Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Freezing the action
Tuesday, August 30, 2016 4:37PM
Freezing the action

There is a constant battle, so to speak, between shutter speed and ISO when it comes to freezing the wings of birds.  We want a very fast shutter speed, and in bright light that's no problem.  But in the shadows or when the sun is obscured by a thick cloud cover, in order to shoot with a fast speed the ISO has to be raised.  If the camera you're using produces a lot of noise in low light, you're stuck between settling for blurred wings or for a lot noise.  Not a great choice.  In this instance, I captured a yellow-billed hornbill in South Africa in bright light.  My shutter was 1/1000th of a second which, in most pictures of birds in flight, is too slow. ...

Masai portrait
Sunday, August 28, 2016 12:27PM
Freezing the action

In the photo tour to Kenya, I brought my group to a Masai village to photograph people in their native environment. It's a chance to do some striking portraits, but we were there when the sun was fairly high in the sky (we didn't want to sacrifice a game drive so we visited the village in the middle afternoon). The sun was a problem because harsh contrast rarely looks good with outdoor portraits. For this shot, I chose a young man who was wearing a lion headdress and placed him in the only shade I could find -- against the side of one of the homes with a mud wall as a backdrop. A narrow overhang blocked the sun, and that's all I needed to take advantage of the small amount of diffused ...

Animal humor
Saturday, August 27, 2016 5:22PM
Freezing the action

Humor in animal behavior isn’t easy to capture, especially among wild animals. But this little cub made me laugh the way it was interacting with its mother. It kept biting its mother as if it was demanding attention and wouldn’t take no for an answer. And the adult lion seemed so nonchalant about the whole thing. I took this with the Canon 100-400mm II zoom at 1/320, f/5.6, 3200 ISO. The sun had set which is why the ISO had to be so high. Upon close examination, this image is too noisy because I used the Canon 7D Mark II.  I've determined that this camera has too much noise above 800, and in the higher settings like 1250 and above the images are essentially unusable. 

Lilac breasted roller
Friday, August 26, 2016 8:56AM
Freezing the action

Every chance I get when I'm in Africa, I try to get a shot of the lilac breasted roller in flight. It's considered one of the most beautiful birds in Africa -- if not THE most beautiful bird -- and in flight it's really something. They are extremely fast, though, and it's not easy getting a frame-filling sharp image. It takes lots of tries and a high frame per second rate. My standard shutter speed for small birds in flight is 1/3200 so I can freeze even the wing tips. This forces the ISO to be high in diffused light, but if the sun is out then you can get away with a lower ISO setting. For this picture, the ISO was 800 and the aperture was f/9. I use all the focus points when photographing ...

Essential depth of field
Thursday, August 25, 2016 12:19PM
Freezing the action

Landscape photography requires complete depth of field.  And, when you have two subjects in the composition -- such as the foreground silhouette of this acacia tree in Kenya plus the distant tree/sun in the background -- both subjects must be in focus.  Therefore, a picture like this has to be done with aperture priority and you need to choose a lens aperture of at least f/16 or smaller.  In this shot, I used f/20.  When you use aperture priority, though, you have to pay special attention to the shutter speed to make sure it doesn't become too slow.  If you are shooting from a tripod and the subject isn't moving, then the speed of the shutter isn't relevant. ...

Purple iridescence
Wednesday, August 24, 2016 10:41AM
Freezing the action

Usually I don't like to shoot down on birds or wildlife, but in this case I was happy to capture this kind of angle so I could show how truly beautiful the colors of this bird are. It's a Ruppell's long-tailed starling from Kenya, and in the sun the iridescent colors are dazzling. The land rover I was in was crossing a rocky stream bed, and the bird was drinking about 12 feet from my camera. In situations like this, you have to shoot very fast because in a fraction of a section the bird can take flight and the moment is lost forever. That's why shooting in fully manual is a serious disadvantage -- it's just too slow. My settings for this were 1/3200, f/8, 3200 ISO, and I used a 400mm focal ...

Black-maned lion
Monday, August 22, 2016 4:09PM
Freezing the action

I have a very large dog -- a great Pyrenees at 150 pounds -- and he has very large teeth. But when I see the teeth of predators in Africa, my dog seems like a wimp! Mature black-maned lions are one of the subjects I love to find because they are so majestic, so powerful, and with those teeth -- so intimidating. It was after sunset when I photographed this, so the light level was low. Hence the high ISO. My settings were 1/200, f/5.6, 3200 ISO, and I used a 100-400mm lens for the shot. 

Photoshop's limitation
Sunday, August 21, 2016 8:22AM
Freezing the action

Many of my students and the people who travel with me on my photo tours ask me how to replace a background with a subject like this.  I always tell them that it's impossible. Photoshop can do a lot of things -- pretty much anything you can imagine -- but hair and whiskers make it impossible to separate the subject from the background so it looks believable.  The only exceptions are (1) when the subject is photographed against green screen, or (2) when the contrast between the subject and background is so strong that Photoshop can easily distinguish between the two.  For example, a white puppy against a black background, or a brunette photographed against a white background, ...

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