Tag Archives: book review

eBook Review: Portrait Tips and Techniques

Portraits… a very broad topic with deep technical and artistic aspects. A portrait photographer must have control and understanding of the subject, surroundings, light, and camera in order to create images with impact. This is generally the case in any type of photography, but portraits demand a higher level of control.

Educating yourself on the subject of portraiture can be difficult because of the inherent technical material. But with the right teacher or author, this material can be absorbed with minimal pain to the brain.

Volume 1 of Wayne Radford’s Portrait Tips and Techniques is a book that covers the many aspects of black & white natural light portraiture (and the material applies to color portraits as well). The lessons and teachings are somewhat technical, but the material is presented in a “down to Earth” fashion that anybody can understand. You can download an 8 page sample of the eBook here [PDF].

Check the end of this review for your chance at a free copy of the full version!

[tweetmeme]You can purchase Volume 1 of Portrait Tips and Techniques from Wayne Radford’s website. Links in this post are affiliate links to the product.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Portrait Tips and Techniques, Volume 1 is a 126 page downloadable eBook containing 4 main chapters encompassing 10 distinct lessons. The end of the book also contains a selection of sample work from the author and a couple of clean and concise guides to facial analysis and lighting. And the supporting graphics… this book has over 90 great sample shots, diagrams, and charts. Click on the images below for a larger view.

The book starts off with an introduction from the author in addition to some extra background material on his journey as a portrait photographer. Then we jump into “Facial Recognition”, or posing techniques for your subjects. The next main section is “Lighting Techniques”, all of which are in the realm of natural light. The last two chapters cover “Exposure” and “Composition” as they relate specifically to portraits. The book wraps up with a sample gallery of work from Wayne Radford and two single-page charts for lighting and posing (very handy).

Throughout the book, sample images and illustrations are used to convey the lessons found in the text. Wayne also deconstructs his photos to convey a particular technique and show how it was used to create that photo. All in all, this is a very visual guide.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wayne Radford is an Australian professional portrait photographer specialising in Black & White, and he’s been doing it for over 25 years. While he’s done his fair share of weddings, in 2000 Wayne switched over exclusively to children’s environmental portraiture.

Throughout his career he has received numerous State and National awards for his unique style of photography including the Australian Professional Photography Awards category; “1996 Wedding Photographer of the Year” at both National and State judging. In addition he also received the classification of “Master of Photography”. On two occasions he has won the “Highest Scoring Black & White Print” at these awards.

You can see some of Wayne’s work on his Radford Photography website and on Flickr. For his non-portrait work, also check out his Radford Editions website.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

This is a wonderful, educational, and inspirational book on the topic of portrait photography. I love the fact that it focuses on natural light techniques and uses black & white images for illustration. It’s direct, focused, and it cuts out the extra fluff and off-topic discussion.

This would be a great book for two types of photographers: those wanting to learn portraits from the ground up, and those wanting to add more to their existing knowledge of portraiture. Either way, this book will certainly step up your game.

You can purchase Volume 1 of Portrait Tips and Techniques for $19.95 until December 20, at which point it will return to the regular price of $24.95. (the image says Dec 12, but the end date is really Dec 20)

WANT A FREE COPY?

[UPDATE 11/22/2010] The winners have been chosen. You can see the results here.

Of course you do! I’ve got 3 copies of the eBook to hand out and we’ll run this as a simple raffle in the comments below. Here are the rules:

  • One entry per person.
  • Leave a comment with the word “freebook” in there somewhere.
  • Do it on or before 11/19/2010.

After the deadline, I’ll pull 3 random numbers and see if the corresponding comments have the word “freebook” in them. If not, I’ll pull additional numbers until 3 winners have been chosen.

eBook Review: 100% Reliable Flash Photography

[tweetmeme]Here’s another great eBook from author/photographer Edward Verosky (also the author of 10 Ways to Improve Your Boudoir Photography Now). This time around, it’s all about the black magic of flash photography… something that a few of us could use some help with (certainly myself included).

This eBook covers the topic of flash photography and artificial lighting from both a technical and practical standpoint — simple setups with outstanding and reliable results. It dives into all the technical aspects of flash photography, but then pulls back to reality with examples of easy to understand setups for almost any situation. This book is a great resource and tool for anybody wanting to learn more about artificial lighting.

“100% Reliable Flash Photography” can be purchased through Edward Verosky’s website for $9.95. (affiliate links)

ABOUT THE BOOK

100% Reliable Flash Photography is a 75 page downloadable PDF eBook available for instant download. The book contains a large amount of content coupled with sample photos and lighting diagrams.

After a short introduction, we start with a good deal of terminology and definition (this lighting stuff has a language of its own). Then we go through some of the theory of working with light — how it behaves and how we can control its effect on a subject. A lesson in camera control follows, with a focus on technical skills needed when working with artificial light.

