Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Two subjects
Friday, August 28, 2015 2:18PM

This was a really unique situation.  The giraffe kept walking closer and closer to the lion, as if taunting him, and the lion simply paid no attention.  My guide told me that this was the giraffe's technique of communicating to the predator that there was no point in attacking because his presence was already detected and the element of surprise was gone.  To shoot this, I knew I had to have enough depth of field so both subjects were in focus. I was using a 100-400mm lens set to 100mm, and if I focused on the lion, which was correct, the giraffe would be a bit soft unless I used a small enough lens aperture. So, I chose f/11 on aperture priority, and that gave me 1/1000th of ...

Fire-breather at night
Thursday, August 27, 2015 10:48AM

I conduct two workshops per year to photograph poison dart frogs and exotic reptiles.  I hire two men to bring and manage the animals for my group, and one them, Ross, also performs as a fire-breather. He now gives my workshop group a show after dark.  It's an amazing thing to see, and the pictures everyone gets are just fantastic.  We do it in the parking lot of the hotel where the workshop is conducted. The biggest challenge, of course, is correct exposure.  The goal is to make the background black with no detail, and at the same time it was important not to overexpose the fireball.  I also wanted to hold detail on Ross' face and his black outfit.  This was ...

Happy Nat'l Dog Day
Wednesday, August 26, 2015 4:03PM

I had never heard of Happy National Dog Day, but apparently that's today according to my wife.  So, I've uploaded this action-packed shot of my cocker spaniel, Teddy, who loves to run and is full of energy. With his little legs, he runs circles around my great Pyrenees, Princey, who stands quite a bit taller on long legs.  To make this shot, I lay prone on the ground so the camera was actually below Teddy's face. I like this kind of perspective a lot because it makes the shot a lot more engaging, intimate, and dynamic.  I used AI servo so the camera focus-tracked Teddy as he ran to me, and my settings were 1/1000th of a second at f/7.1 and 800 ISO. I shot this with 6 frames ...

Frame rate
Tuesday, August 25, 2015 11:33AM

When shooting any kind of action, whether it be sports, birds in flight, kids at play, or whatever, switch to the motor drive function in your camera, i.e. high speed continuous.  One of the important specs you need to consider when purchasing a new camera -- if you like shooting action -- is the frame rate.  This picture was taken with a Canon 5D Mark III which has 6 frames per second.  That's good, but it's not great.  It was good enough to capture the humorous antics of kids in Bali, Indonesia as they jumped off a waterfall for my photo tour group.  But when you are shooting seriously fast moving subjects, like birds in flight, 6 fps aren't enough.  You ...

Fine tuning skin
Monday, August 24, 2015 1:09PM

Even the most beautiful models with great skin and professtional makeup need post-processing techniques applied to make them look perfect.  Ultra smooth skin that almost looks like fine porcelain can be accomplished using a number of Photoshop procedures as well as third party software.  A very easy-to-use software product is Portrait Professional.  I use it for girls and women all over the world.  You don't need a tutorial with it because it's so simple and quick to use.  Some photographers feel that the results look unnatural, and to be sure, if you apply it with a heavy hand, it will, indeed, look unreal.  But you can also use it gently on a person's face, ...

Soft green backgrounds
Sunday, August 23, 2015 10:22AM

Too many times when shooting birds, backgrounds are distracting, messy, and otherwise visually annoying.  If a bird is physically close to the background, even with the longest lens and the largest aperture, you can't lose enough depth of field to blur the leaves, branches, and twigs that make up the undesirable backdrop.  Therefore, to elevate your images to what I call fine art, it's necessary to replace the background with out of focus foliage or -- depending on the composition -- the sky.  In this shot of a yellow streaked lory from Papua New Guinea, I replaced the messy background with a picture from my files of out of focus trees.  I have a folder in my photo ...

Geometric brushes
Saturday, August 22, 2015 10:59AM

There are free downloadable geometric brushes you can find online, and these can be loaded into the brush presets in Photoshop.  Once there, you can apply these intricate designs into a black page or into some other image using the brush tool and then add color, distortion, gradients, etc. to enhance and embellish the graphic designs. Here, I added a Venetian mask, a reflection using the plugin Flood (made by flamingpear.com), an application of the native Photoshop filter extrude, plus several color gradients.  I like abstracts in and of themselves, but when you add a photographic element I think the images are made more compelling.

Cutting off legs and feet
Friday, August 21, 2015 8:52AM

Was it OK for me to crop of the bottom portion of the legs of this impala in South Africa?  In this case, I would argue that it was fine.  I wanted to capture the interaction between the red billed oxpecker and the impala, and had I included all of the legs I wouldn't have filled the frame with the important part of the picture. The bird would have been too small in the frame, and therefore too insignificant. It would have been wrong to cut off just the feet, however.  My feeling about this is that you have to crop decidedly, like I did here, or else it will look like a mistake.  The only thing I find a bit distracting is the tail of another animal in the upper right ...

Thursday, August 20, 2015 8:19AM

Frames are a very powerful graphic technique to focus attention on a subject.  I made this portrait in Bagan, Burma of a novice monk, and I specifically looked for a niche in one of the ancient temples so he'd be framed by the stonework.  It is important to make sure the frame is as sharp as the subject because out of focus elements used to frame a subject will be distracting.  Sometimes photographers include overhanging branches to frame a landscape, for example, and if they are blurred due to lack of depth of field they will hurt the picture significantly.  Note in this portrait also that the lighting is diffused.  There are no harsh shadows or blown highlights. ...

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