africa, a sunset, it's like ten minutes and it's just gone cause it's just coming straight down, and the northern (unintelligible) just almost touches the Arctic Circle. Yup. And so, photographers are normally used to shooting a certain pace and it's, I run so it's like the running the mile, it's like we gotta go quick, we gotta get all these shots! Its like, where's the end? It keeps going and it keeps going, you get excited you stay but it keeps going on and on. Yeah, this shot I remember it was pushing midnight and the sun still was out, and we had all got hundreds of photos that were great and finally we all looked at each other and said, Eh, why don't we go back to the hotel and go to bed? Exhausted our cameras, well nice shot, nice shot. Great. Iceland as well, these are eider ducks, and this is also the glacier lagoon and these guys were just swimming around and I just, I literally laid down, put the front of my lens on the water surface. Right. And just laying there photographing these guys. They come pass me, unfortunately the water was flowing from left to right, so they weren't moving that fast. So I'd shoot a whole sequence of shots and I'd jump up and run 30 feet down and lay back down in the dirt and shoot again. So, they were like living in slow motion then cause you're working with the current. Yeah. Nice. They were paddling furiously but they weren't actually, relative to my location, moving that quick. So yeah, definitely I think in this one point of view, really makes it look different than your standard shot, somebody just standing in and up by the shoreline, shooting straight down at the water. Getting those icebergs in the back really placed this as some place unique. Yeah, that's a good point is that I always, when I take people on my trips, wherever it is in the world, I always encourage them get low, get low. Shoot whatever wildlife you're photographing in eye level and that puts the background farther away, it makes the background go blurry, but also it's this intimacy that you don't get by shooting up high. Right. Well, let's continue our world tour into another location. All right, so this is not Africa or Iceland. This is Galápagos. One of my favorite places to, how can everything be my favorite place to photograph? Yeah, gotta be careful with that one. Yeah. So Galápagos, there are giant tortoises and that's one of things that Galápagos is known for, these giant tortoises and so this was at a tortoise reserve and boy I think all of these shots that I'm showing today were all with the 200 to 400. This might be with my 70 to 200. Yeah in fact, I think it is. Cause you can get right up close and that's the special part about Galápagos, the animals have no fear of humans. So you literally, as we're walking along the beaches and the trails, you have to watch out where you step cause you might step on the animals. That's a nice experience to have cause normally if you go into a typical place, basically despite the park rangers say, and don't hold me liable for anything, bears don't just come and eat you, Yeah. They typically see a human and they typically run away, they don't want to be around humans for the most part. They do want food, so if you have food that changes the thing, but I have seen bears in the wild a number of times and it's like, there's a bear I'm going to get my camera, oh, it's gone. Gone. And here, you have to be very careful and I'm sure they have lots of rules about how you approach animals and so forth. Yeah, they use the two meter rule, they basically say if you got a walking stick, hold your stick out and don't get any closer than that. And it's good because the special part about Galápagos is the wildlife is so approachable, we don't want to ruin it, so follow those rules if you ever go. So in the Galápagos, are you shooting a lot from the boat or are you getting let off on land and doing most of your shooting there? Yeah, the tours that I run are all boat based tours and so we stay on the boat overnight and we go back to the boat for lunch but then almost all of the wildlife photography is actually on shore. So, you do at least two shore excursions a day, one in the morning right at sunrise, you can't be on the shores before the sun comes up, that's the national park rule, Oh, don't you hate those? They just don't understand photographers. They don't understand what we need, yeah. Actually, my idea for somebody, I'd do it myself I don't have enough time, but be a photography consultant for national parks and stuff cause I've been to these nationals parks and I'm like, if you built this boardwalk just a little bit out here you wouldn't have all of these photographers running out here to get this shot because you have a tree in the way. Or if you trim this bush, it'd be a little bit easier. Okay, could you let us on tour a half an hour before. Yeah, well some parks you can get special permits, scientific permits and I know some parts in the USA, some parks you can actually talk to the park administrator and get a special entrance ahead of time, but most parks are not conducive to photography. Yeah, we're not first on the list. No. Somehow the animals always beat us out. They win. They always beat us out. This is also Galápagos, this is an owl and this is a one of the few raptors that actually are in Galápagos, there's two, there's the Galápagos hawk and this is the owl. And this owl lives on this, these owls actually live over these vast beds of lava and they're almost impossible to see. One day we're walking along and literally this guy was three feet away from us and just sat there and we shot this bird every ways from Sunday and then it took off and flew and I just, and like you said in Iceland it's cloudy a lot, same thing in Galápagos, it's actually a marine environment. Oh, really? So, there's a lot of clouds. Just happen this guy flew right in front of some blue sky and looked right at the camera. My Nikon auto focus system got the shot. Nice, well, I love that head turn. That head turn is great, I mean getting something a little out of alignment, ya know normal bird everything straight even flying forward and stuff and so that's great. That's great. All right, changing our journey a little bit. Yeah, so another thing that I do is commercial photography. So, I work for clients, they pay me to photograph things like their construction projects. I work for a lot of clients who manufacture pieces and parts that work in the construction industry. And so, for example a couple of weeks ago, I photographed this businesses deck railings and deck material. I'm getting really excited now. Really excited. I know, super exciting. It's thrilling but it really is, it's a totally different type of photography and my purpose to show their product in the environment that they can use to sell more of their product. Right. So, I'm providing a service for a client and I do it, so this is a basically a mix of architectural photography and product photography in the real world. So, it's really dependent on the weathers, dependent on the time of day, its depending on the phase of the construction projects. Right. So, like with this company here, they