The following chapter gets into the main concept of this book: standardization. This applies to your gear, settings, and the way you work. The goal here is to give you a method for dealing with the technical side of things so you can focus on the artistic side. Another big chapter covers working with manual settings, both in-camera and on-flash. It’s really not so scary, and it turns out that manual settings are easier to use than auto or semi-auto settings when working with flash photography.

The entire last chunk of the book looks at specific settings and setups for both indoor and outdoor shooting. We’re talking bounce, ambient, single/multiple light sources, and more. The very end is a little bonus section that talks about some of the photos and models used in the book (of course, with more awesome sample shots).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Edward Verosky is a creative boudoir, portrait, and editorial photographer working out of Austin, Texas. His distinctive photography is emotionally engaging, and often stylistically cinematic. Ed has many years of experience making women look beautiful in pictures.

Ed comes off as being extremely professional and knowledgeable based on the writing in the eBook and on his blog.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

This book is highly recommended for anybody wanting to learn flash photography. It does require a basic understanding of photography and camera control, but I would assume that most people getting serious about flash are covered in this area. There’s quite a bit of technical stuff in this book, but that’s the nature of artificial lighting. Though it may be overwhelming at first, a little study and practice can clear up any anxieties.

For the people who already know external/artificial lighting, I’m sure there are a few points in there worth checking out. In addition to covering the basics, the book gets into simplifying the process and becoming more productive with limited time and equipment. In general, it’s a great resource to have on-hand if you’re into the lighting stuff.

“100% Reliable Flash Photography” can be purchased through Edward Verosky’s website for $9.95.

eBook Review: The Magic of Black & White, Part Two – Craft

[tweetmeme]I recently reviewed The Magic of Black & White, Part One – Vision and now we have part two – craft. A clever set of titles if you ask me… mainly because the books are published by Craft & Vision.

I gave high marks to the first book, and this one is right up there too. Author and photographer Andrew Gibson continues his discussion of black and white photography by covering some of the technical aspects and how they relate to the inspirational side of things.

Like the first book, the text is concise and the images are both useful and beautiful. All together, it’s an easy read that also contains good reference material.

“The Magic of Black & White, Part Two – Craft” can be purchased through Craft & Vision for only $5. The links in this post are affiliate links.

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Magic of Black & White, Part Two – Craft is a 51 page downloadable PDF eBook. The book is a single page landscape format (to make it easier to view for the folks with iPads and such). Throughout the book, you’re presented with a mix of philosophical and technical advice along with sample photos from Andrew’s fine collection of work. This book uses software tools found in Photoshop CS3 (or newer) and Photoshop Elements 6 (or newer).

The book starts off a little slow in that it doesn’t jump right into the technical stuff. Andrew lays out some groundwork by explaining his experience and philosophy. After a few pages of this, he jumps into the main course with technical stuff from the digital darkroom.

Here, Andrew goes through techniques for black & white conversion and toning. Three example studies bring us to the conclusion of the book, and they contain other useful editing tips such as masking, burning, the addition of texture, and more.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Gibson is a writer and photographer based in the south of England. He works for one of the UK’s leading photography magazines and also freelances. He loves to travel and one region he’s been drawn back to time and time again is South America, in particular Argentina and the Andean regions of Bolivia and Peru. He works in a ‘fine art documentary’ style and presents most of his work in black and white.

You can find Andrew’s work at his main website or at his blog. He’s also a regular contributor at Phototuts+, Smashing Magazine, and the Fine Art Photoblog. On top of all that, he’s an employee of EOS Magazine.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

Definitely a book worth reading for the beginner/intermediate black and white enthusiasts, especially for the low price of $5. The technical skills presented are not terribly difficult to learn, and Andrew presents them in a way that’s easy to digest. Even the more advanced photographers might pick up a thing or two since some of the techniques presented were developed by Andrew himself.

Part two (craft) is a great follow-up to part one (vision), and I would certainly suggest getting this one if you liked the first. And if you didn’t get the first book, you might consider getting both because (in Andrew’s words) “craft without vision is just an exercise in pushing buttons”.

“The Magic of Black & White, Part Two – Craft” can be purchased through Craft & Vision for only $5.

LIMITED TIME OFFER: Use the promotional code MAGIC4 at checkout to get the book for $4 or use the code MAGIC20 to get 20% off when you buy 5 or more books from the Craft & Vision collection. These codes expire at 11:59pm PST June 1, 2010.

Book Review: The Contact Sheet

[tweetmeme]If you don’t know by now, or if you’re new around here, I’m a HUGE fan of good photo books. I love looking at great photos and I can appreciate the effort that goes into making a book full of them.

