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The Digital SLR Expert: Landscapes
2/28/2012 9:03:40 PM

The Digital SLR Expert: Landscapes
/Tom Mackie, William Neill, David Noton, Darwin Wiggett, and Tony Worobiec, Cincinnati: David and Charles, 2008 (144 p.)
This is the fourth photography book that I have reviewed as part of the Missouri Book Challenge. When I read the introduction my initial thought was “Finally, a book by Canon shooters,” since the other three books were by Nikon shooters. I also thought that this book should be a fairly quick read since it was only 144 pages and about 2/3 of the book was taken up by photographs.
I was somewhat disappointed on both counts. First, once I had read the introductory materials, there was little reference to photography gear other than in the technical notes accompanying each of the photos. Second, while the material presented in the book was fairly complete, each set of two-three pages addressed an individual topic or technique and there was little or no segue between these groupings. As a result, I found it difficult to read more than five or six pages at any one sitting. This was further complicated by the extremely small font used throughout the book (younger readers may not find this problematic but my eyes just aren’t what they used to be J).
While I found the overall body of the book difficult to follow, there were small hint blocks scattered throughout the text which many will find helpful. The book itself is divided into five chapters with one chapter written by each of the authors so you do get different perspectives as you move from chapter to chapter but it might have been more useful had the views of two authors been shared in each of the chapters.
Many of the sections include tips on how to use PhotoShop. The unfortunate thing is that because the book was published in 2008 these techniques are geared toward PhotoShop 3. The same techniques are possible in PhotoShop CS5, and presumably in 4, it may take some searching to locate the specific tools or techniques referenced.
After struggling through this book, I would probably give it 2½ to 3 stars of 5. It is definitely not a book for a beginning landscape photographer.
UPDATES - Railroad Bridge and Small Stone Church
2/26/2012 2:53:21 PM

On the 19th I posted two pictures of a railroad bridge near Labadie, MO, along with comments about why one of the photos didn't work for me at all and the other, while acceptable, didn't capture my original vision of the bridge.  This morning I was able to go back to Labadie and was much more successful in capturing what I originally wanted - a side view of the bridge that captured many of the details of the bridge, especially the multiple angles.

This was very close to what I originally found appealing in the bridge and today's image uses the road as a leading line which was unexpected.

The second update today is a follow-up from my post on the 24th about preserving history through photographs.  In that post I mentioned a small stone church that may be razed in the near future to make way for commercial development.  I was also able to get some photos of the church early this morning.  One is included here and others are in the St. Louis Architecture section of my Gallery.

For the story of the church, check http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/article_2b775780-a260-11e0-9a8e-001a4bcf6878.html

Preserving Our Past
2/24/2012 7:05:36 PM

A few days ago I posted these three photos (slightly larger) in the St. Louis Architecture section of my Gallery.  At that time, the large World War II era smoke stacks in the left photo were being razed for safety reasons (pieces were falling off and endangering workers on the ground) while the building with the embedded milk bottle art work had been protected by the local preservation subcommittee.


The smoke stacks are now gone and yesterday's headline indicated that the preservation subcommittee's recommendation had been overridden and demotion of the dairy building had been approved.  Demolition of the building along with another large smoke stack on the property is expected to occur early this summer.

While I have mixed feelings about the need to physically preserve all older buildings, particularly where safety or environmental issues are involved, the loss of these structures made me ask, "What role do we have as photographers in creating and preserving a record of our architectural history?"

In the time I have lived in St. Louis, I've seen several historic or semi-historic architectural features pass into oblivion including at least two large drive-in theaters, a "no-tell motel" on old Route 66, and a historic house on the campus of a local high school.  There have probably been others that I am unaware of and there will be more in the future like the dairy complex and an old stone church that may soon be facing the wrecker's ball.

Do we, as photographers, have an obligation to record images of these structures before they are gone?  If we do, should these images be more in the photojournalism, recording exact details, or can they use a more artistic approach highlighting significant portions of the structures and their use while ignoring other parts of the structure?  How can we make these images available to future generations?

I'm not sure I have the answers to these questions, or even strong opinions one way or the other, but weather permitting I'm going to try to get out this weekend to take photos of the little church and the smokestack at the dairy.

UPDATE 2/25/2012 -- After a false start this morning (dead camera batteries), I was able to get out and take some photos of the smokestack at the Dairy complex (posted in the St. Louis Architecture area of my Gallery).  The demolition company already has signs up at the complex -- just two days after demolition was approved.  I'm going to try to get photos of the stone church tomorrow.

Composition: Great Shots
2/22/2012 11:45:29 AM
Composition: From Snapshots to Great Shots/ Laurie Excell. Berkeley: Peachpit Press, c2011, Simon and Schuster, c1991 (251 p.)

For the beginning digital photographer Excell covers the full spectrum of composition from equipment selection to patterns to spatial relationships. Her work is complemented by chapters contributed by four other photographers focusing on specific subjects like black and white photography and sports.
For the more advanced photographer, the book serves as a refresher on skills that are sometimes overlooked in the rush to get that “magic photo”.
The chapters also include practical exercises that can be used to further reinforce the materials included in the book. I would recommend this book to all but the most experienced photographer.
Creative Landscapes
2/22/2012 11:42:59 AM
I finished Davis’ book with mixed feelings. The book contains a great deal of information for all levels of photographers. It also contains examples on almost every page along with lens and exposure information and either a description of the subject, a description of technique, or both.
Unfortunately, because of the wealth of photos I found myself wanting to go back and forth between text and descriptions and photos which made keeping focus difficult.
The first third of the book concentrates more on Davis’ landscape philosophy and the final part of the book focuses more on technique. Probably not the best book for the point-and-shoot or smart phone photographer, I would recommend this book to SLR and medium format photographers with an interest in landscape photography.
Wildlife Photography: Great Shots
2/22/2012 11:38:47 AM
Wildlife Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots/Laurie Excell, Berkeley: Peachpit Press, 2012 (229 p.)

This is the second book in the series “From Snapshots to Great Shots” series by Laurie Excell. I found the information here to be in more detail than her book on Composition and believe that this book will appeal to a wider, although more specialized, audience. This book also serves as a good companion volume to Moose Peterson’s Captured. While Peterson’s book is written in a more folksy manner, Excell’s book is more of a “how-to” volume and, being much shorter, is also a quicker read.

Excell considers Peterson to be one of her mentors so you will see many parallels between their books with regard to equipment, locations, etc., but Excell does not put as much emphasis on using photography as a component of wildlife studies. Instead, she focuses more on photography rather than projects surrounding the photography.
As in her other book, Composition, each chapter contains practical exercises to help photographers develop or fine tune their skills. Excell closes this book with information on two specific wildlife photography excursions, photographing bears in Alaska and photographing birds in Texas. I found these two chapters were easy to read and gave photographers a better idea of what to expect should they decide to take one of these trips.
Peachpit Press rates this book as a “Beginner” level volume which is probably accurate although I believe it offers useful information to the more experienced photographer as well. My only lingering question is whether I would recommend that a photographer read this book before or after Peterson’s Captured.
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