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Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Japanese macaque
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Japanese macaque

Not all subjects are created equally. Some trees are great; some are messy with an unattractive shape. Some faces are great; many are not. It's the job of a photographer to seek out great subjects because they make the best pictures. This snow monkey from Japan is another example (like the cheetah cub in yesterday's post) of a great subject. One of the reasons this image is strong is because of my eye-level composition. I was shooting just above the surface of the water, trying to get as low as possible. This gave me a very intimate connection with the subject. I used a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens with a 1.4x teleconverter (this was prior to my purchase of the 100-400mm lens which I would ...

Sweet face
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Japanese macaque

There is not much in this world sweeter than the face of a baby cheetah. I captured this shot with a 500mm lens plus a 1.4x teleconverter in Kenya with the long lens resting on a beanbag. There were a few offending out of focus grasses cutting across the cub's face, and I used the content aware feature in Photoshop plus the clone tool to eliminate the distracting elements. I also lightened the cheetah's eyes by about 15% with the dodge tool. That subtle change made a huge difference in visual and emotional impact. My settings for this shot were 1/640, f/8, and 800 ISO. I was very happy with the diffused light. It allows us to see and appreciate all of the beautiful detail in the fur. Notice ...

Water drop collision
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Japanese macaque

I've come up with a new idea for a photo workshop, and one of the cool things I'll be setting up for participants is a device that sets up water drop collisions. Anyone can photograph a single water drop splashing into a liquid, but to be able to capture two drops colliding with each other requires practice, finesse, patience -- and a sophisticated electronic device. For this shot, I added some milk to the water to give the liquid a bit of opacity. The color comes from two flash units, one covered with a green gel and the other covered with a magenta gel. The timing device, made by Cognisys, measures the time between the release of the drops and the collision in milliseconds. I used a Canon ...

Long lenses; large suns
Friday, March 16, 2018
Japanese macaque

Long telephoto lenses produce dramatic images with a large sun. It's a powerful visual look, but there are two important technical issues to keep in mind. First, depth of field is very shallow with a 500mm telephoto like I used here. That means if you want the sun sharp as well as the silhouetted tree and leopard, a fairly small lens aperture has to be used. Second, even if you are using a tripod (or in this case a bean bag), a fast enough shutter speed is required to ensure a sharp image. With that much magnification, the slightest movement degrades the image quality. The general rule for choosing a shutter speed with a telephoto lens is the shutter should be the reciprocal of the focal ...

Frog and reptile workshop
Thursday, March 15, 2018
Japanese macaque

My frog and reptile workshop is coming up a week from this weekend, so I wanted to post one of my favorite pictures from this bi-annual event. This is everyone's favorite frog -- the red eye tree frog. I photographed it originally with a vertical composition, and then in Photoshop I rotated the image 90 degrees clockwise (Image > rotate > 90CW). I then applied the plug-in Flood (made by to add a realistic reflection. All of the macro images done at the workshop are taken with a ring flash because of the way the light wraps around the small subjects. The lens is set to f/32 for maximum depth of field, the camera is set to manual exposure mode, and the flash is set to ...

Siberian husky pups
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Japanese macaque

I had the opportunity to photograph 7-week old Siberian husky puppies this past weekend. It was so much fun. I've never had puppies who were so cooperative. Sure, they squirmed around a bit, but mostly they would stay where we posed them. It takes 2 or 3 helpers to arrange the dogs, push them together, and if one of them is hidden by another, that has to be fixed. To make it easy (and because I was lazy and didn't want to st up an indoor studio), I photographed them on my 'puppy bench' that I bought for $50 in Indonesia. I placed the bench on my patio table and set up a black background behind them -- just a piece of black fabric clamped to two light stands. I shot at f/11 to make sure I ...

The aurora
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Japanese macaque

The aurora borealis changes constantly as you photographic it. It's quite captivating. What is especially interesting is that our eyes don't see the greens and magentas in the sky during this celestial light show, and the long exposure intensifies the brightness of the sky simply because the digital sensor can accumulate light over time. I took this picture on my last trip to Iceland. It's more difficult to see the aurora in southern Iceland because the sky is often overcast, but in the northern part of the country my photo tour group and I had three consecutive days of clear night skies. The photography was amazing. This pretty church was about 500 feet from the shore of the lake, and I ...

Poetry in motion
Monday, March 12, 2018
Japanese macaque

This is an African white pelican in Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya. I rarely like blurred pictures of birds in flight, but I experimented at the lake hoping to get something artistically pleasing. What is particularly interesting about this picture is that the pelican was flying past tens of thousands of pink flamingos. That's what comprises the colorful abstract background, and that's why I tried a different kind of technique here. I lowered the ISO to 100 and closed the lens down to f/18 in order to end up with a shutter speed slow enough to create this kind of blur. The shutter speed was 1/25th of a second, and the lens I used was the Canon 500mm f/4 with a 1.4x teleconveter, giving me ...

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