I’m also into film photography and I like seeing photo books that exhibit some old-school stuff. And with any photo book, it’s unusual to see additional photos that weren’t selected for display or publication — so this book is pretty special since it breaks that boundary.

AMMO Books contacted me about a 2nd edition printing of a pretty awesome book, and I couldn’t pass it up! Contact sheets from famous photographers, full-page selections, and photographer backgrounds… this has greatness written all over it.

The Contact Sheet (ISBN 978-0978607692) can be purchased directly from AMMO Books or through Amazon.com. The Amazon links in this post are affiliate links.

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Contact Sheet is a hardcover book containing 192 pages of photographer bios, contact sheets, and photos from 44 well known photographers. The book is of average size measuring in at 10.4×8.4 inches and around 1 inch thick. Each photographer is given a minimum of a background/bio, a contact sheet, and a final selection from that contact sheet (some are given a bit more than this). In addition, the written portions are published in English, French, German, and Spanish.

The thing that hits you about this book is that there are some really iconic photos (and photographers) contained within. Some of my favorite and other well-known photographers appear, such as Elliott Erwitt, Jerry Uelsmann, Dorothea Lange, Pete Turner, Anton Corbijn, William Wegman, and many others.

As I mentioned, some of the photos are recognizable icons — photos of people such as Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Allen Gainsberg, August Sander, Marilyn Monroe, Aretha Franklin, Richard Nixon, “Migrant Mother”, Jim Morrison, and… need I go on? You’ve probably seen a good handful of these legendary photos somewhere in your travels.

Aside from all the icons and legends, the REALLY neat thing about this book is the fact that you get to see the whole contact sheet that the image came from. So you get to see all the different poses, takes, and trials that went into it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Crist is the publisher of AMMO Books and has also personally edited and created outstanding titles such as GONZO, The Curse of Lono, Marilyn, Jazz Life, Steve McQueen, and The Polaroid Book.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

The Contact Sheet is a very worthwhile book for art and photography enthusiasts. After reading the photographer bios and viewing the contact sheets, you’ll view the selected photos in a whole different light. On one hand, you see that it took more than one shot to get the final photo and not every shot on the roll was a “keeper”. On the other hand, you gain a deeper respect for the selected photo when you see just how special it is.

The Contact Sheet (ISBN 978-0978607692) can be purchased directly from Ammo Books or through Amazon.com. The Amazon links in this post are affiliate links.

WANT A FREE COPY? WE HAVE TWO!

[UPDATE 5/7/10] The contest deadline is over. I’ll pick out the winners soon and post an update to the blog. Thanks to all the folks who entered!

[UPDATE 5/10/10] The winners have been announced.

This is going to be a quick one, so pay attention. You have two ways to enter for a free book, and you can enter both ways to increase your chances.

  1. [tweetmeme]DO THE RETWEET
    Just post this little gem to your Twitter status: “RT @epicedits Book Review: The Contact Sheet http://bit.ly/bcCTFj” or hit the green “retweet” button on this post. (one entry per person)
  2. COMMENT ON MY FILM BLOG
    Since the book is all about film photos and contact sheets, head over to my film photography blog and leave a (thoughtful) comment on any of the posts — include the phrase “THECONTACTSHEET” in your comment to be eligible for a free book. (one entry per person)

So get on it — I’ll cut off the entries at the end of May 6, 2010 and pick out the random winners. Each winner will receive a free copy of The Contact Sheet book, courtesy of AMMO Books.

eBook Review: Vision Is Better

I’m really taking a liking to good eBooks lately… and perhaps that’s because I see more of them being published by fellow photographers and enthusiasts. On the forefront of this new craze is David duChemin with the Craft & Vision website.

He just authored a new eBook titled “Vision Is Better” and I had the opportunity to check it out before it was released. While I’m still working my way through it, I’ve read enough to share my thoughts here on the blog. This thing is a really good read and it provides a lot of insights not found in other books I’ve read.

“Vision Is Better” can be purchased through Craft & Vision. The links in this post are affiliate links.

ABOUT THE BOOK

[tweetmeme]Vision Is Better is a 116 page downloadable PDF eBook available for only $5. The book contains 50 articles alongside supplemental photos. The layout is a basic 2 column/page format, and the simple design is easy on the eyes. Each article has a different color scheme and/or background photo, so every page seems to be a new visual treat.

David admits at the beginning of the book: “This is a messy book. It’s random, doesn’t particularly hold to one topic or theme very well [...] This book is a collection of thoughts, essays, and ill-advised rants that were all first published on my blog [...] you probably paid for something you could have got for free. Those challenges aside, I still think this book is worth the time and money.

