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Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Wild and surreal
Thursday, February 21, 2019
Wild and surreal

For the first 10 years of my career, I did nothing but special effects -- and this was in the film days. Wild and surreal images still appeal to me, so I was looking through my past Venice pictures with fresh eyes trying to come up with a creative image. This is what happened. Here are the steps: 1) I mirrored the the shot of the colorful houses on Burano Island, 2) then I used the Photoshop plugin 'Flood' to eliminate the small motor boats tied up along the canal, 3) using the pulldown menu command, Image > adjustments > hue/saturation, I punched the saturation to outrageous proportions, 4) I used Select > all, then Edit > transform > distort to angle the entire background, ...

Snow in Venice
Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Wild and surreal

I am heading to Venice tomorrow to begin another photo workshop during Carnivale in this amazing, medieval city. I've been conducting workshops here for 13 years, and only one time was there enough snow to cover the ground for a few hours. None of the costumed models could be seen, though, because the snow would melt on their very expensive costumes and potentially damage them. So, not to be thwarted by reality, I used the pen tool to select a romantic couple photographed on a different day, and then I placed them into San Marco Square in this very unique and beautiful environment. For the background image, my settings were 1/125, f/8, 640 ISO, and I used a 24-105mm lens. 

High speed fly-by
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Wild and surreal

The last image I'll post of snowy owls for this year is this unique fly-by where a female snowy grabbed a mouse in her talons. I love the way her left wing touches the snow, and the snow kicked up behind her is also cool. Almost all of the pictures of the owls had a certain amount of blue in them due to the overcast wintry conditions, so I eliminated that in Photoshop using Image > adjustments > hue/saturation. In the submenu, I selected 'blue' and then desaturated just that one color. That's the easiest way to affect a single color. My settings were manual exposure mode and 1/3200, f/11, and 800 ISO (determined by the auto ISO function). I used a 100-400mm Canon zoom. I purposely did ...

Bold contrast
Monday, February 18, 2019
Wild and surreal

When you first photograph a beautiful bird species, you end up liking so much of what is shot. After a while, though, you get more particular. You start looking for certain shapes in the wings, a precise way the head is turned, and a special way the light strikes the subject. All of these came together for me in this capture of a female snowy owl. I really like the way the wings are spread, the side lighting on the face is beautiful, and the way the head is turned back over one of its wings is compelling. I replaced the background with a dark stand of conifers so the owl really popped with striking contrast. My settings for the bird image were 1/3200, f/11, and auto ISO which turned out to ...

Overcoming the laws of optics
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Wild and surreal

One of our morning sessions with the snowy owls occurred with a dramatic sky backdrop. God-rays are spectacular, but when using a telephoto lens for a nearby subject, the background is guaranteed to be out of focus due to the limitations of optics. If you want to show the drama with everything in focus -- as our eyes see it -- the only way to do it is with a composite in Photoshop. Lightroom can't do this; this is why learning Photoshop is so important in photography. So, I carefully selected the owl from another shot using the quick selection tool along with the lasso tool working at 300% to make sure the selection was precise and perfect. I then feathered the edge 2 pixels, copied it to ...

Uncropped action shot
Saturday, February 16, 2019
Wild and surreal

The wing formations and body language of snowy owls are fascinating and beautiful, and they change every millisecond. The ideal scenario is to capture these gyrations with frame-filling compositions, but it's extremely hard to do that because the birds move very fast -- especially the males -- and to lock on and maintain focus with a tight, telephoto shot is tough. In this instance, I got lucky. My lens combination was 400mm with a 1.4x teleconverter, giving me 560mm of focal length. This is totally uncropped. The male snowy was diving for a mouse, and the contrast between the white bird against the steel gray-blue sky was ultra dramatic. My settings were 1/3200, f/11, and auto ISO which ...

Male snowy in flight
Friday, February 15, 2019
Wild and surreal

Male snowy owls are harder to capture than females because they fly much faster, and mature males are almost pure white. With a light sky or a white snowy background, the autofocus mechanism is challenged to track the birds in flight. I used all my focus points and AI servo for the AF settings, and of course I'm shooting at the fastest frame rate on the Canon 1Dx Mark II, which is 14 fps. I composited the owl with a background so I could have the best of both worlds -- an environmental portrait where both foreground and background are sharp. I selected the snowy owl from its original sky background with the pen tool in Photoshop for the most precise accuracy, and the settings for the shot ...

Snowy owl in flight
Thursday, February 14, 2019
Wild and surreal

We had a great day today photographing snowy owls. The lighting was exquisite late in the day, and we were able to capture side lighting and edge lighting on the birds. In addition, the wind was just strong enough to force the owls to use beautiful wing formations to fly. This produced amazing pictures. In this shot, I left the original background and cropped the image to zoom in on the owl. Owls can't move their eyes in their heads; instead, they have to swivel their entire head to see in various directions. That's why owls look over their wings to see what's beside them. My settings here were 1/3200, f/11, auto ISO (which turned out to be 1000), and I used a 100-400mm lens with a 1.4x ...

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