Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Snow owl in flight
Monday, January 23, 2017 9:30PM
Snow owl in flight

I am in Canada now conducting my snowy owl workshop. It is unusually warm here -- 30 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit -- and that makes it more comfortable to photograph the owls. The downside is that instead of a completely white environment of snow, there is a lot of exposed ground, bare trees, and mud. We are making the best of it, though, and the owls are still beautiful and exciting to see as they fill the frames of our viewfinders. One of my favorite scenarios is when the birds land on a perch or when they take off because their wings take on all kinds of graphic shapes as they use the wind to maneuver. Here a female snowy owl is alighting on a fence post. My settings were 1/3200, f/11, 2000 ...

New reptile workshop planned
Friday, January 20, 2017 10:47AM
Snow owl in flight

I'm working to put together a workshop entirely devoted to large reptiles. I'm hoping to offer it either by the end of the summer or next year. There are some truly amazing creatures that look just like miniature dinosaurs that I find captivating. They are so primitive, so fascinating, and definitely very photogenic. This guy is a green basilisk from Central and South America. Photographing reptiles outside on a log or rock with trees in the background makes the pictures look entirely natural. I took this with my medium format (Mamiya RZ 67) film camera before I transitioned into digital. My settings weren't recorded, but I used the same approach over and over again with subjects like this: ...

Blue animals
Tuesday, January 17, 2017 10:02AM
Snow owl in flight

Most people don't think frogs come I'm blue, but they do. I actually seek out blue animals because it's such an unusual and visually arresting color for an animal or insect. This is a Dendrobates auratus from Costa Rica, and I thought it was perfect with the purple flower background. We don't normally see very small creatures who are so low to the ground at eye level, and that's what makes this a compelling image -- besides the color. My settings for this were f/32, 1/200, 200 ISO, and I used a 50mm macro lens hand held. This frog is about an inch and a quarter in length.  For the lighting I used a ring flash. 

Macro flash
Monday, January 16, 2017 12:50PM
Snow owl in flight

I photographed this wild looking frog, a Crowned tree frog from Costa Rica, at my semi-annual frog and reptile workshop this past weekend in St. Louis.  For intricately detailed macro subjects, I feel that complete depth of field is required to show the compelling color, texture, and detail with tack sharp clarity.  In order to use the smallest lens aperture, i.e. f/22 or f/32, a lot of light is needed. Otherwise the shutter becomes too slow.  Therefore, I teach in the workshop that the best approach is to use a ring flash.  This provides a lot of light, thus enabling the use of a small aperture.  In addition, the type of light produced by this kind of ...

Intimate silhouette
Thursday, January 12, 2017 11:42AM
Snow owl in flight

One of my favorite pictures from Africa is this silhouette of a lady and her domesticated cheetah, Kiki. She raised the orphaned cheetah cub to adulthood in her home for several years, and only when she noticed the cat starting to stalk her four year old son did she move him outdoors to an enclosure of many acres on her huge property in Namibia. I brought my photo tours here many times because we could get photos of African wildlife unlike anywhere else, and this is one example. I posed the subjects on a small hill so I and my photo tour group could get low and photograph them against the sunset. My settings for this were 1/800, f/7.1, 200 ISO. 

Birds in flight
Wednesday, January 11, 2017 3:11PM
Snow owl in flight

Birds flying right at the camera at close range are extremely challenging in terms of maintaining sharp focus. The larger the bird is, the better. Birds with large wing spans fly slower than small birds. I captured this black-collared hawk in the Pantanal region of Brazil with a 100-400mm on a 1Dx Mark II body at 14 frames per second. The autofocus tracking is extremely good on this camera, and the fast shooting rate allows me to capture every nuance of the flight. I used a super fast shutter to freeze even the tips of the wing feathers because, in my opinion, blur would have degraded the image. The magic about birds in flight is the detail. My settings for this were 1/3200, f/5.6, 800 ISO, ...

Mirror technique
Tuesday, January 10, 2017 3:17PM
Snow owl in flight

Mirroring an image is one of the techniques with which I love to experiment. This is a mask I bought in New Orleans, and for the realistic eyes, I went to a doctor who replaces damaged or diseased eyes in people and talked him into loaning me two of the artificial eyes. Admittedly, this was a little weird, but I was intrigued by the possibilities. I taped them into the mask and photographed it with a studio strobe and soft box. Then I used Photoshop to mirror the image of the mask, and finally I added the background which is a computer generated fractal. This was done in the 90's before we all used digital cameras. I photographed the mask with the eyes using a medium format film camera ...

Eliminating 'metal junk'
Monday, January 09, 2017 11:39AM
Snow owl in flight

The ground breaking of the Leaning Tower of Pisa occurred in 1173 and it took an astonishing 200 years to complete. It started leaning as soon as construction started due to an inadequate foundation on soft soil. In the last two or three decades, engineers have reinforced the famous bell tower with all sorts of steel supports that have presumably arrested the movement toward what would have been eventual collapse. For a photographer who wants a clean shot, though, all of that 'metal junk' ruins the picture. I spent two hours removing it in Photoshop, and it was not easy. I used the clone tool extensively as well as the cut and paste technique. I replaced the sky, too, and added an artistic ...

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