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Author Topic: Not so light reading.  (Read 4401 times)
Wayland
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« on: April 21, 2013, 09:58:03 AM »
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When I first joined this forum I asked about the sort of books that people were reading to get solid information about digital photography as opposed to the old bibles of film days.

Back then there didn't seem to be much around.

I think things have improved since then and in addition to a wealth of information available on line there are a few more advanced books available now.

Personally I have always been fortunate enough to learn easily from books and my tablet is packed with reading material for those times when there really is nothing to do but wait.

So I can't help but wonder, what books, paper or electronic, have you found that expanded your photographic horizons?

« Last Edit: April 24, 2013, 11:52:00 AM by Wayland » Logged

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Rob C
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« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2013, 10:55:34 AM »
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When I first joined this forum I asked about the sort of books that people were reading to get solid information about digital photography as opposed to the old bibles of film days.

Back then there didn't seem to be much around back then.

I think things have improved since then and in addition to a wealth of information available on line there are a few more advanced books available now.

Personally I have always been fortunate enough to learn easily from books and my tablet is packed with reading material for those times when there really is nothing to do but wait.

So I can't help but wonder, what books, paper or electronic, have you found that expanded your photographic horizons or simply inspired you?


Nothing photographic in the 'instructional' sense, but there used to be lots of magazines such as Vogue, Nova, Town, Queen, American Playboy and good old Harper's B to show style, innovative ways etc.

There was also a thriving calendar industry at one time that prompted one to try different approaches to what one did: in the actual photo world, Pentax made stunning calendars with Sam Haskins and Hans Feurer for a few years, in alternating manner. Not only was the photography inspiring, the actual production values were astonishingly good too, with the use of heavy papers and amazing printing. Everybody (more or less) knows about the early Pirelli calendars. Mintex was great, too. (Derek Forsyth went there in his hiatus from Pirelli.)

You could buy a few interesting books by a variety of photographers, but the problem that seemed to come into that business was that books changed from being a straight monograph to having to adopt the guise of a 'teaching' book in order to get made. A general dumbing down, if you will. If only women were more interested in photograpy; perhaps then we might see more real photography books being produced...

Rob C
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Wayland
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« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2013, 03:46:44 PM »
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I had a mate that worked for Pirelli back in the 80s.

He was on a couple of those shoots apparently.

I recently came across a book by Sam Haskins in my local S/H book shop as well.

I remember it coming out but not being able to afford it back then, just goes to show everything come to those who wait.
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Wayland.
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Rob C
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« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2013, 04:47:25 PM »
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I had a mate that worked for Pirelli back in the 80s.

He was on a couple of those shoots apparently.

I recently came across a book by Sam Haskins in my local S/H book shop as well.

I remember it coming out but not being able to afford it back then, just goes to show everything come to those who wait.


Snap! I eventually bought myself the new edition of Cowboy Kate Etc. Likewise with David Hamilton.

Wish I could find a new copy of Five Girls, which I thought Haskins' best.

;-)

Rob C
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« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2013, 09:20:52 AM »
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If only women were more interested in photograpy; perhaps then we might see more real photography books being produced...
RIP Fay Godwin, on both counts!
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Rob C
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« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2013, 11:16:21 AM »
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RIP Fay Godwin, on both counts!


True, but I think her politics got in the way somewhat...

;-)

Rob C
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RobbieV
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« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2013, 12:15:07 PM »
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I found a book titled "Seeing Fresh: The Practice of Contemplative Photography" by Michael Wood to be one that taught me to think more about the artistic side and "seeing", than the technical side. There are enough books about the latter, but I find good books about the former are rare.



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Rob C
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« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2013, 12:53:38 PM »
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I found a book titled "Seeing Fresh: The Practice of Contemplative Photography" by Michael Wood to be one that taught me to think more about the artistic side and "seeing", than the technical side. There are enough books about the latter, but I find good books about the former are rare.




I don't find that surprising: it's difficult for someone blessed/cursed with artistic ablity to write in a manner that offers the reader hope that creativity might be learned from the pages of a book. I think most artists are either too rich, too poor or too honest to get involved in that business.

That's not to say books don't foster creativity: they do, if you are able to learn from the pictures they hold. What you learn is really up to you, and I think that their main blessing is in opening your eyes to the genre that is going to own you for life. If the lesson learned is how to copy, then its a lesson best forgotten as quickly as possible: it can lead only to ultimate disappointment because in the end, you can't be anyone else but the person you really are. If the spirit doesn't live within...

