Book Recollection: Nature Photography

Seems surprising I’ve actually had time to get through an item on my “to-read” list.  Been a little hectic around here as of late with the National Dog show last month in Denver and the upcoming Steamboat race, I’ve either been on the road traveling or on the road running.  Note sure where I picked up this latest Book Recollection but think it was a Christmas gift from Linda or one of my brothers.  If there is one topic that has garnered a lot of my research time it is definitely photography references.  This specific book (Nature Photography) by Chris Weston promised to provide Insider Secrets from the World’s top Digital Photography Professionals.  Maybe it is due to the amount of reading and personal investigation into this subject, but let’s assume the referenced professionals were holding their good stuff back – cuts down on the competition.  There were a number of tips described in the book, but most of those were pretty basic – know your camera, know your subject, exposure and creating depth.  If these are all new concepts to you, definitely grab this book.  Chris does a good job of simplifying the topic and writes in a clear easy to read manner.  In fact, so easy to ready I blasted through this book in about 2 days while Linda was driving.  If you have a pretty good grasp of those topics you still might get some enjoyment of the picture collection used throughout the book.  All in all pretty nice shots with the exception of two things.  First off, let’s collectively as photography enthusiasts stop trying to justify $#@%@$%@$% fully blurred pictures as intentional art.  NOBODY is going to hang a blurred image on their wall no matter how much you try to convince them you did it intentionally to give the viewer a sense of motion – BS – admit it, you f’d up (that was a clever photography pun by the way) and go and try it again.  The other issue is the paper choice in the book.  This is one of those tradeoffs between the cost of the book and the quality of the images.  I can understand making the conscious decision to go with the former, but keep in mind this has a definite impact when you are trying to compare the differences in two images – the cheaper paper will dilute the ink causing both images to look about the same regardless of how crisp or vibrant one looked over the other in the digital darkroom – take for example the antelope butts on page 65.  Say what you want, but both shots look similar printed on paper.  Oh, for the record, pg 207 mentions a zebra example but there are NO zebras in it.. a bear… but NO zebras.

I did appreciate the discussion on hyperfocal length presented in a manner I could finally understand although I did read it like 10 times before it started to sink in.  Chris confirmed that the worst thing you can do is underexpose, accurately reflects photography as the art of omission and of course chose to reference Joel Sartore (my favorite photographer) in his book.  Note, next time recommend using more of his pictures – think there was only like one or two paragraphs about Joel’s preparation for a shoot (he also gave me Joel’s website – the clever   Not much else to say other than I liked the practice assignments compiled at the end book and the author’s favorite glass is the Nikon 200-400 f4 VR – great minds think alike.

Hit the jump to see some of the takeaways (or in this case more in the classification of reminders)

The Takeaways:

  • Worn out cliche – the secret is f/8 and be there
  • Author feels 90% of work is biology and 10% is photography – research, research, research and then apparently f/8 hehehe
  • Know your subjects like you know yourself
  • Know your camera – generally a good idea, but I tend to believe you can spend your time knowing everything about your camera or more useful – know the components of the camera that support your photographic style very very very well – that includes being able to quickly compensate and adjust those settings to varying conditions
  • The technical term for the color of light is temperature and measured in Kelvins.   I always found this to be a little odd.  Regardless of what you call it, all good digital darkroom tools have a slider – move it one direction … gets yellower, move it the other direction and it goes bluer (my technical terms of course)
  • TTL – Through the Lens – I always forget what those letters stand for – the meter that measure light passing through the lens
  • States that Multisegment Metering (or matrix metering for Nikon) is the most accurate form of metering for dynamic range that fits the sensor’s capability.  Basically it is samples a number of different areas in the field of view to determine the best exposure value
  • Center Weight Metering does measure the the full frame, but gives more emphasis (or weight) to the pixels in the middle – this is what I use because I’m normally focused on animals that I maintain in the center of the glass (well, for the most part – may shift to do some in camera composition.)
  • And then Spot Metering allows you to set the specific spot you want to meter off of – apparently good for landscape scenes
  • Stated that spot metering is usually used with manual mode.
  • Author keeps his viewer on the blinkies mode .. gives indicators when pixels are clipped or more accurately have total loss of detail
  • Human eyes have a fixed focal length of about 42mm
  • Keep the camera on automatic if you always want to be a photographer’s assistant – I always say go manual young man… go manual and take control of the photography experience
  • Each having or doubling of shutter speed equals one stop of exposure
  • For those that still don’t get the f-stop numbers, you are playing the division by the square root of 2 game thanks to the aperture opening being represented by piRsquared .. yep, that’s a circle
  • For greatest depth of field, better to use hyperfocal length combined with say f/8 through f/16
  • The camera always assumes a world of roughly 18% gray and we all know this isn’t always the case – think snow shots which often comes out gray if you don’t compensate correctly – of course you can always fix this in the digital dark room.  The author does recommend figuring out what your camera’s default gray percent is by using bracketing and a gray card.
  • Digital photo mantra – expose for the highlights and process for the shadows – he does give a really nice example of why you do this using light pixels distributed across test tubes – so the worst thing you can do in digital photography is to under expose of course he follows that up with .. don’t overexpose – sigh – my recommendation, just watch your histogram and make sure you get good distribution
  • Big glass squashes distant objects together
  • Photography is the art of omission contrasted with painting being the art of addition – I always felt the analogy is better served with the two forms of sculpture – you can start with a block and remove material or start with nothing and start adding material – photography is the former art
  • Yes, we get our rules of thirds thanks to the Greek and Egyptian building architects (the golden mean)
  • Images typically flow left to right thanks to our Western World heritage

4 thoughts on “Book Recollection: Nature Photography”

  1. Thanks for the tips in your book review! I know you can use the back of your hand instead of a gray card, but I don’t recall how to exactly use it (but it’s handy!).

    TTL is either “Through The Lens” or “Transistor-Transistor Logic” depending on what you’re doing.

    I did not know the f/8 rule of thumb. I guess the sunny f/16 rule went out the window with print film. I guess that’s why you asked me if my Sandhill Crane shot was at f/8–I looked at the image info and said I had it at f/5.6, but actually I had it on AUTO… 8^)

    The statement “Worn out cliche – the secret is f/8 and be there” should be something catchy, like “f/8 is great” or “f/8 and don’t be late” or “f/8 or AUTOmate”.

    Anyway, thanks again. Guess I have to find out what the blinkies mode is on my camera, if it has one.



  2. “handy”… nice – never heard of that before but not sure how that works – guessing you just need to match the true skin tone in the digital darkroom and then set the compensation for the the rest of the shots.

    The Tiddlywinks League… Time to Live ..yet I never remember through the lens.. maybe because we call it glass and not lens

    I can’t believe you didn’t know about f/8 Guessing all those clever comments regarding Linda’s shots went right over your head. … and yes, that is exactly why I asked you on the Sandhill Crane. Definitely not as fulfilling when snarky comments are missed – sigh. AUTOMATIC?!?!? I suppose you want to be an assistance all your life…move it to Manual – take control – be the camera (we’ll even let the f/8 slide)

    I like f/8 and don’t be late on the shutter

    Well, if you are on Auto you won’t have to worry about the blinkies – but on M they are a definite help when learning exposure.

    your welcome … thanks for taking the time to comment!!


  3. So… just curious, and I’m sure there’s a very good reason, but… f/8 for wildlife, and f/11 for portraits of people I understand. Why on earth do we spend so much money on glass that can open much wider…..??


  4. Well, from my perspective light and motion compensation – I can’t remember the last time I had the luxury of shooting wildlife at f/8 – they are either moving or in less than ideal light forcing me to open up as much as I can. Faster glass (more light) allows me to keep the ISO down to a level I’m willing to go to print on.


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