Tag Archives: book review

Book Review – 44 Days: Iran and the Remaking of the World

For those who don’t already know, a favorite topic of mine is war and conflict photography. I say “favorite”, but I feel somewhat awkward calling it that… favorites are usually associated with happy things (kitties, butterflies, flowers, sunsets, puppies, etc). No, war and conflict don’t make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, but I do feel that photographs of such situations are vitally important.

Why are such photos important? Because they tell the story of things that are happening to fellow human beings around the world. Because the photographers capturing the images are risking their lives to tell that story. And because the photos are history in the making.

This latest book of images and recollections from photographer David Burnett is nothing short of amazing. National Geographic has a tendency to outdo themselves with the materials they publish, and this book is the latest in that trend.

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

44 Days: Iran and the Remaking of the World (ISBN 978-1426205132) can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through Amazon.com.

ABOUT THE BOOK

44 Days

44 Days: Iran and the Remaking of the World is a hardcover book containing 224 pages of text and photos (both color and b/w). It’s an average sized book, not too large or too small, measuring approximately 9×10.5″. Needless to say, the quality of the cover, binding, and paper are all outstanding. And the images contained within are equally outstanding.

44 Days

The book covers the history of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 when the Shah was overthrown and the Islamic Republic was born. The major parts of this event took place in a mere 44 days, and David Burnett was there to capture a big part of it. Everything from mass protests, funerals, killings, the fall and rise of power, and everything else associated with the revolution. I found it amazing that one person could capture so many aspects of this event, and I was amazed that he lived through it.

44 Days

Obviously, this is a wonderful piece of photojournalism, but it’s more than that. David’s recollections and thoughts are visible every few pages of the book. This is more than captions on the photos — this is a historic account of what happened day-by-day through the revolution. From start to finish, from city to city, David recounts his steps and recaps the news of things that were happening in Iran at the time.

44 Days

All in all, this is more than just a photo book — it’s a history book. And this is the type of history that isn’t taught in most classrooms.

David Burnett

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Burnett is a seasoned photojournalist with over 40 years of experience in the field. He has worked in over 75 countries and won many awards for his photojournalism. After his college days, he worked for Time and Life magazines on many assignments.

David’s work has taken him to the Vietnam War, the Iranian Revolution, and countless other historic situations. He has also photographed every American president from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama, in addition to reggae legend Bob Marley.

In 1975 David co-founded a new photo agency, Contact Press Images, in New York City. You can see more of his amazing work at his online portfolio.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

44 Days

For me, this book was an eye opening experience. When I first got it, I scanned through the photos and I was fairly impressed at a first glance. But when I started reading the text, the photos went to a whole different level — they had a deep sense of meaning and importance. The book is also written in such a way that your interest in the subject is accelerated as you read through it.

On the flip side of being overwhelmed with amazing photojournalism and story telling, I couldn’t help but feel like a stereotypical “Dumb American”. This is a subject that I knew absolutely nothing about, a subject that is not taught in typical American high schools. The Iranian Revolution was such a huge piece of modern world history, and I’m a bit disappointed that it isn’t as well known as other historic events of the same caliber. And with the level of anti-American feelings during the revolution, I’m quite amazed that David survived the ordeal. He’s a trooper, that’s for sure.

A great book overall. If you enjoy history, photojournalism, and/or conflict photography, I’d say go ahead and buy this book.

WANT A FREE COPY?

The folks at National Geographic provided me with 2 extra copies of the book to give away here on the blog! I like doing contests for the freebies, but I also like the contests to be on topic with the material. This one presents a difficult situation because not many of us have been to Iran or photographed revolutions. So the assignment for this contest is to curate a gallery from other people’s photos.

Flickr recently announced a new feature called “Galleries”. This allows you to create a collection of up to 18 photos from other photographers, while adding your own comments as a curator. This is a perfect feature for us to test out!

Here’s how you can get a free copy of “44 Days”:

Create a Flickr Gallery on the topic of “Iran” and leave a link to your gallery in the comments below. That’s it! You can focus on sub-topics and genres within the boundaries of “Iran” — things like people, places, buildings, religion, food, clothing, etc. Whatever you can come up with! Here’s a quick gallery I put together titled “Faces of Iran“:

Faces of Iran

So that’s it! Get your gallery curated and drop a link before October 12, 2009. I’ll announce and present the winners (my favorites) sometime soon after.

