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Real World Sharpening

in Book Reviews , Wednesday, August 30, 2006

imagesharpening.jpg When I first saw that Bruce Fraser had written a new book on image sharpening with Adobe Photoshop, I had two thoughts - first, how does he resolve the potential conflict arising from his involvement with PixelGenius and the PhotoKit Sharpener product, and second, do we really need a complete book on sharpening ? Well, he deals with the first issue openly and quickly, and he completely avoids plugging PhotoKit in the book (actually, I think he could have allowed himself a few mentions!). The book is essentially tools-agnostic, which is great (although obviously it deals with Photoshop's particular implementations). The second question is answered by the book: I don't know if we needed a book on sharpening, but we needed this one. Bruce Fraser is a simply wonderful educator. He can transform extremely arcane topics into page-turners (as with his "Real World Color Management", and he has a sense of narrative, which some may think is unnecessary in technical books, but in fact transforms them, just like any other kind of written word. He also writes in a friendly and highly approachable style, quite unlike the tiresome "zany comedy" deployed by, say, Scott Kelby (maybe being treated like idiots appeals to Americans, I don't know, but it iritates me...). Obviously style is nothing without content, but that isn't an issue here. I don't think there is anything in this book that I hadn't already somehow heard of, but there are plenty of things I never really understood. Reading this book suddenly makes the use of the expert controls in Photoshop sharpening - and PhotoKit, of course, and indeed other software - much, much clearer. The discussion on evaluation sharpening on-screen is particularly illuminating. The other thing I really like is the equal handling of film and digital - whilst many would have ignored film altogether, Fraser gives it considerable attention. Actually I really would like to see some discussion on the use of Photokit, particularly as it applies to capture sharpening. The book strongly recommends masking at the capture sharpening stage, or at least avoiding sharpening areas of flat contrast (such as sky), and I'd be interested to know how much of this is "packaged" into Photokit. I'm sure it wouldn't upset Adobe too much, after all, you still need Photoshop. And on the other hand, various 3rd party noise reduction tools are mentioned. The only downsides to this book are that (a) I'm supposed to be moving house at the moment and I shouldn't be getting distracted with this stuff, and (b) I want to go back and resharpen every image in my collection, and (c) I have to question if my current habit of global capture sharpening in RAW Developer is such a good idea after all. If you want to get the best out of your photos, this book is very highly recommended.
 

David Ward - Landscape Within

in Book Reviews , Thursday, September 15, 2005

david ward - landscape within - book cover I don't quite know how I missed this book. I am an avid reader of landscape and nature photography books, and I had a passing, chance encounter with the author, David Ward, last year, but I missed it. Clearly Amazon's "you might like this" algorithm needs some tuning. I was actually sent it by a friend, Icelandic landscape photographer Daniel Bergmann, how himself had discovered it apparently because I mentioned David Ward to him. My brain clearly needs some offline maintenance.

Anyway, let me say it up front. "Landscape Within - insights and inspiration for photographers" is the best book on landscape photography I have ever read, including classic stuff like Ansell Adams "Making of Forty Photographs". What is special about this book is that the author places landscape photography in an extremely convincing artistic and critical context. David Ward is a gifted photographer, but is also a highly erudite and skillful writer and communicator. Whilst his enthusiasm for his subject is clear, he remains objective, and manages to fit a remarkably complete and cohesive story into relatively few words. It's a fairly short book, but not too short.

Although he quotes many sources, his own voice comes through, and what you end up with is a strikingly well argued manifesto for the artistic and social importance of landscape photography. The final section on semiotics is worth the price of the book alone, and here as well he adds his own twist.

The icing on the cake is the inclusion of a set of simply fabulous photographs, which, rather than carry heavy captions labouring some point or the other, are largely left to tell their own story - following the philosophy which devolves from the text.

I just hope that David Ward's skill as a writer and educator does not eclipse his work as a photographer. The few words I exchanged with him when our paths crossed last year, when he was very busy giving his full attention to a workshop group, indicated to me that on top of all this he is a thoroughly nice human being.

