Friday, December 28, 2007

My favorite Photo Books of 2007

This year I've read more photo books than ever. Why? This is an incredible time for the amateur photographer. There is so much power being placed in our hands with incredible DSLRs and software that we need to keep abreast of the changes and advancements. Also, styles and tastes in photography are constantly evolving as well.

How did I judge the books? How about the number of post-it notes that are tagged in them? If there are none, well, it's going up on ebay soon. Two to four post-its means it's a pretty good read. Five or over it's a winner. All the books on my list are five-plusers! Just kidding of course.

Actually I was a little more selective than just the number of post-it notes. I bought probably 30 books in 2007 and here are my favorites. For starters are two books which help us understand much of the "how-to" using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

1. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby.

2. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book, The Complete Guide for Photographers by Martin Evening

The introduction of Adobe Photoshop LightRoom in February 2007 has opened up a flurry of new photo opportunities and challenges, be it workflows, processing, printing, etc. These new titles by two amazing Photoshop stalwarts, Scott Kelby and Martin Evening, helped us figure out all the new tools and processes in Adobe Lightroom. So let's make them our first two favorites for 2007.

3. Photoshop Lightroom Adventure by Mikkel Aaland

Another book came out a few months later by Mikkel Aaland called PhotoShop Lightroom Adventure. Aaland's book presented Lightroom in terms of a workflow and he used a photo safari to Iceland as a storyline throughout the book. From initial capture and importing into Lightroom to slideshows, printing and posting to the Web Aaland uses beautiful images that he and 11 other colleagues took on their adventure.

4. Camera RAW with Adobe PhotoShop CS3 by Bruce Fraser and Jeff Schewe.

My next one is sure to make most casual amateurs zone out. It's a book about RAW which is, for some, that not quite understood setting in the capture menu of your camera. Maybe you've heard that "real" photographers shoot in RAW format and that is true for the most part. RAW means you've captured the "sensor data" of the image and because of that you have far greater opportunities to enhance the image on your computer. Think of RAW as starting with the original white paint at the store before the color is added and JPEG as the paint already mixed. Which would you rather adjust?

For example, with RAW you can easily add or subtract two or three full f-stops to your exposure with little degradation to the image. Other powerful controls include adjustments to white balance, tone curve, color space, contrast and saturation. Sure, these tools are available on JPEGs, but a JPEG is an already processed image. With RAW you are adjusting the original sensor data before it's processed into a JPEG.

I sat through two sessions at PhotoshopWorld with the late Bruce Fraser and couldn't believe how smart this guy was. He took us places in the lands of RAW and image sharpening that were incredible. He will be sorely missed. This second edition book on RAW was completed by Bruce's colleague, Jeff Schewe, and includes some great material on workflow. The Camera RAW or ACR tools in CS3 is practically the same ones in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom so users of either software will find this book useful.

5. Nash Editions, Photography and the Art of Digital Printing, edited by Garrett White

Who would think a book about the history of digital printing (snooze) would actually be quite interesting? Let me tell you how. We'll start with the Nash name. It's the same guy, Graham Nash, who sang in Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, & Nash. He was also a dedicated photographer and captured many unique images during his music tours and performances. In 1990 he opened a photo print-making studio and was on the forefront of the new digital printing age. The book includes a forward by Nash and the bulk of it are essays about printmaking history, new advancements in digital printing, and technical topics like ink permanence. I didn't know that not a single Kodakcolor print from 1942 to 1953 has survived. They all either faded, or developed ugly orange or yellow stains. Hundreds of millions of color images from that era are lost forever. Makes you wonder how long those inkjet prints are going to last? Fortunately, Nash Editions has the answer.

The best part of Nash Editions are the intriguing photographs, from many eras, beautifully printed throughout the book. Some of my favorites are Norma Shearer and James Stewart in Boat, Eggs, Eclipse, and the photos of musicians (Dylan, Miles, Santana, Monk, Neil Young and others).

6. Canon DSLR, The Ultimate Photographer's Guide, by Christopher Grey

Normally, I'll buy one book about each camera I own because the manuals provided by the manufacturer are pretty horrible. The Magic Lantern Guides are usually the best ones to get. When I spotted Canon DSLR at the bookstore I thought this would be one of those very generic manufacturer love-song books. Instead this is written by an independent author and published by Focal Press, one of the best around. It is geared for the Beginner/Intermediate user but inside it has great depth of information on things like using Canon flash units, Canon Digital Photo Pro software and background information on all current DSLR models and lenses. Another nice touch are the numerous interviews with professionals who use Canon cameras. If you're into Canon gear this is a good companion to have.

