Book Recollection: Simply Beautiful Photographs

May appears to be the month of photography books based on the last two book recollections and (wait for it…) this post as well.  However, unlike the previous two, today’s offering is less on food for the left side of  brain and more on providing inspiration for the right hemisphere.  What better way to do that then to review the creative work of National Geographic, the premier photography body that has been wowing us since it was founded in 1888.  By the way, I had no idea that National Geographic is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations.  It was also founded to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge.  There, come for the witty banter and leave with real knowledge, it’s like going to see Piranha 3D and learning that outboard motors can be used to fend off prehistoric flesh eating fish.  Speaking of photography (and my friends say my segues suck), Annie Griffiths brings us Simply Beautiful Photographs.  This book is a collection of images from the National Geographic Image Collection  (holding images back to the 1800s by the way), that fits Annie’s 6 key photographic components – Light, Composition, Moment, Time, Pallet and Wonder).  Annie takes us through each of these areas and provides an eloquent introduction into the nuances of the area proceeded by numerous examples of photographs that visually demonstrates that chapter’s topic.  In fact, so many images that this book tops in at 1.5 inches thick which sadly again doesn’t put a dent into the reading pile because… yeah, another gift for Linda (I was expecting Rapture to save me from my reading commitment, but apparently I’ve been a bad boy or just maybe that predictor was bat shit crazy).  Speaking of crazy, how about the crazy pictures in this collection (I try, I really really do).

As I was going through this collection, I tried to look at each picture individually and assess their impact on me.  At first I was keeping two sets of markers, one for images that had a positive effect on me and ones that I thought were total crap (per my wife’s favorite saying).  After awhile I decided that I was not qualified to make the call on what was a bad picture so from that point forward just focused on the shots that impressed me.  By my definition, this was an image that caught my attention through an interesting visual, a creative composition or success in conditions I know that are difficult to photograph based on my less than stellar attempts.  After reaching the back cover, I had marked 29 Wildlife and 17 Landscape images that I thought stood out among the rest.  I also marked 6 images that I had put in the “you’re kidding” category (might have been more, but again, stopped that marking).  I decided to challenge myself and select my top five Wildlife and top five Landscape images.  This turned out to be an extremely difficult task and made me appreciate what judges must go through for photography competitions.  After the second pass I was down to 31 images with 19 left after a third pass.  I probably spent another hour getting down to 10.

Hit the jump to see my top five list of Wildlife shots and the top five Landscape images

Continue reading Book Recollection: Simply Beautiful Photographs

A Double Helping

Linda: “Hey, I thought your little ego stroking blog was suppose to have trivial little observations on it with some meaningless babble about how it almost brought you to tears or something?”

Me: “Yep”

Linda: “Well, it looks like all you’ve been doing is barfing up photography related crap post after post”

Me: “uh, Sorry!”

Linda: “Don’t be sorry, get off your slacker butt and give the 3 people who actually read this drivel what they want”

Me: “K”

Well, that was awkward, but as always, she’s right.  I had to dust off my little blog idea notepad and fire up Photoshop to work on the required accompanying image.  Oh, for the record, I don’t cry … just wanted to get that out there for the record.  So today’s intriguing observation actually occurred a number of months back in the Menard’s parking lot.  Linda and I had done a little shopping and had made it back to the truck.  Okay, it is impossible for me to do a “little” shopping at Menards thanks to it being like a giant candy store for me.  Anyway, I had backed out of the parking spot and was proceeding up the aisle when we came upon an elderly man pushing a lumber cart with two full size plywood sheets on top.  Based on the brief time it took to pass him, it became apparent that he was struggling with the load trying to balance the weight of the plywood while negotiating the upward slant of the parking lot.  This scene actually hit a special chord with me.  Since owning our first home, I have been purchasing plywood, drywall and pressboard to complete one project after another.  Probably 90% of the time I am alone when the materials are bought and eventually hauled out to the truck.  I wouldn’t consider myself the strongest person out there, but I work hard to stay in some form of shape (thanks to a commitment in college to never become a stereotype of my geek profession).  Regardless of my bench strength, it is always a struggle to get those 4×8 sheets into the truck alone.  Add wind to that equation and you have plenty of fodder for a funniest home video show.  Not once has anyone offered to provide any assistance in this effort.  This doesn’t bother me on the receiving end, but I’ve always recognized this lumber battle and make it a point to offer my assistance to anyone in a similar situation (especially if it is WINDY!)

If I struggle with this type of material, clearly this individual was going to have similar issues.  After making my way past the guy, I pulled into an empty parking space and jumped out to lend a hand.  As soon as I got out of my truck and headed towards the man, another guy in the exact same truck (both in color and model) pulls into the empty space next to mine and gives me a nod of confirmation.  He had seen the scene and made the exact same decision.  By the time we had made it back to the old guy he had reached his vehicle which turned out to be a U-Haul truck.  The other guy asked him if he wanted the wood in the rental truck (mainly to confirm that we had the right vehicle).  The old guy was a little surprised and hesitantly said yes.  The other guy opened the truck up and jumped in while I grabbed the plywood and tossed it up to him.  The old guy thanked us for our help (still had a look of surprise on his face) as we put the cart back in the corral and headed back to our trucks.

It was an interesting coincidence that two people in the exact same vehicle saw the exact same scene and made the exact same decision to help someone out.  However, what really held my thought was how this situation even came to be in the first place.  I can understand nobody witnessing the guy getting the plywood onto the cart based on my experience that there is never anyone in Menards when you need help with something.  If one of the other employees had not assessed this situation, clearly the cashier could have sized up the customer and called in some help.  Apparently not the case!  In summary, it felt good on the soul to help my fellow man, but left a sour taste in my mouth due to the lack of customer attention from one of my favorite stores.   The good news of all this is my Rapture quotient should have gained a few points to the better… of course, that really doesn’t mean much anymore does it (ha)