Posts Tagged ‘Photography Book Review’

Book Review: The Great Nadar: The Man Behind the Camera

Monday, January 29th, 2018

“In photography, as everywhere, there are those who know how to see and others who don’t even know how to look . . .” – Felix Nadar

Part artist and part PT Barnum, Felix Nadar was one of history’s early famous photographers. Born in 1820, he photographed everybody who was anybody in Paris at the time: Manet, Hugo, Baudelaire, Dumas. These photographic portraits were his art, but he was also a bungling balloonist, the first aerial photographer, the first to deliver airmail, a cartoonist, a writer, and a poster boy for the description of a “bohemian.” In The Great Nadar: The Man Behind the Camera (2017 Tim Duggan Books), author Adam Begley captures in just under 200 pages the photographer’s energy, eccentricities, and the spirit of his life. 

Nadar took his first look through the lens of a camera in 1848—and he was hooked. That year there were only 13 professional photographers in Paris, and by 1868 there were 350. Photography’s first boom was termed “photomania.” The author writes: “They engaged in mysterious hocus-pocus and sometimes peddled shoddy, blurred images for which they overcharged,” so things haven’t changed much in the past 150 years. Nadar was ahead of the game. Having been a portrait artist for numerous newspapers, photography came easily to him. He also had a wealth of contacts, and he knew the celebrity culture.  More importantly, he was a wonderful photographer. 

Supported by his wife, Nadar sprinted into his new profession—not always with complete success. A lack of business acumen kept Nadar continually in debt, so he constantly chased the “next big thing.” (After photography, that thing was ballooning.)

In the book’s later chapters author Begley truly captures the adventurous spirit of Nadar. He took his debt, impulsiveness, and devil-may-care attitude right into the field of ballooning. Important advances were being made in the area of flight at that time, and ballooning was an exciting new novelty. Nadar didn’t have the money for this new sport, but that wasn’t about to stop him. He would take friends and family out for balloon adventures, even though he didn’t have the landing part down quite yet. If guests ended up bloody or with broken limbs then so be it. 

Attempting to marry his two passions, Nadar began to experiment with aerial photography, using his big box camera and learning through trial and error. Later when the Bavarian armies besieged Paris, this photographer hero would fly over them and report back troop movements; or fly away and deliver intelligence reports and mail via the air.

If only every photographer’s life could be as interesting and exciting as that of Felix Nadar. He was part Evil Knievel and part Andy Warhol, but he is mostly remembered through his fantastic photography. Exhibitions of his work have been held in recent years at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. (The book includes numerous images, drawings, and more.)

I highly recommend this book about Nadar, as an addition to your photographic library, and as an intriguing read into life of one of photography’s true pioneering heroes.

Visionary Landscapes

Monday, November 6th, 2017

My new book Visionary Landscapes has just been released by Tuttle Publishing and it can be found at your local book store, chain, Japanese garden, or online venue. A description given by the publisher follows.

Japanese gardens are found throughout the world today-their unique forms now considered a universal art form. This stunning Japanese gardening book examines the work of five leading landscape architects in North America who are exploring the extraordinary power of Japanese-style garden design to create an immersive experience promoting personal and social well-being.

Master garden designers Hoichi Kurisu, Takeo Uesugi, David Slawson, Shin Abe and Marc Keane have each interpreted the style and meaning of the Japanese garden in unique ways in their innovative designs for private, commercial and public spaces. Several recent Japanese-style gardens by each designer are featured in this book with detailed descriptions and sumptuous color photos.

  • Hoichi Kurisu – transformative spaces for spiritual and physical equilibrium.
  • Takeo Uesugi – bright, flowing gardens that evoke joyful living.
  • David Slawson – evocations of native place that fuse with the surrounding landscape.
  • Shin Abe – dynamically balanced “visual stories” that produce meaning and comfort.
  • Marc Keane – reflections on human connections with nature through the art of gardens.

Also included are essays on the designers and mini-essays by them about gardens in Japan which have most inspired their work, as well as commentaries by patrons and visitors to their North American gardens.