I agree with that last line — it’s worth the time and money. This isn’t a random collection of published blog articles — I’m sure there was some amount of thought put into which articles to include and in what order. Add to that, the completely different layout and design intended for your viewing pleasure, and it’s worth more than the $5 price tag.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

According to his blog, “David duChemin is a world & humanitarian photographer, best-selling author, and international workshop leader. David uses his powers for good and not for evil.

Though I don’t know him personally, David seems to be quite knowledgeable on the topics that he photographs and writes about. He’s also the mastermind of the growing Craft & Vision enterprise. The concept of the site is to provide high quality eBooks at a flat rate of $5 per publication. It’s a pretty hot deal and the model seems to be working, so check it out!

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

As I mentioned above, the book is worth more than the $5 price tag. Just having this collection of articles all in one place is awfully handy. The book is more of a casual read, intended to be taken in over time and over multiple sittings. There’s not a bunch of technical stuff buried in there, just lots of essays and thoughts on becoming a better photographer.

I would recommend this book to anybody looking for a little mental exercise. It should get you thinking about the important things in this field, and it may alter the way you look at professional photography. David also writes in a very conversational voice, so it’s really easy to follow along and wrapped up in his stories.

“Vision Is Better” can be purchased through Craft & Vision. The links in this post are affiliate links.

HOW ABOUT A DISCOUNT?

Between now and May 4, 2010 you can get this book for just $4. Use the promotional code VISION4 when you checkout, or you can use the code VISION20 to get 20% off when you buy 5 or more books from the Craft & Vision collection.

eBook Review: 10 Ways to Improve Your Boudoir Photography Now

[tweetmeme]So here’s a book review that’s a little more out of my comfort zone than normal. Edward Verosky approached me about doing a review of his recent eBook titled “10 Ways to Improve Your Boudoir Photography Now”. Honestly, this is a subject that I know next to nothing about — it’s just not a widely discussed topic.

Now, when we talk about “boudoir”, we’re not talking about anything trashy — it’s quite the opposite. This is a highly professional market run by highly professional photographers. With that said… the images in this post are somewhat “edgy”, and the photos in the eBook are even more so (Yes, partial nudity. But very tasteful.)

If you’re drawn to the studio and working with people, this may be a niche worth looking into. Read on for a more detailed review of this book.

“10 Ways to Improve Your Boudoir Photography Now” can be purchased through Edward Verosky’s website. (affiliate links)

ABOUT THE BOOK

10 Ways to Improve Your Boudoir Photography Now is a 44 page PDF eBook available for instant download. The book is intended to be viewed in a two-page format (as you can see by the dashed lines in the samples below). The content provides a great deal of tips and advice backed up by example photos.

We start off with a quick introduction to set the tone, followed by 9 sections aimed at different aspects of boudoir photography. At the end, Edward provides a sampling of posing examples and his final thoughts in a conclusion. The first half of the book covers the business side of things and how to work with clients. The last half of the book deals more with the creative/photography side of things.

The sections of the book include: The Psychology Behind Boudoir, Prepare Your Subject For A Successful Shoot, Set Limits For The Best Results, Use Encouragement & Direction To Get The Most From Your Subject, The Two-Light Setup That’s Foolproof, The Retouching Tools That Always Work, The Four Best-Selling Poses, Five Go-To Shots When All Else Fails, and How to Get The Candid Look They Love.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Edward Verosky is a creative boudoir, portrait, and editorial photographer working out of Austin, Texas. His distinctive photography is emotionally engaging, and often stylistically cinematic. Ed has many years of experience making women look beautiful in pictures.

Ed comes off as being extremely professional and knowledgeable based on the writing in the eBook and on his blog — certainly a guy worth paying attention to!

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

Definitely a recommended book for any photographer looking to get into, or improve their boudoir photography. This niche is far less talked about in photography books, blogs, and forums than other niches. So a resource like this is pure gold for the photographers wanting to learn about it. While it may not substitute for years of experience in this field, the eBook can certainly give you a head start in the right direction!

“10 Ways to Improve Your Boudoir Photography Now” can be purchased through Edward Verosky’s website.

Book Review: Captured by the Light

[tweetmeme]I’m a bit delayed with this book review, but better late than never I suppose! My pal, David Ziser, recently published a great book that shares a lot of his knowledge in the field of wedding photography. This guy is a master at what he does, and the content in the book is quite unique.

Captured by the Light, by David Ziser, is an instructional book focused on wedding photography and effective lighting techniques. But the book is a bit more than that since it covers some general photography techniques, composition, and natural light. David lets out a lot of the tricks and techniques he uses for shooting high-end weddings, and he does so in a way that’s easy to comprehend.

