[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.
[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.
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.
[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.
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.
Photography is just like every other skill — it requires three things: 1) a basic understanding of the fundamentals, 2) lots of practice, and 3) some raw talent (and maybe a little luck). Books won’t help you much with the last two, but they’re perfect for the first one.
Aimed at the beginner to intermediate dSLR user, the book steps through the foundations of modern photography. Understanding your camera and the light it captures is the basis of solid photography and is essential to more advanced topics.
You can purchase Photo Nuts and Bolts from digital Photography School. Links in this post are affiliate links to the product — It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but I get a cut of the sale.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Photo Nuts and Bolts is a 64 page downloadable eBook containing 10 lessons in the fundamental theories and mechanics of photography. The three column layout and minimalistic formatting make this book easy on the eyes and a pleasure to read. Supporting photos and diagrams are scattered throughout as needed, but are not overbearing in their presence. Each lesson is approximately three to four pages long, making them a moderately quick read.
The 10 lessons in this book are very concise and to the point (I’m particularly impressed because I’m a rambler). The material is presented as introductory reading for the given topic. While it does go into details, it will leave the reader with a basic understanding and a thirst for more. The last page of each lesson helps quench that thirst with homework challenges, additional resources to various websites and web articles, and questions/answers and comments from fellow photographers on the given topic.
The flow of the book is fairly important, and I would suggest reading the lessons in order since they build on each other. We start off with a few lessons in light and optics, followed by exposure controls, and finishing up with additional camera controls. The end of the book also has a glossary of the basic terms used throughout the book.
As a bonus for the launch of the book (1 week only), you’ll receive a one page pocket guide intended to print out, fold up, and… stick in your pocket. This little guide gives you some general camera settings that may be useful for 10 different situations (outdoor sunshine, outdoor dusk, indoor action, indoor low-light, etc.).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Neil Creek is a fellow photography enthusiast that decided to take a shot at the professional side of things a few years ago. He’s been doing well photographing, teaching courses, and writing for the digital Photography School. I’ve known Neil for some years now, and his enthusiasm for the art of photography has only grown each day. The writing in this eBook reflects his high level of understanding in the technical and mechanical/optical aspects of photography.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
This is a good solid book that teaches the foundations of photography in a concise and meaningful fashion. And even if you’re somewhat familiar with the topics, there are a lot of background and theory details presented that you don’t typically see outside of textbooks.
Readers of the digital Photography School blog will notice that many of the lessons in the book have been published in the past months. So why buy the book? A lot of stuff has been reworked and touched up in these articles. Plus, the last two chapters are completely new. It’s also handy to have everything in consecutive order and in one package so you can quickly reference the topics at any time.
I would suggest this book for beginner/intermediate photographers wanting to gain a better understanding of their equipment (the dSLR in particular). If you’re struggling with concepts like exposure controls, lens controls, light metering, white balance, and other fundamentals, this book should straighten you out.
You can purchase Photo Nuts and Bolts for $19.97 just for this first week for an undetermined time period, after which point it will return to the regular price of $29. Plus, the pocket guide is only available for the first week purchases, so grab it soon!
It is very much the holiday season, and gifts are often a part of that. As photographers, we like to receive certain types of gifts… sometimes equipment, and sometimes things that inspire or educate us. Equipment can be a difficult gift to give because we’re often very picky about what we want. But photo books and photography books almost always please (and good photo books are great even for non-photographers).
Over the last few years, I’ve reviewed an assortment of books. This post is a gathering of those in-depth reviews. Most of them are photo books (whose main content is the actual photo rather than the paragraph), but I’ve done a few technical/educational books too. So if you’re looking for a gift for a photographer (or anybody with a coffee table really), here are some excellent choices.
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.
Of all the books I’ve reviewed, this is probably my favorite. Truly great work from a great photographer.
An intimate view the northern and southern polar regions, including the animals and their environments. 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.
This 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.
This is a collection of work from Sam Abell’s experience in the field as a National Geographic photographer. But the book isn’t about National Geographic or the stories covered by the photos — it’s about Sam Abell, his photos, and how they’ve taken on a life of their own.
