Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Preconceptions
Thursday, May 21, 2015 9:15PM

Pictures like this can certainly happen if serendipity is on your side, but we all know that doesn't occur often.  When i travel, I get ideas of things I'd like to shoot (from books, post cards, online articles and blogs, and from my own sense of aesthetics) and then i arrange to set up the photographic opportunities.  Money is always part of the deal, of course, but usually for very little I get wonderful pictures. These three young girls in Bali are dressed as if they are going to a temple to make an offering -- something they commonly do -- but in this instance they walked down a perfect pathway with a perfect background at my direction.  I chose the time of day for the ...

Think fast
Monday, May 18, 2015 4:30PM

When photographing wildlife, you have to think very fast.  You don't have time to emote or, in many instances, even take your eyes away from the viewfinder.  Things happen too fast.  This very young orangutan in Indonesia is an example.  It was squirming in its mother's arms, and every fraction of a second the composition changed, the expression changed, and do did the focus.  Therefore, watch your wildlife subjects through the viewfinder and be ready to shoot a lot of frames. Put the drive on 'multi' so you can shoot several frames per second if you have to.  I took this picture with a 300mm lens at f/2.8, a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second, 400 ISO, hand ...

Aperture priority
Tuesday, May 12, 2015 4:11PM

Many people use aperture priority without thinking about the consequences.  By this I mean that you have to pay attention to what the shutter speed is doing.  It's very easy to get so involved in choosing the amount of depth of field you need -- as I did in this shot of wild hyacinth macaws in Brazil -- that you forget about the shutter.  In this shot, I needed both birds to be sharp.  Since I was using a 500mm lens, that meant that the lens aperture had to be at least f/11.  At the same time, the shutter had to be fast enough to get a sharp picture.  Therefore, I raised the ISO to 1000, plus switched on the image stabilization, to boost the shutter speed to ...

Post-processing embellishment
Tuesday, May 05, 2015 2:35PM

A great way to give digital images extra impact is to use the Tonal Contrast filter within Nik Sotware's Color Efex Pro 4.  The filter adds contrast, a bit of saturation, and clarity all in one action.  This picture of Edinburgh, Scotland is an example.  I use Tonal Contrast for a lot of my images and in 90% of the shots, it improves them significantly.  For this picture of Edinburgh, I used the new Canon 100-400mm lens, a tripod, and f/8 with 200 ISO. I use the two second self-timer in lieu of a cable release. The telephoto compression of this scene makes it look better than it did with my eyes.

Dark skies
Saturday, May 02, 2015 5:34PM

If you don't already have one, make a new folder in your photo library devoted just to dramatic sky pictures.  Start collecting powerful skies, especially gray and stormy ones.  These can be used as backdrops to many kinds of pictures.  In this particular case, I didn't replace the sky but I darkened it and made it more moody and dynamic than it originally was.  Skies like this contribute significantly to pictures, and they can totally transform images.  This picture shows a relatively new work of art -- The Kelpies -- in Grangemouth, Scotland.  It's a huge, stunning sculpture.

HDR
Wednesday, April 29, 2015 4:31PM

Even in situations where contrast is at a minimum, HDR is valuable in revealing detail in the shadows as well as the highlights.  This picture that I took at Kinderdijk in Holland is an example.  The shadows in the grass in the immediate foreground would be considerably darker with less detail had I not used HDR here.  I only took three exposures using the Canon 5D Mark III's automatic HDR setting, but it was enough to show all the detail that was necessary to make this picture work.  I used a 24-105mm lens at f/22 and 200 ISO for this picture.

Flash with nature
Saturday, April 18, 2015 2:58PM

I am not a fan of using flash in nature unless I want to do something 'artsy' in the field.  But in this particular situation, the margay was in the very dark shadows of the jungle in Costa Rica.  If I exposed for the cat and didn't use flash, the background would have huge areas of blown out highlights.  That would have been seriously distracting to the subject.  Therefore, I balanced the flash on the foreground with the ambient light on the background.  To do that, I set the Canon 580EX flash to ETTL and the camera to aperture priority.  I had to raise the ISO to make sure the shutter speed was fast enough in this low light situation to insure a sharp ...

When reptiles are cold
Friday, April 17, 2015 10:11PM

If you like shooting reptiles, they are very easy to work with when they are cold.  They simply can't move.  For example, I photographed these marine iquanas in the Galapagos Islands around nine o'clock when the morning chill could still be felt.  I walked up to this amorous couple and they didn't move a muscle.  They were on an incline of lava and therefore oblique to the plane of my camera.  That meant that I needed to use f/32 to get as much depth of field as possible.  I used a one full second exposure from a tripod, and as you can see this image is tack sharp.  As the sun rose in the sky, the iguanas became more active because the day warmed up.

Mid-day sun
Tuesday, April 07, 2015 9:53PM

Mid-day sunlight is a type of lighting that usually should be avoided if possible.  It's too harsh and contrasty, and it doesn't compliment pretty much anything.  If you have no choice, though, there is one way to mitigate the negative qualities of this type of light to a certain degree.  I photographed these goats in an argan tree (goats climb these trees to eat the leaves, but in this case local people put the goats there for pictures), and my photo tour group and I just happened upon them in the middle of the day.  What makes this work as well as it does is the fact that the animals and the tree are front lit.  If the sun were to the side or behind the subjects, ...

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