Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Wildlife up close and personal
Wednesday, February 04, 2015 7:32AM

Very seldom can wildlife photographers use a wide angle lens to shoot animals.  But in the Jugokudani Monkey Park in Japan they come so close to you that you can produce a very unique picture, indeed. I took this shot of a mother and her young with a 14mm lens.  I was only inches from them as they enjoyed the 107 degree warmth of the hot springs in the dead of winter.  I raised the ISO to 800 in order to use a fast enough shutter speed to freeze any movement as well as an f/9 lens aperture to give me a reasonable amount of depth of field.  Fortunately, the sky was overcast so I wasn't fighting harsh contrast.

Ultra high ISO
Wednesday, January 28, 2015 5:39PM

In southern China, men adorn unique costumes and perform the Grand Opera in ethnic villages.  This picture was taken as one of the actors was getting dressed in a very dark room.  I thought the ambience was intriguing as was the lighting from a window at left, so I raised the ISO to 25,600 and took the picture with a 14mm lens.  My settings were 1/100th of a second at f/5, hand held.

Filling the frame-- DOF
Friday, January 09, 2015 6:31AM

When you fill the frame with a subject that is relatively close to the camera -- such as this highland cow that was about eight feet from me -- make sure you have enough depth of field.  I shot this with a 70-200mm lens, and it was fine with me that the background was blurred, and I also feel it's fine that the back portion of the animal isn't sharp.  But the all important head, nose, and ears had to be sharp. Therefore, in this case, I used aperture priority so I could select an aperture that offered enough DOF.  The maximum aperture on the lens is f/2.8, so I chose f/5 for this image.  Note, also, how attractive the soft lighting is.  

In-camera HDR
Monday, January 05, 2015 2:17PM

I have been playing with in-camera HDR here in Scotland, and it's a lot of fun.  I am shooting with the Canon 5D Mark III, and it combines three images taken in quick succession into an HDR image.  This picture from the Isle of Skye is an example.  I love the immediate gratification of such fantastic detail, especially in contrasty lighting like this sunrise.  The sun and the sky were brilliant while the rocks were much darker.  Unfortunately, at this time, the HDR images are only jpegs. For this picture, I hand held the shot and the software was able to merge the images flawlessly.  With a telephoto lens, this doesn't work well.  I shot the above ...

Dark skies are effective
Tuesday, December 30, 2014 12:42PM

When you convert landscapes and city scapes to black and white, try darkening the sky.  Darken it beyond what looks correct based on what you saw.  This will dramatize the picture in a very powerful way, and it directs more attention to the bottom portion of the image.  This picture of White Pocket in Utah is an example of what I'm referring to.  It helps to have nice clouds, but even with a blue sky the darker tones look dramatic.  To create this look, make a duplicate layer in Photoshop (Command or Ctrl J), and then use the burn tool on about 40% opacity.  Darken the sky a little bit and then add to the effect per your taste.

Man-made elements in nature
Tuesday, December 23, 2014 1:11PM

I like this picture of a southern crested cara cara a lot, but one thing bothers me.  The fact that the old fence post has a man-made cut on the top of it takes a little away from this picture.  At least, it does for me.  Nature pictures should, in my opinion, be devoid of the hand of man. There are exceptions to this, but not many.  I prefer that the entire frame be natural.  Besides that, everything else about this shot works -- the soft light, the turn of the head, the out of focus background, and the frame-filling composition.  I used a 500mm lens, 1/250, f/4, 1250 ISO, hand held.  I took this picture in the Pantanal just outside the lodge in ...

Another Topaz Glow image
Saturday, December 20, 2014 11:26AM

This is another image I manipulated using the new Topaz Glow plug-in.  It a simple portrait of a lion I shot in Botswana.  Within this plug-in, there are presets and sliders that enable you to produce a remarkable number of variations, and all of them are quite different than any other Photoshop plug-in.

Topaz Glow
Sunday, December 14, 2014 8:38AM

For several years the Photoshop plug-in 'Fractalius' has been available only for PC users.  It offers truly unique, stylized images, and I've been frustrated because the company never came out with a Mac version. Topaz has now produced the same type of effect with more variations for both Mac and PC operating systems.  It is called Topaz Glow, and it's on sale for $49 until the end of the year.  I've been having a lot of fun with it in the last two days because the creative possibilities are awesome.  It can be applied to every conceivable type of subject to produce outstanding 'wow' images.  It's very easy to use as well.  Here are some examples.

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