Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Folder of foliage backgrounds
Thursday, June 30, 2016 8:31AM
Folder of foliage backgrounds

I've written in articles and in my blogs that I keep a folder of many different types of photographs of the sky to use when I need to replace an unattractive or boring sky above a landscape, cityscape, etc.  I also have a folder of out of focus foliage backgrounds.  This comes in very handy with subjects like wildlife, birds, flowers, and insects when the original background is busy or distracting. In this case, the original background was black.  A black background can work very well behind subjects from an artistic perspective, but even though I photographed this chameleon in captivity at my frog and reptile workshop, I try to simulate what's real in nature. ...

Fire-breather
Tuesday, June 28, 2016 12:44PM
Folder of foliage backgrounds

I arrange to have a fire-breathing performance for my frog and reptile workshop participants, and it is indeed ultra dramatic to see an explosion of flames coming from someone's mouth.  There were two challenges:  exposure and contrast.  After several test exposures, I set my camera to 1/400, f/5.6, and 800 ISO.  If I let too much light in, the flames would blow out.  If the picture was too underexposed, the detail in the fire-breather would be lost, especially in the dark clothes he was wearing.  I specifically chose a fast shutter speed to freeze the billowing flames.   

Strawberry dart frog
Monday, June 27, 2016 9:08PM
Folder of foliage backgrounds

One of the beautiful frogs I have at my frog and reptile workshop is this ultra tiny (about 1/2 inch long) strawberry dart frog. In order to fill a significant part of the frame with the small subject, I had to use an extension tube in conjunction with the 50mm macro lens. That meant, of course, that depth of field was extremely shallow. To deal with that problem, I used f/32 -- which is the smallest aperture on the lens. A ring flash illuminated the frog. I like this type of light for macro work because it provides diffused light when the camera-subject distance is just a few inches. When a ring flash is used with a telephoto macro lens, the working distance is more like a two or three ...

Frog and reptile workshop
Saturday, June 25, 2016 4:54PM
Folder of foliage backgrounds

My frog and reptile workshop is this weekend, and here is one of the amazing creatures we have to photograph. This is a panther chameleon. I used a ring flash as the only source of illumination, but I held the flash off-camera to emphasize the texture of the reptile's skin. At first I tried holding the flash to the right of the chameleon, but the bulbous eye created a shadow I didn't like. When I held the flash on the left side, I liked the way the shadows fell much better. My lens aperture was f/32, the shutter speed was 1/200 (to sync with the flash), and the white balance was daylight. I used a 50mm macro lens and hand held the camera.  My next frog and reptile workshop will be at ...

Humor on the street
Friday, June 24, 2016 8:05AM
Folder of foliage backgrounds

I photographed this adorable dog on a street in Havana, Cuba.  My question is, Is the background distracting?  In the context of fine art, I would say that the colors and shapes behind the dog are less than ideal even though they are out of focus.  They aren't terrible, but definitely not ideal.  However, I look at this as more of a photojournalistic image.  Street photography really has to be assessed with a different mind set, and in showing a bit of the environment in the street, we get a sense of place.  Therefore, in this situation I wouldn't change anything. 

Window light
Thursday, June 23, 2016 8:47AM
Folder of foliage backgrounds

Window light is one of my favorite types of lighting for portraits.  It's soft, diffused, directional, and complimentary to any subject.  The key to using window light, though, is to have a dark background.  If elements in the room behind the subject are visible, in most instances they will be distracting.  And if the window itself isn't very attractive -- such as a modern window with an aluminum casing -- it's best to eliminate that from the equation, too.  The settings for this picture were 1/160th, f/2.8, 250 ISO, and I used a 70-200mm lens. 

Wild staircase
Wednesday, June 22, 2016 11:15AM
Folder of foliage backgrounds

This beautiful spiral staircase is in the Old State Capital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The wild colors come from a huge stained glass dome in the ceiling.  I shot this with a 14mm lens and hand-held the HDR three frame exposures.  I used two f/stop increments between shots and set the white balance on AWB which I only use for mixed lighting situations.  I should have brought my tripod, but I assumed they wouldn't be allowed.  I was wrong.  Had I been using a tripod, I would have shot this with f/22 instead of f/2.8.  I could have used more depth of field. 

Handling bright sunlight
Tuesday, June 21, 2016 8:00AM
Folder of foliage backgrounds

The only to handle the extreme contrast that results from shooting in the middle of the day under bright sunlight is with HDR.  This is a picture of the French House at Louisiana State University, and I took the shot just after noon.  I used three frames with a 3-f/stop increment in exposure.  The reason why you can see all the detail in both the shadows and the highlights is because I used HDR. The challenge for many photographers is that we can see detail like this with our eyes, but because digital sensors are not as sophisticated as our eye/brain combination, they can't capture the dynamic range needed.  Instead, with a single exposure the shadows go ...

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