Book Review: What the Duck

What the Duck

I think it’s safe to say that many of us have seen the “What the Duck” comic strips (and if you haven’t, I suggest you go educate yourself right now). The basic theme of the comic strip is about a duck photographer and his journeys in the business. But you don’t have to be a professional photographer to “get it”, since many of the strips are humorous to a wide spectrum of photographers.

In addition to the comic strip, Aaron Johnson (the author and artist), has been putting out a few books. “What the Duck: A W.T. Duck Collection” is the second book released, and it contains 128 pages of comic strips.

What the Duck: A W.T. Duck Collection (ISBN 978-0740780967) can be purchased directly from Andrews McMeel Publishing or through Amazon.com.

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a paid review, nor has it been reviewed or edited by the book’s author or publisher. The book was sent to me by the author free of charge. I am in no way affiliated with the book, the author, or the publisher of the book.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Well… it’s a comic strip book. Don’t expect to find any breathtaking photos or golden nuggets of technical advice. Of course, the theme of the comics are very much photography related and full of wisdom. As I said, the book is 128 pages. It’s soft-bound (which is suitable for a comic strip book) and the size is approximately 8.8 x 8.4 inches. A typical page has three 3-frame strips from top to bottom, but occasionally you’ll find a page layout like the image shown at the top of this post. Everything is also printed in color, and the humor contained within is quick and to the point.

In case you’re not already familiar with the comic strip, I’ll do my best to give an explanation. The main character (the one wearing white) is a photographer who happens to be a duck. In fact, all the photographers are ducks (of various other colors). Clients, editors, models, and pretty much everyone else is not a duck. The comic has a somewhat dark sense of humor — the duck is always getting the short end of the stick, he knows it, and he just keeps dealing with it. The most amusing thing about the comic strip is that the scenarios presented are true to life in one way or another, and as you become more involved with photography you tend to find the comic more amusing.

Some (maybe all?) of the strips in the book have been published on the website, but I want to say that some of them are unseen prior to the book. I’ve been following the comic strip on a daily basis basically since it started and I came across quite a few that didn’t ring any bells. I could be totally wrong on this point though, since my memory is less than stellar.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aaron Johnson is the creator and artist of the “What the Duck” comic strip, a fellow photographer, Photoshopper, and in a band. Other than that, I don’t know a whole lot about him. Obviously he’s very creative, has a great sense of humor, and the ability to create a cult following via comics. If anybody knows more than this about Aaron, please start a Wikipedia page about him.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

If you’re a fan of the comic strip — definitely get the book. It’s going for about $10 on Amazon, which is ridiculously affordable. As is the case with photos looking 10-20x better on paper rather than a computer screen, the same is true with comic strips. In print, the strips are bigger (unless you sport the 800×600 res), cleaner, and less pixelated than what you’ll find on the website or rss feed.

If you haven’t been following the comic: go check out the website, laugh, become obsessed, THEN buy the book.

Either way, the book is scheduled to release on September 15, but Amazon has started shipping orders early for some folks — so go ahead and place your order now!

BUY THE BOOK AT AMAZON.COM
VISIT “WHAT THE DUCK” ON THE WEB

ABOUT THE FREE BOOKS!

Oh yeah! You guys didn’t think I’d leave you hanging, did you? Aaron told me he’s sending a few extra copies my way so I can hand them out to a few lucky winners. Not sure how many or if they’re signed copies, but I’ll let you know as soon as I know.

So how do you get a free copy? Let’s make this a little bit of a photo contest. Post a link or an image in the comments below to a photo (of yours) that is somehow related to ducks or the What the Duck comic. So it could be a photo of a real duck, a fake duck, a drawing of the comic character on the beach, a light painting of the letters “WTD”, or whatever else you can think of (and it’s possible that photos of other birds will be accepted for consideration, but I’d prefer ducks). If you don’t have any photos like this in your archives, get out there and shot something! Just keep it to a single photo or link to a photo.

