Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Topaz Glow
Sunday, December 14, 2014 8:38AM

For several years the Photoshop plug-in 'Fractalius' has been available only for PC users.  It offers truly unique, stylized images, and I've been frustrated because the company never came out with a Mac version. Topaz has now produced the same type of effect with more variations for both Mac and PC operating systems.  It is called Topaz Glow, and it's on sale for $49 until the end of the year.  I've been having a lot of fun with it in the last two days because the creative possibilities are awesome.  It can be applied to every conceivable type of subject to produce outstanding 'wow' images.  It's very easy to use as well.  Here are some examples.

Think 'components'
Thursday, December 11, 2014 5:40PM

When I shoot, I am always thinking beyond the obvious.  This often entails taking pictures of components to use later when I'm working in Photoshop.  For example, I photographed this old building with it's quant balcony in Venice, Italy during one of my Carnival in Venice photo workshops.  I then took pictures of a costumed model while kneeling specifically to get that low point of view.  I then put the two pictures together in Photoshop.  Note how the angle on the model is perfectly appropriate for standing on an elevated balcony.  The building by itself made a nice shot and so did the model.  But together they make a more striking image -- i.e. the sum ...

Graphic design
Tuesday, December 09, 2014 8:29AM

This is a composite I did to demonstrate how to cut and paste one image into another.  I did this during the Photoshop seminar I conducted in my home this past weekend.  One of the points I made is that one of the most important ingredients to taking great pictures is graphic design.  In this instance, both elements -- the bald eagle and the tree -- are very strong in design.  That is a formula for a successful photograph and a successful composite. I photographed the bald eagle in Missouri and the tree along the shore of Lake Superior in Wisconsin.The next Photoshop workshop I'm teaching is May 16, 17.  Here is a link to the promo ...

Shoot verticals
Monday, December 01, 2014 9:00AM

Most photographers consistently shoot horizontal pictures primarily because it's easier to hold the camera in this orientation.  But vertical compositions are just as valid. Don't forget to think in terms of vertical framing.  In marketing, vertical pictures are used for magazine covers and full page ads (which sell for higher amounts than less-than-full-page uses), and if you are giving a slide show vertical pictures add variety to the presentation.  I composed this jaguar both vertically and horizontally, and I like both versions.  They give a different feel to scene, and I'm glad I had the presence of mind to take both types of compositions.

Highlights and shadows
Saturday, November 29, 2014 9:00AM

Even on overcast days when the lighting is soft and diffused, contrast can be a problem.  For example, this awesome view of a portion of Iguazu Falls on the Brazil side had to be manipulated in Adobe Camera Raw (or Lightroom) to open up the shadows particularly in the green foliage.  The original digital capture underexposed the trees because the white water of the falls influenced the meter reading such that the water was exposed well but the shadows became too dark. Of course. on a sunny day this kind of thing is a familar problem, but you need to be aware that under a dense cloud cover the same problem can persist, although it's not as intense of a problem as when shooting ...

Ultra fast speeds
Thursday, November 27, 2014 9:00AM

When you photograph hummingbirds and you want the wings to be tack sharp, you have to use flash.  Increasing the shutter speed to 1/1000 or 1/2000 won't do it.  The only way to make the exposure time brief enough to freeze the wings is to turn the power down on the flash units to 1/16th power.  This makes the actual exposure time about 15,000th of a second.  The flash units (I use four flash units to shoot hummers) must be placed close to the flower you are using to attract the birds.  The close proximity (like 15 inches) compensates for the reduced power output.  I took this picture in Costa Rica with a 70-200mm lens at f/14 with 400 ISO.

Getting low
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 9:00PM

The older one gets, the harder it is to bend down or lay down on the ground to get intimate, eye-to-eye shots of small animals.  For example, this sally lightfoot crab from the Galapagos Islands was about three inches above the lava, and I knew that the most compelling way to photograph it would be from ground level.  A device that makes this kind of picture easy is a 90 degree angle finder.  It replaces the eye cup or the frame around the viewfinder and allows you to look straight down into the finder to compose the shot.  At the same time, the lens is parallel with the ground.  Many of the new mirrorless cameras have a swivel LCD monitor, and this also solves the ...

Exposure challenge
Sunday, November 23, 2014 9:00AM

I photographed this Jacaranda tree in Windhoek, Namibia, and the sky was very bright.  It was virtually white.  Had I simply taken a picture of it and let the meter take a normal reading, the picture would be significantly underexposed.  The white sky would adversely affect the meter reading because all meters are programmed to look at every scene and subject as middle gray.  It would assume, therefore, that this scene was middle toned or middle gray, and therefore the exposure would reflect that.  In other words, the picture would look middle gray.  But the sky was white, not gray. To handle this tricky exposure situation, I had to use the exposure ...

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