Random Sights and Diversions

Photography Media Reviews Commentary


What I’m Reading … Landmark: The Fields of Landscape Photography

If you like landscape photography as I do, this new book by William Ewing, Landmark: The Fields of Landscape Photography, should be a very rewarding and stimulating read. Ewing surveys the current state of landscape photography. More than 230 images are included by 100 photographers. Most of the images have been produced since 2000.

Ewing positions current landscape photography in ten theme areas: Sublime; Pastoral; Artefacts; Rupture; Playground; Scar; Control; Enigma; Hallucination; and Reverie. By and large, the photographers whose work Ewing presents are most interested in the lived-in landscape, the landscape as altered and inhabited by humans, and the images brilliantly portray the landscape as a subject for human reflection, imagination, play, recreation, inspiration, or – sadly – exploitation.

It is impossible to read this book and not see landscape photography as a vital and fertile area for many of the best contemporary photographers.




Ralph Nelson, Botanica [Update]

Ralph Nelson BotanicaI recently posted a review of the work of Ralph Nelson, who does fantastic work photographing with iPhones. Nelson published a terrific book, Botanica, featuring botanical iPhone images. I was very impressed. The review contained a few errors which I hope I’ve corrected. Botanica and Ralph Nelson’s work is still highly recommended! Click here for the updated post. 


What I’m Reading … Sebastião Salgado, Genesis

Sebastião Salgado, Genesis

Genesis, Sebastiao Salgado Sebastião Salgado’s photography is stunning and spellbinding, and his latest book, Genesis, is a masterpiece: A large-format collection of over 500 pages of spectacular black-and-white images shot by Salgado over a period of 8 years on 32 expeditions into some of the world’s most primitive and beautiful places. Sebastião Salgado is to be admired for his work as a humanitarian photographer of great sensitivity as well as for his mastery of the photographic medium. Salgado has described this evocative book as his “love letter to the planet.” I believe that is a very apt description. Looking at these amazing images certainly creates a great sense of pleasure and deep respect for our planet.

Sebastiao Salgado, Genesis, 520 pages. Published by Taschen, 2013.  Designed and edited by Lélia Wanick Salgado.

Genesis, Sebastiao Salgado

Salgado, born in Brazil and now living in Paris, ranks as one of the most significant living photographers today. Genesis, which I discovered recently at the Library, is his latest project to be published. The book is huge, a fantastic volume published by Taschen. In addition to the 500 pages of images, an insert includes extensive commentary on the subject and place of each photography.

Genesis, Sebastiao Salgado

(At Taschen here. At Amazon here.)

This is from Salgado’s website:

Genesis is a long-term photographic project, in line with the main bodies of work carried out previously by Sebastião Salgado; for example, the series of reportages presented in Workers or the series on the theme of the population movements around the world, that appeared in Migrations. This new project is about our planet earth, nature and its beauty, and what remains of it today despite the manifold destruction caused by human activity. Genesis is an attempt to portray the beauty and the majesty of regions that are still in a pristine condition, areas where landscapes and wildlife are still unspoiled, places where human communities continue to live according to their ancient culture and traditions.

And this from Taschen, the publisher of Genesis:

What does one discover in Genesis? The animal Genesis, Sebastiao Salgadospecies and volcanoes of the Galápagos; penguins, sea lions, cormorants, and whales of the Antarctic and South Atlantic; Brazilian alligators and jaguars; African lions, leopards, and elephants; the isolated Zo’é tribe deep in the Amazon jungle; the Stone Age Korowai people of West Papua; nomadic Dinka cattle farmers in Sudan; Nenet nomads and their reindeer herds in the Arctic Circle; Mentawai jungle communities on islands west of Sumatra; the icebergs of the Antarctic; the volcanoes of Central Africa and the Kamchatka Peninsula; Saharan deserts; the Negro and Juruá rivers in the Amazon; the ravines of the Grand Canyon; the glaciers of Alaska… and beyond. Having dedicated so much time, energy, and passion to the making of this work, Salgado likens Genesis to “my love letter to the planet.”

Genesis, Sebastiao Salgado

Recommended: New York Times, April 20, 2013, Interview by Dominique Browning.  And Slide show.  (Login may be required.)  And a fascinating TED Talk by Salgado.

Genesis, Sebastiao Salgado

Salgado’s photography represents styles very consistent with what I have been interested in: Deep and richly textured black-and-white, with sharp contrasts and powerful details, and deep focus (depth-of-field). (Salgado was still shooting with film when he began the expeditions depicted in Genesis; he changed to digital for the later images.) I’ve read reviews of Genesis that take issue with a few points about layout, specifically: (1) the fact that there are many full double-page images that span the binding; and (2) the inclusion of many spreads with a large number of single images on the page. But I think these are quibbles; it doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the work at all. One can spend, literally, days studying these images, both the powerfully moving content and Salgado’s exquisite photographic technique. A wealth of information about the images and Salgado’s expeditions is included in an insert booklet.


What I’m Reading … Ralph Nelson, Botanica: iPhone Photos

Ralph Nelson BotanicaI’m a sucker for collections of botanical and floral images. Botanica, by Ralph Nelson, caught my eye at the library, and I was completely blown away by it as soon as I picked up the book. These images would be outstanding on any measure, but they’re all the more remarkable by virtue of all having been done with an iPhone!

