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Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Machu Picchu
Saturday, September 22, 2018
Machu Picchu

The biggest attraction in Peru is Machu Picchu, the Inca fortress built on a plateau a thousand feet above the Urubamba River and never found by the Spanish conquistadors. The classic shot that everyone wants is the overview of the ruins from an elevated height. This shot has been captured so often by so many people, and I wanted to do something different. There are always a few llamas hanging around the site, and I photographed them from various perspectives. To make this composite, I used Topaz Remask 5 because it's the only software that does a great job at separating difficult subjects with hair from their original backgrounds. The white hair of the llama offered excellent contrast, ...

Those blue eyes!
Friday, September 21, 2018
Machu Picchu

The floor of the jungle in the Peruvian Amazon is quite dark even at mid-day due to the density of the canopy. Photographing things that don't move like flowers, mushrooms, and leaves can be done with a tripod, thus the dim illumination doesn't matter. Anything moving, though, requires either an incredibly high ISO or a flash. I captured this baby ocelot with a flash as you can see from the light fall-off. I shot this with film using the all-manual Mamiya RZ 67 medium format camera, and the large, powerful flash I used at the time was a Metz CT60. Keeping the active kitten sharp with manual focus was obviously extremely difficult. And remember, until the digital age, we couldn't see our ...

Peruvian portrait
Thursday, September 20, 2018
Machu Picchu

I'm working to develop a new photo tour to Peru because, aside from the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, there is such stunning nature and bird life there in the Peruvian Amazon as well as in the highlands. In addition, there is great portrait photography. I've always loved this image of a young girl and her llama. The way she gently is holding the animal's head against hers is very endearing. I shot this with film a few months before I bought my first serious digital camera in 2005. The settings were unrecorded, but knowing how I used to shoot, this was taken with a 250mm lens (equivalent to a 135mm medium telephoto), 1/125, f/5.6, and I probably used Fujichrome 100 transparency film. The ...

Wild jaguar at rest
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Machu Picchu

Even at rest, all a wild jaguar has to do is look into the camera and the animal conveys immense power and beauty. My photo tour to the Pantanal region of Brazil is coming up the beginning of November, and I never get tired of going there. The birds are incredible, and so are the caiman, giant river otters, and capybaras, but it's the jaguars that raise my blood pressure! It's a safari from a high-speed boat. The big cats come down to the river to hunt, and even though they are relatively close, a long lens is needed to get this kind of frame-filling shot. I used a 500mm lens here plus a 2x teleconverter giving me 1000mm of focal length. I tried using a monopod but I felt it was too ...

Elegance on wheels
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Machu Picchu

The key to photographing beautiful cars like this classic 1937 Delage D8 120 SS Aerodynamic coupe is to attend a Concourse d'Elegance. There are many of these car shows throughout the U.S., and they exhibit the best of the best in horseless carriages, antiques, and classics. The cars are displayed on grass, so when you replace the background it's not necessary to cut around the tires and recreate realistic shadows -- which is extremely hard to do. The background I used for this image is a shot from Great Smokies National Park. The car was photographed with diffused light, and the background had to exhibit the same kind of lighting for this to look real. I used the pen tool in Photoshop to ...

Rattlesnake swimming
Monday, September 17, 2018
Machu Picchu

It's amazing how fast snakes can swim. This is a western diamondback rattlesnake swimming through the artificial pond we used to photograph the bats. It crossed the 6-foot wide pond in about 2 seconds. I've cropped this significantly -- I wasn't nearly as close as this picture implies -- but I thought it was intriguing to see how the snake plowed its way through the water. To freeze the shape of the water and guarantee a tack sharp image, I used my standard settings for birds in flight -- 1/3200, f/11, and the ISO was on auto. Because of the bright early morning sunlight, the ISO turned out to be 1250. I used 560mm of focal length -- a 100-400mm set to 400 along with a 1.4x teleconverter. I ...

Wide angle of a venomous reptile
Sunday, September 16, 2018
Machu Picchu

I took this shot of a Gila monster on the last day of the workshop in Arizona. I used a 16-35mm to purposely distort the reptile for dramatic effect. I like the look of a foreground that is disproportionately large compared to the background. The lens was about 8 inches from the subject. Being this close meant that even at f/22, the landscape in the background wasn't sharp. It was 'almost' sharp. Therefore, I took two pictures -- one of the Gila monster and one of the background -- and then assembled them together in Photoshop. In my opinion, no part of a landscape should be out of focus. There is no point is photographing blurred landscapes. Nature is full of exquisite detail, and ...

Unintentional double exposure
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Machu Picchu

Perhaps the most intriguing pictures to come out of this photo workshop in Arizona are bats drinking on the wing in total darkness. Because the Sonoran desert is so dry, the artificial pond on this private property draws the bats all night long. The shot you see here is an unintentional double exposure. During the 30 second exposures, if more than one bat breaks the electric beam, the flash units fire multiple times. In this instance, two long eared myotis bats used a similar flight path to drink. Fortunately, they were positioned perfectly. Had they taken the same flight path, they would be superimposed over each other from the camera's point of view and I would have trashed the shot. I ...

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