Captured by the Light (ISBN 978-0321646873) can be purchased directly from David Ziser or through Amazon.com. The Amazon links in this post are affiliate links.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Captured by the Light: The Essential Guide to Creating Extraordinary Wedding Photography is a softcover book containing 312 pages of text, photos, and diagrams. It’s a medium sized book with a squarish format measuring in at 9×8.9 inches and .9 inches thick. Much of the book is laid out in a two column format with lots of supporting graphics, making it easy to read and understand.

There are 11 chapters, each with several sections. The book starts off with some basic portrait lighting and tips for using your camera. Then it gets right into a few chapters of intermediate/advanced lighting techniques (all with very little equipment and scattered with lots of neat tricks along the way). The technical stuff wraps up with natural lighting, composition, and other equipment needed for the job. The end of the book focuses on how to actually manage a wedding shoot, from planning to final presentation.

This is not a quick read… it’s also not a slow read. You can definitely get through big chunks of it in one setting, but a lot of the material aims to teach you a technique and it will require some practice and experimentation on your part. The book is a good resource worth hanging on to so that you can refer back to it as needed.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Ziser is an internationally renowned portrait and wedding photographer. He’s also a top-notch educator and shares his knowledge via the Digital Pro Talk Blog, the Digital Wakeup Call tour, and as a lecturer for events such as the Photoshop World Conference & Expo, Wedding & Portrait Photographers International (WPPI), and Imaging USA/Professional Photographers of America. He also provides training classes on DVD and online through Kelby Training, writes for Professional Photographer magazine, and posts his artistic works at the Fine Art Photoblog. And I thought I had too many things going on!

Really though, he’s a great guy and he’s very knowledgeable about what he does. I’ve known David for a few years and he always has such an upbeat personality. His enthusiasm for photography is contagious — so be careful.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

Hands-down 100% awesome resource for wedding photographers — especially those just getting into it, though I’m sure still useful for the seasoned pros (just check the Amazon.com reviews).

The wedding photography gig is fairly involved and I would be completely lost to the inner workings without a book like this. For the photographers wanting to do weddings, and for those who have done a few already, this book is an essential item to have. I would even say that it’s quite useful for photographers in the field of portraits because there is a lot of lighting and posing information throughout.

Again, Captured by the Light (ISBN 978-0321646873) can be purchased directly from David Ziser or through Amazon.com.

eBook Review: The Magic of Black & White

[tweetmeme]I’m a real fan of black and white photography — doesn’t matter if it’s film or digital. There’s just something about it that can transform a photo so drastically by the “simple” removal of color.

So I was thrilled when my buddy Andrew Gibson contacted me about the release of his book on “The Magic of Black & White“. He’s a great photographer and his black & white photos are stunning — so I was certain that the book would be a good one.

I was right.

The book is a relatively quick read, but offers up a great number of tips, techniques, and guidance for black and white photography. It’s also beautifully illustrated with a ton of Andrew’s fine art work.

See the end of this post for a chance to win a free copy of the book.

“The Magic of Black & White, Part One – Vision” can be purchased through Craft & Vision. The links in this post are affiliate links.

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Magic of Black & White is a 58 page downloadable PDF eBook. The book is intended to be viewed in a two-page format (as you can see by the dashed lines in the samples below). Throughout the book, you’ll be presented with specific topics on black & white photography and large sample photos from Andrew’s collection of work.

After a few single-page “chapters” (Introduction, Why Black & White?, The Art of Black & White, and Learning to See in Monochrome), we dive into The Elements of Black & White Photography. This section covers many topics along the lines of tonal contrast, highlights, simplicity, minimalism, complexity, shape and form, texture, lines, foreground interest, negative space, shapes and patterns, and contrast. Each topic gives thoughtful insights and supporting imagery.

From there, we move on to Light in Black & White Photography, which covers the various lighting scenarios and how to use them to your advantage. The last main section goes into Subjects for Black & White Photography, and we look at several options where black & white may make more sense than color. This is all followed up by a conclusion and final thoughts from Andrew.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Gibson is a writer and photographer based in the south of England. He works for one of the UK’s leading photography magazines and also freelances. He loves to travel and one region he’s been drawn back to time and time again is South America, in particular Argentina and the Andean regions of Bolivia and Peru. He works in a ‘fine art documentary’ style and presents most of his work in black and white.

You can find Andrew’s work at his main website or at his blog. He’s also a regular contributor at Phototuts+, Smashing Magazine, and the Fine Art Photoblog. On top of all that, he’s an employee of EOS Magazine. Busy guy!

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

The eBook is longer than a blog article, but shorter than a printed book. I feel that the eBook medium is perfect for what is presented. Andrew gives a great introduction to black and white photography with content that strikes a perfect balance between educational and inspirational. It’s not so technical that the beginner will be lost, and not so “artsy-fartsy” that it isn’t informative — again, it’s just a great balance.

