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Jim Zuckerman’s

PH OTO I N S I G HTS November 2012

• Getting ready for winter photography • Macro flash technique • Photoshop’s ‘content aware’ feature • Wild and crazy backgrounds • Photo tours


Table of Contents 4.

winter photography 7.

macro flash

10. content aware 12. wild backgrounds 14. What’s wrong with this picture? 16. short and sweet 18. ask jim 21. Student showcase


It’s a great time to be a photographer. Never have we had such an incredible array of creative tools, and never has photography been so much fun. Whatever vision you can imagine can be translated into beautiful images with a few pull down menu commands and a variety of dialog box sliders. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this for anything. And the new language. Wow. Imagine using words, appreviations, and phrases like Google it, HDR, megapixels, dust on the sensor, zap the P-ram, live view, and digital noise just a handful of years ago. People would think you had just arrived from Mars! The learning curve has been significant. New photographers not only have to understand the fundamental photographic principles such as depth of field, the relationship between f/stops and shutter speeds, and what their lenses do, but on the digital side there are many programs to learn as well as computer terminology, how to work the Internet, uploading and downloading images, working with printers, and much more. Mixed in with all of this is the underlying bottom line -- how to be creative. That’s where this magazine (that used to be just a newsletter) comes in. I hope you find the contents here valuable and relevant to your picture taking. Jim 3


Winter photography involves special considerations. I’m specifically referring to the extreme cold that can be dangerous to your health and well being, and it can also cause problems with your equipment. Let’s first talk about protecting yourself. If your fingers and toes are so cold they are painful, photography won’t be any fun and you’ll probably go indoors to warm up. It’s hard to concentrate on taking beautiful pictures when you are in pain. For my hands and fingers, I wear three layers of gloves. First, I put on a silk glover liner. Over that goes a good pair of gloves, and in extreme cold, I wear mittens over that. This reduces dexterity, but it’s still possible to hold the camera, change a lens, and push the shutter button. To change a camera menu option, the mittens will have to be removed, and sometimes 4

the gloves must be taken off, too. Therein lies the problem. When the temperature is very cold, you’ll lose too much heat from your fingers, and even when you put the gloves and mittens back on, your body can’t genereate enough heat to prevent pain. There are three solutions: 1. Chemical heat packets. These are inexpensive packets of chemicals that provide heat for several hours. They come in various sizes. Some fit in your glove liners while others are made to be inserted in your boots to keep your toes warm. There are also heat packets made to be placed on your chest to warm the blood being pumped from your heart. The warm blood helps keep your whole body at a comfortable temperature. In moderately cold conditions, say from zero to 30 degres Fahrenheit, heat packets work great. They are

cheap, disposable, and safe. The problem, though, is that in ultra extreme climates these measures help but they don’t really solve the problem. I took the picture of the arctic fox in Canada when it was 45 degrees below zero, which was too cold to rejuvenate fingers when I took off my mittens and gloves to work the camera’s menu. 2. Electric gloves and socks. You can get battery powered gloves and socks that provide heat from various size batteries. This is a good solution in seriously cold environments, and they can supplement heat packets. Doubling the heat generating potential goes a long way to preventing pain in your fingers and toes when shooting in winter. The batteries add a little weight, but this is a small

price to pay for warmth. If you will be shooting for hours, you’ll need to bring a lot of batteries because they last only an hour or two. 3. Flameless lighter fuel hand warmers. These hand warmers get quite hot, and I like them because you can keep them in a pocket of your parka. When your hands get too cold, simply hold the warmer (I put one in each pocket) and in a few seconds you are good to go again. A small amount of fuel will last for hours. To read about potential hazards and other concerns with warmers, click HERE. Protecting your camera When temperatures drop below freezing, several things can happen. The camera battery can become 5


depleted or non-functional, the lubricant between the blades of the shutter can lose its viscosity and the lens aperture may no longer be what the camera’s electronics dictate, and the liquid crystal display could crack due to the expansion of water below four degrees Celsius. To address these issues, I place a chemical heat packet on the bottom of the camera and use a piece of Velcro to hold the packet against the battery compartment. An adhesive won’t work in extreme cold (adhesives lose their hold when the temperature falls below zero), and I have found that Velcro is the best way to go.

