Tuesday , May 28 2024
This is one of the best books that I encountered this year; one of the best for many years.

Book Review: Waiting for the Light by David Noton

Waiting for the Light is not only a collection of images by David Noton, a highly skilled and highly successful landscape photographer, it is an also insight into the mind of a professional who has won numerous awards and has been working freelance since 1985.

Waiting for the Light is a visual journey of David Noton's work to date. It is an exploration of his images and it showcases some of his very best work. It contains many items from his portfolio which include photographs from every continent around the world. It is highlighted by the accompanying text that places an emphasis on his use of light and his ability to capture the essence of a place. The book is 160 full color pages divided into an introduction and four parts.

"The Waiting Game" reflects on the fact that there is some luck to get the right kind of light, but if you haven't put in the preparation you will not get the perfect shot. Just showing up does not mean you will get great photos. In fact, if you just show up and shoot, all you will be doing is "taking" pictures, not "making" a photograph.

Part one covers "Vision." Before a camera is even touched there is a lot of work to be done. You must first pre-visualize, compose, and plan your photo. These are all things that can be done with only the eyes of a photographer. Being in the right place at the right time is essential. Being there is all about finding, visualizing, and planning an image before shooting the picture. It is about finding a starting point, imagining how it could look, and then being in the right place at the right time.

Here you will explore light; the most fundamental part of photography and a photograph made in the wrong light is worthless. You will see about composing a photograph. This is about arranging shapes in a frame. You also have to take into consideration color; here you will see the five options for color. How you use it will be somewhat dependant on the light, but it will also affect the effect your image will have on others.

Then you will see how distance will give your image scale. Will it be big and majestic, or will it tower and encompass you? Time dominates you as a photographer. If you are doing landscape photography, then you need to be in the right place at the right time. This usually means out before dawn, and out before dusk. These two times of the day are when the light is most vibrant and gives the best shows. These are considered "Happy Hour" for the photographer.

Part two "Environments" cover subjects that are different, giving a photographer their own challenges. The light in a rainforest is different than the light in a desert, and different yet again is the light in the arctic. Whether it is rock, sand, ice, water, wood, or concrete, the author takes you through these subjects and more, showing both the work he has done and the challenges he has faced when working with them.

Part three, "Gallery," makes the point that ultimately a picture must stand on its own merit. All of the vision, the time, the equipment, and the techniques are irrelevant if the image does not speak to the viewer. To do this kind of work, you might spend hours locating the spot, visualizing the image, and making preparations. You might spend more hours or even days or weeks waiting and then for 30 seconds a splash of light paints the landscape or the clouds produce the right effect and if you are ready, you get those few frames. This section contains some phenomenal images that really describe the effect. Each image is highlighted with a detailed discussion on the making of the image

Part four, "Mechanics," delves into the nuts and bolts of the job – the hardware and the software. According to the author, the importance of tools is generally overestimated, but within their scope they are important. In this section he goes over his set of equipment. He talks about digital vs. film, accessories, and post-production.

I knew that Waiting For The Light was an extraordinary book before I got ten pages into it. While I have seen some of David Noton's work before, I was not as familiar with it as I have been with some of the other great British landscape photographers like Charlie Waite and Joe Cornish, but I will be from now on. His work is phenomenal!

There is a lot to like about Waiting for the Light. First and foremost it is up close and personal, much like Joe McNally's "The Moment it Clicks." There is real insight into the mind of a working landscape photographer. Next is the layout of the book. If it were a little larger it would work as a coffee table book. The full color photographs are brilliant, clear, and wonderfully rendered.

There are a number of "Photo Essays" sprinkled throughout the book that focus on a topic like South East Asia, China, or South America; they give a flavor to the book. Then there is the "Travel Diary" which highlights location and specific days, and shows photos from the time. Finally there is the "Photo Journal" in which the author focuses on the memories of a trip to some remote location like Nepal, Scotland, or Costa Rica.

Finally there is the gallery which is brilliantly laid out on a black background so as to take away distractions from the page and really allows you to focus on the images themselves. As I said earlier, there is a commentary on each of the images in the gallery.

I think that Waiting for the Light is going to rank as one of the best books that I have had the pleasure to encounter this year and does justice to the wonderful artwork of David Noton. I very highly recommend this book.

About T. Michael Testi

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

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