Creative Nature & Outdoor Photography, Revised Edition Paperback – Feb 23 2010
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About the Author
BRENDA THARP is an award-winning photographer, writer, and teacher specializing in travel, nature, and outdoor photography. Her images have been featured in numerous magazines and books, and she teaches throughout the United States, including Maine Media Workshops, Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, Point Reyes Field Seminars, and BetterPhoto.com. She can be found at www.brendatharp.com.
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There were a few things that bugged me along the way. First of all, this new edition is 100% digital, whereas the first version was 100% film. This doesn't change that much in regards to photo creativity or composition, but the first version had helpful sections about how to compensate for certain lighting conditions depending on what kind of film you were using. Plus that means 100% of the photos in the first book were film, 100% digital in the second book, and no two are the same. I think it would be worth it to read both and compare photos from both. She constantly mentions in the second edition how easy digital manipulation is, so I'll bet that changed her approach when she was actually in the field.
For all of her example photos, she lists the size of her lens, the focal length at which she used it, shutter speed, and aperture. No ISO. Again, this is not meant to be a technical book, but I could see a newbie trying to match her settings to the best of their knowledge, getting bad results, and becoming discouraged. I also mention this because she wrote down her film speed for every shot in the first edition. And I hate to say it, but she claims to use a six thousand dollar Canon DSLR throughout this book, and there's a very real advantage as far as way higher, way cleaner ISOs being at your disposal when you're in the field shooting at very small apertures.
Sometimes she'll tell a really great, detailed story about how she figured out something in the field or how something fell into place for a truly memorable photo, and the photos on that page are of completely unrelated situations, so you can't see what she's even talking about. Though most of the time, she does include quality photographs related to the subject about which she's writing.
The last thing that bothered me was the typos. I can't say there's a lot of them but there's a half dozen very obvious ones that take away from the book. The "wondeorful" plug-ins she uses in Photoshop (pg. 127) and getting feedback "fr/om" your viewer (pg. 19) distract from the purty, purty picture on the opposite page. But that's just me.
Overall this is a very great book, full of very great photos. This is THE book to get once you've read up on shutter speed, aperture, and all the other boring technical bits. I've never read something about depth of field in a technical book and wanted to go out shooting, but I'll read one page in this book about diagonal lines, complementary colors, or the different qualities of light and I'll instantly be tempted to grab my camera and go out shooting.
The book reads like a one-person photo exhibit of rather eclectic subjects and techniques, where the photographer cheerfully comments on each picture. "I waited several hours for the orca to breach", "See how I captured the dominance of the Golden Gate bridge" ... Being an artisan does not necessarily make one a teacher.
Tharpe mentions "style" in her book, and an admonition she received many years ago that her work was merely postcard material devoid of her presence. I closed the book (it took only 3 hours to read) with a puzzling aftertaste: What _is_ Tharpe's style? If anything, her photos are nice postcards, calendars, tourism brochures, and stock photo material. Which are qualities I admire. Her technique and perseverance are present, but her character is not. Perhaps a self-critique of her own style and an introspective analysis of how she developed it might help readers transition from stirring emotions to visual concepts.
In terms of creative instruction, this book is similar to Peterson's "Learning to See Creatively". These two books do overlap, although in many ways, they are complementary. Tharp covers 'core' topics like lighting, design elements, and composition quite well (and this is what made the book so successful in the first edition). If you've never been exposed to these ideas, this book is a great introduction. The material is engaging and easy-to-read, and does not feel like a textbook (which many books on composition tend to feel like). However, if you are already familiar with these topics, the presentation may feel a bit shallow. On a few occasions, a topic will be described and stop just short of giving really practical advice or examples on how it might be used. It was disappointing to sometimes read a fairly vague passage and then have it qualified with something generic like "just keep trying and you'll get it" (sic). Nevertheless, this is still among one of the better introductory instructional books on composition.
Of the few sidebars (or otherwise minor sections) on technical topics, none were covered very well. Tharp discusses the histogram, and 'exposing to the right', as well as topics like HDR and some post-processing ideas, all of which had fairly weak coverage. The weakest topic by far was on depth of field, where the book tries to describe hyperfocal focusing, and basically butchers the topic. The text describes the DoF master application, but not the excellent website, where all of this is explained wonderfully.
Despite it's flaws, the real 'meat' of this book continues to be relatively good. This book is best for beginning photographers. If you more advanced, and are looking for some deeper discussion of 'vision' and expression through photography (something that Tharp hints at in a few places), then I'd highly recommend you take a look at David duChemin's excellent books instead.
When I read it is with a highlighter in hand. There is hardly a page in either book that I haven't marked or written a note to myself inspired by what I had just read.
The bonus of these books is the photographic examples the authors use. If you bought Creative Nature & Outdoor Photography, just for the remarkable photos it would be worth the price.
Maybe you know someone with an budding interest in photgraphy, consider these books as a gift to them. They'll become much better and faster photographers than learning on their own.