Exploring North American Landscapes: Visions and Lessons in Digital Photography Paperback – Feb 25 2011
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About the Author
Marc Muench was born in Santa Barbara, California, where he now resides with his wife, Stefanie, and their three children. He has been a professional landscape and sports photographer for over 20 years. After completing his studies at Pasadena Art Center College of Design, Marc immediately began photographing for book publishers such as Graphic Arts Center, Browntrout Publishing, and Time Inc. His photographs have appeared in numerous magazines, books, calendars, and postcards, and in 2003, he was designated as a Kodak Photo Icon.
Marc is now the artist-in-residence at dgrin.com for Smugmug, where he contributes on a regular basis to the Muench University critique thread. He is also the photo editor of the National Parks Guide, published by The American Park Network. The guides contain many of his images taken throughout the United States National Park system.
Marc recently completed a year-long video project on Catalina Island for the Catalina Island Conservancy. The five-minute video highlights the new Trans Catalina Trail, capturing dynamic landscapes, wildlife, and hikers exploring their way across the Island.
Marc ™s goal is to convey the drama and the power of nature "to share the experience " in his photographic images. And his images show that, without a doubt, Marc has achieved his goal time and time again.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The book is an amalgam of portfolio, memoir and instruction manual by Marc Muench. Besides chapter 6, which is a collection of 32 images (only identified by location without shooting data), the rest of the book is illustrated with the author's photographs, some just in final results and others in the process of development. Some of the landscapes are lovely, although a few are pedestrian. As a portfolio though, Marc Muench must compete with many other great landscape photographers, including his illustrious grandfather Josef and his father David, and he doesn't rise above this crowd.
As a memoir, the book is not particularly interesting, especially since it doesn't reveal very much about his own life or his relationship with his father and grandfather. His own life seems rather normal and not as interesting as the life of a character like, say, Moose Peterson. His biography doesn't do much to explicate his photographs.
As an instructional manual, it is divided into two parts, one of which offers tips about the process of capture and the other of which addresses processing in Photoshop. In capture he waxes about chasing the light, even describing himself as a fan of the weather channel, but mostly he talks in generalities. Amongst other things, I wondered what he looked for in weather forecasts, but this kind of useful information was never revealed.
The Photoshop section revealed a few of the post-processing techniques the author uses, like setting white and black points for maximum range and then adjusting the midrange. Even here, his instruction adds nothing to the standard Photoshop instruction manual. For example with regard to the clarity slider, which he says is his most used mid-range control, he says only that it adds contrast to the mid-tones, with one of the more noticeable effects appearing in cloudy skies. He discusses what he calls regional dynamics, but these are merely targeted adjustments. He also explains his process for manual high dynamic range processing but photographers who have moved onto software like Photomatix Pro may wonder why someone would want to do so much work to achieve such limited results. A beginner will not learn post-processing and experienced users will probably already have encountered Muench's techniques.
There is nothing in the book that really deals with the exploring of North American landscapes, the author merely showing us his images of the western United States and a bit of southwest Canada.
The market is crowded with books about landscape photography. This book is easily lost in the crowd.
The book is a combination of a short philosophical course on photography, snippets of autobiography and family history, photographic examples of techniques that are discussed and explained in the second half of the book and a series of lessons in the second half that attempt to provide tools and techniques that allow creation of the finished product. The subject matter is mainly photography of the southwestern United States, so perhaps the title suggesting North America Landscapes is hyperbolic.
For those who love western landscapes, the images reproduced here will resonate. The focus is on landscapes that have to be pursued to be appreciated. The author had to travel distance to take these photos, most likely often in difficult terrain with the threat of incoming weather ever present. Many of them are very striking.
The second half contains a series of lessons from the digital dark room. Topics include work flow management, masking, highlighting the subject, and a good description of HDR (high dynamic range) processing. There is also a short section on panoramic images.
The material is clearly presented, the reproductions of the photos are well done. There is no index. There is an "index" of feature images in the back of the book but page numbers for the images are not given, only the chapters in which the images are found.
I'm not sure what group of photographers will appreciate this book. It may provide a brief introduction for whose who wish to decide if they want to pursue the art of landscape photography, but there is much more to learn if one truly wishes to pursue that goal. There are many books that provide much greater detail on the Photoshop lessons, including others by Rockynook. The author's personal philosophy is well presented, and will appeal to some. His life story parallels the gradual transformation in the public mind of the photographer from "historian" to "artist." But for many it may be an introduction to the art of landscape photography.
The author suggests that a photographer records, while an artistic photographer reveals. The objective should be to recreate the emotions the photographer experienced when he saw a scene, not just show the scene in front of him. He explains the values, thrills, and benefits of exploring as well as the satisfaction and exhilaration of discovery.
There are some very good sections on chasing and capturing special light conditions; equipment and techniques for better panoramas; using tilt/shift or perspective control lenses; and still time lapse images.
One chapter, on the author's favorite places, includes terrific images and descriptions of special places in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Santa Barbara County and the Channel Islands.
There are detail lessons on post processing, including workflow; setting dynamic range when converting RAW files; Quick Masking to lighten, darken, edit color cast, or adjust contrast in certain "regions' of an image; and on high dynamic range.
I have loved exploring and photographing North American landscapes for over thirty years, and I continue to work on developing my skills. I think this book can help me do that.
C. Knott, Arkansas Outdoor Photographers Club
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