Two spots left FROG & REPTILE WORKSHOP Nov. 3, 4

Exposure on snow When we all shot film, my apporach to taking correct exposures was to use a hand held incident meter and read the ambient light falling on the scene. Alternatively, I’d use spot mode (either on the hand held meter or the built-in camera meter) to read a middle gray portion of the scene, and then I’d put the camera on manual exposure mode and set the f/stop and lens aperture according to the reading. For the cottonwood tree in a snowstorm, previous page, I used an indicent meter. This still works, but there is an easier way to do it with a digital camera. Now, all you have to do is take a picture and study the LCD monitor on the back of the camera. If the picture is too light or too dark (when shooting snow, it will most likely be dark), use the exposure compensation feature to tweak the exposure in 1/3 f/stop increments. It’s that simple. If you have your highlight alert turned on (the ‘blinkies’), I recommend turning it off when shooting snow. It will give you false exposure information. Sometimes when shooting a white sky, like in the cottonwood tree photo, the highlights can be blown out. The blinking alert in the viewfinder will indicate your exposure is not correct, but it may be right on. Use your eyes to judge the results.§

MACRO FLASH Notice the soft and diffused light I used for the three photos of frogs at right. In my opinion, macro subjects always look best in this kind of even lighting. 7

There are no highlights that detract from the subjects, and the shadows are not black. We can see maximum detail, and that’s really what photography is about most of the time and especially when shooting nature. What also contributes to the detail we can see is the fact that I used f/32 for each of these images as well as for the wild-looking caterpillar from Indonesia, above. That ensures extensive depth of field. The advantages of shooting with a ring light flash are: 1. The light simulates soft and diffused daylight. This is true only when the flash is used very close (within 12 inches) to the subject. A ring flash used on a telephoto macro places the flash too far away and it approaches a point source of light which will create a more harsh type of light. 2. There is so much light that you are forced to use a small aperture. 3. The flash freezes any movement your subject might have. 4. A tripod is not necessary for macro work.


I use the Canon MR-14EX ring flash on a 50mm lens for superior results. You can also buy a non-brand name ring flash that is much less money (less than $100), and alternatively you can use a round diffuser that fits over your portable flash, below. This softens the light exactly like a ring flash, although some light is lost in the translation. Still, with 400 ISO you can use f/22. The image pictured below is the Coco Ring Flash Adapter I got at for only $49.ยง


Content Aware

A brilliant tool in Photoshop CS6

If you haven’t discovered the amazing Content Aware command in Photoshop CS6 yet, it’s about time. It can solve many problems as in the photo of the wild dog I shot in Namibia, below. The lower right corner is obviously distracting, and using the clone tool and/or the healing brush would be tough to blend the subtle tones of the background into that corner. Instead, I used content aware. The first step is to encircle the area to be eliminated with the lasso tool. The selection doesn’t have to be precise at all. Just make a rough selection and include some of the background. Then, go to Edit > fill. In the dialog box that opens (next page, top left), pull down the submenu under ‘contents’ to find the content aware option. Hit OK, and the results are incredible as you can see in the finished image, above. 10

The content aware command doesn’t always work. It depends on how much background area it can ‘borrow’ to replace the unwanted element(s). When it does work, though, it’s quite impressive. In the case of the wild dog, there was a decent amount of background for Photoshop to determine what the lower right corner should look like, and that’s why it was so successful in this situation.§

Check out these great eBooks


Wild Backgrounds

Wild and crazy backgrounds can be a lot of fun to create, and when used in combination with other images the results are often dramatic and visually compelling. Here are some ways to create bold, colorful, and dramatic backgrounds: 1. Use long exposures to capture moving traffic and neon signs. The background behind the hot rod, above, was taken in the Chicago airport from a moving walkway. It’s neon lights in the ceiling. 2. Use Photoshop plug-ins like Flexify 2, Topaz, and Nik Software to create abstracts of your existing images. I created the abstract on the next page with Flexify 2 made by 3. Use a slow shutter speed in combination with a zoom lens to make streaks of color. Flowers, neon lights, peeling paint, and autumn leaves all make great subjects for this. 4. Shoot fireworks. 5. Use the extrude filter (Filter > stylize > extrude) in Photoshop to produce amazing abstracts from your colorful pictures. 6. Photograph swirls of paint and food coloring in water, 7. Make a ‘starfield’ by sprinkling glitter on black velvet and shooting it with a star filter.§



What’s wrong with this picture? I love combinations of wild colors, and royal blue combined with electric lime green certainly qualifies as wild. I photographed this telephone in the Amsterdam airport, and I like it a lot -- except for two problems. The dark blue sticker in the upper left corner is distracting, but worse than that is the very white placard behind the phone. Here’s the problem. When a background has a lot of white in it or very bright highlights, it vies for attention and competes with the subject. This happens because our eyes are drawn to the lightest part of a picture immediately, and that’s not what you want if that light area is not the subject. Our attention should be riveted on the subject. If the background is darker than the subject or at least the same tone, then it is usually considered complementary. Using Photoshop, I replaced both offending areas using the cut and paste method (as opposed to cloning which wouldn’t work well in this situation), and you can see on the next page that this made the image much, much better.§




Out of focus foregrounds only look good when they are a complete blur with no definition. I.e., they need to be a haze of color like the grasses in front of the leopard, below. Otherwise, avoid them.


