I 've always loved
books. The most exciting day of my life was when Sister Mary Anthony
took St. Catherine of Sienna's second grade class on a field trip
to a library. Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Free Library was the first
public library in America and although this branch, just off North Avenue,
was a small building, looking at all those books was one of the defining
moments in this kid's life. Books have been a big part of my life
ever since. The Internet is the world's largest encyclopedia,
but you can't beat reading a well-written, beautifully printed
book, like many in this group.
Photo Art by Tony Worobiec and Ray Spence. Published by Amphoto/ Watson-Guptill
Publications, 770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003; www.
watsonguptill.com; 160 pages; $29.95; softbound. (ISBN 0-8174-5372-5)
Despite its simplistic title, Photo Art offers a fascinating look at
creating artistic images with in camera, traditional darkroom, and digital
techniques. The authors almost pull it off, too. The first part, "Exploring
the Conventions," shows traditional darkroom techniques along
with digital equivalents, including photomontage, soft focus, selective
toning, and the best tutorial on creating digital infrared images I've
ever seen. In the second part, "Extending the Boundaries of Photography,"
they get lost with Emperor's New Clothes photographs that make
it seem as though a different team wrote it. It's as if the authors
were kidnapped by aliens and held on the mother ship until they finished
the second half.
I was going to name Photo Art as the best digital imaging book of the
year, but instead it's one heck of a half-book. What bothers me
most about this book is that immediately after flipping through the
pages I knew it was a UK import. How? There are lots and lots of nude
photographs that will send readers offended by this sort of image running,
screaming, for smelling salts. But what bugs me most is that this same
publisher would have turned down this same book if American writers
had submitted it as printed. Why? The nudes.
Digital Nature Photography by Jon Cox. Published by Amphoto/
Watson-Guptill Publications, 770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003; www.watsonguptill.com;
160 pages; $24.95; softbound. (ISBN 0-8174-3791-6)
Amphoto wisely chose Jon Cox to write this book and while it's a
big subject to cover in 160 pages, he does a great job combining practical
tips with wonderful photographs to provide an introduction to digital
nature photography. Instead of trying to convince us he's the next
Stephen King, there are lots of large photographs with text emphasizing
how they were made. His respect for the readers includes caption notations
if images were made in captivity, but that didn't change the cuteness
of his photograph of a wolf licking a friend's face. You'll
agree that Cox's photographs are amazing, especially when you see
the image of a bull elk made in Yellowstone with a Nikon 995 point-and-shoot.
This is a wonderfully useful book on creating nature photographs for the
nature lover in all of us.
Secrets of the Digital Darkroom by Peter Cope. Published by Amphoto/Watson-Guptill
Publications, 770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003; www.watsonguptill.com;
192 pages; $29.95; softbound. (ISBN 0-8174-5824-7)
This beautifully mounted volume, although not as comprehensive as my own
Secrets of the Dank Basement, nevertheless contains such useful secrets
such as "scanners are useful for digitizing images." You get
the picture. Far from containing secrets this is an introductory volume
that's helpful for the digital duffer getting started. The photographs
are competent, the instructions are easy to follow, and the designer's
and writer's presentation are flawless. I just wish that any of
my publishers had lavished the care in producing a book that Amphoto has
with this British import.
Adobe Photoshop Master Class by John Paul Caponigro. Published by Adobe
Press, Peachpit Press, 1249 Eighth St., Berkeley, CA 94710; www.peachpit.com;
504 pages; $55; softbound. (ISBN 0-321-13010-3)
I have always believed that there were two kinds of photo books: those
that inspired with their images or informed by their technical expertise.
Adobe Photoshop Master Class is one of the few to do both. It's
a large, heavy, expensive book that nonetheless looks like it's
worth the price before you even start reading it. The book combines the
author/photographer's philosophy of image making with stunning imagery
and how-to's. The section on "Atmospheric Perspective"
is more than worth the price of the book and shows how to use neutral
density masks to create a greater feeling of depth. Look at the illustrations
first and at the resulting images next, then read how John Paul Caponigro
created manipulated images that don't look manipulated along with
some that surely do. The book appears to be version independent, with
few specific tools and menus shown, but an occasional dialog box does
appear. His instructions should work for the version you're now
using and even the recently announced Photoshop 8.0. If you can only afford
one Photoshop book, this is the one.
Photoshop for Photography by Tom Ang. Published by Amphoto/Watson-Guptill
Publications, 770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003; www.watsonguptill.com;
128 pages; $24.95; softbound. (ISBN 0-8174-5373-4) Advanced Digital
Photography by Tom Ang. Published by Amphoto/Watson-Guptill Publications;
144 pages; $26.95; softbound. (ISBN 0-8174-3273-6)
James Brown is not the hardest working man in show business; Tom Ang is.
Witness another big colorful book, Photoshop for Photography, subtitled
the art of pixel processing just in case you might mistakenly want to
process a couple of vectors. Ang is a talented writer/photographer whose
books are always full of beautifully printed images, wonderful imaging
tips, and great design. Guess what? Ang's British, too, and so is
the book. It's full of "colour" notations that most
American readers won't find in their copy of Photoshop, but once
you get past how cheap Amphoto is not to produce an edition for American
readers, you'll find this is Ang's best book. It serves as
a great introductory-level course for new Photoshoppers and even "advanced"
users who think Channel Mixer is something Cuisinart makes. While not
full of in-your-face nudity like Photo Art, there are some images, including
a tender and lovingly photographed image of a woman breast-feeding her
baby, that might set sensitive readers' hair on fire. The rest of
you, go buy this book. Ang's Advanced Digital Photography could
be considered a sequel but covers software in addition to Adobe Photoshop.
