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Book Review: Digital Landscape Photography by John and Barbara Gerlach

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While the term landscape congers up the idea of wide open spaces, mountains, and rivers the reality is that you can easily find wonderful landscapes to photograph anywhere. Even if you live in the city you have backyards, parks, and even small streams. It just takes learning how to scoping out your surroundings and practice.

When you do go out to a more traditional site, the landscape photographer can buy and carry less equipment than a wild life or macro photographer. Not to mention that your approach to your subject is much easier to get to as well. But there are still some challenges to landscape photography. You do have to deal with man-made distractions like telephone poles, fences, and litter, but, because the subject tends to be huge, trying to get the right light everywhere you need it can sometimes be a daunting task.

The goal of Digital Landscape Photography is to show you how to approach the craft of landscape photography. To examine different choices of equipment, how to tackle specific topics like waterfalls, snowfalls, and panorama's as well as how to work with the natural surroundings and weather conditions that you encounter and still capture the best images possible. This book is 216 pages in length and breaks out into 10 chapters.

Chapter One tells us that "Landscapes are Everywhere" and can be enjoyed if you just know how to look. Landscapes can be everything from old buildings to wide open spaces, from cityscapes, to mountain ranges. This chapter looks at everything from working off private land, to the changing of the seasons, to working with elevations.

Chapter Two, "Cameras and Accessories," looks at what works best for landscape photography. If you are looking for a controversy over Canon vs. Nikon, you won't find it here. In fact, they use both. Barb Gerlach uses Nikon, and her husband John uses Canon. They say it makes it easier to tell whose equipment is whose. They also discuss medium-format cameras, more vs. fewer megapixels, sensor size, LCDs, histograms, and all sorts of accessories like timers, cable releases, and memory.

Chapter Three, "Choosing and Using Lenses," is perhaps one of the most important choices to your photography of landscapes since lenses bring in and focus the light that recorded by the imaging sensor. Here you will look at amateur vs. pro lenses, fast lenses, image stabilization, zoom lenses, filters, the various lens choices that you have, and how to safely clean your lenses.

Chapter Four, "Mastering Exposure," is about one of the most challenging things that a landscape photographer must master. With the advent of the digital camera, the strategies have changed from the days of film, but they are still no less important. This chapter examines how to determine the best digital exposure, the basics of exposure, increments for exposure, the use of the histogram, RAW vs. JPEG exposure, exposure-mode choices, compensation, and common exposure mistakes.

Chapter Five's "Techniques for Sharp Images" become important once you have mastered exposure. What good is an image that has good composition, color, detail, and contrast, if it isn't sharp? Obviously you have to have a quality lens, but then you look at your ISO, the type of file you save to, your color space, your aperture, the use of a tripod, tripping the shutter either with good hand techniques or the use of a cable release, focusing techniques, and keeping the sensor clean.

Chapter Six, "Light on Landscape," discusses what makes the image. This is such a critical factor that many times you cannot plan on what you will shoot until just before it is time to leave. Here you focus on light qualities, working with filters, the colors of light, contrasts, and light direction.

Chapter Seven considers the challenge of "Composing Pleasing Images." Although many think that composition is easy and the rest of photography is hard, composition is many times in the eye of the beholder and is very subjective as well as offering endless possibilities. To gain experience in composition you will look at various tips for creating a pleasing composition including the use of viewpoint, perspective, framing, backgrounds, depth, and the subject.

Chapter Eight, "Special Subjects," describes the techniques certain subjects require. Sometimes, for example, you have to get into a boat to get the best vantage point of a particular landscape. By getting out and away to a different angle, you can capture different and unique views of your subject. Other topics in this chapter include shooting waterfalls, autumn color, snowy landscapes, sunrises and sunsets, and working at dawn and dusk.

Chapter Nine, "High Dynamic Range Images," concerns images that capture the full range of brightness to darkness. This chapter shows you the techniques for controlling high contrast, capturing HDR images, and working with HDR software.

Chapter Ten describes how "Panoramas" bring out the most in a scene and ways the world of digital photography brings this ability to everyone. This chapter explores the possibilities of what makes a panoramic photograph, how to shoot it, exposing the images, shooting landscape or portrait, and even creating HDR panoramas.

Digital Landscape Photography is a wonderfully produced and clearly written book about photographing landscapes. The layout is clear and simple and provides many samples of high quality landscape photographs. The book itself can serve as a centerpiece on an end table as well with all of the high quality images.

Digital Landscape Photography will take you through all of the basics that make a quality landscape photograph from finding your subject, what equipment you need, how to make the exposure, create the composition, and methods of presenting your image. If you want to get a good feel for what constitutes a high quality landscape photograph, I highly recommend this book.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
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