This book is 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 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.
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. 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.
Night Vision is a book about urban exploration — or the investigation of man-made places ignored and largely unseen. This includes old “ghost towns” and other sites that have been left to decay out of sight. Troy is a master of urban exploration, and he shares his thoughts and feelings on the topic throughout.
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. A good quick read and easy to get caught up in the photos.
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. This is a good one to have on the bookshelf or the coffee table.
Well… it’s a comic strip book. Don’t expect to find any breathtaking photos or golden nuggets of technical advice. The theme of the comic strip is a duck photographer and his journeys in the business. But you don’t have to be a professional to “get it”, since many of the strips are humorous to a wide spectrum of photographers.
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 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 focuses on the realm of digital photography, addressing those of us currently involved with digital photography and those looking to become involved. Digital cameras have matured over the last several years, bringing with them professionals and amateurs. Good photography is within reach for many people, and this book helps to lay the foundation for this hobby/profession.
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.
Last week, when I posted the review of The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography, I also mentioned that we had two copies of the book to give away. In order to win a book, you had to post a photo or a Flickr Gallery having to do with the topic of the book. We had only photo entries (sorry guys, sets are not the same as galleries), so I picked two of my favorite photos to receive a copy of the book.
You’ll find the winners of the contest below with their own comments before the image. The book is free for these two, but the rest of you can still grab a copy of your own. The price is now just under $20, but still totally worth it for the amount of useful content it contains.
Photo by Faisal. This little girl instantly got my interest in photographing her. I was captivated by her innocence and perhaps a little saddened by a certain abandoned gaze in her eyes. The place is ‘Jaglot Gor’ on the way to Hunza from Gilgit, Northern Pakistan. We had delicious Chapshru (a local dish) here.
Photo by Jonathan Robson. Taken last weekend, very hard to get them both in the same frame!
Last week, when I posted the review of Live, Laugh, Celebrate, I also mentioned that we had two copies of the book to give away. In order to win a book, you had to post a photo or a Flickr Gallery having to do with the topic of the book. We had only photo entries, so I picked two of my favorites to receive a copy of the book.
You’ll find the winners of the contest below with their own comments before the image. The books are in the mail for these two, but the rest of you can still grab a copy of your own. As I said before, it’s a great book for the whole family to enjoy and a nice addition to the coffee table collection.
Photo by Daniel — Taken at last years Halloween Charity Ball in Bucharest. The Ball’s theme was heroes the inspire children! I give you, Catwoman!
Photo by Joanie — Taken at a gathering of Mountain Men…in the mountains, natch. Here are just a couple of the 100+ who showed up to honor and celebrate the lives of those who helped carve out America’s West. Today’s mountain men are just as colorful as the men of yore. There are tall tales, hearty meals, tomahawk throws, black powder guns target shooting, and card games where I’m pretty sure everyone tries to outcheat each other. Add in some liquor — homemade and store bought — and late night campfires and the odds of laughing so hard you just about wet yourself are pretty good.
In my opinion, portraits can be the most interesting photos and they seem to naturally draw our attention. Why? I think we’re programmed to enjoy looking at photos of other people. Every person is different and we’re naturally curious about those we see in photos. In fact, I’ve often thought that the most important element of a photo is the human element.
As a photographer, you may already know that portraits are also one of the most difficult photos to pull off. Working with people and capturing them in a way that conveys their true beauty is not as simple as pushing a button. Portraits can be created in so many different ways that it is impossible to learn it all from a short article.
The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography is a collection of stand-alone lessons on various aspects of portrait photography. This eBook (PDF format electronic book) covers everything from technical to inspirational, and the information contained is top notch and well written.
The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography is a 78 page downloadable eBook containing 25 lessons in portrait photography. The 3 column layout is incredibly clean, easy to read, and flows naturally. Photos are scattered throughout as supporting material or examples to the lesson. Each lesson is written as a stand-alone topic typically 3 or 4 pages long.
