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Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Mitigating unwanted contrast
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Mitigating unwanted contrast

As cute as this is, it was a very difficult photograph to deal with because of the contrast. On one of my photo tours to Africa, we found this mother cheetah and her cub in the shade of a thicket at 11 o'clock in the morning. While the cats were in diffused light, the background was sunny -- a terrible combination. In order to make this acceptable, I had to expose this so the background didn't go too light (or I'd lose the detail and texture) and the cheetahs didn't become too dark. Then, in post-processing, I had to further tweak this to reduce the contrast. When you darken an area of a color image, the areas affected (in this case the out of focus background) often become unrealistically ...

The exquisite morphos
Monday, May 22, 2017
Mitigating unwanted contrast

Butterflies are very hard to photograph well, and morpho butterflies – these iridescent blue species from Central and South America – are almost impossible.  They fly so fast and so erratically that even in a butterfly house where they’re captive, it’s extremely challenging.  I photographed this butterfly in the wild in Mexico, and the only way I was able to be successful was that I had learned something about their behavior.  Butterflies won’t fly into darkness, and in a heavily forested area in southern Mexico railroad tracks had been cut into the jungle. Butterflies used the clearing as a flyway, and I found a tunnel into which the butterflies ...

Kathakali dancer
Sunday, May 21, 2017
Mitigating unwanted contrast

When I travel, one of my favorite subjects to photograph is dancers.  They have poise, they are comfortable in front of a camera, their costuming is often beautiful or outrageous, and their makeup can be amazing.  Such is the case with the Kathakali dancers of southern India.  They are simply incredible to see perform and to photograph.  I like to arrange time backstage to photograph them shortly before they go on stage, and if possible a beautiful background helps make the portrait even more compelling.  My settings here were 1/80, f/4.5, 250 ISO, and I used a 24-105mm zoom.  I hand-held the camera. 

The humorous 'blink'
Saturday, May 20, 2017
Mitigating unwanted contrast

When photographing wildlife and birds at night, on-camera flash is usually unavoidable. It is the least attractive type of artificial light because it’s so flat, dimensionless, and often garish. It’s our only choice, though, in so many situations so we have to live with it. I photographed these great horned owlets in Southern California many years ago, and I always saw the humor in the blink of that one eye. I used my main film camera at the time – a Mamiya RZ 67 – along with a 350mm lens. My choice of film for wildlife was Fujichrome 100 transparency film because it was a whole f/stop faster than Fujichrome 50. By today’s standards, these speeds are pathetic! ...

Model shoot in the Philippines
Friday, May 19, 2017
Mitigating unwanted contrast

Several years ago when I travelled to the Philippines I went to Borocay Island. Every February they have a carnival called Ati-atihan that is based on the Catholic calendar and coincides with religious-based carnivals around the world such as Mardi Gras, carnival in Venice, carnival in Rio de Janeiro, etc. I was late, however, and I missed the event on Borocay. Not to be denied my pictures, I asked the concierge at my hotel if he could arrange a photo shoot with some of the participants. I suggested the beach as the location, and the next day I had three young boys in Neptune-like costumes with their bodies painted black. My first thought was to use tropical foliage as the background, but ...

Puppy humor
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Mitigating unwanted contrast

It looks like someone forgot a puppy in a shopping bag in this phone booth in London . . . but of course this is a composite. I photographed the American Eskimo puppy in the bag in my studio against a black background using a large soft box which simulates diffused light. To create the composite, I opened the street shot from London in Photoshop and selected several windowpanes at the bottom of the phone booth using the pen tool. When I pasted the picture of the puppy into the selected area (Edit > paste special > paste into) and resized it (Edit > transform > scale), I then used the blend mode 'lighten' found in the layers palette to eliminate the original black background from ...

Bats in flight
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Mitigating unwanted contrast

Photographing erratically flying bats at night seems like an impossible task, but with sophisticated electronics it's quite possible.  In the dry Sonoran desert of Arizona, bats have to drink.  A man-made pond draws them to the water supply, and the camera is prefocused on an invisible electric beam that spans the pond.  When a bat is spotted near the water, the shutter of the camera is opened in the dark.  When the bat breaks the beam, the flash is triggered. Note that the shutter is already open.  This is important because the bats are moving so fast that if the mechanics of the camera were triggered by the broken beam and then the flash was fired ...

An incredible staircase
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Mitigating unwanted contrast

I love photographing awesome staircases, and one of the best I've ever seen is in, of all places, a bookstore in Porto, Portugal. The first time I walked into the store (Lello Books) I saw, right away, a sign that said 'no photos'. I thought, "Give me a break." I expect this in a museum, a palace, even a place of workshop, but not a bookstore. So I go up to the cashier and asked if I bought a book, could I take pictures? No, not possible. But, he continued, if I returned the next morning and knocked on the door one hour before opening time, the cleaning lady would let me in and I could shoot. That was fantastic! The next morning I did as he said and I had an hour all to myself to take ...

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