Jim Zuckerman's Blog
White backgrounds
Saturday, July 04, 2015 9:11AM

I write many articles about how to replace overexposed or white backgrounds, but sometimes they work beautifully. For example, I photographed these flamingos in Walvis Bay, Namibia close to sunset, and instead of the sky appearing blue it was washed out compared to the much darker birds.  In this particular case, i think the background is perfect because it doesn't detract at all from the subjects.  It doesn't have strong color (such as a deep blue), there are no clouds, and there is absolutely nothing to take attention away from the flamingos.  White backgrounds are, indeed, distracting at times, but here I like the color scheme I captured.  My camera settings for this ...

Lighten the eyes for drama
Thursday, July 02, 2015 4:00PM

I photographed this six month old leopard cub in South Africa after its mother had sent it up a tree as protection from two hyenas on the prowl.  What makes this shot especially dynamic are the eyes.  In the original capture, the eyes were somewhat dark due to the shadowed opening in the branches.  To lighten the eyes and to give them more life, I selected the irises in Photoshop using the lasso tool, feathered the edges five pixels, and then used Image > adjustments > levels to lighten them as well as to add a bit of contrast.  That made a huge difference.  I took this shot at 1/400th of a second with the new Canon 100-400mm lens on a 7D Mark II.  I used ...

Focus points
Monday, June 29, 2015 2:47AM

When photographing flying birds, it is my experience that using all the focus points available in your camera is the best way to keep the subject in focus.  I shot this African white pelican taking off from a boat in Walvis Bay, Namibia, and I used a Canon 7D Mark II with the new 100-400mm telephoto (which is an awesome lens).  I chose all of the 65 focus points as well as the continuous high mode, giving me 10 frames per second.  The ISO was 640, and that enabled me to use a fast shutter speed of 1/1600th and f/14 as the aperture.  Pelicans are large birds so I wanted to insure I had a certain amount of depth of field.

Contrast
Sunday, June 28, 2015 8:05AM

The way you deal with harsh contrast, as in this midday picture of an abandoned car in the Namib desert in Namibia, is to (1) shoot in RAW mode, and (2) work with the shadow and highlight sliders in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) or Lightroom in post-processing.  You need to lighten the shadows and darken the highlights in the picture.  In this way, you will bring the scene back to what you saw with your eyes. This shot is especially contrasty because the sun was behind the car, but using just those two controls -- the shadows slider and the highlights slider -- I was able to mitigate the contrast gain which is typical of digital images.

Night game drives
Tuesday, June 23, 2015 1:42AM

The only places in Africa where you can do night game drives are in the private reserves like Sabi Sabi in South Africa.  In the other parks, going out at night is prohibited because it is assumed that anyone out at night is a poacher.  In Kenya, for example, there is a shoot-to-kill policy for poachers, and that means photographers and other tourists dare not venture out after dark.  It's reallly a shame, too, because striking images can be taken at night.  I photographed these two male lions walking down a road around 7:30pm, and they were lit by a spot light from the vehicle.  It was still quite dark for photography, and therefore I had to raise the ISO to 6400. ...

Know your camera
Monday, June 22, 2015 1:57AM

There is no way I could have taken this picture had I not been totally familiar with my camera.  The impala suddenly leaped into action, and I had precious few milliseconds to react.  In fact, it happened so fast that I wasn't even sure I had focused on it correctly.  But my camera was set up for action since I was on safari, and that meant the exposure mode was on Program, the ISO was high enough to guarantee a fast shutter speed, and I used back button focus.  In addition, I had all the focus points selected.  Those settings enabled me to get this picture -- plus my quick reaction time.  I used the new Canon 100-400mm lens set to 400mm on a 7D Mark II body ...

Learn HDR
Saturday, June 20, 2015 4:53PM

If you aren't using the HDR (High Dynamic Range) technique, I feel it's essential to learn how to do it.  It has completely transformed our ability to capture more detail in our pictures.  This shot of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe is an example.  Had I taken only a single exposure and exposed correctly for the sunlit mist rising from the falls, all of the vegetation would have been virtually black with no detail.  Instead, I used a 3-shot HDR composite to show what I saw.  Many photographers don't like the artificial look of HDR images, but there is a Photoshop technique that I explain step by step in my latest issue of Photo Insights that produces realistic HDR. ...

Concentrate on the action
Friday, June 19, 2015 4:42AM

When the action starts, don't take your eyes away from the viewfinder.  This is true for wildlife, sports, small children playing, and many other things.  As soon as you look at the subjects directly -- not through the camera -- you lose the precious milliseconds it takes to refocus and recompose if something great happens.  Even if there is a lull in the action, keep looking through the viewfinder and you'll be ready to instantly go into action yourself by pressing the shutter and shooting.  These sparing elephants in South Africa gave my photo tour group and I quite a show, and the only way I was able to take many wonderful pictures was to watch the entire ...

Hi speed continuous
Thursday, June 18, 2015 8:17AM

On Safari in South Africa, I was thrilled to be able to capture this tight closeup of a drinking leopard.  I wanted to capture the lapping tongue, and therefore I used high speed continuous on my Canon 7D Mark II.  The 10 frames per second captured several perfect images.  When shooting wildlife, and especially birds, you need a fast frame rate.  My Canon 5D Mark III provides 6 frames per second, and in fast moving subjects that's just not enough.  The settngs for this shot were 1/500th of a second, f/8, 1000 ISO, and I used the new ultra sharp Canon 100-400mm lens.

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