Author: George Barr
Publisher: Rocky Nook
Review by Conrad J. Obregon
“Examples: The Making of Forty Photographs” by Ansel Adams is one of the great books of photography. In it the noted landscape artist described the decisions he made from idea to print in creating some of his greatest photographs. “From Camera to Computer: How to Make Fine Photographs Through Examples, Tips, and Techniques” may be the equivalent for the digital age. In it, Barr describes many of his own decisions in creating fine art prints from selecting a subject to printing the image and even whether to include it in a portfolio.
Most chapters are almost free standing essays that take a single image and follow the author’s processes from capture to print. A few of the essays are slightly different as in his description of uses for the Lensbaby and his recommendations for photographing on a European vacation. The book concludes with a description of Photoshop tools that the author acknowledges is not a complete guide but rather an indication of the tools that he uses to create his style of image.
Each chapter starts with a listing of the major points covered. After discussing a subject, the author highlights a teaching point, and the chapter usually ends with the author’s thoughts on the image.
This book is not appropriate for beginners. It assumes one knows how to use a camera and image processing software proficiently. Instead it deals with the kind of higher level problems that photographers intent on creating art are concerned with. For example the author recommends working the subject and taking a range of images to insure one will have something with which to work back at the computer. He describes how moving the camera even a few inches can capture a different image. His processing of images in Photoshop is beyond just general tonal and color control. He applies tools like curves and dodging for local adjustments on an almost minute scale to create the finest possible images. Along the way, stitching, focus blending, high dynamic range and similar topics are discussed.
Although some of author’s images are of landscapes, much of the work presented seems to concentrate on form rather than content, like close-up photographs of rusty machinery. Although images that seem like abstractions are not my favorites, I still found many useful lessons in his descriptions of creating these images.
Images used for illustration may be downloaded from a website if the reader wishes to follow along with the text.
Reading the essays is like having a conversation about an image with an articulate top notch photographer. The tools he uses are not as important as his overall approach. I noticed that while I was reading the book, I began to work the images that I was processing far more than usual, thanks to Barr’s urging not to accept anything less than the best. On the other hand, I must confess a little feeling of inferiority as a photographer, for it was clear that while I considered myself a competent photographer, my approach to images was not on Barr’s level. Perhaps as I read the essays again, slowly, I can become more like him.