Holiday Books; For The Digital Photographer

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.

Imaging Techniques
Photo Art by Tony Worobiec and Ray Spence. Published by Amphoto/ Watson-Guptill Publications, 770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003;
www.; 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.

Imaging Techniques
Digital Nature Photography by Jon Cox. Published by Amphoto/
Watson-Guptill Publications, 770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003;; 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.

Imaging Techniques
Secrets of the Digital Darkroom by Peter Cope. Published by Amphoto/Watson-Guptill Publications, 770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003;; 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.

Imaging Software
Adobe Photoshop Master Class by John Paul Caponigro. Published by Adobe Press, Peachpit Press, 1249 Eighth St., Berkeley, CA 94710;; 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.

Imaging Software
Photoshop for Photography by Tom Ang. Published by Amphoto/Watson-Guptill Publications, 770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003;; 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;; 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;; 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;; 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;; 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."