7. Window Seat, The Art of Digital Photography & Creative Thinking, by Julieanne Kost

This one goes down as a "why the hell did I buy this book?" to "wow, I love this book". The book is by photographer and Adobe consultant Julieanne Kost, She travels around the country giving talks and seminars about Adobe Photoshop. During her flights she takes the time to shoot imagery from the window of the plane. We've all tried this when we get stuck in a window seat and usually with pathetic results. Julieanne has not only figured out the technical requirements to get great pictures from window seats but she has turned it into a creative exercise that challenges our rationale for taking pictures. Is photography all about going to some exotic location, shooting the hell out of it, and then blitzing your admirers with exciting new images? That's been my modus operandi. Instead Julieanne asks us to look where we are, at the things which are around us and are coming to us as unique creative acts and perhaps our greatest photo opportunities. It's all about being alert in a creative way.

8. The Portrait Book, A Guide for Photographers, by Steven Begleiter

It is difficult for me to do portraits or even "people shots". The problem is people never seem satisfied with images of themselves no how much other people love the image. You rarely get satisfaction and methinks sometimes that is all that we want as photographers. Taking images of scenic locations is much easier. Shoot a mountain, a sunset, a pretty leaf and everyone oohs and aahs. Best of all, the mountain, the sunset, the leaf never complains!

Begleiter's book has helped me break down the tension I have with people shots. He started his career as a photo assistant to two luminaries in photography, Annie Leibovitz and Mary Ellen Mark. Later Begleiter opened his own studio in New York City. Now he teaches at Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Missoula, Montana.

With Begleiter it's all about preparation. He goes through several chapters on the requisite gear needed for a successful shoot. Knowing your gear is important before you get to the site of a portrait assignment. With complete confidence of your mastery of the gear then portrait shooting becomes fun and enjoyable. The book includes interviews with top photographers and editors about what makes great portraits. My favorites are composer Phillip Glass, comedian David Brenner, and De La Soul musician Pos.

9. Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait, The Art of Celebrity and Editorial Photography by Michael Grecco

This is another great book about portraits by hot-shot photographer Michael Grecco. I don't mean "hot-shot" in a derogatory way at all. He is "hot" and may be one of the most desired portrait shooters in the market today. His book provides the "how-he-did-it" for many of his most famous shots. Some of my favorites are a haunting Kate Winslet, a Kabuki-faced Lawrence Fishburne, and an incorrigible Chris Farley. Grecco also provides his three laws of light for great portraits and many other tips.

10. Photo Icons, The Story Behind the Pictures (Vols. I & II), by Hans-Michael Koetzle

Koetzle presents hundreds of images from the very beginnings of photography in 1827 up to the latest 21st century as examples of iconic images of their era. Appropriately, the first images are of the very first photographs ever taken. Then he takes us through the first decade of photography and how it emerged into the Victorian society of the 1800's. As might be expected, the early camera was used to photographs nudes and that became one of the first business ventures using photography.

In the mid-1800's portrait studios opened up everywhere for family pictures. The camera also covered wars and brought on the rise of the photojournalist. Photography began to be used in advertising and publicity around 1900. The advent of color photography in the 1940's was one of the major technological advances n photography. Koetzle covers all these eras and more.

Some of my favorite images are Robert Howlett's image of shipbuilder Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Dorothea Lange's images of Migrant Workers in the 1930's, and Robert Capa coverage of the Spanish War. Best of all, the books only cost $10 a piece. Considering the wealth of imagery and quality commentary these books are a bargain.

That's my list. There are a couple of others that I'm working through over the holiday.

Subjective Realities, Works from the REFCO Collection of Contemporary Photography. This was given to me by a friend and is a fascinating collection of recent photography. It makes you wonder where things are headed.

Take Your Photography to the Next Level From Inspiration to Image by George Barr.

The Creative Digital Darkroom
By Katrin Eismann and Sean Duggan.

I'll do a write-up after I get through them.


Copyright 2007 James D. Fisher
All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Heavy Metal(s)

I went back to the Pollock Hot Bottle Car at Steelyard Commons to play around with the Canon G9.

Big rivets along the side of the car. The streaks come from rust.

Big springs that hold up this solid steel, multi-ton car.

To see the other Pollock picts click here.

Copyright 2007 James D. Fisher
All rights reserved.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Light in the Storm

A little burst of light before the storm from Lake Erie starts barreling into town.

Camera: Canon G9 using the 16:9 Widescreen format.

Copyright 2007 James D. Fisher
All Rights Reserved.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Some Black 'n' Whites from a Gray Day

The sky turn neutral gray yesterday. So here are some black 'n' whites to check out.

A wooden door from Gates Mills, OH.

An old well from Bentleyville, OH.

A field in Hunting Valley, OH.

All images shot with a Canon G9 camera.

Copyright 2007 James D. Fisher
All Rights Reserved.

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