I’ll finalize the deadline when I get the books, but I’d say it will be in about 1-2 weeks from now. After the deadline, I’ll pick out my faves and ship out the books to the winners.

[UPDATE] I just got the books in the mail today, and we’ve got 2 copies to hand out! I’ll pick out two of my favorite duck photos on Monday, September 21 — so get your duck photo in the comments before the end of the weekend!

Book Review: Mothers and Children

Mothers and Children

Mom… probably one of the most important and meaningful relationships in many of our lives. And the bond that they share with their children is universally unbreakable. A new book from National Geographic, Mothers and Children, explores the various roles that mothers take on for the sake of their children. It also shows the numerous emotions and moments encountered between mother and child.

Read on for a brief description of the book, its contributors, and my own take on this captivating and uplifting publication.

Also, read on for a chance to win a free copy of the book.

Mothers and Children (ISBN 978-1426204258) can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through Amazon.com.

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a paid review, nor has it been reviewed or edited by the book’s author or publisher. The book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge. I am in no way affiliated with the book or the publisher of the book.

Siberia, Russia -- Maria Stenzel

ABOUT THE BOOK

Mothers and Children is a hard cover 6″x8″ publication with 120 pages containing 100 photos in both color and black & white. There are 8 chapters divided into two main categories: the facets of moms and kids, and geographic location. The facets category consists of chapters covering mothers and children at home, at work, and at play. The geographic chapters cover the north (Inuit & Northern European), south (Mexico, South America, & Australia), east (India, Japan, & China), and west (United States & Western Europe).

The photos in the book take us on a trip around the world while showing the many expressions and emotions of mothers and their children. The photos are divided amongst the chapters in a logical manner, making the book easy to follow. Most pages contain only a photo, a location, and the photographer’s name — making the book very visual and quick to digest. A few famous quotes are scattered about, and a couple of short stories can also be found in the book.

Rostock, Germany -- Gordon Gahan

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Many of the photos in Mothers and Children are from National Geographic photographers in addition to other professional photographers. You’ll see images from the likes of Annie Griffiths Belt, Sam Abell, Jodi Cobb, Joel Sartore, and more.

The author of the book, Lynne Perri, is journalist-in-residence and a teacher on presidential election and visual strategies at American University. She brought the concept of the book together and she wrote the book’s introduction to set the mood. Writer Craig Wilson also shares a few stories and insights at the start of several chapters.

Valemount, British Columbia, Canada -- Chris Johns

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

Mothers and Children is a good little coffee table book. I like the fact that it’s hard bound — you know it will last and it sort of has that “photo album” feel in your hands. It’s fairly small compared to other books from National Geographic, but it can make for a short or a long read depending on how far you wish to immerse yourself in the photos. I found that a flip-through was enjoyable, and a deeper study of the photos was captivating and worthwhile.

This is a good one to have on the bookshelf or the coffee table, especially for those surrounded by a family. I think that mothers would appreciate the intent and gesture of the book, fathers will appreciate the mothers and wives, and kids always like to see photos of other kids. It might also make a good gift for an occassion such as Mother’s Day! At $15 or $16, the price is definitely right.

Mothers and Children (ISBN 978-1426204258) can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through Amazon.com.

WIN A FREE COPY!

We’re going to run a little competition here in the comments, and 2 winners will receive a free copy of the book. To enter the contest, all you have to do is leave a comment with a link to a photo or leave the actual photo (or photos) using html — and please try to remember to keep them at around 240 pixels on the long edge.

The theme of the photo must be “Mothers and Children” — or just mothers… or just children… whatever you do, try to keep it somewhat on-topic. More than one is fine, but don’t flood the comments with a bajillion photos — pick a few good ones.

I’ll choose the winners in about one week from the publication of this review — so around April 2 or 3.

Book Review: Sony Alpha DSLR A300/A350 Digital Field Guide

Typically, the manual that comes with your new camera is less than satisfactory. Sure they tell you how to push all the buttons, but that’s about it. Third party camera manuals or field guides can be a great resource for specific camera model owners.

Tom Bonner recently published a Digital Field Guide for the Sony Alpha DSLR A300/A350. Since the two cameras are nearly identical, Tom wrapped up both cameras in a single book. Myself being a Sony Alpha user, Tom thought I might like to check it out.

