Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Monitoring the weather
Thursday, November 26, 2015 3:30PM
Monitoring the weather

There are some places that are spectacular in the snow, but the problem may be that it doesn't snow often in these locations.  Such is the case with Monument Valley, above, Yosemite National Park, Bodie Ghost Town in California, Venice, Italy, and many others.  If you really have your mind set on shooting a unique or famous location in the snow, monitor the weather every couple of days during the winter. Sooner or later, you'll get your chance.  Just this afternoon, I bookmarked a web cam site on St. Joseph Lighthouse in western Michigan because I'm hoping to photograph it this winter during a winter storm when it is covered in ice.  The Internet makes this so easy now, ...

Monday, November 23, 2015 8:00AM
Monitoring the weather

Twilight is the most beautiful time to photograph cityscapes and architecture, and the great news is that it is not weather-dependent.  It can be raining, dusty, smoggy, cloudy, or clear, and twilight pictures look good no matter what is going on with the weather.  This picture of the Victoria Memorial in Calcutta, India is an example.  There was a tremendous amount of dust in the air, but you would never know it from looking at the picture.  It is important to use a tripod a low ISO (such as 100 or 200), and my recommendation for most twilights shots is daylight (or sunny) white balance. Regarding tripod use, don't raise the center column.  You increase instability ...

Aurora HDR software
Sunday, November 22, 2015 8:00AM
Monitoring the weather

I've been having a lot of fun with the recently released Aurora HDR software.  It offers the best controls regarding processing HDR composites, but it also gives you the ability to go off the deep end with your pictures.  You can do single image HDR processing or the usual multi-frame HDR composites, and you have the choice of producing real as well as surreal results.  In this case, I combined a wide angle closeup of a 1958 Ford Edsel with striking tower in the city of Trinidad, Cuba.  I then moved several sliders to their extreme positions and changed the original red paint on the car to magenta.  This software is addictive!  You can be subtle, wild and ...

Seeking the best
Saturday, November 21, 2015 8:00AM
Monitoring the weather

Great subjects make great pictures.  That's why when I am on safari in Africa, I am constantly on the lookout for male lions with the fullest manes, elephants with the largest tusks, and rhinos with the most impressive horns.  This applies to all other subjects as well.  For example, birds with the most beautiful colors make better pictures than LBJ's . . . little brown jobs.  Similarly, the most striking architecture, the most compelling faces, the most sensual dancers, the most bizarre insects, and the most adorable puppies all have one thing in common:  They make great pictures.  This is a theme that you should keep in mind when looking for subjects to ...

Black backgrounds
Friday, November 20, 2015 8:00AM
Monitoring the weather

Black is a powerful color, and when used as a background it can completely transform a subject.  This ancient bronze statue originally from Cambodia but stolen by an invading Burmese army was displayed on the grounds of a temple complex in Mandalay, Myanmar.  The background wall in the original setting was busy and distracting, and the best way to focus all of the attention on the subject was to make a precise selection of the statue (with the pen tool in Photoshop) and then replace the background with solid black.  Now it really stands out and we can appreciate the artistry and workmanship of this 15th century Khmer figure.  The lighting on this is simply diffused ...

Composite strategy
Thursday, November 19, 2015 10:24AM
Monitoring the weather

Here is another composite made during my Carnival in Venice workshop. My strategy for most composites is to use a compelling subject, such as this costumed model, and an interesting or compelling environment.  There are hundreds of balconies, windows, and doors in Venice that beg for some kind of artistic addition, and that's what I did here.  Riding in a gondola on one of the canals or moving in the public water taxi on the Grand Canal, you pass dozens of great photographic environments that are perfect for this kind of thing.  The key is to match the lighting.  If the facade of the architecture is in the shade, then the model has to be photographed in the shade as ...

Carnival in Venice
Wednesday, November 18, 2015 8:00AM
Monitoring the weather

My Carnival in Venice workshop is just around the corner, and I have a slos left in the first workshop (the 2nd one is sold out).  I've been to Venice during Carnival many times, but I've only seen snow on the ground once.  In the early morning before it melted away, there were no costumed models out because they didn't want the falling snow to melt on the expensive fabrics and feathers they wear.  Models in the snow would have been incredible, so I made it happen using Photoshop.  I meticulously cut out this romantic couple using the pen tool (I worked at 400% magnifcation), and then I pasted them into the wintry scene.  I chose this particular couple because of ...

Quick hand-eye coordination
Tuesday, November 17, 2015 8:30AM
Monitoring the weather

This is a blue-tongued skink from Australia, and it was one of the animals my group was able to photograph during the frog and reptile workshop this past weekend.  It was definitely a challenge to catch the extension of that amazing tongue, but the way to do it is to watch the lizard through the viewfinder with full concentration.   Talking, looking away from the viewfinder for a couple of seconds, thinking about lunch -- whatever took my mind away from the skink had to be put aside for the moment.  My finger was poised on the shutter and as soon as I saw any kind of movement, I took the picture.  I had a lot of misses, but one time I was able to capture what I ...

From below
Monday, November 16, 2015 6:22PM
Monitoring the weather

At my semi-annual frog and reptile workshop this past weekend in St. Louis, we had a spectacular fire-breathing performance after hours. I now do this every workshop  One of the men I hire to bring all the animals, Ross Hyman, performs as a fire-breather, and at night it makes a fantastic image.  Because I’ve photographed this previously, I wanted to do something different this time.  So, I lay on the ground just beneath Ross and photographed him with the camera pointed straight upward.  A little of the oil he uses that creates the flame sprayed on my lens, but that was a small price to pay for such a cool shot.  My settings for this picture were 1/400th of a ...

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