Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Shooting through glass
Sunday, October 19, 2014 9:46AM

I took this picture of beautiful countryside through a hotel window in an airport hotel in Tokyo.  I used a 24mm lens, and there is no evidence that there was glass between me and the outdoor landscape.  You can shoot through glass without an delterioius effect if the glass is clean.  In addition, it's important to shoot straight through it such that the lens axis is a perpendicular as possible to the plane of the window.  As soon as you angle the camera so the lens axis is oblique -- i.e. you shoot downward -- then the image becomes degraded because the thickness of the glass lowers the optical quality.

Dealing with patchy light
Saturday, October 18, 2014 9:00PM

The worst type of light in nature is patchy lighting.  Because digital sensors have a limited dynamci range, shadows tend to go dark (or black depending on how extreme the contrast is) and the highlights become very light or, in the worst case scenario, blow out completely where there is no texture or detail.  In other words, they are solid white.  I had no choice with the lighting in photographing this crocodile -- patchy lighting was what I had to work with.  The sky was blue and the light was filtering down through a tree.  To bring back detail in the highlights and open up the shadows, I shot in RAW mode (of course) and then used the highlights slider as ...

Always look for backgrounds
Saturday, October 18, 2014 4:03PM

Backgrounds make or break a picture.  Complementary backgrounds embellish the picture and distracting backgrounds ruin it.  Some backgrounds are loud and visually agressive, such as the colorful and graphic background behind the 1930 Jordan Model Z Ace Roadster above.  I found this beautiful wall and ceiling in the Chicago O'Hare airport as I was in transit.  Other backgrounds are more subtle and let the subject take all the credit. The background behind the 1955 Cadillac Special Cabriolet below is from the Smoky Mountains National Park.  I know both backgrounds are fairly busy, but at least to my own sense of aesthetics, they work.  I photographed the 1930 ...

The sun star
Friday, October 17, 2014 9:00AM

You can turn the sun, or any point source of light, into a star by using a small lens aperture.  I use f/16 or smaller to get the effect you see above. In addition, a wide angle lens makes the star more defined. When I shot these chunks of ice on a black sand beach in iceland, I used a tripod, a 14mm ultra wide angle lens, and f/22.Another way to turn the sun into a star is compose the picture such that the sun is peaking from a foreground subject.  In this case, I used the edge of the ice.  In other types of shots the foreground subject could be a tree branch, a leaf, or the edge of a building. 

Anticipating action
Thursday, October 16, 2014 9:00AM

When the subject you are shooting will be moving toward you at a fast clip, such as this released golden eagle, focus two or three feet in front of it.  At the same time, use a fairly small lens aperture to gain depth of field.  This will put the odds in your favor that it will be sharp at the moment you take the picture.  In the case of this eagle hunter in Mongolia, my photo tour group and I knew the direction the bird would fly once released, so we could anticipate where we should focus.  The sun was bright at around 4:30pm, and that enabled us to use a minimal ISO while enjoying depth of field as well as a fast shutter to freeze the movement of the wings. My ...

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