Random Sights and Diversions

Photography Media Reviews Commentary


Guy Tal: “More Than a Rock”

Castle Gates. Guy Tal. Copyright Guy Tal.

Castle Gates. Guy Tal. Copyright Guy Tal.

Guy Tal (website here) is a wonderful landscape photographer with a thoughtful and deeply felt sense of his philosophy and mission as a maker of landscape images. In the current issue of Lens Work (online here, subscription required), I came across an article by Guy Tal with images from his latest book, “More Than a Rock.” Inspired by Edward Weston’s comment about the photographer’s aim “to photograph a rock, have it look like a rock, but have it be more than a rock” (a sentiment I agree wholeheartedly with), Tal’s book features a great collection of essays about the land and photographing landscapes. The book also includes many excellent images. “More Than a Rock can be obtained from Guy Tal’s website (books page, here), available in both iBook and more general PDF formats. The price is remarkably low for such a quality work.  I think I had come across Mr. Tal’s work earlier, but only now had the More Than a Rockoccasion to delve into his website and to download his new book. In addition to large portfolios of images, very well reproduced online, Tal’s website includes a blog with regular commentary and reflections on photography, nature, the land, and life. Website and book are strongly recommended.


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.


New from Craft & Vision

Craft-and-Vision-15I have previously reviewed and recommended e-books from  Craft & Vision – The group founded by world photographer David duChemin and the source of some of the best photography e-books and resources.

(Click here to visit Craft And Vision)

David and Craft & Vision have recently brought out some great new offerings that I want to recommend.

FREE! Craft & Vision 2: More Great Ways to Make Stronger Photographs.

Craft & Vision 2: More Great Ways to Make Stronger Photographs . Edited and with an Introduction by David duChemin. This e-book is a follow-up to Craft & Vision 1, and includes nine essays by leading Craft & Vision photographers with instruction and tips on myriad topics that will make anyone a better photographer. Craft & Vision 2 is FREE.

Craft-and-Vision-16Craft-and-Vision-19Just a few examples: Martin Bailey writes on how (and when) to shoot in manual mode. Sean McCormack writes about balancing flash with ambient light. David duChemin writes about shooting for black and white. David Delnea talks about how to develop a consistent personal style. If you use Lightroom (even if you don’t, maybe!), you’ll find Piet Van den Eynde’s “Shoot More Develop Less: Confessions of a Digital Photographer” most interesting and helpful. And other terrific Craft-and-Vision-18articles, all prodigiously illustrated with fantastic and stimulating photography and illustrations. This is essential knowledge for all photographers, presented in an informative, entertaining and enjoyable manner, by some of the best professional photographers in the business.

Craft & Vision 2: More Great Ways to Make Stronger Photographs is totally free, an e-book you can download in PDF format. 49 pages. Click here to view more details.

Photograph: A Quarterly Magazine for Creative Photographers. Issue 3.

Craft-and-Vision-12Craft & Vision started publishing a quarterly magazine, Photograph, last year, and they have just released Issue 3. Among the highlights of Issue 3 are featured portfolios. Issue 3 includes the black and white work of Hengki Koentjoro; Dave Delnea’s photography from Tunisia; and the food photography of Kevin Clark. Each portfolio is accompanied by an insightful interview with the photography. Other articles in Issue 3 include a discussion of creative composition, using reflectors, how and why to use the histogram, gear reviews, and David duChemin’s featured article on shooting in Kenya. Highly recommended. Formatted for the iPad. This is one of the best iPad photo magazines I’ve seen – At the same time entertaining and really useful. 113 pages. Subscribe and get 4 issues for the price of 3, just $24.


I think the Craft & Vision publications are just perfect – Not too long, but really substantial and packed with information – concrete advice, helpful tips and suggestions. Cleanly presented, readable, with great photography, and no advertising (other than for other Craft & Vision titles, and even that is very discrete.) Expert photographers I can learn from.


I like David duChemin’s philosophy which permeates the Craft & Vision series: Craft-and-Vision-11How to cultivate the craft of photography, and how to develop a personal vision and have it show up in the photographs one takes. Gear is good but gear isn’t everything. Even the fanciest and most expensive cameras won’t help us make interesting, stimulating, photographs without our trying to realize and express a vision. More than anything else, photography is about how we see and our passion for creating images that express what we see. David duChemin’s Craft & Vision helps you do that.

The Craft & Vision library has over 45 titles, all of them downloadable PDFs, and most no more than $5 each. Be sure to check out the money-saving Buy Now bundles available from Craft & Vision.



Extraordinary Vision

If you like outdoor photography, and you have an iPad, you must get the new iPad magazine, Extraordinary Vision. Extraordinary Vision

Extraordinary Vision describes itself as the first fully interactive outdoor photography magazine on the iPad. It’s also free (the app will make you subscribe after your first issue but the subscription is free). Extraordinary Vision focuses on photographic vision. There is a how-to element, but the magazine does not do reviews of gear or highly technical explanation. For the most part, it is “diversely talented photographers [who] openly share their insights and inspiration into what makes their images so powerful and evocative.” [From the editor’s introduction.]

Extraordinary VisionExtraordinary Vision consists mostly of articles written by professional outdoor and nature photographers, including a small “in-house” crew, as well as articles from  contributors (which are actively solicited). The articles are well-written and the photography is fantastic.

