Jim Zuckerman's Blog
A night landscape
Thursday, September 29, 2016 3:44PM
A night landscape

Long exposures at night create images that are impossible for the human eye to see. By accumulating the light over many seconds or even many minutes, images form that can be quite compelling. When I took this elevated view of Guilin, China (after climbing 500 steps), my eyes could barely make out the distant forms in the dark. I had to focus on the moon because otherwise there wasn't enough contrast in the scene for the autofocus mechanism to work. I shot this with a 24mm focal length, and the settings were 64 seconds, f/4, 2000 ISO. How did I determine the exposure? By trial and error. I adjusted the ISO and the shutter speed until I liked what I saw. The white balance setting was daylight ...

An iconic shot from China
Tuesday, September 27, 2016 1:34AM
A night landscape

This morning in Guilin the participants in my photo tour and I left the hotel at 3:50am to drive an hour to the Li River so we could photograph one of the iconic images of China: a fisherman using a lantern to attract fish to the surface and then a trained cormorant grabs the fish. This unique method of fishing originated about 1000 years ago. At dawn, when there was just enough light to focus, we had to use a high ISO in order to keep the shutter speed fast enough to freeze any movement of the boat, the fisherman, and the bird. I used a tripod and a 24-105mm lens, so I felt I could get away with a slower shutter than if I were hand holding the camera. Still, I took a lot of shots because I ...

Downward angle on a huge spire
Sunday, September 25, 2016 11:11PM
A night landscape

The Tianzi Mountains in China are incredibly dramatic as shown in this vantage point. There are dozens of spires like this everywhere, and with this particular angle you can see how huge they are. I estimated that this one is about 1000 feet high or equivalent to a 100 story building. I took this picture with a 24mm lens leaning out over the railing so I could shoot with a downward angle and avoid plants in the immediate foreground (I hate heights, but I did it to get the best shot). My settings were 1/60, f/8, and 640 ISO. The original sky was white so I added some ethereal clouds that made sense with the type of lighting I saw on the scene. I had actually photographed these clouds about ...

Tianzi Mountains, China
Sunday, September 25, 2016 12:03AM
A night landscape

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
A night landscape

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
A night landscape

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
A night landscape

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
A night landscape

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 ...

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