In Botanica, Nelson does not discuss technique beyond saying all images were shot with iPhones 3GS, 4, and 4S. But Botanica was a (successfully funded) Kickstarter project (Kickstarter page here); on his Kickstarter page, Nelson says that not only were all images shot with iPhones, no cropping was done and no apps were used, with no editing beyond basic traditional photo techniques. That’s unbelievable! These images are awesome. The detail is amazing, the rich textures and colors are vibrant. Without any cropping, I’d say Nelson’s mastery of photographic composition is spectacular.

Here is a selection of more botanical images shot with the iPhone. [Update: Ralph Nelson has asked me to clarify that the images featured here, which are to be found at his website, do not actually appear in the book, having been shot after the book was published. Still, both the images in the book and those shot later and featured at Nelson’s website are all great!]

Ralph Nelson, Botanica

Copyright Ralph Nelson.

It is difficult to do justice to this collection in a few images. At Nelson’s website, you can see galleries of his botanical and other images, and also download and view PDF galleries of selected images.  (Also included among the iPhone work are abstracts, ocean and beach images, and other images.) Nelson is also a prolific photographer, and his site includes a great portfolio of sensitively and perceptively done portraits of celebrities.

Ralph Nelson, Botanica

Copyright Ralph Nelson.

Nelson is now retired from his career in film cinematography, and his work and career has been highly lauded and recognized with many awards. These photographs pay tribute to his talent and experience.

Ralph Nelson, Botanica

Copyright Ralph Nelson.

Botanica: iPhone Photos, by Ralph Nelson. 162 pages, 78 images. Go here to buy Botanica from Amazon. Go here to buy direct from Nelson. Go here to Ralph Nelson’s website.



What I’m Reading… Robert Llewellyn, Seeing Flowers

Seeing Flowers: Discover the Hidden Life of Flowers, Photography, by Robert Llewellyn, Written by Teri Dunn Chace.

Robert Llewellyn Seeing FlowersRobert Llewellyn’s macro photography of flowers for this book is simply astonishing. I have never seen anything quite like it. Seeing Flowers features over three hundred extraordinary photographs of flowers, organized by family, from the Amaryllis family through the Viola family. Each chapter – family – includes text by Teri Dunn Chace discussing botanical and horticultural details – And though in depth and thorough, the scientific discussion is never dry but readable and fascinating.

Click Here → A portfolio of Llewellyn’s images from Seeing Flowers.

For me, though, the images are the heart of the book. Although the book does not include technical information for the photographs, Llewellyn’s website is very informative (http://www.robertllewellyn.com),  Llewellyn produces these macro images using “image stacking” – shooting many images at different points of focus of then stitching into a single image. Llewellyn developed his techniques himself – He shoots as many as 100 images for a single photograph, each image focusing on planes separated by perhaps only a centimeter. Llewellyn’s camera is attached to a computer-controlled motor-driven mount on a vertical axis above his subject.

Until I found Seeing Flowers, I was not aware of Robert Llewellyn, but his website provides lots of wonderful photography and information worth spending a good deal of time. Besides including lots of his macro and other photography, Llewellyn’s website is one of the best designed photography sites I have seen recently. Llewellyn has published his work extensively – Books are listed on his website as well as Amazon’s Llewellyn page. Another recent book featuring Llewellyn’s photography using the same macro technique is Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees.

Robert Llewellyn’s website: http://www.robertllewellyn.com

Seeing Flowers at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Seeing-Flowers-Discover-Hidden-Life/dp/160469422X

Seeing Trees at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Seeing-Trees-Discover-Extraordinary-Everyday/dp/1604692197/

More about focus stacking: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Focus_stacking and http://www.dpreview.com/articles/5717972844/focus-stacking-in-macro-photography


What I’m Reading … Creative Black & White

Creative Black & White: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques, by Harold Davis, another in the “What I’m Reading” series of postsCreative Black & WhiteI’ve enjoyed the work of Harold Davis (See my earlier review of Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds). Since I’ve been doing more and more black-and-white work, I thought I would check out his book on that. I’ve certainly not been disappointed.

Creative Black & White is a great book for all from beginners to experienced enthusiasts, students and semi-pro photographers. The book is divided in three parts. The first part discusses black and white photography and vision in general. Included are such topics as how to look for good black and white images, what makes a subject good for black and white processing, and composition in black and white. It’s in an easy conversational style but packed with information and tips and prolifically illustrated.

Part 2 approaches the techniques of post processing black and white. This is thorough and informative. Although there is substantive material on processing with Lightroom, Nik tools, and ACR (Adobe Camera Raw), the majority of this is best suited to work with Photoshop (or Photoshop Elements). All the techniques are described in an illustrated step-by-step manner. Part 3 is all about approaches and methods to achieve creative effects. The sections on technique are notable: It’s not just technique but also a discussion of when a particular approach is appropriate, and it continually relates back to the first section on vision.

Creative Black and White: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques. Highly recommended. I’m learning a lot from this book.

A prolific author, Harold Davis has published over a dozen books on photography since 2008. I find it very easy to get to like his writing style. Equally adept with both color and black and white, Davis is one of today’s leading photographers. Here is Harold Davis’s website.

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