Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Horse action
Thursday, April 28, 2016 4:59PM
Horse action

My photo tour group and I had another session with sparing stallions today here in southern France. It was overcast so we didn't have to worry about unwanted shadows. To freeze every hair, I used 1/1250, f/6.3 and 400 ISO. It was really amazing to watch these two beautiful horses in action. Everyone in my group was blown away by the display of power, grace, and strength. I hand held the 100-400mm Canon lens and didn't use the image stabilization for fear it would slow down the autofocus. 

Focus points
Wednesday, April 27, 2016 8:36AM
Horse action

With action shots, choosing the right configuration of focus points is very important.  For birds, for example, I use all the focus points the camera has available so they can lock onto the outstretched wings if the bird becomes off-center in the frame.  With stallions battling for dominance, I use a cluster of 9 or 15 focus points in the center of the frame.  In order to make sure the autofocus mechanism can operate at maximum speed, I turn off the image stabilization feature.  With a fast shutter speed -- in this case 1/1250th of a second -- IS or VR is unnecessary, anyway. 

White horses of the Camargue
Tuesday, April 26, 2016 4:01PM
Horse action

The first evening of the horse shoot here in France was very exciting. Over and over again we ran the horses in front of the sun to produce some very dynamic silhouettes. Everyone got amazing pictures and I'm sure the horses had a lot of fun, too. I used a shutter speed of 1/1250 to freeze the splashing water and the details in the horses, and f/11 guaranteed enough depth of field. I used a 24-105mm lens handheld. Auto ISO made sure the exposure was correct. We were all standing in water wearing waterproof boots as we shot the galloping horses, and sometimes we got a bit wet as the horses ran past us. It was amazing. 

HDR for details
Sunday, April 24, 2016 3:00PM
Horse action

HDR is usually used when there is so much contrast in a scene or subject that the highlights can be expected to blow out or the shadows will become black with little or no detail.  Landscapes under a bright sun come to mind.  The HDR technique is extremely versatile and should be used in a variety of situations, including where the contrast doesn't seem to be so harsh.  Remember that our eyes/brain combination has incredible dynamic range, and we can see phenomenal detail in very dark shadows and bright highlights in the same scene.  Digital sensors can't match this ability, so it's necessary to bring back detail that will be lost by using HDR.  I made this picture ...

Depth of Field and macro
Saturday, April 23, 2016 8:00AM
Horse action

When photographing small subjects, pay special attention to depth of field.  As you move in close -- even to a venomous snake like this eyelash viper in Costa Rica -- DOF becomes very shallow.  I used a 70-200mm lens here with an extension tube, essentially turning this medium zoom into a telephoto macro, and that meant that the depth of focus was minimal.  We can accept out of focus backgrounds, but soft foregrounds are visually annoying and unattractive.  Therefore, use a small enough lens aperture to make the picture successful.  Here I used f/16.  The entire front of the snake, including the all-important head and eye, are sharp as they should be. 

Shooting close to large waterfalls
Friday, April 22, 2016 8:00AM
Horse action

When photographing very close to large waterfalls, you must protect the camera and lens from water drops.  Especially important is to prevent the drops from landing on the lens and causing smudges in the pictures.  If those smudges are large enough or if they are obscuring some fine detail, they are quite difficult to clone out. This is Devil's Throat, part of Iguazu Falls in Argentina, and the tremendous mist was like rain.  The best way to photograph this is to use an umbrella, a lens hood, and have a microfiber cloth in your pocket to constantly wipe the lens clean.  

Adding to the night sky
Thursday, April 21, 2016 8:25AM
Horse action

I used this composite in my recent Photoshop workshop that I conducted in my home to demonstrate how to add the moon, fireworks, or lightning into a twilight or night sky.  It is easier than you would think.  There is no need to precisely cut out any of these objects.  Simply use the lasso tool to make a rough selection around any of them, including the original dark sky, and then when you paste (Edit > paste) the object(s) into the sky choose the 'lighten' blend mode in the layers palette.  The dark sky of the moon, fireworks, or lightning disappears and you've retained all of the detail you need to make the composite look believable.  This is a shot ...

Soft light for macro
Wednesday, April 20, 2016 8:00AM
Horse action

Notice the diffused lighting on this mossy tree frog from Vietnam.  I used a ring flash for the exposure because when the flash is placed within a few inches of a subject, the lighting simulates the softened lighting coming from an overcast sky.  The key is proximity:  If the ring flash is used a couple of feet from the subject, it approaches a point source of light and therefore appears more harsh.  In my opinion, soft light is the ideal type of illumination for macro subjects.  This is one of the species of frogs I include in my frog and reptile workshop.  The next workshop in St. Louis is June 25, 26 (click HERE for more info). 

Dust vs. cameras: Dust wins
Tuesday, April 19, 2016 4:05PM
Horse action

Dust is devasting to camera gear, both lenses and camera bodies, and when you travel -- or even at home if you live in a dry area -- you should carry in your camera backpack a neatly folded piece of plastic wrap (the type you use to seal food in the refrigerator).  It has no weight and no volume, and it can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars if you go through a dust storm unprepared.  The plastic can protect the delicate movements and electronics in your gear from flying dust, and it also helps protect the front glass element of the lens from getting scratched (you should also use a lens hood for this).  I took the picture you see here in a dust storm in Kenya in ...

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