Rob C
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Gulag
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« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2013, 10:24:02 PM »
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It seems to me most of those books are about technical execution details, f/stop, shutter speed, lighting, set, and etc. For me I tend to stay away from those because it seems to me the most helpful ones are those reveal far more information on photographer's intent and artistic aim, such as this book:

Forever Young (English, German, French, Spanish and Italian Edition) [Hardcover] by Jacques Oliver




http://www.amazon.com/Forever-English-German-Spanish-Italian/dp/3832796037/ref=sr_1_17?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1366687259&sr=1-17&keywords=forever+young


Edward Hopper & Company: Hopper's Influence on Photography: Robert Adams, Diane Arbus, Harry Callahan, William Eggleston, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Stephen Shore
http://www.amazon.com/Edward-Hopper-Company-Photography-Friedlander/dp/188133726X/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1366687351&sr=1-9&keywords=edward+hopper+photographer
« Last Edit: April 22, 2013, 10:26:27 PM by Gulag » Logged

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Rob C
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« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2013, 03:07:28 AM »
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There's a rub with most of these books that seduce the viewer with images of beautiful young women: the books don't come complete with the women. In general, these remain as far out of your lens's reach as they were before you bought the books. If they were already a part of your life (those women) you simply wouldn't need the books. The same holds for those books on classic cars: be real.

Unless you are independently rich, your only chance lies in finding commercial/indistrial clients who need pictures of such women and will pay you to work with them. Worked for me until it didn't.

Books on photography are very nice when you simply wish to collect pictures from your favourite photographers.  Beyond that, they can cause more discontent than joy.

Rob C
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KLaban
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« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2013, 03:31:46 AM »
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Books on photography are very nice when you simply wish to collect pictures from your favourite photographers.  Beyond that, they can cause more discontent than joy.

Agreed.

I wonder how many books Ronald Smith read in his pursuit of perfection. Precious few, I'd imagine.
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stamper
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« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2013, 03:32:09 AM »
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I have bought many books on photography and now I am agreeing with Rob about their merits. I find that I learn very little from them - I may be thick but hopefully not - and unless something is outstanding I will be saving my money in future.  Michael Freeman and David du Chemin are probably the "best" I have read with regards authors.
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Wayland
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« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2013, 07:41:54 AM »
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I tend to find visual inspiration all around me, books, film, internet and art all add to that of course but I'm not sure how much they impact upon my style, probably more than I know, although I'm not really concious of having a style as such.

The books I talked about in my first thread were the kinds of books that helped me to firm up my technical skills, like Coote, Langford and Adams when I was starting out with film and darkroom.

These days it seems to be the PhotoShop gurus that have stepped into that void but given the way the market is slanted toward the beginner, it has taken a while for authors to start producing books that really get to grips with the nuts and bolts of digital technology and talk to us like we're out of school.

There are four or five books on my shelf that actually changed things about the way I worked.

I think the first was Bruce Fraser's, "Real World Camera Raw". Up until reading that book I think I was just pushing sliders about like a chimpanzee on a typewriter. I'm really not sure anyone has tackled this subject better since and I would love to know what his take on the "Process 2012" would have been.

Jeff Schewe has come close with "The Digital Negative" and that also has a lot of other useful information which provides a good foundation but I still feel my inner chimp-ness at work sometimes when trying to understand what is happening with the new process.

Once I moved files into PhotoShop It was Eismann, Duggan, Blatner and Grey that also became my guides.

"Photoshop for Nature Photographers" by Tim Grey was the first book I found on the topic that didn't waste paper on special effects that I would never even want to use let alone need. It did however teach me that some of the features that I would have never thought had a practical use were absolutely invaluable when used properly.

"The Creative Digital Darkroom" by Katrin Eismann and Seán Duggan has so many book marks in it that the spine looks fit to burst. It's full of little tips and tricks that get you around thorny problems like how to make a decent selection on something awkward that the regular tools just laugh at.

I still go back to "Real World Photoshop CS2" by Bruce Fraser and David Blatner when I need to revise practical stuff like Actions or Layers. They just seemed to have a way of cutting through all the nonsense and telling you what you need to know on the first page you turn to. (I should probably get a more up to date copy I guess but I'm not sure how it could be much better.)

I'm probably missing other good authors that I should read but with the local book store only selling the beginners books it's difficult to know which are worth while from Amazon and the like.