The book is a combination of extended camera manual, general photography guide, and hands-on assignments. The flow is very logical and easy to follow. This is one book that A300/A350 owners will certainly benefit from.

The Sony Alpha DSLR A300/A350 Digital Field Guide (ISBN 978-0470386279) can be purchased directly from Wiley or through Amazon.com.

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Sony Alpha DSLR A300/A350 Digital Field Guide, by Tom Bonner, is 272 pages with a soft cover. The book is small enough to fit in your camera bag, but large enough to fit in your hands. It’s broken up into three parts and seven chapters, plus two very handy appendices.

Part 1 focuses on the two cameras and their various controls and menus. The A300 and A350 are so similar in construction that Tom covers both cameras simultaneously while pointing out the differences. This section of the book by itself could potentially replace the user manual that comes with the camera.

Part 2 starts with the basics of photography, including camera control, exposure, and composition. Then it goes into the specifics of lenses and other accessories, including various types of lenses available for the Alpha cameras. This section ends with a chapter on lighting — theory, application, and equipment.

Part 3 is more general in nature, covering subjects, types of photography, and digital workflow. Though this section is applicable to any camera, Tom constantly gives specific examples and tips for the Alpha photographer. I liked this section the best because it gives a lot of great examples and the content is structured in an academic manner with miniature assignments designed to explore and learn the A300 and A350.

The appendices are a good resource for Sony shooters. The first appendix is a listing of businesses and websites dedicated to Sony cameras. The second appendix is a troubleshooting guide specific to these cameras.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Bonner is a 30-year Minolta/Sony camera enthusiast and photographer (my kind of guy!). He’s spent many years as a freelance photographer and writer. Some of his photographic experience includes automotive and motorsports subjects.

I’ve been following Tom for many months because of his blog, Alphatracks — a website dedicated to the fledgling Sony Alpha DSLR line. Being a Sony/Minolta user myself, the subject of his blog caught my attention. But Tom’s ability to write and teach is what keeps me going back for more.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

This is a great resource book for the Sony A300 and A350 photographer. It covers just about everything you can find in your user manual, plus a whole lot of practical stuff. New users will benefit the most from this book, as the assignments in Part 3 will familiarize them with the camera in-use.

For those who aren’t A300/A350 users, it’s probably not a book you’d buy. The entire book is sprinkled with Alpha details and it would be frustrating trying to translate the features and functions. But, I’m sure that Tom wasn’t targeting Canon or Nikon photographers when he wrote it.

But regardless of which brand you use, I’d still go check out Tom’s blog. A lot of the stuff he publishes isn’t completely specific to Sony or Minolta.

The Sony Alpha DSLR A300/A350 Digital Field Guide (ISBN 978-0470386279) can be purchased directly from Wiley or through Amazon.com.

Book Review: Reza War and Peace

I’ll never get tired of saying how awesome National Geographic book publications are. They work with some of the most talented people around the world to produce amazing books and other publications. This book is no exception to the standard they’ve set.

Reza War and Peace is a book about many things, very deep and emotional. As the title suggests, the book is about war and peace. But it’s so much more than that too. This book is a testimony of humanity — at its worst, and at its best. It is comprised of 30 years of Reza’s work from across the world, and it contains some of the most incredible stories I never knew.

And just as the book is more than a collection of photos, Reza is more than a photographer or photojournalist. He’s a humanitarian, a story-teller, and a witness to the world. His conviction runs deep and this is his reality… his whole life.

Also, read on for a chance to win a free copy of the book.

Reza War and Peace can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through Amazon.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Reza Deghati was born and raised in Iran in the year 1952. In a short conversation I had with him he indicated that even at the young age of 6 or 7, he was captivated by pictures and paintings depicting people in need and he saw the power of such imagery. Once a teenager, he began using the camera to document the world around him — particularly those in need.

One particular instance he wrote about was in a local marketplace. An old woman was selling fish of poor quality. He was compelled to take her photo and learn her story. She told him that she would find fish left behind or on the ground from other vendors and try to sell them to people who had less money than she. The local law enforcement always had their eye out for her and she was forced to hand over part of her meager earnings. Reza told the story in his school paper, and thus began his journey into professional photojournalism.

