Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Oblique angles
Wednesday, September 02, 2015 9:26AM

I photographed these crocodiles at a reptile facility in Papua New Guinea.  As you can see, I was shooting down on the animals from an oblique angle.  The 'film plane' (with digital cameras it's really the plane of the digital sensor, i.e. the back of the camera) was not parallel with the plane of the crocs.  Since I was using a medium telephoto lens, that meant that depth of field would be limited.  In a picture like this, I felt that complete depth of field was essential to show all of the remarkable texture and detail that I could see with my eyes.  Therefore, I used f/16.  Whenever the back of the camera is not parallel to the plane of your subject(s), ...

Twilight cityscapes
Tuesday, September 01, 2015 8:05PM

Since today is the anniversary of the beginning of World War II, I thought I'd use a picture I took in Gdansk, Poland.  This is the place where the war began with German planes bombing the harbor on September 1, 1939.  The tranquil scene you see here shows no evidence of that horrible day.  Twilight in cities hides a lot of things that should remain unseen in photographs.  In fact, the most beautiful time to photograph a city, large or small, is just before dark when the city's lights are on and the sky is cobalt blue.  I almost always use daylight white balance for this, and a tripod is a must because shutter speeds will be long and you don't want to raise the ISO ...

Know your camera's controls
Monday, August 31, 2015 8:10PM

To take advantage of great photographic opportunities that may last only a moment, it's important that you become very familiar with the controls on your camera.  It's also important that you know which controls you would use when fractions of second may mean the difference between getting a great shot or losing it. For example, earlier this year I led a photo tour to Morocco. In the blue city of Chefchaouen I was walking along a street and passed the open door to a small hotel.  The architecture and the color was great, but what made this photo opportunity particularly compelling was the white cat sitting in the perfect place looking right at me.  It didn't move a muscle as ...

Preconceptions
Sunday, August 30, 2015 8:43PM

When I travel, I often see the ideal photographic situation in my mind, but as we all know too often the reality is different.  Sometimes powerlines get in the way, other times we can't get close enough to the subject for the best composition.  Sometimes the laws of optics interfere with what we want -- such as when it's just not possible to have all the depth of field that would make the picture as you see it.  In this shot of whale bones I photographed on the way down to Antarctica, the background was nice in the original shot but it was not dramatic.  So, I photographed the bones using the unique perspective of a wide angle lens, and then when I got home I used as the ...

Two subjects
Friday, August 28, 2015 2:18PM

This was a really unique situation.  The giraffe kept walking closer and closer to the lion, as if taunting him, and the lion simply paid no attention.  My guide told me that this was the giraffe's technique of communicating to the predator that there was no point in attacking because his presence was already detected and the element of surprise was gone.  To shoot this, I knew I had to have enough depth of field so both subjects were in focus. I was using a 100-400mm lens set to 100mm, and if I focused on the lion, which was correct, the giraffe would be a bit soft unless I used a small enough lens aperture. So, I chose f/11 on aperture priority, and that gave me 1/1000th of ...

Fire-breather at night
Thursday, August 27, 2015 10:48AM

I conduct two workshops per year to photograph poison dart frogs and exotic reptiles.  I hire two men to bring and manage the animals for my group, and one them, Ross, also performs as a fire-breather. He now gives my workshop group a show after dark.  It's an amazing thing to see, and the pictures everyone gets are just fantastic.  We do it in the parking lot of the hotel where the workshop is conducted. The biggest challenge, of course, is correct exposure.  The goal is to make the background black with no detail, and at the same time it was important not to overexpose the fireball.  I also wanted to hold detail on Ross' face and his black outfit.  This was ...

Happy Nat'l Dog Day
Wednesday, August 26, 2015 4:03PM

I had never heard of Happy National Dog Day, but apparently that's today according to my wife.  So, I've uploaded this action-packed shot of my cocker spaniel, Teddy, who loves to run and is full of energy. With his little legs, he runs circles around my great Pyrenees, Princey, who stands quite a bit taller on long legs.  To make this shot, I lay prone on the ground so the camera was actually below Teddy's face. I like this kind of perspective a lot because it makes the shot a lot more engaging, intimate, and dynamic.  I used AI servo so the camera focus-tracked Teddy as he ran to me, and my settings were 1/1000th of a second at f/7.1 and 800 ISO. I shot this with 6 frames ...

Frame rate
Tuesday, August 25, 2015 11:33AM

When shooting any kind of action, whether it be sports, birds in flight, kids at play, or whatever, switch to the motor drive function in your camera, i.e. high speed continuous.  One of the important specs you need to consider when purchasing a new camera -- if you like shooting action -- is the frame rate.  This picture was taken with a Canon 5D Mark III which has 6 frames per second.  That's good, but it's not great.  It was good enough to capture the humorous antics of kids in Bali, Indonesia as they jumped off a waterfall for my photo tour group.  But when you are shooting seriously fast moving subjects, like birds in flight, 6 fps aren't enough.  You ...

Fine tuning skin
Monday, August 24, 2015 1:09PM

Even the most beautiful models with great skin and professtional makeup need post-processing techniques applied to make them look perfect.  Ultra smooth skin that almost looks like fine porcelain can be accomplished using a number of Photoshop procedures as well as third party software.  A very easy-to-use software product is Portrait Professional.  I use it for girls and women all over the world.  You don't need a tutorial with it because it's so simple and quick to use.  Some photographers feel that the results look unnatural, and to be sure, if you apply it with a heavy hand, it will, indeed, look unreal.  But you can also use it gently on a person's face, ...

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