Digital Photography Outdoors Book Review

digitalphotographyoutdoorsThe full title of this book is Digital Photography Outdoors: A field guide for travel and adventure photographers, Second Edition. Whew, that’s a long title. You can find it at The Mountaineers Books, and Amazon. I didn’t get it from either place, I found it at the Minneapolis public library. You should be able to request to reserve this book to a local library if you live in Minneapolis. (Ok, this has nothing to do with the review, but I hate the library’s site/search system. To be fair, they are trying to merge a few systems and county libraries, but Argg!)

James Martin has one of the better more recent titles at the library. I found this to be a good book, and worth the trip to the library.

James has a pretty good writing style that didn’t bog me down. He uses his own pictures which are quite good. They are used effectively as examples to back up his text. I don’t think I would call it a field guide. I think you could drop the second part of the title. It is about using digital though. He mentions differences from film to digital threw out the book, but you wouldn’t need to know film photography to understand what he is saying. The second edition of the book was published in 2007 and is relatively up to date. File sizes have exploded since the book was published, but it doesn’t sound dated yet, and he mentions thinks like using a Lensbaby and using Lightroom.

I liked the first section the best probably. It is about composition, light, and color. He does a good job of explaining with text and images how to place yourself (or subjects) to get better angles and light. He discusses different times of day and the effect on light, and how to effectively add fill flash.

I figured Chapter 2 on equipment would be a take it or leave it chapter where he would just say use this and this. Not so. James presents how you can effectively use different equipment to take different pictures. Sure, there are some recomendations, but for example, he presents the differences between wide and telephoto lenses and tells you to go out and experiment.

Chapter 3 is more of a “how digital is different” chapter. It talks about how sensors react to light, exposure compensation, white balance, ¬†and even how to clean them.

Chapters 4/5/6 I was not expecting. Guess I didn’t read the table of contents. There were mostly about handling and processing your digital files. There are large book’s on subsections of this topic, but his ideas and tips were specific¬†mostly to landscape photographs. The instructions were pretty good, but a bit brief. With no experience in photoshop, you might get lost. There was some good stuff in here though. I thought the auto align layers came in with CS4, but I found how to do it in CS3 which he used, so that was good to know!

Overall, I give it a thumbs up to take out from the library. To purchase, I give it a maybe. It is not very advanced but if you want a beginning/intermediate book that covers everything in one smallish book, then this is probably worth the dineros. I liked it.

What am I Reading?

I got it a couple of weeks ago now. I have been working my way through “The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos” (Amazon) There are many things about composition that I just didn’t think about before. This is a great wealth of information. Not a gripping thriller, but tons of information.

Digital Photography Outdoors by James Martin. (Amazon) I found this in the library, and it is pretty good. There are lots of good landscape pictures in here that illustrate the concepts he is presenting. I haven’t got to it yet, but there is a section on “workflow” that presents some photoshop techniques for landscape shooters. It reads well.

The Hot Shoe Diaries by Joe McNally. (Amazon) I finally got my copy from Amazon. Too many books, too little time. I have just flipped through it, reading a couple of pages, but it is clasic Joe. Very funny, a little rambling, telling it like it is with no pretense and a handful of photog words that send me scrambling to Google.

Do I read the books, take pictures, or edit my recent pictures? Oh right, none of the three. Back to making a paycheck…

The Art of Outdoor Photography

The Art of PhotographyI just finished reading The Art of Outdoor Photography (Amazon). I took it out from the library. Twice. Extended my three week time each time too. Not the most riveting of authors. I had a hard time getting into it.

Boyd spends a lot of time in each of the chapters discussing film, film choice, and whether to shoot at 25, 50, or 75 ISO. My camera doesn’t take film, and only starts at 200 ISO. Does the fact that the book doesn’t deal with digital mean it has nothing to offer? No, but it feels dated. The revised edition is from 2002.

The concepts and techniques of outdoor photography and how to compose and visualize are not different on film or digital. He does have some good things to say about “seeing”, and light in the first chapters. There is a great chapter with picture examples of how perspective changes with the use of different lenses. He also has chapters on composition and using shutter speed creatively. This takes us up to about page 70. I feel this was the better part of the content.

The rest of the chapters are short sections on film types, and different outdoor shooting situations, like landscapes, close ups, underwater, and travel. It doesn’t feel like the individual chapters get to give enough attention to their subject matter.

He has some great pictures every once in a while, but most of the images are not very inspiring. I guess that on a whole, I would recomend looking for the book in your library if you want to give it a read.

Books on Order

Joe McNally has finished his book “The Hot Shoe Diaries, Big Light From Small Flashes.” He has quite a post up about it. It is supposed to be out March 16. I just pre ordered it on Amazon. There is a PDF here with exerpts from the book. This is classic Joe, just like The Moment it Clicks. As with that book it looks like he has short little descriptions/stories about the shot. This one looks like he might get into more detail about how he set up the lights.

I also just pre ordered “Within The Frame” on Amazon. This book is by David duChemin. I am looking forward to this one. I would love to read more in a book format about his thoughts on vision and photography.

Get this, no sooner do I decide to pre order the books, he runs a contest to give one away. What cha gona do? Well, maybe I will win and can read one with each eye.

Another Book!

David DuChemin now has a book on pre-order at Amazon. It is going to be called “Within the Frame, A Journey in Photographic Vision”. I am starting to get a list of books I want to read going, and this will definitely go on that list. In his post about the book, he mentions that he still doesn’t have the pictures. This is interesting to me for a couple of reasons. One, I would be scared to have a book promised with no pictures. But that is one of the things that sets the amateurs apart from the pros, they can produce great pictures on demand. The second is that he appears to have the writing for the book mostly solidified. This isn’t a “picture book”, or a “how to get this shot” book. This should be a window into Davids vision.

