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Book Review: Light and Lens by Robert Hirsch

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With the continuous decline of film and the increase use of digital imaging, Light and Lens aims to build a foundation for digital photography by covering the fundamental concepts of digital image making, combined with how to use today's digital technology to create compelling images and how to output and preserve images in the digital world.

Light and Lens pursues the conceptual stance that camera vision is the primary skill of a photo-based image maker by stressing composition , design, and light as strategic elements of photographic seeing. Its goal is to present four essentials; aperture, focal length, focus, and shutter speed, to make up every image. Light and Lens is just under 400 pages in length and breaks out into 12 chapters.

Chapter 1, "Why we Make Pictures: A Concise History of Visual Ideas," begins with a history of why we make pictures, how we have been doing it since we lived in caves, and how we will continue to evolve our methods in the future. Chapter 2, "Design: Visual Foundations," addresses our need to communicate with images. By using design, composition, and vision we can begin to see and by seeing we can find what others overlook. "A good photograph creates a memory in a viewer…"

Chapter 3, "Image Capture: Cameras, lenses, and Scanners," discusses the methods of capturing images. It also talks about types of cameras, lenses, and scanners. By having the proper equipment, you can create better images. Chapter 4, "Exposure and Filters," explains the basics of what exposure is and how to filter the light that is captured. While you can correct your images using software, you are better off if you get them correct in the camera first.

Chapter 5, "Seeing With Light," examines the types of light that is available. These include natural, artificial, as well as how the light changes throughout the day. By understanding lights diversity, you can explore a subject's diversity. Chapter 6, "Observation: Eyes Wide Open," discusses how we see, and why we respond to different stimuli and subsequently to different images. To learn how to see with images, we must be able to interpret with a different skill set.

Chapter 7, "Time, Space, Imagination, and The Camera," will show you how to work with time in relation to a photograph, how to control camera time, and how the perception of time works. Chapter 8, "Digital Studio: Where the Virtual Meets the Material World," tells you the basics of what is needed to get your digital image out into the physical world; as a photograph, web gallery, or multi-media format.

Chapter 9, "Presentation and Preservation," focuses on topics such as retouching and repairing images, archival presentation, and camera copy work. It also touches on digital archives, digital print stability, and how to present work on a disk. Chapter 10, "Seeing with a Camera," looks at viewpoint and the framing to effect what the subject is going to be of a photo. Here you will learn how to give clarity and cohesion to your images.

Chapter 11, "Solutions: Thinking and Writing about Images," examines the process of transforming an abstract idea into a concrete physical reality. This chapter looks at an assortment of methods while giving examples on how others have applied them. Chapter 12, "Photographer on Assignment," explores the some of the options that you have to use your creativity within the world of photography. Whether it is through portraiture, digital imagery, or some other world that you want to create, there is no limit to the artistry within the digital world.

In many ways Light and Lens is a different type of book, it is part art theory and instruction as well as being a book on photography. It presents a lot of complex information in a manner that is clear, but with out giving up the technical side, to the point, but yet somewhat abstract. It will give you the tools needed to build thought-provoking images based in the digital medium.

Light and Lens puts on to you the challenge to look critically at your work and inspires you to take it to another level. The images presented in the book are inspiring as well. If you are looking for new ways to see your photography, then Light and Lens should be on your reading list.

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About T. Michael Testi

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