Once out of high school, Reza studied architecture at the University of Teheran. All the while, he captured the growing turmoil in his homeland (through the late 1970′s) and the uprising against the Shah and the revolution that surrounded it. His photography caused him to spend much time in jail, but he kept going. In 1981, Reza was forced to leave his country in exile.

Since that time, Reza has been a nomad traveling from one troubled culture to the next across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. He has spent much time in Afghanistan and Egypt, not to mention dozens of other countries.

Reza is more than a photographer — he’s a true humanitarian. He doesn’t just photograph his subjects, he feels their pain and he gets involved. When I asked him if he considers himself more of a humanitarian or a photographer, he replied that the two labels are one in the same for him. This man is a true giver, dedicating his life and all of his material belongings to causes across the world. Reza honestly sees all the people of the world as only human beings — with no boundaries or segregations.

His hope is that people will react to his work. See his photos, read his stories, and be compelled to do something about it. Reza has been featured in many publications (including National Geographic) and received numerous awards and recognitions. All of which is well deserved.

When Reza is not out doing his work, he resides in his adopted country of France with his wife and two children.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Reza War and Peace is a hardcover with 296 pages containing 200 images. The first thing you’ll notice about it is the sheer size of the book — it’s 11×14 inches! And you’ll notice that there are more pages than photos, which means some photos are sprawled across two pages at nearly 22″ wide. All of the images are accompanied by in-depth personal accounts and explanations from Reza.

When I first recieved the book, I flipped through the images to get an idea of what was in store for me. The photos were powerful to say the least, but I had no clue what that book would present to me once I read it.

Reza takes us on a journey through his life, sharing his encounters and adventures. The book not only covers the topic of war and conflict, but also the peace and awesome nature of the human soul (often in the wake or midst of terrible events).

The major strength of the book is that stories are told to the point of evoking an emotional response from the reader. Photos sit alongside paragraphs of background information and inner thoughts from the photographer. Reza constantly reminds us that the people in his photos are human beings no different than you and I — the only difference is the situation they’ve been thrown into.

This little section is one account of my emotional response to the book: While reading the book, I’ll remember one moment for a very long time (maybe for the rest of my life). I happened to be upon the photo of the young girl from Sarajevo in 1993. Dressed in pink among a war torn environment, this little girl was selling her toys because of her situation. My 4 year old daughter came near me and saw the photo — she said “What is that girl doing with her toys?” To which I instinctively replied “She’s selling them.” — “Oh, she doesn’t want them anymore?” — I found myself unable to continue the conversation, realizing what I had gotten myself into. I finally found the voice to say “She wants them… but she has to sell them.” — “How come?” — Again, I couldn’t find the words. I closed the book, answered with a short “I don’t know”, and started to cry.

How could I possibly explain to my innocent and care-free little girl that not all kids are awarded the luxuries she has known all her life? How could I tell her that other kids are forced to sell their most prized possessions, hide from the violence of war, and arm themselves with guns to fight for their country and their lives? I couldn’t do it.

These types of emotions and inner thoughts are brought out through the entire book. As you peer upon the faces of the people in the photos, you realize that they are (or were) living in a reality so very different from your own, and yet, they are so very much the same as the rest of us. But Reza doesn’t just show us the sad moments — he also reminds us that people around the world are compassionate, giving, and full of life. He also shows us the beauty of these foreign cultures including their various traditions and ways of life.

ABOUT GETTING INVOLVED

Reza goes above and beyond the call of duty — he puts his money where his mouth is. In 2001, Reza founded Aïna, an NGO whose name in Farsi means “mirror.” The name references a metaphorical mirror in which people searching for an identity destroyed by war can rediscover their culture. Aïna contributes to the emergence of civil society through actions in the area of education (particularly focusing on women and children), information and communication. Aïna promotes independent media development and cultural expression as a foundation of democracy.

This effort is a major focus for Reza, and he feels very strongly about promoting and teaching free and independent press as part of rebuilding a severely damaged civil society. If you would like to learn more about this humanitarian society, I urge you to visit their website and learn about how you can help others in need.