I have been following his blog for a while now, and have tried to understand what it means to have a vision for what you want to convey in a picture, and how he does this. I still feel like I come up short in understanding this, especially when I try to reflect on what I want to say with my pictures. I hope this book will help sort more of that out. My only wish is that it was available now, instead of the spring.

Get your new McNally

Hot Shoe Diaries by Joe McNally

I have a copy of Joe McNally’s “The Moment it Clicks” sitting by my bed. I read a couple of pages most days. Now that I have a SB800, it has me even more psyched. The really good news is that there is a new book coming. “The Hot Shoe Diaries” is in pre-order right now at Amazon, but it is supposed to ship before Christmas. This should be on anyone’s list that has a flash. I came across this announcement recently at pixSylated. I had heard of this book coming (on Joe’s blog) but not that it was in pre-order. One other interesting thing that I found on pixSylated is this post on pimping your McNally. He takes Joe’s book and puts a spiral binding on it. What makes this idea really interesting is that I have the coils, the punch and the laminating machine to do this at home, from the cookbooks Annie used to do. I hate to “wreck” my books, but I might need to try this.

Understanding Exposure

I have just finished reading Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. It was a pretty good book. Nothing earth shattering in it. There are some good tips on how to set aperture and shutter speed for different shooting conditions. It was definately written in the era of film, when DSLR’s were not really an option. He pushes using manual mode, and setting both aperture and shutter speed your self. Nothing wrong with that, but it seems like the built in light meters are better now. My D40, and now D90 do a good job in most situations. I prefer to shoot in aperture priority, or shutter priority and have the camera set the other. With digital I can then chimp the screen, and then adjust the exposure override. That just makes sense to me. I suppose that going the manual route would push understanding of exactly what is happening light wise. Maybe.

Anyway, I would recomend this to a beginner especially, and as a good “oh yea, I forgot that” type of read for those that are a little more advanced. It is not very expensive. I picked up mine with a Borders coupon a few days ago.

Trying to learn photoshop

I have been spending some time trying to learn photoshop. Some of my photos seem like they are pretty good, but just seem to be missing that little something. That is what I am trying to learn how to do. Also, I learned with the whole Gavin thing, that I am definitely in need of portrait retouching skills.

With that in mind, there have been a few things that I have been doing. I have been reading Scott Kelby’s Photoshop CS3 for Digital Photographers book. I skipped over much of the beginning on using Bridge and stuff, and went right for the good stuff. The back of the book has a whole section on portraits too. I have read a lot of good info, but have never sat down in front of the computer and tried anything. Now at least I have an idea what can be done. Next I need to find time to try some stuff.

I have also started working through another of Scott’s books, 7 Point System for Adobe Photoshop. This book, I am actually sitting in front of the computer and following through the chapters. That really is the only way you could get anything out of this book. I really like it, but I have a lot more chapters to get through still. I like how he takes you one image at a time through the system, over and over. I really need to be hit over the head sometimes before I learn/understand some of these retouching ideas. I was starting to “get it”, but the last time I picked up the book was a week and a half ago. I need to sit down with it again.

I also started to watch the pod cast at Photoshop User TV. I found that you can access the video’s a little easier though iTunes. Anyway, I tried to keep up with one of the tutorials that Cory Barker was doing (from episode 149), which was more of an effect than a photo retouch, and found out just how little I knew, and how fast they can move in those tutorials. I could use two monitors. I was also pressing that pause button every couple of seconds. Even following along I got stuck, but found the forums at Planet Photoshop, (Cory’s site) to be a lifesaver.

The more I get into photography, the more I realize just how much I need to learn.

Buy this book. (The Digital Photography Book)

Judging by how many of these have been sold, there is no shortage of “The Digital Photography Book, Volume 1” if you want to borrow from someone. Scott Kelby wrote this book, and just found out it is the best selling digital photography book ever.

I have this too. In fact it was the second book I bought after some D40 manual. It is a great book. His writing style is great. He is funny, and presents topics in a conversational way that is interesting to read. There is lots of good info in here for beginners, and intermediate photographers that want to get the most out of their cameras.

It is cheap, about $16. Just go buy it.


There are now three of these books. They are really quite useful. He covers a lot of ground across the three books. In the first there is a lot of “this is what lens, and settings I use of this type of shooting”, which is quite useful to beginners. In the other books he delves into lighting and portraits a lot more.

Probably the best thing about the books is the “recipes” section at the back of each book. In one or two pages he posts a picture, then describes the lens, the settings, and how to get the “look” he was going for in each shot. Very helpful.

The Art of Children’s Portrait Photography

childrensportraitphotographyJust finished reading the book The Art of Children’s Portrait Photography (amazon) by Tamara Lackey. I really liked this book, but the title doesn’t completely reflect the content of this book.

All the pictures in this book are of children, and the content is definitely geared towards photographers that take pictures of children, but this book sits squarely in the middle of a creative book, a how to book, and a business book. I am not really sure how you can sit in the middle of three different things, but it does.

Keep in mind that my overall impression of the book is very positive, but I may be just the right target audience. If you are already taking portraits, and have some understanding of you camera and lighting, but want some more specific advice on taking contemporary pictures of children and how you could structure your new business and handle workflow, then this book is for you.

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