on January 29, 2003
People that purchased this book thinking they will be instructed on how to insert TAB-A into SLOT-B will be very disappointed.
People that purchase a book on electrodynamics to tell them how to change a light-bulb will also be disappointed.
Let's be very clear about this: This is not a How-To book. If you're looking for a How-To, there are people lined up around the block to tell you what to do.
This is a book about capturing emotion, feeling, and energy in a photograph. Most importantly, this book discusses the need to be able to communicate these feelings and energy to other viewers. Without this, your photograph has failed. This is how to put parts of yourself (not physically) into the images you've captured. This is book that explores more the philosophy of photography than anything else.
I've certainly gained a much greater appreciation on what it takes to capture those elements from this book. It's not a be-all-end-all to photographic discussion, but it has made me think. The first part of the text has probably been the most valuable, but each section thereafter ties into elements of the first section in quite interesting ways.
This book is not only humbling, (as are most books written by professionals and read by amateurs,) but it is uplifting. It has both inspiring me to start down the path to being a better photographer, and has shown me with frightening clarity how my habits could turn that path into the road to mediocrity.
It's sad that Mr. Rowell's voice and shutter have been silenced, but I'm glad to have been introduced to his work and writings.
on November 19, 2002
Galen Rowell's photographies speek for themselves (marvelous illustrations!!!). This book provides the intellectual background (basically a compilation of more or less independent essay from "Outdoor photographer"). Just like other outdoor photographers Galen Rowell states that being a promissing (or talented) outdoor photographer one basically needs to be a naturalist.
Hence this book is short on technical advice (that's why I rated it only with 4 stars), but if advice is given it's precious (fill flash and flash compensation, aerial "wisdom" etc.). IMHO it is a backdraw that it sometimes reads like a Nikon advertisement.
After the more technical first part the rest of the book primarily deals with ethical (e.g. altering of digitized images, overcrowded tourist ressorts etc.) topics and major experiences.
Although Rowell sometimes sounds a bit snobbish, always being the first, the last, the only one, the most patient, the best informed etc. (which he probably was), it's exciting to read throughout the entire book.
I'm gratefull for new insights and the inspiration to focus on human perception when composing images (actually the book deserves some more stars for this). This book encouraged me to think about composition rather from the viewers perspective than from the photographer's. Rowell gives some book recommendations, but I started with Richard Zakia's very readable "Perception and Imaging" for it was the most recent on the market.
Throughout the book Rowell emphazises that well made photographies convey a particular spirit from the photographer experiencing the situation towards the viewer whose only chance to capture the mood is to find it in the photography.
Rowell tells you what it took him to take his pictures and, besides just interesting anecdotes, encourages to commit to the situation.
If you're searching for technical advice look for something else (e.g. John Shaw's Nature Photography Field Guide which is simply brilliant). Sooner or later you'll come across Galen Rowell and you'll find out that it's not just handling your gear.
on May 11, 2003
If you're a serious photographer (amateur or pro) and find your interest in shooting lagging occasionally, Rowell's enthusiasm might be contagiousness enough to provide a cure. This man was passionate about photography and went to extraordinary ends to get the shots he visualized. The majority of the book deals with his philosophy of photography and how he accomplished what he did. There's also much excellent technical advice. The book's only shortcoming, from my very personal perspective (take it for what it's worth), is the undercurrent of Rowell's ample ego. Were the personal pronoun "I" deleted from the book, its page count would be reduced considerably. Nonetheless, I still strongly recommend "Inner Game" for the highly passionate and very personal account that it is - an extraordinary photographer's testimonial to a life totally devoted to the art of photography and love of nature. It makes you want to climb a mountain and take pictures!
on September 20, 2002
This is a review that I have been meaning to write for some time, but with the recent, tragic death of the author in a light plane crash, its time to put pen to paper.
Galen Rowell was one of the outstanding adventure photographers of our time. A major proponent of "participatory photography", Rowell's unique approach was based less on equipment and technique, and more on vision and philosophy. Participatory photography is an approach where the photographer is not a passive observer of the subject, but someone who is interacting with the environment and the subjects. Rowell was an active participant, and as such was a noted mountain climber and hiker, skills that allowed him to get a unique perspective that most photographers don't even get close to.
Most of us have seen those photos of a climber hanging delicately from a cliff face, and marvelled at the extreme situation in which that climber has got themselves into. Yet few of us stop to think about the photographer, who is right there in the same place taking that photo. Many times that photographer was Galen Rowell.