When shooting distant objects, depth of field is not an issue. You can use any lens aperture and you’ll still get everything sharp. Since DOF is not a factor, use f/8 because it’s the sharpest aperture on your lens.

3. When the center column of your tripod is raised 4.

high, it loses the ability to be a firm support. The extended column becomes, in essence, a monopod, and your pictures may not be as sharp as you want. Shoot with the ballhead lowered all the way.


To insure sharp pictures, the shutter speed should be the reciprocal of the focal length of your lens. This is most applicable to telephotos. For example, if your lens is a 300mm, the shutter should be 1/300th of a second or faster. This is assuming you are hand holding the lens.§

Photography Tours 2013/2014 WHITE HORSES, FRANCE April, 2013


LONDON/PARIS August, 2013

BHUTAN October, 2013

NAMIBIA November, 2013

COSTA RICA December, 2013

TIGERS in CHINA January, 2014


MONGOLIA September, 2014

Check out the details and see more photos from each tour on my website: 17

ASK JIM Every month Jim will answer a question from his online students or from people who participate in his tours and workshops. If you have a question for Jim, send him a note and if he feels many others will benefit from the question and answer, he will publish it in this magazine.


Jim, you advocate using daylight white balance for all outdoor photography. Even on a cloudy day, would you keep your white balance at daylight? Dennis Prince, Clifton Heights, PA

A: Yes, I do. My rationale is twofold. First, I actually like blush tones in pictures because I feel

they add a moody quality. Second, if I want to eliminate the blue tones, I can do so in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom. I always shoot in RAW mode, and by simply moving the temperature slider, it’s possible to reduce the bluishness or eliminate it altogether. This can’t be done very well when shooting jpegs. By not messing with white balance when shooting outdoors, this is one less thing to think about. §


Frog and reptile workshop, Nov. 3-4, 2012


Get professional critiques of your work Get professional critiques of your work with Jim’s online courses with Jim’s online courses Learn composition, exposure, Photoshop, fundamentals, and more.



Student Showcase

Each month, Jim will feature one or more students who took beautiful and inspiring images on one of his photography tours or workshops. It’s really fascinating how photographers see and compose such different images even though we may go to the same place.

Michele Zousmer, Rancho Santa Fe, California WHITE HORSES OF THE CAMARGUE photo workshop, FRANCE

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Michele Zousmer, Rancho Santa Fe, California

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Sat. & Sun., January 19, 20

Photoshop is a photographer’s best friend, and the creative possibilities are absolutely endless. In a personal and ‘homey’ environment (I have a very cool classroom setup in my home), I start at the beginning -- assuming you know nothing -- but I quickly get into layers, cutting and pasting, plug-ins, using ‘grunge’ textures, modifying lighting, and a lot more. I promise to fill your head with so many great techniques that you won’t believe what you’ll be able to do. Photoshop instructors approach teaching this program from different points of view. My approach is to be as expansive in my thinking as possible in creating unique, artistic, and compelling images. In addition to showing you how to use the various tools, pull down menus, layers, and so on, I spend a lot of time giving

you creative ideas that will inspire you to produce amazing images with the pictures you’ve already taken. I live in the Nashville, Tennessee area, and if you fly into the airport (BNA) I will pick you up. If you drive, I’ll give you my address and you can find it on Mapquest. For the $450 fee, I include one dinner in my home (prepared by my wife who is an amazing cook and hostess) and two lunches, plus shuttling you back and forth from my home to your nearby hotel. Contact me if you would like to participate in the workshop and I will tell you how to sign up (

PHOTO INSIGHTS® published by Jim Zuckerman, all rights reserved © Jim Zuckerman 2012 email: No part of this magazine may be reproduced for profit.


Photo Insights Nov. '12  

A magazine devoted to photography and creativePhotoshop techniques. Published and edited by Jim Zuckerman.

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