I produce pictures for the love of it so I don't really need "commercial workflow" instruction, I'm looking for info that makes me able to do something I didn't know about before.

Currently I'm digging through every book I have and anything I can find on the internet that will help me shoot further into the night with my landscape shots. That's one of the reasons I found myself back here after such a long absence.

I've found some of the astronomy sites very useful but in the process I did recently stumble across a great little Kindle book called "Seeing the Unseen - How to Photograph Landscapes at Night" by Alister Benn that has been a godsend.

Most books on "night" photography are actually about "street light" photography with a little bit about star trails if you're lucky. Benn's book is packed with practical advice for working after twilight or under the moon and was just what I had been looking for. It's books like that, that really inspire me to push the boundaries of my work.

I'm afraid I struggle with books that try to tell me how I should "think" about photography. It's probably for much the same reason that I decided to take a more practical HND course in advertising and editorial photography instead of the Degree course I was offered where the interview was all a bit "New Age" and in touch with itself.

In the UK there seems to be a clique developing, that feels that if you can't "Art Speak" about you photographs then you aren't a real landscape photographer. I admire some of their shots but the moment they start talking about them as "metaphors for their inner struggles", I just lose the will to live.

I interested in hearing the story about how a picture was taken but I think the image should really speak for itself and if it communicates something different to you than it does to me, that's fine, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. The test will be if I remember the image in the morning.


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Wayland.
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Rob C
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« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2013, 08:56:10 AM »
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Agreed.

I wonder how many books Ronald Smith read in his pursuit of perfection. Precious few, I'd imagine.


None, I imagine; he had what I have ever advocated: the right girls and the right ideas.

Those two shots of Iman, with what I think was a 250mm Sonnar, are why I would go right back today.

Can you explain to me about Celia Hammond? How come she had perfect teeth in her prime, but they are a mess today? Teeth, after all, provide the permanent records that the morgue people employ to identify the odd, unknown stiff that gets presented to them in the line of duty.

Rob C
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KLaban
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« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2013, 10:29:00 AM »
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...he had what I have ever advocated: the right girls and the right ideas.

...and prodigious talent.
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Gulag
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« Reply #15 on: April 23, 2013, 12:53:16 PM »
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Since some of you reject what Oliver's approach, let me share what he expresses in his words, which I find more fascinating than some technical stuff that I normally read somewhere else.

"I was born in Casablanca in 1941. I never met Michael Curtiz, Humphrey Bogart or Ingrid Bergman, but I breathed the spiced smells of the souks. I listened to people speaking Arabic and tasted their wisdom.

I slept in the caves of Aglou. I played truant to go and find the heat of the golden beaches of Casablanca's coast. I listened all night long to the radio, to the first notes of the wonderful new and meteoric American music that is rock 'n' roll.

It was as if it had travelled infinite distances between the twinkling stars relayed by the aerials of the American air bases of the new world staying in Morocco and light-years away before swiping across Europe.

I was locked up in a kid's jail called school. I escaped so many times and got caught so many times. Then, my parents died, and I was never caught again. From my gypsy Andalusian mother, I inherited her music and the fatal attraction of being the nowhere man. So I hit the road. Meanwhile, Alfred Hitchcock was filming The Man Who Knew Too Much in Marrakech, one of the Technicolor masterpieces that inspired me so much.

Icarus seduced me in a flash, but his wings melted in the sun. On my way, I met this other homeless kid, Isabel, and we escaped one more time. In Crete Island, I played music and hanged around the ochre sand beaches, lived in houses at the top of Mount Olympus and their biblical views, and tried to change the world a hundred times with my rainbow of wandering peers.

Neither my son, my road companion nor myself, went back to school - this universal area of formatting and cloning. I cut wood and picked olives off thousand-year-old olive trees. The mysterious Tangier had been on the way. The east wind flowing between Gibraltar and the cliffs of Malabata blows away stories of spies, funny business, and visionary writers seeking crazy freedom. Gone with the wind.

Gone with the wind were the very good-looking people and the very refined prostitutes coming from Europe. Gone with the wind was the thrilling international area that was Tangier in the fifties. To the young boy I was, it was an unforgettable sight which forever marks the adolescent imagination: clandestine markets, mafia's gold freely flowing, and smuggling on every small hidden street. Truths and lies blew with the east wind until becoming insane in the evil drunkenness of the Tangier of my adolescence.