ABOUT THE GIVEAWAY

One lucky winner will receive a free copy of Reza War and Peace courtesy of National Geographic. All you have to do is leave a comment below and tell me so. If you want to be sure your comment doesn’t hit the spam bucket, be sure to use the word “Reza” in your comment. We’ll draw a random winner 5 days from now — December 8, 2008.

[UPDATE] The book winner has been announced.

MY FINAL THOUGTHS

If you’re looking for a fun little coffee table book with lots of pretty pictures, this isn’t the book for you. But if you’re interested in experiencing the brutal and beautiful truths of our world, I would highly recommend this book. It’s an amazing book filled with amazing photos and stories, and it demands to be digested slowly and thoughtfully.

Reza gives not only a physical account of his travels, but an emotional one too. Be prepared to spend a lot of time studying this work, and be prepared to be emotionally torn.

I found this book very difficult to review because my write-up turned out 4 times longer than expected and I conveyed 1/4 of what I wanted to. My best advice is to pick up a copy for yourself and experience it firsthand.

Reza War and Peace can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through Amazon.com.

Book Review: Fundamentals of Photography

Photography is such an expansive subject and it’s quite impossible to cover everything in a single book. Some books focus on very specific topics, but contain in-depth information. Other books are broad, but just skim the surface. Regardless of the style, many informational photography books drone on page after page, leaving the reader in a haze of technobabble and jargon.

I received a copy of the Fundamentals of Photography by Tom Ang, and I must admit that I was skeptical of the book before I opened it. I assumed it would be one of those “talk about everything” books with a very shallow offering of knowledge. I was wrong.

I don’t know how he did it, but Tom Ang managed to pack an incredible amount of information into this small handbook. Not only is the information valuable, it’s extremely concise and well laid out. The book would be great as a front-to-back read or as a reference book for the occasional information search. Oh, and it covers both film and digital photography!

Be sure to read on, we’re giving away a couple copies of the book for free.

Fundamentals of Photography (ISBN 978-0375711572) can be purchased directly from the publisher or through Amazon.com.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Fundamentals of Photography, the Essential Handbook for Both Digital and Film Cameras, by Tom Ang is 352 pages long with a soft cover. The book contains 11 chapters filled with information and sample photos to demonstrate the topics covered. The chapters include a General Introduction, Fundamentals of Light, The Camera, Capturing Light, Using the Lens, Manipulating Light, Working with Color, Processing the Image, Digitizing the Image, Outputting the Image, and References.

Each chapter is broken up into bite-sized sections covering a very specific topic (as the sample above shows). Most of the sections span two pages (across the fold), so the topic can be studied without flipping through page after page — it’s all right there in front of your eyes. Certain sections are also marked as “advanced topics” aimed at the photographers with some amount of learning under their belt. And finally, there are a couple of “Analysis” sections in some of the chapters that present a full image across the two pages with many notes pointing out things that were talked about in previous sections of the chapter — kind of a “hands-on” lesson.

The really cool thing about this book is the fact that it presents material for both digital and film photography. In some cases, similar concepts between the two mediums will be in high contrast. In other cases, the same exact concepts apply to both. This type of content is useful for those wanting to explore the medium they’re not familiar with. It’s also useful as a digital photographer to understand film concepts and how those concepts have transcended into digital.

For me, the book showed up at a great time (I just got my darkroom set up and running), and I found myself reading heavily into the darkroom sections along with the deeply technical subject of film in general.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ang is a seasoned photographer and educator, not to mention an avid writer with nearly 20 books published. His work has been exhibited internationally, and for 12 years he was a Senior Lecturer in Photographic Practice at the University of Westminster, London. He was also the presenter for two six-part BBC programs on digital photography.

You can find Tom on the web at his main website and his photography blog. This man has a wealth of knowledge, and I’d suggest you check out his blog articles and any of his books.

ABOUT THE FREE BOOKS

Knopf Publishing Group is giving away two free copies of the book. All you have to do is leave a comment and let us know you’d like one of them. In one week (December 1, 2008), I’ll choose two random entries and we’ll send the books along.

