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Book Review: Within The Frame: The Journey Of Photographic Vision By David duChemin

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David duChemin's Within The Frame does more than just examine what makes a compelling image. It examines what it takes to transfer the emotion that prompted the photographer take the image in the first place and turn it into an image where you feel the emotion. While craft and technique both play a part, what it takes to create such an image is vision.

Within The Frame is about finding and expressing your photographic vision. The author shares his techniques and thought processes on creating that kind of experience in his images, and how they can be used to move the viewer. Within The Frame is 264 pages divided into 8 chapters. It also has a foreword by Joe McNally and an afterword by Vincent Versace.

Chapter 1, "It's About Vision," looks at what is vision and why vision is the beginning and the end of photography. Without vision a photographer perishes. This short chapter is about what vision means to the author. It sets up a perspective for the rest of the book.

Chapter 2, "Within the Frame," examines how to cram your vision into a frame and make it fit. When a photograph is taken in a way that communicates to someone your unique vision, it becomes more than just a record of where you were and what you saw. It takes on a life of its own. You are responsible for everything in the frame as well as everything that is not in the frame. Here you will look at some of the ways of making it fit.

Chapter 3, "The Artist and the Geek," in you has to strike a balance. There is a geek factor in photography, but all the gear in the world cannot make you take better pictures if you don't have both craft and vision. Here you will see that when the two meet great photography can happen. This chapter explores both sides of the coin.

Chapter 4, "Storytelling," has been with us as long as we have been human. From nights around the fire to the cinematic film, understanding how the elements of the story can be incorporated into your photography will make stronger images. In this chapter you will learn about themes, conflict, essays, and relationships and how they can be brought out in a photo.

Chapter 5, "Photographing People," is both joy and terror to the author. There is a line that is drawn between the person in the public place and that point where the moment becomes a personal exchange between strangers. Here you will see how the author approaches people, deals with language barriers, and most of all, captures emotion.

Chapter 6, "Photographing Places," is different from place to place and even season to season. How a photograph is created that is both representational and interpretational depends on the experience you have with the place, and how you use your visual language tools. Here you will examine what research, scouting, and what kind of preparation needs to be done. Anyone can come home with the postcard shot, but if you want something unique, you must get off the beaten path.

Chapter 7, "Photographing Culture," doesn't necessarily mean travel. Go to any city and you can find a Chinatown or a little India. Culture is the outward expression of the inner life. By nature, it is a visual in that it manifests itself in the clothes we wear and the foods we eat. There is no place without culture you only need to take off the blinders to see it around you. Here you will examine how to do research and ask questions about culture, gain a sense of values and taboos, and respect others history.

Chapter 8, "Final Thoughts," looks at while this book has chapters on people, places, cultures and the like, they are really all interconnected. They work together. The experiences make you as a photographer grow. There is no real 'final word' on the subject of photography. The author has also set up a Flickr group to continue the conversation as well as having a bonus downloadable chapter.

Within The Frame is a wonderful book on a number of levels. First and foremost is the writing. It is as if the author and you sitting around the fire and he sharing his experiences, thoughts, and yes, a word you will see a lot in this book, his vision.

Next, it is the photos. The photos are well reproduced in the book and each one is captioned with both the specs of how it was shot as well as commentary on the thought process when creating the image. While travel photography is not my favorite style, I did find that I learned a lot of techniques that can be applied to any style of photography.

While Within The Frame is not a how-to book, although there is a lot of teaching of technique such as working with lenses to really see what different lengths and styles will give you in a particular situation and how Photoshop/Lightroom can bring back the mood that was felt at the time the photo was taken. Yet duChemin covers things like how to deal with beggars and the poor when traveling abroad, and even when to not take a photo to preserve the dignity of an individual.

If you want to expand your vision, take your photographic experiences to a different level, learn more about what it takes to compose the shot, then I very highly recommend Within The Frame.

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About T. Michael Testi

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