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. Its still a while until ducks arrive and snow falls. Im 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 wheres the picture?; why we take photographs; Where do our ideas come from?; how to simplify your pictures; and so, whats 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 photographers thoughts on the image, and the other authors comments on the image. Each chapter includes a page called on location, that lists one particular place, like the Coigach Peninsular, and one authors memories of a shoot there. There are also a few pages of general comments about some aspect of photography like learning through experience.
The authors 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 chapters 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 authors comments about the others 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, Im hoping for an early snowfall.
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