I would personally recommend this eBook to anybody looking to explore or improve their black & white photography. It will definitely get your gears turning and probably give you a few new ideas. At the time of publishing this review, the price of the book is $5 USD (subject to change at any time), which is a steal if you ask me.

Part Two of this book (to be announced) will examine the means of creating the black and white image in the digital darkroom. I’ll update you guys when it’s published.

“The Magic of Black & White, Part One – Vision” can be purchased through Craft & Vision.

WANT A FREE COPY?

[UPDATE 03-30-2010: The contest is over, and the winners have been selected]

[tweetmeme]Andrew has also given me a coupon code for 3 free eBooks to give out! I have a feeling that this particular contest will draw quite a few entries, so I’m limiting the entry period to ONE DAY (contest will end March 30, 2010 at 8am PDT). Here’s how you can enter for a chance at a free book:

1) Submit a photo and/or link to a black and white photo you’ve taken. The photo must be your own. Bonus points for supplemental descriptions.

OR

2) Submit a Flickr Gallery (not a set — a gallery) of black and white photos. Curate a gallery and pop the link in the comments below. Bonus points for supplemental thoughts within the gallery and/or comment.

One entry per person; only the first entry for any given person will be considered. Again, ONE DAY for entries, and I’ll post a comment of my own stating the cut-off time — so if you don’t see the cut-off comment, feel free to post an entry.

Book Review: Live, Laugh, Celebrate

Before reading this book, I hadn’t really thought about one of the things that separates us from all other species: we celebrate! Birth, birthday, graduation, victory, rite of passage, holiday, and many other events are celebrated by people all over the world each and every day. Some celebrations are very public gatherings, while others are private among friends and family. But whatever the reason, almost every culture celebrates something at some point.

This book is a collection of photographs from all over the Earth taken by many different photographers. This format suits the subject well because it allows for a wide display of imagery that wouldn’t be possible from a single photographer. But even with a diverse set of photos such as this, they’re all similar in the fact that they show people living, laughing, and celebrating.

See the end of this post for a chance to win a free copy of the book.

Live, Laugh, Celebrate (ISBN 978-1426205064) can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through Amazon.com.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Live, Laugh, Celebrate is a hardcover book containing 304 pages and 150 photographs. The physical size of the book is moderate to slightly large, measuring in at 10″x11″ — certainly big enough to appreciate the photos.

Photo by Michael Nichols | Maralal, Kenya | 2008 | Dancers perform during a three-day Samburu wedding.

There are three main chapters, preceded by an introduction and followed by a list of the contributing photographers. Each of the three chapters begins with a few pages of text in order to get you in the mindset for the photos that follow. Chapter one (Cycles of Life) deals mostly with family events and celebrations: birth, birthdays, losing a tooth, family gatherings, community events, Bar Mitzvahs, prom, reunions, weddings, and more. Chapter two (Around the World) explores various celebrations around the globe along with the various ways different cultures celebrate the same events: Easter, Ramadan, Shabouth, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Carnival, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Year, and many more. And Chapter three (Life of the Party) finishes up with a collection of formal and informal parties, gatherings, and events that may not fit into the other two chapters.

Photo by Ami Vitale | Srinagar, Kashmir, India | 2003 | A bride-to-be is decorated with henna at her engagement ceremony.

The second chapter was probably my favorite because it showed just how different our cultures can be, even when it comes to the same holiday. I was also amazed at how many holidays and events are celebrated in countries other than my own. Kite festivals, fishing festivals, and a dozen other festivals that I can’t even pronounce. It’s really exciting to see this stuff all in one book.

Interestingly, most of the photographs exhibit a similar style such that the photographer seems to be nonexistent. Most of the subjects in the photos are so caught up in their activities, it’s easy to forget that a photographer was standing right in front of them with a camera. Really great work from a lot of great photographers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The book was authored by Ferdinand Protzman, an award-winning writer, culture critic, and contributing editor to Art News magazine. He has written several book and contributed articles to the likes of The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal.

Photo by Sam Abell | Venice, Italy | 1995 | Easter Carnival participants in lavish costume.

The photographs in the book come from 72 different talented photographers. Many of them belong to or contribute to publications such as National Geographic, Magnum Photos, Time, Life, Newsweek, New York Times, and countless others. A few of the photographers in this collection include Sam Abell, David Burnett, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Elliott Erwitt, Stuart Franklin, Reza, and many other talented artists and journalists.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

A good photo book overall — quick to read and easy to get caught up in the photos. The photos themselves are basically G-rated, so the kids can browse through the images and enjoy it. Captions on the photos give just enough insight to understand what you’re looking at, but don’t drag you down with over-extended explanations.

