Category Archives: Books

Morning Light and Flight

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June 5, 2013, 7:20am… Another cool and less than hospitable morning.  It was just me on the beach and one gull flying by.


“The gulls sees the farthest that flies highest.”

Richard Bach – Jonathan Livingston Seagull


A “Better” Way to Begin

Amateur Photog Hkbk001I started dabbling in photography in the summer of 1969 when I inherited my grandfather’s 8mm Kodak movie camera.  Later that year I worked at a summer camp where I shot and later edited what I considered to be an entertaining eighteen minute movie of my seven weeks as a camp counselor.  At the end of summer I showed the movie to the camp director, his family and the other counselors.  They liked it too.  That night I loaned the film to a counselor so he could show his family.  He passed it on to still another counselor.  I think the movie then went to the camp director’s family and probably after that to another counselor.   With time I forgot who had it.  I never saw the movie again and that was pretty much the end of my cinematographic endeavors.

In the Fall when I returned college, I took with me the Fujica Compact Deluxe 35mm camera I had also inherited.  I enrolled in my first photography class and learned how to hold a camera, make a decent exposure, develop Tri-X film and make a print.  I was hooked… And since then I have never been far from a 35mm camera or the digital equivalent.

Browsing my local library in the early 70’s, I discovered The Amateur Photographer’s Handbook by Aaron Sussman.  There weren’t many books available for beginning photographers back then, so I checked it out and started reading.  The book offered detailed answers on film types, metering, filters, when to use flash, how to take candid people pictures, developing film, dodging and burning prints and much more.  Two months and several library renewals later I finished it.  At 562 pages, the book was not an easy read, but in its day an important book for any young photographer.  First printed in 1941, The Amateur Photographer’s Handbook was in continuous publication for over forty years.  In 1976 I was given a copy and since then have reread and browsed many time through my tabbed, yellow-highlighted and dog-eared copy.

I have an eighteen year old grand-daughter who shows a lot of interest in digital photography, but I’m not giving her a copy of the old book.  Now out of print for around twenty-five years, it is still a classic, but too long, too detailed and has too few photographs for a beginner.  I don’t want to scare Elizabeth away while she’s still in the early stage of her photo development (No pun intended.)

Instead, I gave her a copy of BetterPhoto Basics – The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Taking Photos Like a Pro by Jim Miotke (published by Amphoto Books).

Over the years, I have read dozens and dozens of photography books.  BetterPhoto Basics tops my list of books for beginners eager to learn camera and photography basics.  Each topic (such as capturing a sunset, preventing red-eye, how to crop for impBetterPhoto Basics 002act and much more) is covered in one or two pages.  Explanations are well-written and there are colorful example photos on almost every page.  Author, Jim Miotke, also points out if a technique works best with point & shoot cameras, digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras or both.

If there were a required text-book for the digital photography classes I teach, this would be the one.  It is a terrific learning tool, good for beginners and for old-dog photographers who need to be reminded every so often why the basics are so important.

That’s why I bought two copies; one for my grand-daughter and one for me.

January 28, 2013

Chasing the Light: Improving Your Photography with Available Light

Ibarionex Perello is a freelance photographer based in Los Angeles, a writer, a podcaster and now author.  His book, published in late 2011 is titled, Chasing the Light: Improving Your Photography with Available Light.  For the past five years Perello has hosted a podcast called, The Candid Frame (Available as a free download at iTunes.).  I stumbled upon The Candid Frame a year or so ago.  There are dozens of photo podcasts on iTunes, but The Candid Frame is one of the best.  Now, I eagerly await each installment as I work my way through the three-year backlog.  Each podcast is an interview and conversation between Perello and one photographer.  It doesn’t matter if the photographer is well-known or someone still working to be discovered, Perello asks intelligent, well thought out questions.  For his effort Perello gets interesting responses in return.  The podcast is well worth subscribing to.  But I digress.  This is not a review of the podcast; it is about Perello’s book.

At about the same time I began thinking about writing this blog, Perello, in one of his podcasts, mentioned his book, Chasing the Light.  Through the podcast I felt I knew Perello’s photographic interests and style and I believed the book would be to my liking.  I was not disappointed.

This is not a “how-to” book that tells you where to set your shutter or aperture.  The first sentence in the book reads, “Each time I venture out with my camera, I’m filled with a sense of hope.”  Perello goes on to talk about how it was only after he learned to see light as it affected his subject and his mood, did his photography become what he hoped it could be.  “Start by asking yourself three questions,” he writes, “Where is the light coming from?  What is the quality of light? How much light do I have to work with?”  He answers these questions and more in an easy to comprehend style.

Do not shy away from this book if you are new to digital photography or think that a book length discussion on seeing light is not what you are looking for.  Perello provides basic camera exposure and metering information geared toward beginner and experienced photographers alike.  All written with his eye on the light and how it affects your images.

The heart of his message was for me, Perello’s explanation of the way brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness and pattern (He refers to them as the Five Visual Draws.) consistently affects how we are drawn to an image.  Through the rest of the book, Perello tells and shows with his own excellent photos how the five visual draws are weaved into images of landscapes, cities and people; in color or black and white; and with subjects that are obvious and subjects that become obvious when you learn to see the light.

As photographer and author, Rob Sheppard writes in the Forward of the book, “Ibarionex’s joy in photography comes through, too, in both the text and the photos.  These are positive photos that make you feel good about the world we live in.”

At the end of each The Candid Frame podcast, Perello asks his guest to recommend a one photographer who has been a personal influence and that the audience should know about.  I have listened to many Candid Frame podcasts.  Every time I hear the question I ask myself, who would I chose if I were interviewed by Perello.  After reading Chasing the Light: Improving Your Photography with Available Light I have my answer.

I recommend Ibarionex Perello.

January 23, 2012

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