Book Recollection: Decisive Moments

Ummm … as he hangs his head and kicks pebbles to the side.. I’m going to go with my third Book Recollection in a row.  My year long book reading goal is in peril and the chances for actually completing that goal is bleak at best.  My plan of action at the moment is to try and get as many out of the way as possible in order to give me the best chance of success next year.  To be honest, my reading pile grew over the year which cut a little bit into the progress meter but those were all good additions and absolutely no disappointment there.  Today’s recollection is actually a short book created by Scott Linstead called Decisive Moments: Creating Iconic Imagery.  For starters, if you are interested in wildlife photography and do not know who Scott is, you need to drop whatever you are doing  (errr make that finish reading this fabulous blog) and then make haste to your internet browser or local bookstore.  I’ve been following Scott’s work for awhile now ever since encountering his work in some wildlife photo collections.  His shots have a tendency to make one’s own wildlife efforts small and amateurish.. which if you already consider yourself an amateur (like me) then it basically stands as a high water mark for your own development.  I tend to use the word “favorite” a little too often, but in this specific instance I can, without hesitation, say this is one of my FAVORITE wildlife photography books.  In fact, I tend to use a number of his creative viewpoints when composing my own shots – again.. no where close to his abilities, but without a destination we are just taking trampling grass.

So I’ll start with a few small things that bothered me about the book so I can leave you with the numerous positives.  The first annoying thing is the page numbering.  It took me forever to figure out what page I was on when referring back to the photo descriptions.  I was probably 4 pages from then end when I noticed a faint marking near the bottom of one of the pages which basically looked like this #|#.  Not all pages have this due to the size of the images, but wow, that was hard to find.  Secondly, the book is not created that solidly.  I was actually concerned while flipping through the pages that one was going to work its way out.  I blame this on the publisher that chose to bind the book with elongated threading.  This is one of those books that could be thumbed through quite frequently just to appreciate the images, but due to the binding it will probably sit closed a lot more than it should.  And lastly, it was a slight disappointment to learn that a number of the shots in the gallery book were done through baiting.  When it comes to wildlife pictures, I tend to look at it in specific facets – how well the mechanics are (is it in focus, is the depth of field appropriate, graininess), what kind of setting was it captured in (chasing the light, fighting the shadows, movement compensation) and composition (is the subject appealing, do the other elements in the picture deter or strengthen the image) and then degree of luck (being in the right place at the right time).  Scott’s work almost always nails every one of those facets but knowing the shots were slightly contrived, he is giving himself an edge.  To his credit, he openly admits it noting that a contrived setup can be even harder than waiting for something to happen.  By the end of the book I was a convert in the sense I accept the baiting as a component of his art.  He is able to access a situation, plan out an approach and execute…. and besides, this is really just throwing stones in the Lightroom glass house.

In this book Scott takes some of his iconic shots and gives the reader the story behind it.  Thumbing his noses at magicians throughout, he not only tells his motivation for the shot but describes how the magic happened whether it be expertly placed trip sensors or building a fake habitat in order to control the shot.  If I ever get to meet him, my first question will be what effect his flashes have on his subjects.  As he points out, he is setting up the triggers incognito, but there are definitely off camera flashes that drive the lighting in the shot – lighting that could be quite a surprise to an unsuspecting mother returning to her offspring.  It will be awhile before I venture into the tripwire and baiting arena, but until then I’ll feast on the multitude of great shots – especially his birds of prey shots which can make your heart skip a beat as they leap off the page at you.  I do need to thank my wife for acquiring this book for me.  Want to know another reason this is one of my FAVORITE books?   Well, then check this little feature out:

That’s right baby, my wonderful wife managed to get it signed to me by Scott himself!

Hit the jump to read my takeaways!

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