I wouldn’t say that this book is the most revolutionary thing I’ve seen lately, but it did get me to look at people around the world in a different light. To me, the biggest eye-opener was how similar and different the cultures of the world can be. We all celebrate something, but we all do it a little different from the others.

Photo by David Alan Harvey | Arizona | 1992 | Ceremonial dancers compete at a Native American powwow.

I’d recommend Live, Laugh, Celebrate to anybody looking for a “feel-good” book that can be shared with the whole family. And with the number of brilliant photos it contains, it’s perfect for the coffee table collection.

Again… Live, Laugh, Celebrate (ISBN 978-1426205064) can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through Amazon.com.

WANT A FREE COPY?

Of course you do! And we’ve got two copies to hand out thanks again to the folks at National Geographic! Just like last time, you have two ways to nab a book for yourself.

1) Submit a photo and/or link to a photo you’ve taken of an event, festival, celebration, gathering, etc. The photo must be your own. Bonus points for supplemental descriptions.

OR

2) Submit a Flickr Gallery of photos photos pertaining to events, festivals, celebrations, gatherings, etc. Curate a gallery and pop the link in the comments below. Bonus points for supplemental thoughts within the gallery and/or comment.

OK, so get your entries in soon! I’ll choose and announce the winners on (or near) December 1, 2009 — one winner for a personal photo, and one for a gallery. If, for some reason, we happen to have no entries from one of the categories, I’ll choose two winners from the category that has entries.

[UPDATE 12/2/2009] The winning entries can be seen here.

Photo by Tino Soriano | Lake Banyoles, Catalonia, Spain | 2005 | Masked people cross a mustard field on the way to a summer festival.

Book Review: Polar Obsession

Polar Obsession

Nature and wildlife photos are generally pleasing to the eye and viewed with great interest from the masses. The interest is even greater when the photos show remote locations and/or elusive animals that we typically don’t see in real life or in photos. Earth’s polar regions are perfect examples of such imagery.

Polar Obsession, by Paul Nicklen, is a stunning collection of photos from the northern and southern polar regions. But these are more than just pretty pictures of the landscape or some distant shots of animals through a 500mm lens — these are up close and intimate views of the animals, their behaviors, and the delicate environment they live in. Paul specializes in photographing the Arctic and Antarctica with an emphasis on underwater photography, and it would seem that no location is out of his reach.

Although the photos presented in Polar Obsession are quite beautiful on many levels, they convey a much heavier message. These fragile environments are changing rapidly, and terrible consequences to the animal inhabitants have already begun. Through his work as a photojournalist, Paul conveys the truth about the polar regions in a way that I’ve never seen before. His passion and drive are intoxicating and his message is impossible to ignore.

See the end of this post for a chance to win a free copy of the book.

Polar Obsession (ISBN 978-1-4262-0511-8) can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through Amazon.com.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Polar Obsession is a hardcover book containing 240 pages of text and photos (150 photos total). The book is quite large, measuring nearly 14 inches wide and 11 inches tall — definitely a lap book. I do like the size and shape of the book though, big enough to really make the photos come to life (and many of them are full bleed).

A young polar bear leaps between ice floes. Barents Sea, Svalbard, Norway

The book is broken into two major sections, preceded by introductory material: Arctic and Antarctica. The introduction gives you some important background information on Paul, sets the tone for the environmental message, and gives you a sampling of his portfolio. The Arctic chapters include “Ice and the Cycle of Life”, “Last of the Unicorns”, and “Svalbard: Polar Paradise”. The Antarctica chapters include “Leopard Seals: An Intimate Encounter” and “South Georgia: The Land of Kings and Elephants”. Each chapter begins with several pages of text that relate to the images.

Narwhals dive deep under the ice to feed on Arctic cod, then return to the surface to breathe and raise their tusks high in the air. Lancaster Sound, Nunavut, Canada

When I get any new book the first thing I do is flip through the pages to scan the photos. Upon doing that with Polar Obsession I thought “Hey, great looking photos! I wonder what all that text is for.” Once I started reading about Paul and his many adventures on the ice and in the water, the photos completely changed in my eyes. The surface beauty melted away and I began to appreciate them on a far deeper level… what they stand for, what they say about the environment, and what they say about humans in general.

Another major part of the book is the knowledge conveyed by Paul about the various animal species he photographs. Many of them are clouded with misconceptions and myths, but Paul reveals the truth about these animals and the places they live. The views presented come from his life experience and his many close encounters with the animals.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Nicklen on assignment. Lewes Lake, Yukon Territory, Canada.

