Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Exotic birds of the Pantanal
Tuesday, October 25, 2016 11:19AM
Exotic birds of the Pantanal

My trip to the Brazilian Pantanal is coming up in a few days. I'm very much looking forward to going back, not only to photograph more of the elusive jaguars in the wild (like the banner on this page), but the birds are incredible in this tropical region of South American. One such species is this red-headed cardinal that I captured at one of the feeders of a lodge I use for my photo tour group. What is interesting about this shot is that in order for me to fill the frame with this small bird, I used a 500mm f/4 plus a 1.4x teleconverter which gave me 700mm of focal length. However, I was only about 7 or 8 feet away from the perch above the feeder and the super long telephoto wouldn't focus ...

Fisheye landscapes
Saturday, October 22, 2016 9:39AM
Exotic birds of the Pantanal

Fisheye lenses have limited use, especially when doing landscapes, but once in a while I like to go over the edge and do something unexpected -- even outrageous. This is Horseshoe Bend just south of Page, Arizona, and because of the sharp gooseneck curvature of the Colorado River, it just seemed that a fisheye worked here. I used a 15mm Canon fisheye lens. Note that if you shoot a landscape or cityscape with a fisheye and the horizon is placed exactly in the center of the composition, it won't be curved. Only if the lens is angled downward or upward will you see the bizarre curvature. My settings here were 1/200, f/16, 500 ISO. I used a very small lens aperture because, even though fisheyes ...

White breasted nuthatch
Friday, October 21, 2016 8:43AM
Exotic birds of the Pantanal

While walking on a trail in Bryce Canyon, this small bird -- a white breasted nuthatch -- landed on a tree about six feet from me. I recently bought the Canon 1Dx Mark II specifically because of its 14 frames per second to capture birds in motion, so I was excited to get this shot -- my first serious test with this camera. The bird isn't nearly as spectacular as so many other species of birds I've captured all over the world, but it was constantly in motion, constantly flicking its head and body in all directions, and I was happy to test my new camera. The speed of the autofocus, the incredibly fast fps, the low noise, and the excellent dynamic range all went into making a successful image. ...

Bryce Canyon -- an amazing place
Tuesday, October 18, 2016 11:38AM
Exotic birds of the Pantanal

Bryce Canyon is one of the most stunning landscapes on earth, but it's not really easy to photograph such that a viewer gets a sense of how amazing it is. It's easy to do tight, graphic shots of the unique shapes, and everyone does that. A simple shot with a wide angle lens of a large canyon area just doesn't really convey what you see and feel when standing on the rim. I try to include an interesting foreground to give a sense of depth, and that works well, but the truth is that I've never seen a photograph that gives you the remarkable feeling of standing there looking at a fairyland of orange and pink rock formations. Maybe that in and of itself tells you how special this place is. This ...

Mule deer in the early morning
Monday, October 17, 2016 1:33AM
Exotic birds of the Pantanal

While in Bryce Canyon, my photo tour group and I spotted quite a few mule deer in beautiful locations. Even though they are quite comfortable near people, they can still be challenging to photograph well. I captured these two in early morning light with Canon's new 100-400mm lens, and my settings were 1/400, f/6.3, 500 ISO. I hand held the shot. A tripod is too inhibiting in most situations when photographing wildlife. I used Program mode because it is biased to providing almost the fastest shutter speed possible given the light and the ISO. This is a great mode to use when you don't have time to think about the camera controls. Let the automation take over providing you know what to expect ...

The Totem Pole formation
Friday, October 14, 2016 11:40PM
Exotic birds of the Pantanal

An iconic shot of Monument Valley is the Totem Pole formation with sand dunes in the foreground at sunrise. My photo tour group and I photographed this a couple of days ago, and it was tough finding an area of the sand where other tourists hadn't disturbed the beautiful designs in the sand. After a few minutes running around the desert I found some good areas and we all got the kind of classic shots one would want from such a beautiful place. My settings for this were 1/25, f/22 (for complete depth of field which all landscape shots require), and 500 ISO. I used a tripod, a 7-frame HDR composite, and a 24-105mm lens. 

Beautiful graphic design in stone
Wednesday, October 12, 2016 7:17PM
Exotic birds of the Pantanal

One of the classic shots of Monument Valley is Teardrop Arch. It has an elegant shape, and in the afternoon the sun illuminates the landscape seen through the rock opening. I shot this many years ago with film when HDR wasn’t even a sparkle in anyone’s eye, but now with digital technology it’s possible to capture complete detail in the shadows and highlights of this contrasty situation. This doesn't look contrasty because of the technique I used, but normally the arch would be considerably darker than the background and much of the beautiful detail in the foreground would be lost. This is a 7-frame HDR composite, and I used f/22 for complete depth of field. It was ...

A grand view
Tuesday, October 11, 2016 11:08PM
Exotic birds of the Pantanal

Just a few miles from Arches National Park is a spectacular vista of the Colorado River -- Deadhorse Point. My group and I arrived before sunrise so we could find a good vantage when the sun first started lighting up the incredible colors and shapes of the canyon below. I usually look for an interesting foreground to give the picture depth, texture, and interest, and that's why I included the rocks in the immediate foreground. Note how they are disproportionately large compared to the background. This technique is a powerful visual tool, and the formula is to use a wide angle lens, a small aperture for complete depth of field, and the camera has to be placed very close to the foreground -- ...

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