Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Thursday, May 26, 2016 9:51AM

When you are shooting two subjects with a telephoto lens, they should usually both be sharp.  Since telephotos have shallow depth of field, that means that the subjects should be equidistant to the camera.  If one of them is even two or three inches closer to or further away from the camera than the other one, you may find that one of the subjects is tack sharp while the other one is almost sharp.  This is not good.  In this portrait of two little girls in Havana, Cuba, I asked them to sit such that both of their faces were the same distance to my lens.  That made all the difference.  I used a 100-400mm lens for this shot set to 330mm, and the settings were ...

Wide angle portraits
Tuesday, May 24, 2016 8:00AM

Wide angle portraits can be very dramatic.  Some photographers will tell you this distorts the subject, and of course it does.  But distortion is not always a pejorative.  It is an artistic way to interpret a subject, and when it comes to people, it's a very unique way to capture them.  I photographed this costumed model in Venice while I was laying on the ground shooting up at her with a 14mm wide angle lens.  The closer the lens gets to the subject, the more distortion -- i.e. exaggeration of perspective and proportion -- occurs.  My settings for this were 1/160, f/5.6, 250 ISO. 

Fisheye lenses
Monday, May 23, 2016 12:53PM

I use fisheye lenses sparingly.  They are great for photographing things that are round, such as a spiral staircase, the dome in a cathedral, and so on.  But when they start curving horizontal and vertical lines, you have to be judicious and critical in how you use them.  For this panoramic view of Hvar Island in Croatia, I tried it out and liked the result particularly because of the colors in the 'blue hour' of dusk and twilight.  Fisheyes have incredible depth of field, so f/8 was enough to capture every part of this composition with tack sharp clarity, even the immediate stone wall in conjunction with the distant horizon.  I used 200 ISO and the exposure was one ...

Aperture priority
Friday, May 20, 2016 7:53AM

I took this photo on a trail above Kotor, Montenegro earlier this month, and it was essential that both the church tower in the foreground as well as the roof tops of the buildings below were sharp.  Anything less would mean the picture wouldn't be successful.  The only way to do that was to use aperture priority so I could specifically choose the lens aperture for the appropriate depth of field.  How do you know, in this kind of situation, exactly what f/stop to use?  You have to err on the side of maximum depth of field.  I used f/16 here, and due to the bright light the shutter was still fast enough (along with image stabilization turned on) to hand hold the ...

Fisheye HDR
Wednesday, May 18, 2016 12:07PM

I photographed this incredible 12-story spiral staircase in Ljubljana, Slovenia.  I used a 15mm Canon fisheye, and what's unique about shooting round subjects with a fisheye is that there is no apparent distortion because you can't make something that is round seem 'more' round.  Because this is such an extreme wide angle, there appears to be very little movement in the viewfinder when hand holding the lens.  Therefore, I was able to use the HDR technique in this situation without a tripod (which would have been impossible, anyway, to shoot straight downward) to hold as much detail as possible in the tones.  I used two-f/stop increments for the three frames I shot, and I ...

Dominant foregrounds
Tuesday, May 17, 2016 7:01AM

I photographed this fallen tree in Plitvice National Park, Croatia using the same technique I use for a large percentage of my landscape shots.  (1)  I use a wide angle lens, (2) I use an interesting/compelling/beautiful element as the foreground, (3) the lens is placed very close to the foreground element -- in this case about three feet, (4) and the lens aperture is as small as possible for complete depth of field.  This  combination produces, in my opinion, the most dramatic landscape photographs.  Notice how disproportionately large the foreground is compared to the background. Also, notice the sense of depth in this shot.    

What a difference a background makes
Monday, May 16, 2016 9:44PM

I am home now after my photo tour to three of the Balkan countries -- Slovenia/Croatia/Montenegro. This is the time when I look for interesting artistic possibilities with my pictures, and the first one I worked on is this closeup of a dragon's head on the Dragon Bridge in Ljubljana, Slovenia. I felt this subject called for a dramatic background since the original sky was solid white due to a thick overcast. It was easy to select the white sky with the magic wand tool, and then I expanded the selection (Select > modify > expand) by 2 pixels. This eliminates any telltale white line from the original background that may show up along the edge of the dragon. I then feathered the edge by ...

Parallel lines
Sunday, May 15, 2016 3:43AM

This is Lake Bled in Bled, Slovenia.  When both the foreground and the background have to be in focus, and the camera-foreground distance is relatively close, you must use aperture priority as the exposure mode so you can choose a small enough lens aperture for complete depth of field.  Out of focus foregrounds are distracting and visually annoying, hence the need for as much DOF as you can get.  In this shot, I used f/22, 1/50th of a second, and 1000 ISO.  This is an HDR composite of three frames. 

Ultra dramatic sky
Thursday, May 12, 2016 4:12PM

Here in Slovenia we had remarkable weather this afternoon. We were shooting Lake Bohinj near Bled, and the rain we had off and on all day stopped and almost without warning the sky turned ultra dramatic and bold rays of light emanated from a window in the clouds. The rays were beautifully defined against the stormy backdrop, and they were perfectly placed in the composition. It was incredible. This is an HDR image shot with three f/stop increments between frames. I used a 24-105mm lens and f/8 on aperture priority. I could have brought out more detail in the mountains, especially showing more definition in the green trees, but I like this contrasty, visually arresting rendition. This is ...

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