manufacture that orange stuff. It's building wrap. The orange stuff. The orange stuff, yeah. And so they want to show how it's integrated into the building structure so I work with the construction agencies, I work with the safety departments, I have to wear hardhats and steel toed boots And the vests. And the vests. Yeah and I get to wear my carhartt pants and look like a construction guy but it's all to serve a purpose for the client. Right and so you know, for all you kids at home, it may not be the most exciting thing but there's needs for photography for everything in the world and its just a matter of just kinda making those connections and contacts and working with them. Yeah and that's where, I think a lot of times people that are looking to become a professional photographer, they have a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be a photographer. Or what the industries are. There's a lot of niches in photography and there's a lot of ways for us to make money. This is one of those ways and I'm happy that I shoot it. It's not the most creative or soul filling type of photography, but it pays the bills. Yeah, and I'm sure you learn things from there that you apply to your other parts of photography and it's just good to do a variety of things. Absolutely. Now where is this? (light-hearted laughter) So, this is one of my creative, I took this at one of my CreativeLive classes, it was panoramas and printing and I just used this to illustrate that I love panoramas. I do a lot of panorama photography. It's one of my passions and so beyond just shooting them commercially, I just enjoy it from the anesthetic standpoint. People always talk about the human eye is like a 50 milometer lens, I don't always believe that. I kinda feel like that, what we see more panoramas as humans so I like to show that in a lot of my imagery. So this shot of Lake Union in Seattle is one of my favorite shots. So, I am actually looking at a very small image of this, the boat moving and dealing with moving subjects in panoramas, are you just letting Photoshop stitch it together or do you do it manually, do you do little tweaks before you put it together, what are a few tips? Yes to everything you just said. Panaramas can be as complicated or as simple as you want. As simple as your iPhones swiping across the scene, as complicated as using specialized programs and layer masking. So, I do all those things that you described, but what I will typically do is, so if you can see this at home, if you're looking at the screen you see this picture, there's a boat, looks like a red boat there on the left side of the frame, it was moving from the left to right, so what I typically do, is I find out what's moving in the scene and then I actually pan the opposite way of the movement. So you only get them in one frame. So it only ends up in one frame. Okay. Cause if you pan with the boat and you go like picture, picture, picture, it's like You're gonna have like five boats in there. Creative, the red boat. But yeah, lightroom does a good job of stitching simple panoramas. For my more complicated, I typically go to Photoshop I think that panaprocessing engine is better in Photoshop. Yeah, seen that on a number of issues. Okay, let's go to another one here. Yes, so this is a little place called Scammon Bay, Alaska. Not salmon bay? No, Scammon. Wow, that sounds decievious. Yeah, it's out there. It's way out there. And so, I show this because another thing that I do, I spend a lot of time doing mission work and spending time in the field serving other communities and a lot of times I do that with my camera but I also do it with labor. So we went to this little tiny village in Alaska and helped rebuild a house for a local, and we spent about, my team was there for about a week, but it was over about a two month process and I loved doing photography when I'm serving on these mission trips because A, they can use the imagery, they can use them to help tell their stories. So a lot of times I will donate my photos or charge them some small fee, we can use them to tell stories about what's going on in that community and kind of raise awareness for the issues that they have. Great doing some photography with a cause. Yeah, absolutely. All right, final image. One of your favorite places. All right, Cuba. Cuba. In fact, you've probably photographed at this same, I think everyone has at this point has been to Cuba. Yeah, but this at a boxing training facility in Cuba. But I show this image to show that I do a lot of portraiture as well and one of my things as small strobes, an icon of wireless flash system. So, this photo I took with my Nikon and wireless flash, I brought an umbrella and a light stand into Cuba. Oh, wow. And shot some boxing guys and then I was leading a class actually when I was there so I brought in all of my students and we all shot high end location portraits in Cuba, it was really fun. That's always a fun trip for everyone and bringing all that stuff there, I gotta give you some credit points there. Yeah, the Cuban TSA or the Cuban immigration and whatever they check your bags, you never know what's going to happen when you come in through there. Yeah, yeah. So, gotta be prepared on that. So, let's show some people some of the classes that you teach here. You have many more than this but tell us if you will a little bit about these three. Sure, so this one is a new series. It's the first one here, it's how to shoot with your first flash and it's really, ya know one of my goals with photography, it's just in my life. I like to make things accessible. I like to make complicated things easy to understand, just like you in your teaching and so these classes, how to shoot with your first flash, are all based on hey, I got this Nikon or Canon or Fuji or whatever flash and I put it on my camera once and I took a picture the person was washed out. Yeah. Deer in headlights, and so it's all about learning how to shoot with that, learning how to make beautiful looking images with your first single flash. In some in my beginning classes, I don't even go into flash cause I just simply say, flash is the most complicated part of photography. Yeah, it's one of these things, it is complicated until you know a few tricks. Until you know a few things about it and then it's like, oh wow why was I so worried about that? So that's why we're here, to help teach this stuff and help people understand. And then building your own home studio. Yeah, DIY. So, one of the books I'm writing is coming out in later this year, it's all in do it yourself projects, and so we've been a series here at CreativeLive on do it yourself photography by building your own lighting equipment, building your own backdrops, building your own macro gear, the home studio is obviously all around studio photography but we have other classes coming and that are here right now that are just on like macro like how to build your own extension tubes and how to do this thing called free lensing. Yeah, I love, pretty much everything I have has been modified in some, Customized. Yeah, no I like doing that. That's great. So, that's some great stuff. Check those classes out.

