Authors: George Lepp and Kathryn Vincent Lepp

Publisher: Lark Photography Books

Review by Conrad J. Obregon

George Lepp has been a mentor to thousands of outdoor photographers through his monthly column in “Outdoor Photographer” magazine. He has been a pioneer in the field of digital photography. He has provided photography instruction in his two “Beyond the Basics” books. Now he’s back with a new book entitled Wildlife Photography: Stories from the Field.

After an introduction the book is divided into three parts: Mammals; Birds; and Small Critters. Within each section are spreads of two to four pages, showing several illustrative pictures of wildlife together with an anecdote concerning the circumstances involved in taking the pictures that often emphasizes Lapp’s environmental concerns. The pictures are all of good reportorial quality with several of them rising to the level of art. The stories on the other hand are rather bland for the most part, mostly describing the circumstances surrounding the capturing the images, including difficulties. To the extent that the stories offer teaching points, they mostly cover a few facts about the subjects of the images, rather than instruction on how to capture a good image.

It seemed to me that the book couldn’t quite decide what it wanted to be. Lepp has vast experience as a teacher and readers could have learned so much from him. For example, there are several examples of group shots of animals in a panoramic format created by joining several images together. He points out that this can’t be done in an automated fashion because of animal movement but required hand-tailoring in Photoshop. I would have liked to have seen a far more detailed explanation of this process. (Lepp has provided more explanation of the process in his “Outdoor Photographer” columns and articles.) The book could also have been a series of tips about places to photograph wildlife, but even here Lepp falls short. For example, he indicates that when photographing bears at Brooks Falls, it may pay to skip dinner to have the observation platform to one’s self. But he fails to mention that, more importantly, one should arrange to stay at least a night, and not be a day tripper, if one wants to avoid battling crowds.

On the other hand the book could have told us something about the nature of animal photography itself, but the random arrangement of the images, without any logical progression and an apparent lack of a comprehensive plan of instruction, prevented any kind of synergistic effect. It might even have been that the book could have shown Lepp’s development as a wildlife photographer, but the lack of a temporal organization of the images precluded this. Ultimately the book proves a random retrospective of his work, but it could have been so much more. It ends up being just a collection of good wildlife photographs.

Review by Conrad J. Obregon

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