Authors: Phil Malpas and Clive Minnitt

Publisher: Aurum Press

Review by Conrad J. Obregon

Bird migration is over and the last leaves have fallen from the trees. It’s still a while until ducks arrive and snow falls. I’m in the photographic doldrums. “Finding the Picture: A Location Photography Masterclass (Light & Land series)” by Phil Malpas and Clive Minnitt arrives. It promises to answer two questions: “what should I photograph and how should I approach it?” It seems ideal for my quandary.

The chapters include “where’s the picture?”; “why we take photographs”; “Where do our ideas come from?”; “how to simplify your pictures”; and “so, what’s next?” The chapters all follow the same format with an introductory page that lays out the scope of the chapter. There are also photographs by each author accompanied by commentary that includes paragraphs called inspiration, the situation, and camerawork, as well as the photographer’s thoughts on the image, and the other author’s comments on the image. Each chapter includes a page called “on location”, that lists one particular place, like the Coigach Peninsular, and one author’s memories of a shoot there. There are also a few pages of general comments about some aspect of photography like “learning through experience”.

The author’s pictures are all quite lovely, but while some illustrated the teaching point of the chapter, others seemed less related. Indeed, I began to suspect that the book was a thinly veiled portfolio presentation that had been strung together to sound like an instruction manual. The various ideas seemed to be presented in a random fashion rather than as a set of logically developed ideas. Moreover the ideas presented seemed rather general and in need of more fleshing out. Some of the sections, like the on-location segments not only failed to clarify the chapter’s points but even failed to show the photographs that were discussed.

It may be that a master class is a set of random tips aimed at particular students with the hopes that others will learn from observing such an event. Perhaps if the authors had presented images that had room for improvement, and had offered an in-depth critique of such images, the reader might have benefited. The only thing that even came close to that was one author’s comments about the other’s photographs and that mostly consisted of “well dones”. If there were more in the comments, it usually was to say that the photographer was wrong in suggesting that his own picture was weak.

Fundamentally this is a book of random ideas about composition and never satisfactorily helps the reader to answer the question “What should I photograph?” Based on what I learned from this book, I’m hoping for an early snowfall.

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