Class Description

Click here to ask John Greengo your questions for future One Hour Photos!

Every month, John gives you an hour of expert guidance and immediate feedback with ten questions and ten critiques in this exciting new series we're calling One Hour Photo. John will also sit down with one guest photographer to offer insights, advice, and industry knowledge, and this month’s guest is Mike Hagen.

In this hour, John responds to questions about the best focus area to use for group shots, and the best type of autofocus, advantages and disadvantages for using older manual prime lenses vs. modern prime lenses, and tips on creating the same exposure to every photo.

Mike Hagen is a professional photographer, author, and workshop leader. He's taught hundreds of workshops and thousands of students over the years on just about all photo topics including camera gear, studio lighting, Photoshop®, Lightroom®, landscape, travel, and digital workflow. One of his favorite things to do is take people on photo safaris to far-off places like Africa, Galapagos Islands, and Iceland. Mike is a prolific writer, having published many books on photography, software, and digital workflow. Check out his CreativeLive classes here.


Glynda Knighten

I just watched this One Hour Photo class and thought it was well done. As a beginning photographer, I found the image critiques (both Mike's travel images and images submitted by others) to be helpful. I like the One Hour Photo class concept - just enough time for getting tidbits to improve your photography. Regarding other classes - I have watched several of John's and Mike's Creative Live classes. They are well organized, easy to follow and provide ideas to improve your photography. As an aside: I have traveled to Tanzania, Galapagos, and Iceland with Mike Hagen and can say this about the trips: Sign up now! All three trips were fantastic. Mike is a great teacher and leader who is focused on participants becoming better photographers.


carrie-anne Grieve