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Book Review: Photographing Nature by Ralph A. Cevenger

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Becoming a good nature photographer is more than just stepping out the back door and shooting at what you see. It not only takes the right equipment, but it takes the ability to look beyond what a subject is suppose to look like and think about what it might look like.

Ralph Cevenger is a photographer who is also an instructor. His book, Photographing Nature reflects his nature photography course at the Books institute. This isn't a book about Photoshop or DSLR's, but rather it is a book about how to create images of nature that you will be proud of displaying. It is about learning how to do things differently than you do now. This book is 240 pages and is divided into 14 chapters.

Chapter One, "Play Nice," covers how to interact with nature in a positive, non-invasive manor. This covers ethics, equipment, and how to become part of the greater environment solution. Chapter Two, "You Need More Stuff?" examines the fact that with nature photography you do need the right stuff to get many shots. Chances are that you would happier shooting the grizzly bear with 400mm telephoto than with the 50mm portrait lens. Here you will examine the kind of equipment that is needed for nature photography.

Chapter Three, "It's All About the Light," looks at the qualities of light, light enhancing equipment like reflectors and diffusers, and types of lighting. Chapter Four, "Not Everything's Black-and-White," describes the colors of nature and the colors of light. You will look at white balance and its affect on color as well as how lighting can influence color.

Chapter Five, "Flash! And You're in Control," shows you how to use your flash to reflect what you saw, not just what is there. In this chapter you will look at how to use your light to enhance natures light to bring out more in your images. Chapter Six, "Wet-belly Photography," is about getting down to earth in your photography and photographing the many small things that are under foot. These include flowers, bugs, and other small creatures.

Chapter Seven, "Garden Variety Shots," shows that you don't have to go around the world to get great shots, sometimes they can be as close as out your back door. No matter where you live, there is always something close by that you can shoot. Chapter Eight, "The Wonder of Wildlife," takes on the bigger game of the natural world. Here you will examine what you need to take those larger than life wildlife photos.

Chapter Nine, "An Ounce of Prevention," reminds us why it is called wildlife and discusses different ways to get the shot without getting trampled, scratched, or bitten. Chapter Ten, "Land, Sea, and Sky," looks at using a wide-angle lens when exploring the natural world so that you get a wider angled view to capture the true vastness of the environment.

Chapter 11, "Looking through the Frame," examines methods to make your camera see things the more like you do. Because your image is relegated to the limitations of a set size box, you have to be more creative in order to capture the openness of nature. Chapter 12, "What Are You Looking At," looks at ways to try to see things without preconceptions so that you can better unlock your creativity by first locating a subject, and then seeing the subject for what it can be.

Chapter 13, "On the Road," describes traveling with a plan to capture all of the things that make your trip a journey. You have to experience the newness of going somewhere different and capture it. Chapter 14, "Back in the Lab," notes how you have more control than you did in the days of film. This not only means more work for you, but more creativity and artistic license as well. Here you will explore some applications that can help you create great images.

Photographing Nature is a very good book for the photographer who has a basic fundamental knowledge of photography and wants to gain more specific knowledge of photographing nature. The instructor is very knowledgeable and the voice of the book is a conversational instruction.

For example, in Chapter Two, there is a photo of a humming bird in flight. The author not only talks about the equipment that he used to get the shot; using a tripod and flash, but explains why he had to use the flash, as well as he had to go through several batteries (i.e many takes) to get this one shot. Throughout the book he explains the images that are displayed in the book and how they were captured.

Each chapter is laid out with an introduction to the subject, an equipment section where an explanation of the gear needed to get the shots is described, a section on lighting where the type of lighting concerns is looked at, a question and answer segment where problems are sorted out, and a set of assignments are given for you to try.

Photographing Nature is a really good book for learning about how to work through the techniques for capturing wildlife and nature photographs. It contains many superb images demonstrating the techniques taught and also giving motivation so that you can get out there and capture your own spectacular photographs. If you want to learn more about photographing the natural world then, I can easily 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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