Transient Light: A Photographic Guide to Capturing the Medium

Author: Ian Cameron

Publisher: Photographers’ Institute Press

Review by Conrad J. Obregon

It’s a strange first thought to have about a landscape photography book: Great Britain must be quite small! That’s because so many of the pictures in this book resembled those of a flock of British photographers like Tom Mackie, Joe Cornish and David Ward. That’s not bad because all of their images are quite beautiful.

The title comes from what the author says is his favorite light–light that illuminates a small portion of an otherwise dark landscape for just a few moments. Although Cameron does discuss his techniques for anticipating this kind of light, this book is primarily a primer for landscape photographers. It begins with a brief discussion of the nature of light and then chats about when to photograph, considering weather, season and time of day. Next the author gives a brief discussion of equipment, including what he carries in the field.

The chapter on field trips includes an examination of different environments from the shore to the farm, and discusses the author’s considerations when he visited specific sites. Cameron concludes with a discussion of post processing.

As an instruction manual, the work is quite light weight, covering important subjects with very little detail. A rank beginner might benefit from the advice, but anyone hoping to really learn how to take landscape photographs can find many other books that will be much more helpful. The fact is compounded by the fact that Cameron himself is a film photographer, using a medium format camera. Most beginners are unlikely to use this media and format, and the experienced photographers who might use this format are unlikely to find the simple level of instruction useful.

The chapter on environments might prove the most useful, although my own experience was not very rewarding. I looked for help in the section on the agricultural landscape, since I’m currently working on such a project, but found nothing that common sense had not already suggested to me. The chapter on post processing in Photoshop seems like a review for an experienced user, since it impossible to learn to use that software in just 8 pages. If the author had suggested some different work flow steps for landscape photography that might have helped but his approach seems to be traditional, except for some advice that I found peculiar, like always sharpening to 225%, radius .5 to .7, and threshold zero.

The book might have worked as a portfolio of the author’s work, which appears interesting, except that the printed images are often too small to be appreciated in their own right.

Lots of good landscape photography instruction comes out of Britain. While the images in this book are interesting, the instruction does not rise to that level.
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