His remarkable photographs have been featured in National Geographic, Outdoors and Outdoor Photographer. He wrote 18 books; some of them coffee table books, others more instructive about his approach to photography, and some of them about climbing.
The Inner Game of Outdoor Photography is one of Rowell's most recent books. Inner Game is a compilation of various articles that Rowell has written over the years for Outdoor Photographer magazine.
Clearly underwater photography is a form of participatory photography - it is difficult for the photographer to be passive. Although not known for underwater images, Rowell's philosophy and approach is one that underwater photographers should consider. Few other photographers become so much a part of their environment as underwater photographers!
As a matter of interest, Rowell did in fact do some underwater photography, and some of these pictures are published in Inner Game. When you look at these, underwater photographers may notice some backscatter - a curse that most land based photographers never learn much about. But the composition, the organisation of the elements within the photo and the technical exposure are up there with the best, as you would expect. His landscape and adventure photography are without equal.
Many underwater photographers have an extensive library of books on our subject. Many of us read up on photographic fundamentals, landscape photography, macro photography and so on, due to the parallels between topside and underwater techniques. This book is different - it focuses on the philosophy and approach. These are aspects independent of environment.
The Inner Game of Outdoor Photography is a superbly written and beautifully illustrated book. I would recommend this book highly to underwater photographers, landscape photographers, and indeed to any photographer who understands the importance of vision in image creation.
on September 13, 2002
It is quite sad and unfortunet that Galen Rowell and his wife were killed in a plane crash recently. The world has lost a truly visionary photographer. The results that Rowell achieved with 35mm film are truly breathtaking.
I paid full price for this book, which is something I don' t do very often. In it, Rowell proves himself a very generous and inspiring person. He shows an uncanny ability to not only make amazing photographs, but to also talk saliently and make cogent statements about them too. He shares with us all his thoughts, stories and techniques for his photography. I'm not sure many other other photographers would be so willing to do so.
As a photographer myself, I found it interesting to learn and understand what went through Galen Rowell's mind while making photographs. Oftentimes one sees a photographer's results (his images) yet knows nothing about the journey of work it took to achieve the results. This book fills that gap beautifully. You don't have to be a landscape photographer to enjoy this book. You only have to be interested in photography in general to get something from it.
The book is easy to read and the size of it is just about right (ie. not too big and bulky).
on May 29, 2002
"Galen Rowell's Inner Game of Outdoor Photography" is a collection of articles written for Outdoor Photographer magazine organized into four broad categories. Interspersed between the articles are sections of photographs. Each article is cross-listed with relevant photographs, and vice-verse. This cross listing is an effective device; coming back to various photographs as I read the essays forced me to really think about them.
The first section deals with "creative and cognitive processes." These range from the inner desire needed to go out and get that shot to an almost scholarly examination - complete with annotated bibliography - of the processes involved in human sight and the differences between what people see and what film records. I found this section to be the strongest aspect of the book as well as the most useful and interesting.
The second section consists mainly of technical material ranging from how to pack your gear to ways to use flash in outdoor settings. It is pitched at a higher level than an introductory photo guide, suitable for an advanced novice like myself.
The third section is primarily a collection of travel stories, often only tangentially touching on photography. However, these articles provide the context in which many of the photographs in the book were taken. Arguably, context is the crux of photography. As Rowell points out, photographs are used to tell a story - though maybe not the one intended by the photographer.
The last section conveys Rowell's view on the positive and negative effects that photography and outdoor travel have on the natural environment, as well as on the art of color outdoor photography vis-à-vis fine art photography. These essays are thought provoking and, like the rest of the book, very well written.
I had feared from the title that I was in for a bunch of pseudo-spiritual babble, but instead I found a fairly deep, if meandering, discussion of the spectrum of what outdoor photography involves.
on September 25, 2001
The advanced photographer is searching for something in a photography book different from the novice's search. The advanced photographer understands exposure, focus perspective and the fundamentals and can tie them together to create a sharp, properly exposed image. What he or she wants to know is how to form a vision of the world that he sees and translate it into what Galen Rowell call's a visionary image.
"Galen Rowell's Inner Game of Outdoor Photography" is not a how-to book. There is no progressive review of the fundamentals. Instead it is a collection of Rowell's essays that have appeared in Outdoor Photographer magazine over the years, revised for the book and placed in a sort of order that ties subjects and ideas together, rather then in the random fashion that they appeared in the magazine. The book is divided into four parts. The first discusses photographic visualization; the second a few advanced techniques that the photographer can use; the third Rowell's own travels and the way he transformed his visions into photos;and the last, a collection of miscellaneous thoughts related to photography ranging from digital manipulation to what's really wrong in the Galapagos.