Paul Nicklen is an interesting individual. He mostly grew up in a small Inuit community on Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, spending his childhood observing nature, traveling the land, and learning the ways of the Inuit people. During this time, he developed a strong connection with the animals and their environment — a connection that most of us will never experience. When it came time for college, he attended the University of Victoria, British Columbia in pursuit of a degree in marine biology. It was during his final years of study that he made the decision to do something amazing with his life. Paul worked his butt off to acquire his gear and drew up a plan to share his passion of the polar regions with the world.

Paul’s dream has taken him to some of the most extreme and remote corners of the Earth, and I’m confident that he loves every minute of it. This is a man who, as a child, would get excited about blizzards because it meant he could go lay in the snow and let himself be buried by the weather. This is also a man who puts his own life at risk so he can capture images that nobody else will. Truly an extraordinary individual who cares about the life on our planet more than most people can comprehend.

A leopard seal feeds Paul Nicklen a penguin. Antarctic Peninsula

I had the great pleasure to speak with Paul for about 30 minutes on various topics, and he came across as very down-to-Earth. He also came across as an extremely passionate individual when it comes to the well-being of our planet and all the life contained within. Paul is one of those people who dedicate their life to a noble cause — this stuff is his life. From his experience, the polar regions are warming 2-3 times faster than the rest of the Earth, and this means big changes in the very near future.

Some of our discussion revolved around what we can do to “right the wrongs of our past” and make a better world for tomorrow. I’m not going to quote Paul directly (mostly because I can’t write that fast while having a conversation), but he basically wishes that we (the human population) would wake up and realize what’s happening and do something about it. The actions required to make a major difference are far beyond changing our light bulbs and driving hybrid cars — we need a serious shift in our priorities. Paul believes (and I agree with him), that we need to teach our children to “get back into nature” and start caring more about our impact on this planet.

A large female leopard seal greets photographer Göran Ehlmé. Anvers Island, Antarctica

We also chatted about pure photography stuff… and as photographers, we’re all interested in such things! He put a gear list at the end of the book, and it’s freakin’ crazy! I can’t even begin to describe it. I asked him about the film vs digital thing… he’s 110% digital at this point. This makes sense when you think about changing film underwater — it doesn’t happen! I also popped the question “Do you shoot for fun?” The answer… nope. I figured this would be the case with Paul (as is the case with some other professional photographers). The camera is merely a tool that he uses to pursue his real passion. He’s obviously an expert at using that tool, but his true interest is saving the world.

I can’t remember for the life of me whether this was in the book or part of our conversation, but it was profoundly eye-opening. Paul said something along the lines of “we need to move from being consumers of the planet’s resources, to being it’s protectors.” This made a ton of sense to me — as the dominant species of Earth, we should be protecting our planet rather than destroying it. We have the technology and the ability — why aren’t we doing it?

If you want to see more of Paul’s work, visit his website at paulnicklen.com

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

I’ve only seen a small number of books that changed my way of thinking at a very basic level. This book was one of them. At a glance — beautiful photos. Upon deeper inspection — an emotional plea to the importance of our role on Earth. Definitely more than a simple coffee table book.

In the Arctic spring, meltwater channels drain toward and down a seal hole, returning to the sea.

Honestly, I would recommend this book to anybody — it can be enjoyed by both child and adult. Not only that, the photos contained within may be some of the last of their kind. The global climate is changing fast and we’re on the brink of losing many species found in these polar regions. Paul Nicklen is a name you’ll hear again, as I’m certain he will continue to document and fight for these animals (in addition to other struggling species all around the world).

Again, Polar Obsession (ISBN 978-1-4262-0511-8) can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through Amazon.com.

WANT A FREE COPY?

As always, the folks at National Geographic have agreed to handing out a few free copies of the book (thanks guys!). So what’s the requirement this time around? A contest, of course! We have two copies of the book to hand out, and we’ll have two methods for acquiring the books. You can do one of the following:

1) Submit a photo and/or link to a photo you’ve taken of an animal and/or landscape of a polar region. The photo must be your own, and it’s got to be pretty damn close to the Arctic or Antarctic Circle. Bonus points for supplemental descriptions.

OR

2) Submit a Flickr Gallery of photos from the polar regions. Definitely a good option for those of us who haven’t been too far north (or south). Curate a gallery and pop the link in the comments below. Bonus points for supplemental thoughts within the gallery and/or comment.

OK, so get your entries in soon! I’ll choose and announce the winners on (or near) November 23, 2009 — one winner for a personal photo, and one for a gallery. If, for some reason, we happen to have no entries from one of the categories, I’ll choose two winners from the category that has entries.

[UPDATE 12/2/2009] You can view the winning entries here.

Oh… and be sure to say “hi” to Paul — there’s a very good chance that he’ll be reading this review and the comments. This guy is a hero, so let him know how awesome he is!!!

[UPDATE 11/16/09] Thanks John for pointing out this great video on YouTube: