Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Ultra fast speeds
Thursday, November 27, 2014 9:00AM

When you photograph hummingbirds and you want the wings to be tack sharp, you have to use flash.  Increasing the shutter speed to 1/1000 or 1/2000 won't do it.  The only way to make the exposure time brief enough to freeze the wings is to turn the power down on the flash units to 1/16th power.  This makes the actual exposure time about 15,000th of a second.  The flash units (I use four flash units to shoot hummers) must be placed close to the flower you are using to attract the birds.  The close proximity (like 15 inches) compensates for the reduced power output.  I took this picture in Costa Rica with a 70-200mm lens at f/14 with 400 ISO.

Getting low
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 9:00PM

The older one gets, the harder it is to bend down or lay down on the ground to get intimate, eye-to-eye shots of small animals.  For example, this sally lightfoot crab from the Galapagos Islands was about three inches above the lava, and I knew that the most compelling way to photograph it would be from ground level.  A device that makes this kind of picture easy is a 90 degree angle finder.  It replaces the eye cup or the frame around the viewfinder and allows you to look straight down into the finder to compose the shot.  At the same time, the lens is parallel with the ground.  Many of the new mirrorless cameras have a swivel LCD monitor, and this also solves the ...

Exposure challenge
Sunday, November 23, 2014 9:00AM

I photographed this Jacaranda tree in Windhoek, Namibia, and the sky was very bright.  It was virtually white.  Had I simply taken a picture of it and let the meter take a normal reading, the picture would be significantly underexposed.  The white sky would adversely affect the meter reading because all meters are programmed to look at every scene and subject as middle gray.  It would assume, therefore, that this scene was middle toned or middle gray, and therefore the exposure would reflect that.  In other words, the picture would look middle gray.  But the sky was white, not gray. To handle this tricky exposure situation, I had to use the exposure ...

Using AI servo
Friday, November 21, 2014 9:00AM

When shooting fast moving subjects as they are moving toward the camera, like my cocker spaniel, Teddy, use the AI Servo function on the camera.  This will track the subject and, hopefully, keep it in focus.  At the same time, shoot with the highest frame rate your camera is capable of. This gives you a better than average chance of getting a good picture that's sharp.The effectiveness of AI servo functions varies depending on the make and model of your camera.  Newer cameras are quite good, but still there is no guarantee that if the subject is moving very quickly, it will be sharp when the shutter is tripped.  For example, the Canon 5D Mark II's AI servo is less than ...

Having fun with chocolate
Wednesday, November 19, 2014 9:00AM

If you like to do studio photography, have some fun experimenting with various types of chocolate forms.  I ordered this high heeled woman's shoe online for my new greeting card line (for a Valentine's Day card), and I created this little set.  The candies inside the shoe were part of the purchase, but then I added rose petals and made the reflection digitally.  The red spot light in the background, also, was a digital embellishment.  When doing studio work, every detail is important.  For example, the surface of the chocolate had some small imperfections in it, so I used the clone tool and healing brush in Photoshop to smooth them out. Chocolate melts, so you must ...

Blown highlights
Monday, November 17, 2014 9:00AM

I usually stick to the idea that blown highlights -- areas of a picture that have become solid white with no detail or texture at all -- are bad. However, in art and in photography, there are always exceptions.  I feel this portrait of a model in a 16th century palace in Venice (taken during my photo workshop there) is one of those exceptions.  There was nothing of interest outside, so revealing adjacent buildings with a good exposure (such as HDR) would be distracting.  The overexposed windows, which I would usually say are at least visually annoying, make the scene more ethereal in my opinion.  Perhaps it's the fantasy nature of the costume that makes me see this ...

Macro photography
Saturday, November 15, 2014 9:00AM

Wind is the enemy of macro photographers.  Even the most subtle breeze will disturb small subjects and move them ever so slightly.  With the long exposures required in macro work (because complete depth of field is needed, and the f/32 aperture forces the shutter to be slow), this means the pictures you take will not be sharp.  That's why I love shooting in public greenhouses.  There is no wind at all, and in addition the light is usually diffused because the windows are whitewashed.I took this picture of exotic tulips in Keukenhof Gardens in Holland.  In addition to their outdoor floral displays, which are the best in the world, Keukenhof also has an incredible ...

Composition concepts
Thursday, November 13, 2014 9:00AM

The compositional concept of leading lines is a classic one in both art and photography, and it serves an important purpose.  It draws the eye into the center of a picture, and that's usually where the subject or at least the interest is.  In this case, the pier in south Florida is the leading line.  Note I used complete depth of field in this shot.  I feel that's very important for virtually all leading lines.  That means, of course, that a tripod is essential so you can use a small lens aperture like f/22 or f/32 without worring about the speed of the shutter. In muted light circumstances, like the cloudy day I had to work with, the shutter is going to be slow. ...

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