It may be that we cannot be taught how to make the leap from snapshot to visionary image. But perhaps the teacher can open up those recesses in our own mind where our creativity lurks. I know that after reading these essays and thinking about them, I've found my own approach to photography has changed for the better.
Even though the book swept me away, I have to confess to one complaint. At the top of each essay is a reference to relevant photographs contained elsewhere in the book. Several photos are referenced by more than one article. In their original magazine format, the photos conveniently appeared at the start of the essay. Here you will have to keep flipping back and forth. There probably is no economical way to provide these links, but it does break up the continuity a bit.
Although I'm pretty closely aligned with Rowell's political philosopy, which creeps in throughout the essays, especially in the final section, there's still enough appropriately provocative material here from which a photographer with a different philosophy can benefit.
Although you may feel driven to devour this volume as quickly as possible once you get a hint of its goals, I think you will keep it on hand, to occasionally dip into an essay or two to stir up your own photographic creativity.
on July 14, 2001
As befitting a book on photography, colour separation & reproduction are excellent, photographs printed on high grade gloss paper. The font might prove a tad small for some, but the ample spacing between lines does help make for easy reading. The binding on the hard-cover version is sound & strong.
As the title suggests, the book is not quite your usual travel photography book, certainly the chapters are not laid out in any conventional manner.
Chapter 1 deals with the author's own inner vision, of what creates an good image. Rowell is unafraid to share his philosophy on image making.
Chapter 2 explains how both equipment and mind can (and perhaps ought) to be pushed to their respective limits. Rowell is careful to emphasise that often - less is more.
In Chapter 3, Rowell writes about melding of camera person's mind's eye visions with the realities & practicalities of a field trip or expedition.
And finally in the last Chapter, Rowell shares his thoughts and views about how an image may be communicated to the world.
While the title does caution this is not quite your average photography book - the book itself is not some esoteric journey into the dark recesses of a photographer's mind. Rowell is much too pragmatic for that.
As always Rowell remained forthright and direct. The contentsensibly written, and helps the reader appreciate the mental preparations required to make good images on a field trip ... the book is by and large about how a camera persons needs to learn/understand how imagination, mind-set and perspective often determines the type & quality of images made ...
While not quite the book for the new photographer trying to figure out f-stops, Rowell does shares technical tips and suggestions for the making better & more effective images.
For many of us, a time comes when we begin to truly realise (not just mouth the words) but truly realise that getting the latest or most expensive equipment just isn't improving our images ...
And that's when we need to read this book ...
on July 8, 2001
I could not possibly say enough about the brilliance of Galen Rowell. It is self-evident from his photographs that he is both a technical master and an artist with tremendous vision -- he possesses an extraordinary ability to capture and convey breathtaking images and moments in time.
What is extremely lucky for other photographers like me, constantly striving to learn and improve, is that Galen Rowell is also a phenomenal writer. Some can do; some can teach -- Galen Rowell is one of those rare instances of a master of both.
The first time I picked up his Mountain Light (a MUST read), I heard a voice speaking to exactly all of the difficulties I had encountered in my work, explaining what the problems were, and clearly showing me how to correct them.
Some of Galen Rowell's photographs are so extraordinary that some people doubt whether they are authentic -- let me just say, read Galen's teachings, apply them to your own work, and you will understand the power of this man's vision. Before studying his work and writing, I would not have believed what I could do with my own camera.
Galen Rowell's Inner Game of Outdoor Photography is yet another magnificent addition to his collection of works which will allow any photographer to expand and fulfill their potential, and to achieve realization of their artistic and personal vision.
on January 16, 2002
I have enjoyed Galen Rowell's photography and writing for many years. His column in "Outdoor Photography" magazine is probably the main reason I renew my subscription.
This volume, like its predecessor "Galen Rowell's Vision," is a collection of his columns from that magazine, arranged thematically, with more of his photos to illustrate the points made. He ranges from how to photograph, to technical issues and equipment, to environmental issues, to seeing and creating.
I don't want to be Galen Rowell. I don't want to photograph like Galen Rowell. But I like his viewpoint and outlook. He seems to be able to put these things into words a bit better than most other photographers. This is a worthy addition to any outdoor photographer's bookshelf, not to mention the armchair photographer.