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Exploring North American Landscapes: Visions and Lessons in Digital Photography [Paperback]

Marc Muench

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Book Description

Feb. 25 2011

Over the years, photographers have come to know one thing is certain in the landscape photography world: there are places in America that have become icons of the landscape. This book focuses on a few places that have become such a draw, almost as if the rocks and trees have demanded to be photographed.

As a third generation landscape photographer, Marc Muench has been fortunate to be one photographer that has lived the experience, explored the regions, lugged the large cameras, waited for the light, and, in a few cases, photographed a unique location for the first time. Marc discusses how landscape photography is more than simply an exploration of the landscape, but is also an exploration of your equipment and, ultimately, of yourself.

The question is asked over and over: what is it that makes your heart beat faster and your blood begin to rush, leading you to reach for your camera? Muench believes the answers to this question are buried in the many stories of what landscape photographers have been doing over the past fifty years. He writes about his stories, his father's stories, and his grandfather's stories; and he shares the images that have, in a way, become what people around the world think of when they imagine what the more dramatic America looks like.

An entire section of this book is devoted to the technical aspects of landscape photography, including what equipment to use, techniques for working with environmental conditions, and easy to understand step-by-step lessons on image optimization using Photoshop and other tools.

Muench's stunning images will inspire anyone who picks up this book, and photographers from the amateur to the professional level will learn how they too can find, capture, and process their own amazing landscape images.
Foreword by Katrin Eismann


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Product Description

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.


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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What's in a Title? Feb. 3 2011
By Conrad J. Obregon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I wonder how the title of "Exploring North American Landscapes" was picked. Even the subtitle scarcely reveals the contents of the volume.

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.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book that's a bit difficult to categorize.... March 18 2011
By Michael C. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
First of all this is a book for "shooters" not armchair theorists, academics or narrowly focused technicians. While it includes a partial collection of Marc Muench's superior photographs it is not a classic portfolio book. While it explores Marc's rich family photographic legacy and his own personal visualization process it is not primarily an autobiographical work. And while it contains a wealth of practical technical digital processing information it is not a classic "How To" book. The true beauty of this book is the wonderful blend of inspiring landscapes, personal insights from a master craftsman and detailed technical guidance and workflow advice that is truly practical. When I assess the merit of any photography book I always ask myself, "Does this book ignite my passion for the craft and/or help me become a better photographer?" I believe "Exploring North American Landscapes" does both. Additionally, the book is beautifully designed and edited (another fine job by Joan Dixon) and carries on the excellent tradition and high standards of Rocky Nook. Highly recommended!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Misnamed must-have photo book Feb. 22 2011
By Henry E. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The title implies that this is a where-to book, as in where to take great photographs. There is some of that, but in reality this is a how-to book, and a fantastic one at that--a treasure trove of info and tips from the scion of the Muench clan of outstanding landscape photogaphers. The section on Marc's subtle and excellent post-processing alone is worth the price of the book. This is a must-have for every aspiring landscape and nature photographer.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Introduction of Landscape Photography Artistry March 13 2011
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book attempts a difficult balance; first, define and characterize landscape photographic composition while you're using that composition to make a personal statement, and second, detail the post processing steps that allow you to add features that were only in your mind's eye when the original photo was taken. The author states that his approach to photography is guided by the statement, "a photographer only records. An artistic photographer reveals!" Of course what is revealed in the final print is a personal statement by the "artist." With the amount of post processing available to any photographer today, final prints based on photos taken from the same point in the same conditions may look very different.

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.
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and educational Aug. 7 2011
By AOPC - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I found this to be an enjoyable and educational book. The author is a third generation photographer. He tells interesting stories about exploring North American landscapes with his father, renowned photographer, David Muench, and describes how that influenced his photography. The book is well written and contains beautiful and inspiring landscape images throughout.

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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