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Book Review: Digital Nature Photography – The Art and the Science by John and Barbara Gerlach

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John and Barbara Gerlach have been known for years as instructors in nature workshops that have trained over 50,000 students. John Gerlach is the associate editor of Nature Photographer and columnist of "Field Notes." His photos have been featured in magazines such as Natural Wildlife, Sierra, and others. Barbara Gerlach is a skilled nature photographer whose work has been featured in National Geographic, Outdoor Photographer, and many others, and has been running workshops with her husband since 1988.

Digital Nature Photography: The Art And The Science is the book that their workshop attendees have been asking for. The goal of this book is to help you take some of the best nature shots you have ever taken. They would like you to master those techniques to take consistently good images. This is not a fix-it later book, and as such, it stresses field techniques. Digital Nature Photography is 208 pages and is divided into 12 chapters.

Chapter 1, "The Excitement over Digital Photography," examines the point where digital photography overtook film technology and it became more practical to shoot digital. Along with reusable digital memory cards, the ability to switch ISO without changing film, and the instant feedback provided by the digital SLR's display, it is much more practicable to use digital in the field. Chapter 2, "Developing your Photographic Skills," shows you that it is necessary to acquire skills if you want to become a good photographer. Many of their former students have gone on to be good nature photographers, and some have become highly successful professionals in a tough field to succeed in, but all have had to learn and hone photographic skills.

Chapter 3, "Choosing your Digital Camera," will assist in choosing the right camera for you. The explosion of quality advances in digital technology has been nothing short of phenomenal. Here they explain the differences in cameras and other equipment that you will need to create outstanding photographs. Chapter 4, "Exposure Essentials," reminds you that proper exposure is critical to shooting quality images. With the new technologies this has become much easier with digital, but you still have to understand the fundamentals.

Chapter 5, "Using Lenses Effectively," will show you how lenses work, what focal length is, and what it means to you as well as what aperture and depth of field means to you. You will be shown different features that can come with a lens. Aspects are introduced, such as Image Stabilization, the difference between zoom and prime lenses are, as well as a whole host of topics relating to lenses and what are available. Chapter 6, "Shoot Sharp Images Consistently," is all about being successful and producing consistently sharp images that can be sold or entered into contests. This is something that many photographers find is hard to do. Here you will find the techniques to create sharp images over and over.

Chapter 7, "The Magic of Light," is crucial to understand if you want to make extraordinary images. No matter what you shoot, it is the light that gives an image its shape, texture, and look. By learning to photograph with the best possible light, your images will take on a life of their own. Chapter 8, "Composing Strong Images," is a topic that is harder to frame within a set of rules. This something that is easier for some than others. By definition, good composition is recording the subject in the most effective way which means that it is different for different people. Here the authors give some guidelines that have worked for them in the last 30 years.

Chapter 9, "The Exciting World of Close-ups and Macro," is available to anyone. It is primarily controlled by the equipment that you have as well as your own imagination. Close-ups are found everywhere. This is just basically a tight shot of pretty much anything from your Aunt Lorene's makeup case to the ant that is crawling on your deck. Chapter 10, "Using Flash Effectively," shows that the utilization of electronic flash can lead to the creation of wonderful images. It is also something that can lull you into a false set of satisfaction.

Chapter 11, "Carrying your Photographic Gear," examines the fact that while it is possible to create great images near the road close to your car, if you want to get truly exiting nature images you will really need to hike some distance away from the road and when you do you need to carry your gear. This chapter looks at the different choices you have. Chapter 12, "Final Thoughts," is a slight revisit of the author's thoughts on nature photography and why those who specialize in this type in of photography engage in it. Also discussed here is the making of prints and other things that you can do with your nature photography.

Digital Nature Photography: The Art And The Science is one of the first books on nature photography that deals strictly with digital. Many of the older books that have been revised are based on the film world and have been updated to include digital, but this one is purely digital.

Overall I found Digital Nature Photography: The Art And The Science to be a new classic for an introductory text to nature photography. It is concise and well written and will give you everything you need to know to take great nature images. If you want to explore the world of nature photography, then Digital Nature Photography: The Art And The Science is recommended reading.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
  • http://www.ForestWander.com ForestWander

    Such a book would be very informative.

    However, I have a hard time learning from a book and have to learn from trial and error more than anything. From the School of Hard knocks I guess you could say.

    I wonder if there could ever be a trial and error digital photography book written and how the format of such a title would be hmmmm…

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