The sections provide the essential learnings for the topic at hand. The idea is that you can read through one or two sections, soak it in, try out what you’ve learned, and go back to another section when you have time. There’s no need to read the entire book cover to cover before applying what you’ve learned — in fact, I wouldn’t even suggest doing so. There’s so much in this book that most of us wouldn’t be able to take it all in at once.
To give you an idea of what the book contains, some of the sections include: photographing children – composition, how to photograph people when travelling, environmental portraits, a fresh look at depth of field, portrait photography’s power posing, the human side of photography, 11 tips for better candid photography, shooting like a pro on a budget, and lots of other good stuff. So you can see that the topics are widely varied — some instructional, some inspirational, and some in between.
And as a bonus, the end of the book contains interviews with 6 very different professional photographers. They lay down all sorts of great insight and inspiration too. The photographers include David Duchemin, Neil Creek, Jack Hollingsworth, Kris Krug, Chase Jarvis, and Bert Stephani.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Darren Rowse is the primary author and editor of the eBook. He’s also the mastermind at the wheel of digital Photography School. Over 15 of the 25 sections of the eBook were written by Darren. The remaining articles were authored by various contributors including Natalie Norton, Christina N Dickson, Nathan Marx, Alexis Godschalk, James Pickett, and Neil Creek.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
Truly a great resource. I don’t know how else to say it! This is definitely more than a random collection of articles or a typical book. It’s really a resource that you can learn from, explore, and go back to as needed. You may not need every single lesson today, but most of the sections contain usable information and instruction for a large percentage of photographers out there.
Whether you’re shooting informal family pictures or professional portraits, you’ll likely find new things in this eBook. The content seems to be geared mainly toward intermediate/advanced amateurs looking to step it up a notch, but the voice of the writing is accommodating to beginners too. And even professionals need to keep learning new things in order to keep up with the times — I’m sure they can find a few nuggets of wisdom in there.
Highly recommended for any photographer interested in learning more about portrait photography. You can purchase The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography for $14.95 until December 1, at which point it will return to the regular price of $19.95.
WANT A FREE COPY?
Darren is providing a copy of The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography for 2 lucky winners here on Epic Edits! Here’s how you can get yours:
1) Submit a photo and/or link to a portrait you’ve taken. The photo must be your own. Bonus points for supplemental descriptions.
2) Submit a Flickr Gallery of portraits. 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! One entry per person. I’ll choose and announce the winners on (or near) December 2, 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last week, when I posted the review of Polar Obsession, I also mentioned that we had two copies of the book to give away. In order to win a book, you had to post a photo or a Flickr Gallery having to do with the polar regions. We had a few entries in each category, so I picked one from each to receive a copy of the book.
You’ll find the winners of the contest below with their own comments before the image and my comments after. The books are in the mail for these two, but the rest of you can still grab a copy of your own. It’s definitely one of my top recommendations this year, and the price is quite reasonable considering the size of the book and the content it holds.
Photo by João Almeida — “This one’s at Jokulrsarlon, the mythical glacier lagoon in South Iceland, and was taken in a very stormy morning when the weather cleared up a bit.”
This is a great landscape/seascape/icescape photo from João. Lovely cold blues and whites broken up by the dark patches of Earth. The mixture of ice and soil brings a new dimension to the foreground — lots of direction changes for the eye to follow, and the bands of high contrast are intriguing. The composition is broken up nicely by the water near center and the line of hills in the background.
Gallery by Andrew Ferguson — “I’ve specifically avoided using any photos involving people or animals to help enhance that feeling of being utterly, beautifully alone. The decision to use primarily blue photos, as well as the colour shift as you scroll down, were also conscious. I wanted to capture the feel of the way you sometimes notice the shifting weather on a long winter walk.”
This is an extremely eye-catching and well thought-out gallery from Andrew. Each photo stays directly on topic with his intent, and he didn’t fill it to the max of 18 photos just for the sake of filling it. Andrew wanted to convey a feeling of seclusion (which is what he titled the gallery) and did so with beautiful photos. I’m also impressed with the amount of thought and effort Andrew put into this Gallery by making comments and observations about each of his selections.
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 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).
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.