Recommended for those people who can't get enough Ang in their lives.
Digital Camera Guides
Using Your Digital Camera by George Schaub. Published by Amphoto/
Watson-Guptill Publications, 176 Broadway, New York, NY 10003; www.watsonguptil.com;
160 pages; $24.95; softbound. (ISBN 0-8174-6355-0)
At the risk of appearing to suck up to our Editorial Director, this is
a pretty darn good book that lives up to its back cover's claim
to "learn how to get the best images from your digital camera."
It's a perfect book for the beginner; it starts with an explanation
of RAM (it's not a Dodge truck), and features lots of easily digestible
bits of technical information to help you understand what all those controls
mean on the menus of your digital camera's LCD preview screen. Instead
of the dull prose found in many digicam manuals, this book is a fun read
and illustrated with lots of color photographs enhanced by a readable
design. If you're giving a digital camera as a holiday gift, make
sure they get a copy of this book to go with it.
Digital Camera Guides
Digital Photography Special Effects by Michael Freeman. Published by Amphoto/Watson-Guptill
Publications, 176 Broadway, New York, NY 10003; www.watsonguptil.com;
160 pages; no price shown; softbound. (ISBN
Since many of the effects covered in this book are created in postproduction,
the Digital Photography portion of the title might seem misleading for
the causal shopper, but it has far more "secrets" and tips
for digital imaging than most popular books on the subject. This includes
how to create clouds or light the tip of your finger on fire. (Not literally,
but he shows tricks on how to do it safely, in camera.) This is a beautifully
bound and printed book that in tone and text lies somewhere between the
two Tom Ang books. Freeman, of course, is an original member of the British
Invasion and has jumped into digital imaging with both feet producing
a first-rate how-to book that would be my next choice before Ang's
Advanced Digital Photography book. It's chock full of great photos
and informative text.
Digital Photography Pocket Guide by Derrick Story. Published by O'Reilly,
1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol, CA 95472; www.oreilly.com;
114 pages; $14.95; softbound. (ISBN 0-596-00454-9) Macintosh Troubleshooting
Pocket Guide by David Lerner, Aaron Freimark, Tekserve Corporation. Published
by O'Reilly; 74 pages; $12.95; softbound. (ISBN 0-596-00443-5)
There's a well-known axiom in the book business that "little
books don't sell" and while the prices may seem steep for
books a little bigger than a 4x6 print, the information in O'Reilly's
(not that O'Reilly) Digital Studio series is priceless. You really
need two copies of the Mac troubleshooting book: one close to your desktop
machine, the other to pack with your laptop. You'll find wonderful
tips on solving problems as well as reasons why you should stay with OS
9 or switch to OS X. If you want to know why your older Apple monitor
won't connect to your new Power Mac, you'll find out. Experienced
shooters won't find much they can use in the Digital Photography
Pocket Guide, but it's a treasure trove for beginners who want to
learn how to use their camera's built-in spot meter and other techie
stuff. Let's prove the pundits wrong and stuff a set of O'Reilly's
Digital Studio series books into the stocking of your favorite digital
photographer this holiday season.
Mac OS X In A Nutshell by Jason McIntosh, Chuck Toporek, and Chris Stone.
Published by O'Reilly, 1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol,
CA 95472; www.oreilly.com;
801 pages; $34.95; softbound. (ISBN 0-596-00370-6) Mac OS X Hints
by Rob Griffiths. Published by O'Reilly; 461 pages; $24.95; softbound.
(ISBN 0-596-00451-6) Switching to the Mac by David Pogue. Published by
Pouge Press/O'Reilly; 434 pages; $24.95; softbound. (ISBN 0-596-00452-4)
If you can't trust a Mac OS X book written by a guy named McIntosh,
who ya gonna trust? Bill Gates? There are lots of cutesy-poo books about
Mac OS X and all of them are big, including Mac OS X In A Nutshell. So
maybe it's a coco nutshell, but if you want the straight scoop on
what's up with Mac OS X this is the place to find it. If all you
want to do is bang on the keys, then skip this book. But if you want to
get inside Mac OS X the authors will show you how to install X Windows,
provide information on Unix Text editors, and all kinds of UNIX stuff
you won't find anywhere else. There's also tons of tips and
tricks that will help make using Mac OS X, through Jaguar, a treat to
use. By the time this review appears, Apple Computer is going to be launching
Panther. If so, look for a new edition. If you're happily using
Jaguar, pick this one up.
Rob Griffiths' Mac OS X Hints is an alternative volume that covers
many of the same major topics as Mac OS X In A Nutshell but is written
for shadetree mechanics instead of the master technician. Edited by the
prodigious David Pogue, you'll find lots of illustrations and tasty
morsels to nibble. For those thinking about switching to the Mac OS, seduced
by the Audi A8-like aluminum G5 chassis, pick up a copy of Pogue's
Switching to the Mac, a guide showing how to "jump ship from Windows
and love it."