There was Jean Genet who was buried in Larache. Then his friend, the brilliant and somber writer Mohamed Choukri. As well as the Beat generation poets such as Timothy Leary, Jack Kerouac, Peter Orlovsky, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs. I carefully packed them all in my bags.

Then, Paris welcomed me warmly and tenderly as her prodigal son. I loved making pictures, and Paris loved them. From John Steinbeck, I retain these faces in my pictures that are impassive in front of fate.

From Tennessee Williams, I retain the image of the fragility and loneliness of Southern people.

From John Dos Passos, his love for storytelling.

From Federico Garcia Lorca, I retain the sharp pain of four stabs and voices that echo on the Guadalquivir River.

Without them I certainly would never have taken pictures, at least not as I do. I took pictures of wonderful people. I worked for wonderful people. All throughout my career, I met great people. I ran away so often, and this time I was never caught again."  
« Last Edit: April 23, 2013, 01:30:24 PM by Gulag » Logged

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Rob C
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« Reply #16 on: April 23, 2013, 01:34:58 PM »
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A lovely bit of writing and expressive of a romantic if somewhat tortured soul.

In describing the course of a life he shows the influences and experiences that mould the man, but that's the same with all people. I guess that a nomadic background does give a quite different slant on life, but even then, the person has to have a receptive soul, and that can flourish even in very different situations.

Being well-read, well-travelled and seasoned by the years does add to the breadth of one's character, of that there can be no doubt; but can that be enough? In making or not making one a photographer of some worth, it does help, but much more has to be present inside the man even before the external influences. A happysnap tourist can visit all those places, see all of the sunsets and sunrises and not really come away with anything very much added to his self. Youth helps - if you travel without too many companions who will inevitably turn what can be experince into little more than party - but perhaps openness is the key; it's easier to be open when you are young.

Rob C
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Gulag
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« Reply #17 on: April 23, 2013, 02:22:08 PM »
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In the age of cheap black oil, it seems everyone can travel with abandon. But, many are occupied not to feel anything that programming hasn't told to. Let me get back to Oliver's take on his own art process,

"I always try to match two different stories together. There is location's story - the atmosphere, the light, the colors - and the story of the woman - her eyes, her feelings, her attitude, her clothes. I like to choose for my pictures the least expected environment: a junk yard or a trashy diner, a lone street in a deserted ghost town or the poetry of a gas station. Then, I drive it into the ground to get the glamour of the situation."

So in other words, he creates paradox or visual tensions in his images only in visual sense but also in subconsciousness.

On location scout, he writes, " I saw a Wim Wneders movie called Don't Come Knocking and Sam Shepard was crossing the street in an improbable town, wonderful mid-century industrial architecture, brown bricks - such a strong symbol of he deep America of the '50s. I was dreaming of going there for a shoot, and asked my producer to find out which city was the one in Wender's movie. Butte, Montana, county seat of Silver Bow County. It was even more powerful than I thought and had such beautiful and helpful people. Kind of going backwards to peaceful times. Peace and beauty were in the air. Found the street and took this picture."



 
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Rob C
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« Reply #18 on: April 23, 2013, 03:05:52 PM »
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"In the age of cheap black oil, it seems everyone can travel with abandon."

Where are you living?

That reality never existed in Britain and I don't remember it in Europe! I suppose it held true for the States and that Route 66 ethic... epic journeys of self-discovery; for non-U.S. folks it would be cheaper to employ a psychiatrist to help you make the trip than drive the miles.

Air fares were always a con for the Brits: you thought you were getting something inexpensive but it never worked out that way. On the road, in the car, it was ever painful to cover distances. It was also frequently uncomfortable, too.

Rob C
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Gulag
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« Reply #19 on: April 23, 2013, 03:10:35 PM »
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"In the age of cheap black oil, it seems everyone can travel with abandon."

Where are you living?

That reality never existed in Britain and I don't remember it in Europe! I suppose it held true for the States and that Route 66 ethic... epic journeys of self-discovery; for non-U.S. folks it would be cheaper to employ a psychiatrist to help you make the trip than drive the miles.

Air fares were always a con for the Brits: you thought you were getting something inexpensive but it never worked out that way. On the road, in the car, it was ever painful to cover distances. It was also frequently uncomfortable, too.

Rob C

Everything is relative. If you can use the percentage of people who could afford travel during the Middle Ages or before discovery of black oil as a yard stick,  what seems to be an exaggeration on my part becomes quite self-explanatory. No?
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