Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Bright white metering
Tuesday, October 13, 2015 12:11AM
Bright white metering

I photographed this temple in Mingun, Burma under the harshest of lighting conditions.  Still, I wanted to get the shot of the novice monk having fun jumping on the undulating shapes and I had no choice as to the light.  I knew I'd have some post-processing to do in mitigating, as much as I could, the dark shadows.  But the real challenge here was the exposure beause the white-washed temple was blindingly bright. Since meters are programmed to understand middle gray, or middle toned, subjects, the picture was going to be predictably dark if I made no compensation.  This would happen because the meter wants to make the white temple middle toned which would underexpose the ...

Mandalay at dusk
Monday, October 12, 2015 4:21AM
Bright white metering

A great sky makes all the difference in the world.  This dusk shot in Mandalay, Burma is an example.  This is one of the advantages of going to Asia in the rainy season or on the cusp between the rainy and dry seasons.  Clouds like these add drama and visual impact to any cityscape and landscape.  I used the HDR technique here to retain detail in the shadows of the trees as well as the bright highlights in the sky.  This is a 3-frame HDR composite, and the exposures between frames were two f/stops.  I processed the image in Photoshop.

Post-processing necessity
Friday, October 09, 2015 5:16AM
Bright white metering

Most photographs have to be tweaked in post-processing.  Just because your images don’t turn out perfectly in terms of color and contrast, don’t think you are doing something wrong.  This is just the nature of digital technology.  In this picture of a farmer in Burma, I had to lighten the shadow on the man’s face, darken the sky, and add a bit of color saturation.  I did all of that in Adobe Camera Raw.  Then I had to remove a telephone pole in the background using the clone tool in Photoshop.  My settings for this picture were 1/500, f/7.1, 250 ISO, and I used a 400mm focal length.

Inserting the moon
Tuesday, October 06, 2015 6:55PM
Bright white metering

It is impossible to include the moon in any of its phases in a twilight landscape or cityscape and retain detail in the lunar surface with a single shot.  The moon always blows out simply because it is so much brighter than the earth-based subjects that a digital sensor can't handle the discrepancy in exposure.  If you expose correctly for the architecture or the landscape, the moon will be several f/stops overexposed.  Therefore, you have to take two separate pictures -- one for the moon (which is a daylight exposure of 1/250 at f/8 with 200 ISO) and one for the land and then put the together in Photoshop. I took this picture of Pagan, Myanmar from the top of a temple, and ...

Sunday, October 04, 2015 9:35AM
Bright white metering

When I first saw this remarkable shot in a temple in Bagan, Myanmar, I tried to align the meditating monk with the window frame in the background until I realized that the architecture is misaligned.  It's strange that the architects of this massive temple a thousand years ago made this off-center -- particuarly when they were very well aware of symmetry and balance -- and at first this bothered me a lot.  But as I look at this picture over time, it bothers me less and less.  What is interesting to note about this shot is that it is HDR, and during the three exposures this monk remained absolutely still in deep meditation.  My settings were f/8, ISO 250, 24-105mm lens, ...

A balancing act
Saturday, October 03, 2015 10:09AM
Bright white metering

This is not the most artistic shot I've ever taken, but I loved the moment.  Here in Bagan, Myanmar, a young woman was balancing her very young child with firewood, and although the lighting is a bit harsh because it was 10 am and the background has too many lines to be truly complementary, I still like the picture a lot.  I shot this with the new Canon 100-400mm lens at 1/640th of a second, f/16, and 500 ISO.  I used a small aperture because I felt if the background were just a little out of focus it would be more distracting that it already is.  I really wanted to ask her to move into a shaded area with a shaded background, but there was simply nothing like that ...

Desaturated portraits
Thursday, October 01, 2015 7:39PM
Bright white metering

A technique that I find to be quite compelling is to desaturate the colors in a portrait.  At the same time, by adding clarity in the Adobe Camera Raw (or Lightroom) dialog box and/or by applying the tonal contrast filter in Nik Software's Color Efex Pro 4 for a gritty look, portraits like this elderly woman in Vietnam take on a unique, artistic, and engaging look.  To reduce the saturation of color, I use Photoshop's pull down menu command, Image > adjustments > hue/saturation and simply move the saturation slider to the left.  In this particular shot, I also darkened the background so various elements behind the woman weren't distracting.  My settings for this ...

Hong Kong by night
Tuesday, September 29, 2015 7:01PM
Bright white metering

Photoshop is not just used to alter reality and to create wild special effects.  It is also an invaluable tool to overcome the limitations of digital technology.  For example, contrast gain is a typical failing of our digital sensors, but by applying Photoshop techniques to lighten shadows and tone down highights, we can bring our images within the dynamic range more closely related to what we see with our eye/brain combination.  This picture of Hong Kong I took last night shows what I'm referring to .  The subtle detail in the foreground treetops, the light shadows on the buildings, and the sky that isn't overexposed all were possible by using various sliders in Adobe ...

Young lady in red
Tuesday, September 29, 2015 8:49AM
Bright white metering

This is not the type of lighting I usually look for in outdoor portraiture, but I saw that the early morning sun defined the edge of this young lady's face and I liked it.  I shot this in beautiful Ha Long Bay, Vietnam.  One of the advantages of shooting when the sun is low to the horizon is that there are many types of light from which to choose, such as front light, sidelighting, backlighting, edge light, silhouettes, and transillumination.  When the sun is overhead during the middle of the day, most of these options are no longer available and you are left with contrasty, harsh light.  My settings for this shot were 1/320, f/7.1, 400 ISO, and I used a 24-105mm set to ...

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