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Book Review: Welcome to Oz 2.0: A Cinematic Approach To Digital Still Photography by Vincent Versace

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Creating memorable photographs is a process that starts with the capture and must be addressed before you ever put a pixel to the sensor. Welcome to Oz 2.0, was written by photographer Vincent Versace and his goal is to engage you in a creative method of photography so that you create better photos beginning at the point of capture. From the author’s viewpoint, there are plenty of books that give you a “12-step” plan to perfect photos, but not one that really teaches you how to see.

In the introduction, Versace introduces nine core concepts. They include the fact that “There are two ‘eyes’ that view an image, the unconscious eye and the conscious eye.” According to the author, it is always the unconscious eye that makes him want to create an image. It is the same eye that will draw your viewer to your picture. The conscious eye is what takes and processes the picture. The goal is to merge the two into one sight.

Another is that the “Workflow starts at the point of capturing the image and is dynamic, not static.” The core here is to be adaptive, be willing to improvise and soon the impossible will be within your reach. Welcome to Oz 2.0 is a completely rewritten update of the book’s first edition and is 320 pages and divided into four chapters.

Chapter One, “The Tao of Dynamic Workflow,” will show you how to analyze a photograph and develop a dynamic, image specific workflow. Here the author shows you how to create image maps to properly organize and “see” the image. It works in a method similar to a sculptor and a block of granite. You have to first see what you want to create before you start chipping away. Emphasis is placed on learning how to light in Photoshop. This chapter is all about learning how to practice at practicing and then find the path to perfect practice.

Chapter Two, “Classic Studio Lighting” will show you how to emulate the look of classic Hollywood glamor photographs. Here the author explains the techniques of George Hurrell whose photos of Garbo, Harlow, and Cooper defined the style of the glamor shot. Using Studio “hot” lights and shot on an 8 x 10 view camera, he created a style all its own. Here you will learn about the technique and then see how to recreate it using Photoshop.

Chapter Three, “Image Harvesting,” or recreating what the eye saw, explores the practice of taking multiple images of the same subject changing the exposure, shutter speed, and focus points. By doing this you can get different depths, lighting and other aesthetics that can be combined later into creating you image. From this you can create the image that your eye saw irrespective of limitations of light and equipment.

Many people are familiar with High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography. This chapter shows how you can take an eXtended Dynamic Range (XDR) image by extending the exposure range, and going even further to an ExDR image through the manipulation of the image structure, time, specific focus points, blur, and more .

Chapter Four, “The Unwitting Ally,” shows how you can go beyond exposure and apply the concepts of Extended Dynamic Range (ExDR) photography to focus, blur, and image structure by image harvesting. You will create the picture that you saw in your unconscious mind rather than creating a historically accurate one. According to the author, this is where the real journey begins. You will be making modifications to direct the viewer’s eye to where you want it to go and to what you want it to see. By understanding how to control color, you will gain mastery over the images that you create.

The book concludes with an afterword by a friend and mentor of Vincent Versace, Jay Maisel, who is very anti-Photoshop and anti-post-shot manipulation. Here we get the proverbial other side of the coin, as a balance of sorts is achieved in relation to Welcome to Oz’ very pro-manipulation teaching position.

What I like about Welcome To OZ 2.0 is that in its rewrite, a lot of minor material was removed and more focus and time was put into these four chapters giving a much more thorough treatment to the topics at hand. What happened to the rest of the text? According to the author, there will be additional books coming out in the future that will contain some of that material as well as many more topics.

Instead of a DVD, the source files as well as trial plug-ins are available from a website for download. Since you will be working with these images and lots of layers, you will need a computer with a fast processor, plenty of ram and Welcome To Oz 2.0 has also been updated to work with the new features of Photoshop CS5. If you are looking for a challenge, and you want to take your Photoshop as well as your photographic skills to the next level, then I would very highly recommend Welcome To Oz.

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About T. Michael Testi

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