If you don’t see your comment show up immediately, it probably just needs to be moderated. If you don’t see it show up after two days, it probably got attacked by the spam filter. If you want to be sure it doesn’t get eaten, just include the word “fundamental” in your comment and I’ll search the spam box for that word.

UPDATE: The winners have been chosen!

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

I like it, definitely. I’m not typically a fan of photography-information books because it’s not usually done well, but I like this one. My main reason for liking the book is because it gets to the point and doesn’t fool around — very concise layout. The other reason I like it is because of the diversity of the subject matter (film, digital, illustrations, examples, technical, non-technical, etc). The book is easy enough for a beginner, but interesting and useful enough for advanced photographers.

I don’t really have anything bad to say about the book. Some people might not like the soft-cover, but I think it suits this book just fine (plus it helps keep the price to a ridiculously low number). I could complain that it doesn’t go to extreme depths on every topic presented, but that would defeat the purpose of the book (plus it would be really boring).

I would definitely recommend the book to beginners wanting to jump-start their education. I’d also recommend it to the more advanced photographers as a reference. And if you’re interested in learning the ropes of film photography, this book is a good start.

Fundamentals of Photography (ISBN 978-0375711572) can be purchased directly from the publisher or through Amazon.com.

Book Review: Odysseys and Photographs

The books from National Geographic never cease to amaze me, and this book is no exception. Beautifully bound and hard-covered, Odysseys and Photographs is another example of book publishing done right. At 10×11″ there’s plenty of room for big brilliant photographs.

And the content of this book is something special. It’s a collection of amazing photographs from four historic storytellers, and many of the images have rarely been seen outside of the National Geographic archives. The four photographers featured in this book exhibit a collective work spanning most of the 20th century. Not only is the work extremely artistic, it’s also historic and serves as a permanent record of the World’s past.

Odysseys and Photographs (ISBN 978-1426201721) can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through Amazon.com.

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a paid review, nor has it been reviewed or edited by the book’s author or publisher. The book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge. I am in no way affiliated with the book or the publisher of the book.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Odysseys and Photographs is a hard cover 10×11 inch publication with 224 pages containing 200 photos in both black & white and color. There are four main sections of the book, each covering a written introduction and a set of photos from the four photographers featured (see below). In addition, there’s an overall introduction by Gilbert Grosvenor and an Epilogue by Sam Abell.

The photos contained within the book take us through a journey of time and history across the globe. Although the imagery may seem foreign to us as present-day viewers, we have to realize that many of these are photos of real life and regular people. I often forget that every corner of the world is so different from my own, and this book is an awesome reminder of how diverse and rich our planet really is.

The locations and subjects photographed in this book are too numerous to list. But a few of my favorites include: Williams’ photos from India, Greenland, Syria, and Afghanistan; Marden’s photos from St. Lucia, Nicaragua, Argentina, Tahiti, and the United States; Wentzel’s photos from the Eastern United States, India, and Italy; and Abercrombie’s photos from Alaska, Japan, Egypt, and much of the Middle East (in stunning color too).

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHERS

The four men featured in the book were more than photographers — they were pioneers, teachers, and friends of the world. The legacy that each of them has left behind is truly awesome.

Maynard Owen Williams (1888-1963) was a National Geographic field correspondent from 1919 to 1953. Williams is often attributed with being a part of the group of photographers who invented the personality of National Geographic. He had a way of becoming intimate with his subjects, and this is apparent by looking at the people in his photos.

Luis Marden (1913-2003) was a National Geographic field correspondent from 1934 to 1976. Marden was a true explorer and a world scholar, devouring everything his adventures brought to him and masterfully documenting his experience with the camera. Maynard Owen Williams dubbed him “the Michelangelo of the Geographic.”

Volkmar Wentzel (1915-2006) was a National Geographic field correspondent from 1937 to 1985. Wentzel extensively photographed Asia and Africa as well as many other parts of the world. He had a strong passion for the preservation of historic photographs.

Thomas Abercrombie (1930-2006) was a National Geographic field correspondent from 1956 to 1994. His charm and charisma gained him access to much of the Middle East and gave him the ability to share the stunning culture with the Western World. Sam Abell (in the epilogue) gives an account of his character: “This is it. A man from Minnesota reading Muslim prayers in French to a Belgian family in a Spanish castle.”

