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Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Exposing for a silhouette
Thursday, December 14, 2017
Exposing for a silhouette

One of my favorite pictures from Namibia is this silhouette of a domesticated cheetah and the lady who cares for it. It had been rescued from local farmers who would have killed it because its mother had preyed on their livestock. I set this shot up for my photo tour group a few years ago, and even though we can't see the features of the woman and the cheetah, we can still feel the bond between them. Kiki, the cheetah, had been raised indoors, living in the house as part of the family until it started stalking a family member, a four-year-old little boy. The cheetah then joined other more wild cheetahs in a huge outdoor compound of many acres of natural African bush. The settings for this ...

Impossible depth of field
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Exposing for a silhouette

This is a southern crested cara cara that I encountered in Patagonia. The original background was completely out of focus because I used a Canon 500mm f/4 telephoto with its inherent shallow depth of field. I'm working on a series of images that show 'impossible depth of field', and even though I left the foreground blurred, there is no way I could have photographed the distant background sharp like you see it here given my distance to the bird (about 70 feet) and the long lens I used. In Photoshop, I used the plug-in Topaz Remask 5 to select the bird and its fine feathers, and then I pasted into the background a landscape also from Patagonia. This is a unique look because we never expect ...

Great landscape destination
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Exposing for a silhouette

In April I'm returning to South Africa and Namibia with a photo tour, and one of my favorite places on that itinerary is Deadvlei, a dried lake bed filled with the skeletal remains of ancient trees. It is stark, graphic, and bold, and for a landscape photographer it is very exciting to see and photograph. The contrast of the orange dunes and blue sky is beautiful, and combined with the striking shapes of the trees and their shadows, it's hard not to take amazing pictures. Both of the images I've attached were taken with Canon's 14mm wide angle, f/22, and ISO 200. I focused to about five feet from the camera position, and with the smallest lens aperture of f/22, this gave me the maximum ...

Taquamenon Falls
Monday, December 11, 2017
Exposing for a silhouette

A favorite winter shot of mine is this time exposure of Tahquamenon Falls in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The yellow color is natural tannic acid from decaying leaves upstream. I used a telephoto lens to compress the falls with the icicles in the background, and because it was essential to have both the foreground and the background in focus, I used f/32 which gave me the maximum depth of field I could get in a single exposure. I shot this in 1999 with my old medium format film camera, a Mamiya RZ 67, and a 350mm lens which was equivalent to about a 180mm in the full frame digital format. I remember that my shutter speed was 1/2 second. For landscapes I always used Fujichrome Velvia 50, ...

Winter storm
Sunday, December 10, 2017
Exposing for a silhouette

Winter is upon us, and I'm sorry I don't live in a place where there is more snow. I moved from California to Tennessee in 2004, and I had always wanted to photograph Yosemite in the snow. The problem is that when it does snow there, the snow melts quickly. It's really a matter of being in the right place at the right time. The winter before I moved, I watched the weather reports daily hoping for a snowstorm to reach the valley floor in Yosemite which is about 4000 feet in elevation. When I heard one was coming, I drove eight hours from Los Angeles to the park and arrived when it was raining. I checked into the lodge, went to sleep hoping against hope for a drop in temperature, and woke up ...

Simulated rain
Saturday, December 09, 2017
Exposing for a silhouette

I have photographed the red eye tree frog many times in my semi-annual frog and reptile workshop in St. Louis, but never with 'rain'. One of the young men assisting my photo tour group in Costa Rica with the frogs and reptiles used a hose to simulate rain, and the effect turned out to be very realistic. We were shooting on a covered terrace open to the outside, and coincidentally it was actually raining outdoors. I used a shutter speed of 1/200th, and it surprised me that with this relatively brief exposure time the streaks of water are as long as you see them here. My lens was a 100-400mm, and the aperture was f/9 with an ISO setting of 2500. 

The resplendent quetzal
Friday, December 08, 2017
Exposing for a silhouette

The number one picture I was hoping to get in Costa Rica was a resplendent quetzal in flight. The birds are simply stunning.  Just seeing one isn’t guaranteed, and to catch it on the wing is a serious challenge.  I was able to get only one frame of it in the air while shooting 14 frames a second. For a large bird, it’s incredibly fast.  I didn’t think I had captured it at all because instead of flying high, it came out of an invisible place in the tree and dropped like a bullet into a nearby ravine. I hadn’t anticipated that.  The background is obviously very busy and distracting, but when the quetzal flew out of the tree, it stayed just a foot or ...

Eyelash viper
Thursday, December 07, 2017
Exposing for a silhouette

This is an eyelash viper, one of Costa Rica’s venomous snakes. I will never seek out dangerous snakes in the wild -- it’s just too risky. In captivity, they can be handled by a metal rod with a hook on the end, so with one person making sure the snake isn’t a threat while others are photographing, the situation is safe. I used a telephoto lens to remain ‘outside of the striking distance’, but that meant that complete depth of field was a challenge. I used 1/200 and f/9 for this picture, and the ISO was set at 2000. The bottom portion of the flower isn’t as sharp as I would have liked, but to use a smaller lens aperture meant that the ISO would have to be ...

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