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Jim Zuckerman's Blog
A spectacular cathedral
Friday, October 20, 2017
A spectacular cathedral

The most beautiful cathedral in Europe in my opinion is the Cathedral of Siena in Tuscany. It is breathtaking. Photography is allowed, but tripods are not. It is quite dark, so that means that the ISO has to be raised. However, I used the new Sigma 14mm f/1.8 lens, and due to the large aperture I was able to use a lower ISO than I otherwise would have given the low illumination level. I shot this at f/1.8 and 1000 ISO on aperture priority and auto white balance (due to the mixture of artificial light and daylight, this gave me the best color). It is a 3-frame HDR composite with 3-f/stop increments between frames. As contrast in a scene increases, you need either more frames making up the ...

Dominant foreground
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
A spectacular cathedral

This is another one of the Cinque Terre villages, Riomaggiore. We got up early to photograph it in beautiful light, but also because few people (except serious photographers) are up that early. The crowds are still in bed or having breakfast. Cinque Terre faces west, so the villages don't get illuminated by early sunlight. The soft, diffused light is beautiful though, and the colors really pop. This is contrary to what you might think. We had a great sky, and for this shot I stepped over a stone wall to position myself close to the cactus. I used a 14mm Sigma f/1.8 lens 2 or 3 feet from the foreground, and this made it disproportionately large compared to the background. I like this look a ...

HDR at twilight
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
A spectacular cathedral

One of the most beautiful sights in Italy, a country full of incredible photo opportunities, is twilight at Manarola. This is one of the five villages that comprise the Cinque Terre coast. To capture all of the detail in the shadows and highlights, I used a three-frame HDR composite with one f/stop increment between the frames. The last time I was here, the sea was stormy and the waves huge. The pretty reflections you see here were obscured by the churning sea. This tranquil and beautiful scene belies what can really happen when a storm comes. I used a 16-35mm lens, and my settings were f/2.8 and 100 ISO. I didn’t need a small lens aperture for depth of field because all of the ...

Twilight in Florence
Monday, October 16, 2017
A spectacular cathedral

I'm now in Italy leading a photo tour to Tuscany and Cinque Terre, and our first evening in Florence allowed me to revisit the best vantage in the city. I had discovered this place when I was there in 1991 scouting locations to shoot stock photography. I took my group to the terrace on the top of the Baglioni Hotel for this beautiful twilight shot, and they all loved it. We had dinner in the rooftop restaurant, but not before we captured this classic picture of the 13th century church and its famous tower, the Campanile. My settings were .4 seconds, f/4, 200 ISO, and daylight white balance. 

Shooting into the light
Sunday, October 15, 2017
A spectacular cathedral

The massive columns in many of the Egyptian temples continue to impress me. Carving them out of rock, moving them by boat, and then setting them upright -- 3200 years ago -- is simply mind-blowing to consider. This is Karnak Temple in Luxor during the sound and light show. For half of the program, you walk through the temple as various sections are illuminated. It's challenging photography to say the least because you definitely don't want to include the other tourists. In addition, the lights change quickly, the exposure is tough, contrast is extreme, the psychedelic colors used at times are contrived, and focus in low light may not be accurate. I still managed to get quite a few shots I ...

Perfect symmetry
Saturday, October 14, 2017
A spectacular cathedral

This is the ceiling of the most beautiful mosque in Cairo, the Mohamed Ali Mosque. When you first walk in, the spectacular ceiling is disappointingly dark. All the stunning color and design is obscured to such a degree that it seems impossible to take an impressive picture. By adjusting the exposure compensation, though, I was able to bring out the detail that I knew was there. This was the first real test of my new Sigma 14mm f/1.8 wide angle lens, and I love the results. My settings were 1/100, f/2, 4000 ISO, and I increased the exposure by 1 2/3 f/stops from what the meter dictated. I laid on the flood, hand holding the camera, and it took a minute or so to orient the camera and my ...

Wide angle for drama
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
A spectacular cathedral

The spectacular Dendara Temple south of Luxor has massive columns and a lot of beautiful art on the walls and the ceilings that reveal the original colors from 2300 years ago. I took a lot of telephoto pictures in which I filled the frame with the ancient artwork, but to show how huge the columns are I used a 14mm lens. Standing very close to the base of the structure (about 3 feet away), I was able to elongate the perspective and, at the same time, show the color detail in the ceiling. Because light was entering the interior from a large entrance and illuminating the columns, and because the ceiling was at least two or three f/stops darker, I had to use HDR to balance the exposure. This is ...

Luxor Temple by night
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
A spectacular cathedral

Here is another night shot, this time of Luxor Temple that dates from the 14th century B.C. I used a 100mm focal length to give a sense of compression to the sphinx-lined road leading to the temple entrance, and I selected f/16 to insure that both foreground and background were sharp. The last thing you’d want here is shallow depth of field. My exposure was four seconds, and the ISO was 400. I used auto white balance because this renders the best color when shooting florescent, mercury vapor, or sodium vapor lights. 

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