Nature Photography: Insider Secrets from the World’s Top Digital Photography Professionals
Author: Chris Weston
Publisher: Focal Press (Elsevier)
Review by Conrad J. Obregon
Sometimes I think that there must be a way to label books so that the audience at which they are aimed is clear. That’s the case for this book, which is a perfectly respectable book for an audience of beginning nature photographers but not for anyone who has a little experience of photographing flora, fauna and the land.
The book has seven chapters, which are called habits. (I suspect something happened between the writing and the publishing that caused this habit theme to be diluted along the way.) After telling us to “Plan for the Perfect Picture”, the author tells us to “Know Your Camera” which is essentially a broad discussion of the effects of the controls on the camera for such things as file type, white balance and focus mode. “See What Your Camera Sees” talks about the nature of light, and “Take Control of Your Camera” talks about the effect of the controls discussed in Habit Two, like the interrelationship of aperture, shutter speed and ISO. “Learn the Rules” is a basic lesson in composition and “Capture the Moment”, after a brief discussion of defining the subject, describes Weston’s considerations in taking 15 of his best-selling images. The final habit “Practice Makes Perfect” is a series of practical exercises one can undertake to improve one’s photography.
The book discusses the basic principles of photography, and were it not that Weston’s photographic examples are all nature pictures, might just as well have been found in any camera guide. Almost nothing here is specific to nature photography.
The secrets from the world’s top nature photographers consist of an occasional quote from someone at the top, but they are scarcely secrets and it seemed to me that at least ninety-five percent of the text came from Weston.
Other than the fact that many basic matters were not covered (e.g., there was nothing on flash photography) some matters were handled well, like Weston’s discussion of the use of in-camera histograms to get the proper exposure, or his comparison between the way painters and photographers compose images. On the other hand, some of his discussions, like that of the value of different focal length lenses, seemed labored. To talk of compressing distance rather then changing the relationships between the sizes of objects just seemed a poor way of articulating the concept, especially when aimed at beginners.
Beginning nature photographers who are still becoming familiar with camera controls may find this book useful, although they will get a lot more out of reading “Digital Nature Photography: the Art and the Science” by John and Barbara Gerlach. More advanced nature photographers can afford to pass this book by.