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Jim Zuckerman's Blog
An HDR composite in the dark
Sunday, December 09, 2018
An HDR composite in the dark

What's remarkable about this image is that when I stood there and looked at the temple, the sky was virtually black. I could see ever so faintly some color that I thought might be clouds, but I wasn't really sure I could reveal what I believed was there. My photo tour group and I photographed the temple from a different vantage at twilight, and by the time we arrived at this location the blue hour had vanished. So, I did a test. I took one picture from a tripod, of course, and I grossly overexposed the image by 3 full f/stops. This completely blew out the structure, but it revealed the color and detail in the sky that I thought I could detect with my eyes. That told me an HDR composite was ...

An elevated perspective
Saturday, December 08, 2018
An HDR composite in the dark

I learned a long time ago that if you want perfect pictures involving people, most likely you have to set it up. Sure, serendipity happens and you might luck out and capture a perfect moment, but that's rare. The technique I use over and over again is to previsualize something great and then make it happen. I do that often on my photo tours, and it results in powerful images where nothing is left to chance. Such was the case with these two fishermen in Inle Lake, Burma. We photographed them from an elevated walkway in a hotel to gain this unique perspective. I used a 24-105mm lens, and my settings were 1/640, f/5.0, 1250. Because of better cameras now and the introduction of Neat Image ...

Long-necked woman
Friday, December 07, 2018
An HDR composite in the dark

Certainly one of the most intriguing cultures in Burma is the long-necked women of the Kayan tribe. They consider the long necks a sign of beauty. The girls who chose this path (this is not compulsory at all) start as young as 7 years old. In adulthood, the brass rings can weigh as much as 14 pounds. They only come off when more rings are added. For this portrait, I again used the soft and diffused light coming in from a window in conjunction with a dark background. This is easy, effective, and beautiful, and as you can see, flash is not necessary. My settings were 1/1000, f/5.0, 1250 ISO, and I used a 200mm focal length. Most portraits are best taken with a medium telephoto lens. 

Looking back
Thursday, December 06, 2018
An HDR composite in the dark

About 30 years ago, I was in China and saw a woman walking on a path carrying twins in two baskets suspended by a bamboo pole, typical of how many Asian workers carry loads. It was a classic travel shot, but I missed it because with my medium format film camera, I had the wrong lens on and she disappeared before I was able to ask her for a shot. I never forgot it, though, so this time in Burma I asked my local guide to set up something similar. In this picture, the little boy is balanced by a load of firewood. I used a 100-400mm lens set to 300mm, and my settings were 1/320, f/5, and 400 ISO. I took this picture from a kneeling position because I prefer the low angled perspective. 

Dealing with a tough situation
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
An HDR composite in the dark

This remarkable standing Buddha is made of one piece of wood from an ancient tree. It is inside the 900 year old Ananda Temple in Bagan, Burma, and it is a pilgrimage site for Buddhists. This monk was standing in front of the dramatic depiction of Buddha as many other people tried to squeeze into the small space in the interior of the temple. It was impossible to get a clean shot of the scene, so I took two separate images with the same wide angle lens. I photographed the monk, and then I waited for the crowd to clear around the base of the stature to capture this dramatic upward angle. I then used Photoshop to composite the two photos. My settings for both pictures were 1/50, f/2.8, 6400 ...

Backlighting with a dark background
Monday, December 03, 2018
An HDR composite in the dark

What makes this portrait work in my opinion is the contrast between the smoke and the dark background. The sky was bright behind this Burmese woman -- that provided the backlighting -- and I worked to eliminate it from the composition or else it would have been very distracting. I used a 400mm focal length specifically because of its narrow angle of view. This lens also made the background completely out of focus. Any definition in the distant trees would also have been distracting. My settings were 1/400, f/5.6, and 400 ISO. I used aperture priority and, as usual for all my outdoor shooting, daylight white balance. 

Hot air balloon perspective
Sunday, December 02, 2018
An HDR composite in the dark

This morning my photo tour group took a hot air balloon flight over Bagan, Burma, and it was fabulous. At sunrise, we had a cloud cover that obscured the sun, but shortly thereafter it broke through the clouds and beautifuly illuminated the 11th and 12th century ruins. I took this unique vantage of Dhammayazika pagoda about 20 minutes after sunrise. Depth of field was irrelevant due to the distances involved, so I used aperture priority and shot wide open. This allowed my shutter speed to be fast enough for sharp pictures while the ISO was reasonably low. My settings were 1/1250, f/5, 800 ISO, and I used a 24-105mm lens. I could have used a slower shutter speed, but the balloon was rising ...

A classic view
Saturday, December 01, 2018
An HDR composite in the dark

This morning in Burma we had a great dawn experience. We stayed in a beautiful lodge with a classic view of Little Mt. Popa, a volcanic column upon which a dramatic monastery was constructed. Before the sun came up, the illuminated Buddhist monastery stood out nicely against the surrounding landscape. I used a 100-400mm to capture this composition right from the terrace of the hotel. Because I used a 2-second exposure, I set the camera for a 2-second self-timer delay to eliminate any vibration from the camera. Depth of field was not an issue here due to the distance, so I used a lens aperture of f/5 and an ISO of 160. 

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