You can see some of his photos here, but to be honest, they deserve a far better web site. Whatever, buy the book. If you are at all interested in the real meaning of landscape photography, you will not regret it.
 

The Silk Road by Alessandra Meniconzi

in Book Reviews , Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Silk Road is the title of a book recently published by Swiss traveller and photographer Alessandra Meniconzi. I've wanted to post on a review of this for some weeks, but just couldn't find time to do it...so this mini-review will have to do for now.

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Bringing together photographs taken during a number of voyages through Western, Central and Eastern Asia, the book retraces the network of routes collectively known as the fabled "Silk Road".

This collection really is something quite out of the ordinary. The photographs of landscapes and people (and The Silk Road is very much about people) are simply radiant. Some good examples of her work from the Himalaya are here. The way in which the light is captured in these photos is difficult to express in words, as so much emotion is conveyed through them. At nearly 250 pages, this is a substantial piece of work. The book is beautifully presented, and a real pleasure to explore. I guess my favourite part is the section on Tajakistan - a practically unheard of Central Asian republic - but there are gems everywhere.

Meniconzi travelled frequently by mountain bike, well off the beaten track, and took the time to become familiar to and with the people of the regions she travelled through. This is no voyeuristic collection, no "click and run" operation, but a work which is full of empathy for the people it represents.

It is telling that she has little time for discussion of the apparatus of photography, revealing only that she uses just a few lenses and a basic camera. Quite a lesson for those of us who are so sure that a better camera and a €10000 lens would make us geniuses.

You can find out more about Alessandra Meniconzi at her web site, as well as information on ordering the book.

I think it is fairly clear that I highly recommend it!
 

Helmut Hirler - Iceland

in Book Reviews , Wednesday, March 30, 2005

I discovered this book by the German landscape photographer Helmut Hirler in Zürich. It is one of a small series of very nicely produced panoramic photography books, but this one is really quite different: black & white, mainly infrared (possibly all) panoramas of Icelandic landscapes. With a terrain as colourful as Iceland, black & white is not immediately obvious, but these really work.

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The book itself is beautifully presented, a cloth bound volume held in a slipcase. Printing quality is excellent. Hirler, who seems to have quite a strong reputation in Europe, appears to have used a Linhof 617 camera, although technical details are non-existent (not that this matters). He has a feature page at Linhof, which would tend to confirm this assumption.

There are some gorgeous images in this book, especially of the many impressive Icelandic waterfalls. A particularly striking image is an ethereal, other worldly shot of the settlement at Glaumbær, and another favourite is the rivulets and falls at Hraunfossar. Everywhere his treatment is delicate, with a strong eye for composition, and without any sign of the tendency towards gloom and despondency all too often apparently beloved by germanic artists.

The only criticism I do have is that the sequence of images at Dyrhólaey is a bit dull at times, and overlong, although one photo of the sea swirling around a basalt stack is quite magical.

All in all this is a very unusual treatment of a subject that is becoming more and more popular, and it deserves a wider audience.

It doesn't seem so easy to find in the anglophile part of the Internet, but it can be found on the German Amazon site.

"Iceland" is published by Edition Panorama, ISBN 3-89823-189-5
 

Andy Rouse. Me, jealous ?

in Book Reviews , Friday, September 03, 2004

I've just finished readding Andy Rouse's wonderful book, Life in the Wild: A Photographer's Year. This has to be one of the best nature photography books around. Andy writes almost as well as he photographs, and his style makes it far from the usual ponderous "a photographer writes" stuff but does not fall into the trap of trying to be funny at the expense of being interesting. Andy is pretty prolific - he also contributes regularly to Nature Photographers Online Magazine", writes reviews for UK online retailer Warehouse Express, writes for Practical Photographer, wins lots of prizes, runs tours, and generally seems to pretty much on the ball. I thoroughly recommend "Life in the Wild" - it takes you from Andy's back garden (almost), to the Arctic, to Africa, to India and back. A wonderful journey from which he brought back some stunning photographs. I'm sure almost any "outdoor" photographer would enjoy it.
 

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