Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Tianzi Mountains, China
Sunday, September 25, 2016 12:03AM
Tianzi Mountains, China

We went to another spectacular mountain park in China, this time the Tianzi Mountains. I'd have to say this relatively little-known park is one of the most beautiful landscape experiences I've had. It rivals Patagonia and the American Southwest. From many vantage points the sheer sandstone spires amidst dense forest and often engulfed in low clouds make stunning photographs. I used both single shots as well as HDR, depending on how much contrast there was in a scene, and the two lenses I used exclusively were the 24-105mm and the 100-400mm. The settings for this image were 1/400, f/8, 640 ISO. 

Terracotta soldiers
Friday, September 23, 2016 11:28PM
Tianzi Mountains, China

The famous terracotta soldiers buried in Xian, China in 210 B.C. in the tomb of an emperor of the Qin dynasty are viewed from an elevated platform. The shooting angle is oblique, and therefore in order to maintain complete depth of field so each of the figures are sharp, especially because I used a 100-400mm telephotos, requires a lens aperture that’s very small. The low light environment means that either I had to use a very high ISO or a tripod. In spite of the sign that prohibits tripods, my local guide said that the guards never bother photographers who set up tripods, so that’s what I and my photo tour group members did. Direct sunlight came in through some very high ...

Totally graphic
Thursday, September 22, 2016 7:08PM
Tianzi Mountains, China

One of the more unique images I captured from the Huangshan Mountains is this completely graphic image of a distant landscape.  The mountains were socked with in fog and low clouds, but this small opening in the western sky was visible right from the front door of the hotel.  I used the Canon 100-400mm lens set to 400mm for this composition and this is straight out of the camera.  I only added a touch of contrast in post-processing.  Within 3 minutes this shot disappeared as the clouds completely obscured the scene.  Interestingly, the next day the sun was bright in a blue sky, and the magic was completely gone.  Even the strong graphic design wasn't nearly as ...

More dramatic landscapes in China
Tuesday, September 20, 2016 8:46PM
Tianzi Mountains, China

Here are two more shots from the Huangshan Mountains of China. We were lucky because besides the stunning graphic design of the formations and the trees, it's the low clouds that make this place magical. Two days before we got here it was raining and people couldn't even see the mountains, but when we arrived the aftermath of the storm gave us tremendous photographic opportunities. Both of these pictures were taken with a 24-105mm lens and the Canon 1Dx Mark II. When there are a lot of clouds, fog, and/or mist, you have to watch the exposures carefully because they can very easily become too dark due to all the whiteness. HDR is a good solution, but in lieu of using that technique, a single ...

Awesome sunrise in China
Monday, September 19, 2016 2:17AM
Tianzi Mountains, China

We had an amazing sunrise this morning in the Huangshan Mountains. The morning began clear and then clouds formed and started swirling around the granite peaks due to the high winds, and even though it was cold we were captivated by the beauty of it all. This has to be one of the most dynamic landscapes I've ever taken. I took several HDR images, but the problem was that the clouds were moving so fast that even with high speed continuous shooting, I feared there would be some ghosting when the photos were composited together. This image is a single frame, and I simply used Adobe Camera Raw to lighten the shadows and darken the highlights so the exposure was correct throughout the image. I ...

Huangshan pano
Sunday, September 18, 2016 3:40PM
Tianzi Mountains, China

The Huangshan Mountains have been famous in China for more than 1000 years because Chinese artists have used them as inspiration for their paintings. This is an 8-image HDR panorama that shows how dramatic and beautiful these mountains are. Each of the frames consist of 5 exposures combined to produce detail in both highlights and shadows. The scenes here change rapidly because low clouds swirl about the peaks and the gorges, and it's really amazing. When I was here 33 years ago, the only way to the top was climbing 15,000 stone steps. I did that with 40 pounds of medium format film equipment on my back, but now there is a cable car that brings you to the top in 10 minutes -- and there is ...

Bonzai landscape
Saturday, September 17, 2016 8:50AM
Tianzi Mountains, China

My photo tour group and I visited a garden today in the Huangshan area of China and photographed the most beautiful bonsai trees I've ever seen. Some of them are as old as 120 years. The artistry, and the patience to nurture these plants over many decades, is impressive to say the least. This shot looks like a landscape, but in fact the bonsai arrangement is about 10 feet wide. I added the storm clouds and the reflection to give the impression that this is a mountain scene. Blending clouds with trees and leaves isn't a straightforward procedure. Rather, the composite requires a combination of using a layer mask plus the gradient tool to attenuate the clouds in such a way that they look ...

Shanghai at twilight
Friday, September 16, 2016 9:16AM
Tianzi Mountains, China

I am in Shanghai, China right now just starting my photo tour here. This evening my group and I went to the newly opened Shanghai Tower, which at present is the world's second tallest building. I took this shot from the observation deck on the 118th floor with a 24-105mm lens and the new Canon 1Dx Mark II. The clouds you see are from the tail end of a typhoon that hit this area quite hard in the past two days. Shortly after I captured this image, more clouds rolled in and then the city was completely obscured. It was a whiteout. My settings were 1/2 second, f/5.6, and 400 ISO. I used a tripod, the 2-second self timer on the camera in lieu of a cable release, and I blocked reflections in the ...

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