True to it’s self-description, Extraordinary Vision is very interactive. Many articles include accompanying videos. A feature I especially like is that each article includes, besides the mandatory facebook and twitter links, links to the author’s website, to books and workshops the author has done, and in some cases a direct Extraordinary Visionemail to the author. The website links are handled by an in-app browser.

Many authors seem to have published books, e-books, and iPad apps, and Extraordinary Vision promotes those and includes links. Other than that, there is no advertising. This magazine is truly a labor of love, and it comes across, as the attention to detail, to high quality content and appearance, is evident.

Some of the interesting articles in the first three issues of the magazine have included an article on lighting (specifically looking at ten distinct kinds of Extraordinary Visionlighting and how to shoot for each), and article on composing pictures around water, an article on how to build a photography business, a wonderful article on shooting with long exposures.

You can’t beat the price – Free. Extraordinary Vision is a terrific almost one-of-a-kind addition to the range of photography magazine for the iPad.

(iPad link here.)

Extraordinary Vision


From Craft & Vision: Dodge & Burn

In Dodge and Burn: Leading the Eye with Lightroom and Photoshop, the new book from Craft & Vision, Piet Van Den Eynde will tell you at the start that you need Lightroom and/or Photoshop to use the book. I’d reverse that: If you use Lightroom or Photoshop (or Camera Raw or Nik) then you need this book. It’s an exceptional book, almost a full-blown course in post-processing. (Click here to visit Craft And Vision.)

“Dodging” and “burning” are terms that come from film processing. With film, most post-processing was done at the printing stage. Dodging was the process (an art and craft,really) of waving hands, a tool, or a template between the enlarger lamp and the photosensitive print paper in order to render a part of the emerging print lighter than the rest. Burning was the converse: Shield all but a certain area from the enlarger beam so that the exposed area would be darker than the rest. We can dodge and burn today, but with digital precision using tools such as Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw, Photoshop, and Nik.

Van Den Eynde’s e-book is fabulous. Beginners and veterans will learn a lot from this book. In a new approach for Craft & Vision, the book is actually offered as part of a package. And it comes in two versions. The “Lite” (for $5.00) includes the book and a free panel that can be installed in Photoshop. (Click here to view more details) The “Full” version ($10.00, BUT use the code DODGE8 and get 20% off until 11:59pm (PST) JULY 22, 2012) includes the book, a more complete Photoshop panel, a collection of photoshop actions, and ten practice photographs correlated with the lessons in the book. (Click here to view more details.)

Lest you think this book is only for photoshop afficianados, let me assure you that’s not the case! I feared it might be. But I found that Photoshop isn’t mentioned until page 76 of the 90-page PDF e-book. Up until that point, it’s all done with Lightroom (or Adobe Camera Raw). Beginning on page 65, Van Den Eynde introduces us to using plugins from Nik: Viveza, Color Efex Pro, and Silver Efex Pro. (I use the Nik tools extensively. They can be used as stand-alones, but do work better as plugins into Lightroom or Photoshop. Van Den Eynde provides you with discount codes to download the Nik tools. The Nik technology is also in Nikon Capture, Nikon’s raw processing program.) Van Den Eynde even goes into the use of Snapseed, which is a Nik program for iOS – iPad or iPhone – as well as desktop. As I said, I use the Nik tools extensively, and I learned a lot from this book.

Throughout the book, there are suggestions and tips for the post-processing workflow. Every page is jampacked; I’m actually amazed at the book design in terms of how much useful information they can get onto each page. This book well help you produce much better images (and have fun doing it).

I think your images will improve even aside from what you do in post. This book will also improve your composition, help you think in terms of images that “draw the eye” to focus on the things you want the viewer to focus on.

A few considerations: The book is most useful to you if you shoot raw. You probably do need Lightroom and/or Photoshop. You need Lightroom 4 and Photoshop either CS5 or CS6.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Dodge and Burn: Leading the Eye with Lightroom and Photoshop. PDF e-book. 90 pages. Remember that there are two versions: Lite, with the book and the free photoshop panel. And Full, with the book, enhanced photoshop panel, photoshop actions, and the practice images. At the prices offered, it’s a steal; I’ve seen comparable packages selling for 29.95 and more. It’s $5 for the Lite version (Click here to view more details), $10 for the Full version (Click here to view more details). But use the code DODGE8 with the Full version, by 11:59pm (PST) JULY 22, 2012, and get %20 off.

Everybody will learn from this book. And the book exhibits the usual polish and professionalism of all the Craft & Vision titles. Highly recommended! Click here to visit Craft And Vision.


What I’m Reading … Heather Angel

Heather Angel is a British photographer and one of the world’s leading wildlife and nature photographers. I’m rereading two long-out-of-print books by Heather Angel that have been in my library: The Book of Close-Up Photography, and The Book of Nature Photography (though the Close-Up Photography book is still available from Amazon). I cannot recommend Heather Angel’s work highly enough. Angel is a great writer and teacher as well as an outstanding nature photographer who has traveled the world.

In recent years Angel has been concentrating on shooting the flora, fauna, and landscapes of China. Angel’s Amazon book listing runs five full pages, but here are two recent recommended books: Her latest, Digital Outdoor Photography: 101 Top Tips; and the most recent work on China, Green China.

What I’m Reading … is an abbreviated review – or just a mention – of  book(s) that I’m reading and feel worthy of a mention and recommendation.

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