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Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Indian desert portrait
Friday, April 05, 2019
Panorama of Fitz Roy

I set up this shot on my first trip to India in 1998. The addition of the human element -- when done well -- adds a powerful focal point to any environment, whether it be nature, architecture, or anything else. I hired these models in Jaiselmer, a city in the western part of Rajasthan, for a half day and photographed them in many different locations. This was my favorite place because they looked so good against the sand. I had them walk to the crest of the dune from the back side so they wouldn't leave footprints in the beautiful waves of sand. The original sky was solid blue, and that looked good -- but it wasn't as dramatic as the new sky I added. I shot this with a Mamiya RZ 67 and ...

A family stroll
Wednesday, April 03, 2019
Panorama of Fitz Roy

I've always liked this shot even though it's not perfect. The depth of field is too shallow and the middle cub is hidden behind the mother. Still, it's a sweet image, and I like how the lions are using the manmade track to conveniently walk through the African bush. I photographed this in the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya with a 500mm Canon lens at f/4 using my first serious digital camera, the 1Ds Mark II. The noise in the digital files in 2007 was significant, and this is why I used such a low ISO -- 200. That made the shutter speed only 1/100th of a second, however, and this is much too slow for a super telephoto. I was using a bean bag for stability, but the lions were moving and ...

Action in low light
Tuesday, April 02, 2019
Panorama of Fitz Roy

So often, you can have great lighting but there is nothing great to photograph. Other times, a fantastic subject is within range but the lighting is not ideal. In this shot of an aggressive display between hippos in Kenya, I liked the diffused light but it was very late in the day and the sun had already set. That meant the light level was very low. In order to use a fast shutter speed so every nuance of the action was rendered with tack sharp clarity, I had to use a fast shutter speed. I wouldn't compromise on that because there's nothing worse in photography than a great capture that is 'almost' sharp. I used a 100-400mm lens for this shot, and my settings were 1/500, f/5.6, and 10,000 ...

Bright eyes
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Panorama of Fitz Roy

There are several advantages to photographing wildlife with low angled sunlight. One of them is that the eyes light up, and another is a natural catchlight in the eyes is created. When the sun is high in the sky, neither of these things occur. I photographed this caracal in Kenya, and it was an exciting moment because these cats are not commonly seen. I shot with a 500mm lens wide open -- f/4 -- to make the background as out of focus as possible. The eye-level perspective happened because the track we were driving on was below ground level. The intensity of a cat's gaze is quite striking -- whether it's a house cat or a large African cat -- and that's what I like about this shot. My ...

The smallest primate
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Panorama of Fitz Roy

This is the smallest primate in the world, a tarsier. It is the size of your fist. I photographed it on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. As you can tell from the disproportionately large eyes, it is nocturnal. That’s why I needed to use flash. Otherwise, a well exposed picture would have been impossible. I usually don’t like using flash with wildlife because the catchlight in the eyes -- that so many photographers like -- looks a bit ghoulish to me. Animals (and people) don’t have a light emanating from their eyes. I used Photoshop to block some distracting elements with out of focus foliage, and I toned down some highlights from the on-camera flash. I shot this ...

Precise selecting
Thursday, March 28, 2019
Panorama of Fitz Roy

This is another composite, this time with a church in Reykjavik and the aurora borealis. The lighting on the church was extremely contrasty, and in order to deal with the bright highlights and deep shadows in this night shot I had to use a 7-frame HDR sequence. Once that was composited using the procedure in Photoshop, I used the pen tool to precisely select the church. Then, to realistically blend the bare trees at the bottom of the frame with the new sky, I pasted the aurora shot over the church (Edit > paste), made a layer mask (Layer > layer mask > reveal all), and then used the gradient tool to make the blend by dragging the cursor from the bottom portion of the composite to ...

The aurora
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
Panorama of Fitz Roy

The last two nights we had fabulous northern light displays. My photo tour group is in the north of Iceland where the skies are much clearer than in the south, hence we can see the eerie and beautiful aurora borealis. It's not possible to capture good detail in the sky as well as in a landscape due to the discrepancy of exposure, so if you want a picture like this, compositing in Photoshop is required. My exposure for the sky is 13 seconds, f/2.8, and 1000 ISO -- depending on the intensity of the lights. I used a 16-35mm lens. The wind was intense -- gusts could literally knock you over -- so I used the hotel structure to block the wind. I addition, I had to apply a constant downward ...

Blues before sunrise
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Panorama of Fitz Roy

This is another image from the Ice Beach here in Iceland. The blue color comes from the use of daylight white balance and the fact that this was just before sunrise. When you shoot in deep shade, colors tend to go blue unless you adjust the white balance or the Kelvin temperature. Instead of eliminating the color bias, I left it alone because blue connotes cold -- and it was definitely cold. It was also very windy. The wind was actually ferocious. To stabilize the camera and tripod, I kept a downward pressure on it during the exposure and tried to block the camera as much as I could with my body. I used a 16-35mm wide angle lens for this shot, and my settings were f/22, 15 seconds, and 100 ...

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