Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Frog and reptile workshop
Saturday, June 25, 2016 4:54PM
Frog and reptile workshop

My frog and reptile workshop is this weekend, and here is one of the amazing creatures we have to photograph. This is a panther chameleon. I used a ring flash as the only source of illumination, but I held the flash off-camera to emphasize the texture of the reptile's skin. At first I tried holding the flash to the right of the chameleon, but the bulbous eye created a shadow I didn't like. When I held the flash on the left side, I liked the way the shadows fell much better. My lens aperture was f/32, the shutter speed was 1/200 (to sync with the flash), and the white balance was daylight. I used a 50mm macro lens and hand held the camera.  My next frog and reptile workshop will be at ...

Humor on the street
Friday, June 24, 2016 8:05AM
Frog and reptile workshop

I photographed this adorable dog on a street in Havana, Cuba.  My question is, Is the background distracting?  In the context of fine art, I would say that the colors and shapes behind the dog are less than ideal even though they are out of focus.  They aren't terrible, but definitely not ideal.  However, I look at this as more of a photojournalistic image.  Street photography really has to be assessed with a different mind set, and in showing a bit of the environment in the street, we get a sense of place.  Therefore, in this situation I wouldn't change anything. 

Window light
Thursday, June 23, 2016 8:47AM
Frog and reptile workshop

Window light is one of my favorite types of lighting for portraits.  It's soft, diffused, directional, and complimentary to any subject.  The key to using window light, though, is to have a dark background.  If elements in the room behind the subject are visible, in most instances they will be distracting.  And if the window itself isn't very attractive -- such as a modern window with an aluminum casing -- it's best to eliminate that from the equation, too.  The settings for this picture were 1/160th, f/2.8, 250 ISO, and I used a 70-200mm lens. 

Wild staircase
Wednesday, June 22, 2016 11:15AM
Frog and reptile workshop

This beautiful spiral staircase is in the Old State Capital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The wild colors come from a huge stained glass dome in the ceiling.  I shot this with a 14mm lens and hand-held the HDR three frame exposures.  I used two f/stop increments between shots and set the white balance on AWB which I only use for mixed lighting situations.  I should have brought my tripod, but I assumed they wouldn't be allowed.  I was wrong.  Had I been using a tripod, I would have shot this with f/22 instead of f/2.8.  I could have used more depth of field. 

Handling bright sunlight
Tuesday, June 21, 2016 8:00AM
Frog and reptile workshop

The only to handle the extreme contrast that results from shooting in the middle of the day under bright sunlight is with HDR.  This is a picture of the French House at Louisiana State University, and I took the shot just after noon.  I used three frames with a 3-f/stop increment in exposure.  The reason why you can see all the detail in both the shadows and the highlights is because I used HDR. The challenge for many photographers is that we can see detail like this with our eyes, but because digital sensors are not as sophisticated as our eye/brain combination, they can't capture the dynamic range needed.  Instead, with a single exposure the shadows go ...

Backgrounds for macro
Monday, June 20, 2016 6:32AM
Frog and reptile workshop

Capturing an attractive background in macro photography is difficult because often a subject in nature is so close to to grasses, twigs, leaves or other elements that they become distracting.  A great solution for that is to place a print of out of focus foliage behind the subject.  No matter how small the lens aperture is, the background remains attractively out of focus and therefore complementary.  For this picture of a caterpillar, I held a 13 x 19 inch print about 12 inches away and used a ring flash for the illumination.  The ring flash provided light that simulated diffused lighting and yet allowed me to use f/32.  The lens I used here was a 50mm macro. Note ...

Breaking the rules
Sunday, June 19, 2016 8:01AM
Frog and reptile workshop

One of the well-known rules of composition, the Rule of Thirds, suggests we should put the subject on either the horizontal or vertical thirds of the frame.  This is indeed sound advice, and it almost always results in a strong and successful image.  However, much of the time a subject can also look great when placed in the center of the composition.  I feel this is especially true when the subject is symmetrical.  Placing it in the middle of the frame underscores that symmetry and, again, makes for a very strong image.  Rules in art were made for a reason, but it's also true that they can be broken.  I photographed this beautiful tree in ...

Blend modes to the rescue
Saturday, June 18, 2016 5:07PM
Frog and reptile workshop

I took this picture of tall ships off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia during a parade of ships.  Unfortunately, the parade occurred between 9am and 12 noon during the summer, and the sun was high in the sky.  That meant the lighting was harsh and contrasty, and the picture was, in my opinion, worthless.  To save it, I went to my 'cloud folder' and chose an attractive cloud suggesting an overcast sky.  Because tall ships have so much rigging and so many lines, it was impossible to cut out the subjects like I normally do.  The only way to make this work was to use one of the blend modes in Photoshop.  In this case, I used the multiply blend mode, ...

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