Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Post-processing embellishment
Tuesday, May 05, 2015 2:35PM

A great way to give digital images extra impact is to use the Tonal Contrast filter within Nik Sotware's Color Efex Pro 4.  The filter adds contrast, a bit of saturation, and clarity all in one action.  This picture of Edinburgh, Scotland is an example.  I use Tonal Contrast for a lot of my images and in 90% of the shots, it improves them significantly.  For this picture of Edinburgh, I used the new Canon 100-400mm lens, a tripod, and f/8 with 200 ISO. I use the two second self-timer in lieu of a cable release. The telephoto compression of this scene makes it look better than it did with my eyes.

Dark skies
Saturday, May 02, 2015 5:34PM

If you don't already have one, make a new folder in your photo library devoted just to dramatic sky pictures.  Start collecting powerful skies, especially gray and stormy ones.  These can be used as backdrops to many kinds of pictures.  In this particular case, I didn't replace the sky but I darkened it and made it more moody and dynamic than it originally was.  Skies like this contribute significantly to pictures, and they can totally transform images.  This picture shows a relatively new work of art -- The Kelpies -- in Grangemouth, Scotland.  It's a huge, stunning sculpture.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015 4:31PM

Even in situations where contrast is at a minimum, HDR is valuable in revealing detail in the shadows as well as the highlights.  This picture that I took at Kinderdijk in Holland is an example.  The shadows in the grass in the immediate foreground would be considerably darker with less detail had I not used HDR here.  I only took three exposures using the Canon 5D Mark III's automatic HDR setting, but it was enough to show all the detail that was necessary to make this picture work.  I used a 24-105mm lens at f/22 and 200 ISO for this picture.

Flash with nature
Saturday, April 18, 2015 2:58PM

I am not a fan of using flash in nature unless I want to do something 'artsy' in the field.  But in this particular situation, the margay was in the very dark shadows of the jungle in Costa Rica.  If I exposed for the cat and didn't use flash, the background would have huge areas of blown out highlights.  That would have been seriously distracting to the subject.  Therefore, I balanced the flash on the foreground with the ambient light on the background.  To do that, I set the Canon 580EX flash to ETTL and the camera to aperture priority.  I had to raise the ISO to make sure the shutter speed was fast enough in this low light situation to insure a sharp ...

When reptiles are cold
Friday, April 17, 2015 10:11PM

If you like shooting reptiles, they are very easy to work with when they are cold.  They simply can't move.  For example, I photographed these marine iquanas in the Galapagos Islands around nine o'clock when the morning chill could still be felt.  I walked up to this amorous couple and they didn't move a muscle.  They were on an incline of lava and therefore oblique to the plane of my camera.  That meant that I needed to use f/32 to get as much depth of field as possible.  I used a one full second exposure from a tripod, and as you can see this image is tack sharp.  As the sun rose in the sky, the iguanas became more active because the day warmed up.

Mid-day sun
Tuesday, April 07, 2015 9:53PM

Mid-day sunlight is a type of lighting that usually should be avoided if possible.  It's too harsh and contrasty, and it doesn't compliment pretty much anything.  If you have no choice, though, there is one way to mitigate the negative qualities of this type of light to a certain degree.  I photographed these goats in an argan tree (goats climb these trees to eat the leaves, but in this case local people put the goats there for pictures), and my photo tour group and I just happened upon them in the middle of the day.  What makes this work as well as it does is the fact that the animals and the tree are front lit.  If the sun were to the side or behind the subjects, ...

Great subjects
Monday, April 06, 2015 8:59PM

One of the most beautiful castles in Europe is the Pena National Palace in Sintra, Portugal.  Late afternoon sunlight illuminates the colorful architecture beautifully.  What is noteworthy about this picture is that this castle looks much better from a small distance away than it does from inside.  All of the visitors go inside the castle, but photographers need to find the paved trail that leads to an elevated perspective to get this classic shot.  In my eBook, The 52 Best Photo Locations in Europe, I provide GPS coordinates where you need to stand to get this vantage point as well as many other wonderful photographic subjects throughout Europe.

Mannequins as subjects
Sunday, April 05, 2015 8:09PM

Many types of mannequins make intriguing if not artistic pictures.  Sometimes the mannequins are lit beautifully in store front windows and without photo manipulation they can make great shots. Sometimes they lend themselves to abstract images.  I found this particular mannequin in Fez, Morocco and I liked the facial features plus the head attire, and I used Topaz Simplify to abstract it.  I also desatured the colors and eliminated background elements because they were distracting.  I didn't use a tripod for this,  and my slow shutter gave me a picture that wasn't tack sharp.  That's why I abstracted this to make it more like a painting than a photo. ...

Food fun
Wednesday, April 01, 2015 11:38AM

I saw this beautifully designed dessert in a window in Sapporo, Japan and photographed it through the glass. I then used the pen tool in Photoshop to separate the subject from the original background, and that enabled me to paste into the shot the colorful balloons.  The string of balloons was pasted three times and each strand was angled to make the background more interesting.  I then added a closeup of balloons to fill in the gaps.  I used Flood at the base of the image so the dessert didn't appear to be floating.  The lighting is natural diffused light, and I shot this with a 70-200mm lens on a Canon 5D Mark III.

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