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

Odysseys and Photographs is a wonderful collection of photos from an equally wonderful collection of photographers. The book is a tribute to these four men and all the passion they put into their work. Each page offers something new and exciting, with a mere 200 photos covering so much of the globe. The book is also a piece of history, and some of the places photographed have either been permanently changed or completely destroyed since the photos were taken.

It’s hard to come up with any negative thoughts on the book. I typically enjoy a little more information or background on the photos in these types of books, but such a thing would be understandably difficult due to the circumstances. Nonetheless, the brief biographies prepare the reader for the photos that follow.

This is another fine photography book from National Geographic, and I would recommend it to those who love photography, art, history, and world culture.

Odysseys and Photographs (ISBN 978-1426201721) can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through Amazon.com.

Book Review & Contest: Visions of Paradise

Where — or what — is heaven on Earth? This question was posed to the ranks of National Geographic photographers, and their answers are contained in the book Visions of Paradise. This collection of 155 images from 82 photographers takes us on an adventure through every corner of the world, on land, water, and air.

The photos are accompanied by the photographers’ own recollections and thoughts, providing us with a unique and intimate view into the bit of paradise presented. And each chapter is prefaced with an in-depth discussion of various aspects of the environment and human impact.

Visions of Paradise can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through Amazon.com.

ABOUT THE CONTEST

To celebrate the release of this book, National Geographic is hosting the Visions of Paradise Photography Contest. The general public is invited to submit images that best represent their unique vision of Heaven on Earth. The contest runs from October 21, 2008 to December 21, 2008, and each week 20 editor’s picks will be selected from the qualified entries and posted on the site where viewers can vote for their favorites. At the end of the contest, an expert panel of photographers and art directors will select a final list of 20 official winners. Winners will receive a customized copy of Visions of Paradise with their winning photograph as the cover image. Visit the contest website for more information.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Visions of Paradise is a collective publication from some of the most world renowned photographers of our time. 82 individuals attempt to present the audience with a vision of paradise based on their experience and travels. We are taken on a visual journey through places such as Canada’s Queen Charlotte Islands, the rain forests of Borneo, the Tallgrass Prarie National Preserve in Kansas, the ocean surrounding Hawaii, the city of Berlin, North Dakota, New York City, Syria, Darfur, Montana, and the list goes on.

Each of the three chapters (land, water, and air) is introduced by a different noted writer. Linda Kulman speaks to the issues facing our land, how we’ve impacted it, and what we can do to ensure it stays healthy. Joel Bourne Jr. dives into a discussion on the state of our world’s water, and offers some hopeful solutions. And Brian Doyle extols the miracles of air in a lyrical salute.

Each chapter is filled with brilliant and breathtaking imagery as large as life itself. Ranging from one to two page spreads, the photos contained in the book are easily appreciated and adored.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Many people were involved in the creation of this book, so it’s difficult to say who is truly the author. Bronwen Latimer had the premise for the book, and initially posed the question “where is heaven on Earth?” As I mentioned, Linda Lulman, Joel Bourne Jr., and Brian Doyle present us with words for thought prior to each chapter, or theme. And the 82 photographers all have a hand in contributing to both the visual and written portions of the book.

The end of the book also contains short photographer bios, which give you a glimpse of the talent and experience contained within the pages of the book. And in that list of photographers we can find Sam Abell, who also just released a book of his own titled The Life of a Photograph.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

This is really a wonderful book to read and enjoy. It tends to contain more text than most photo books you’ll encounter, but the extra insight and understanding is well worth it. At 304 pages, this book requires several nights of reading — though, my wife managed to read it in one day (but she also has the superhuman ability to finish long novels over a weekend). But for the rest of us with sub-superpowers, it’ll take a few more days of getting lost in the photos and digesting the text.

I think the most enjoyable aspect of the book lies in its diversity of style. Photos from a single photographer are typically of similar artistic style and aesthetics. But in a book such as Visions of Paradise, the style is constantly fresh and changing.

Visions of Paradise can be purchased directly from National Geographic or through Amazon.com.