The book focuses on recently-created gardens to suggest how the art form is currently evolving, and to understand how Japanese garden design principles and practices are being adapted to suit the needs and ways of people living and working outside Japan today.

For more information, you can go to my Amazon author page here.

Book Review: A Photographer’s Life, Review by David Cobb

Monday, July 17th, 2017



“There’s just no such thing as a ‘drive-by shooting’ in landscape photography. In other words, you need to put in the time on the ground.” – Jack Dykinga


A few years ago, Jerry Seinfeld wrote a posthumous post about comedian George Carlin and his accomplishments with the line “Carlin already did it.” Seinfeld wrote: “And he didn’t just ‘do’ it. He worked over an idea like a diamond cutter with facets and angles and refractions of light. He made you sorry you ever thought you wanted to be a comedian.” You could take that line and replace comedian with photographer, and it would apply to Jack Dykinga. From his images “Saguaro in Bloom” in Saguaro National Park to “Stone Canyon” in Vermillion Cliffs National Monument– the very much alive Dykinga already did it.

In his new book, A Photographer’s Life: A Journey from Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photojournalist to Celebrated Nature Photographer (2017 Rocky Nook, Inc.) Dykinga reflects on his life after a near-death experience and a lung transplant, and shares with us stories of his successes, failures, faults, and thanks. He thanks those photographers who offered help along the way, including Chuck Scott (photo editor at the Chicago Daily News) to landscape photographers Philip Hyde and John Shaw. He also offers thanks to his comrades-in-arms at the various daily papers in his early career, his photography friends and influences such as Patricio Robles Gil, and the writers who were his friends: Chuck Bowden and Edward Abbey.

His photography is certainly an influence on mine, especially the intimate portraits of plants in the desert southwest. So in this book I enjoyed the stories of how he got the shot. Bringing us behind the scenes for images such as “Sisterhood” and “Saguaro in Bloom” is fascinating, and these photos show his dedication to his craft. I own a few books of Dykinga’s photography, but in this one I found his images from Mexico particularly inspiring. I also appreciated viewing the images which earned him the Pulitzer–their impact has not diminished over time.

A Photographer’s Life covers a lifetime of brilliant photographic work, and the images excel. (One note: the book needed a proofreader to catch a few missing words and typos.) For anyone interested in photography I recommend this book, for this is a life of a great photographer with boots on the ground and a life well-lived. Dykinga’s presentation of his life of photography is ultimately a story of his legacy—a difficult achievement in this field. From his Pulitzer Prize in 1971 to NANPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017 his body of work is of the highest caliber, and it is here through the lens that Jack Dykinga did it all.

Great Books For Night Photographers by Sean Bagshaw

Monday, August 27th, 2012

I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.
Vincent Van Gogh

While night photography presents certain challenges, photography is all about capturing light. Even the darkest night is not completely dark. I find that the light at night often allows me to create fresher, more mysterious and more captivating images than daylight. Night lighting that I find particularly exciting are the twilight hours, moon light and even artificial urban light. Photographing at night presents certain challenges and requires specific knowledge, equipment and techniques. The current generation of digital cameras and digital image developing software have made it possible to “see” the night through photographs in ways that weren’t possible before.

Recently I have enjoyed books by two fellow night photographers that proved to be very well written and extremely content rich: Seeing The Unseen by Alister Benn and Photographing The 4th Dimension-TIME by Jim Goldstein.

Seeing The Unseen is a complete handbook for the most up to date techniques in night photography using a digital SLR camera. If you are a creature of the night, or at least captivated by images of silky surf, sweeping stars capes and otherworldly lighting and want to learn how to take such images then this book is a great companion. Alister takes you through his entire process including understanding the different types and phases of night light, preparation, equipment needed, evaluating the scene, focusing, camera settings, use of ISO, field techniques, dynamic range considerations, composition and much more.

Copyright Alister Benn

In addition to being very complete and easy to understand, the book is worth owning simply for the writing and images. Alister’s writing is far more poetic, contemplative and inspiring than one would expect from a how-to guide and his beautiful, imagination capturing images illustrate every page. Seeing The Unseen can be purchased at and until October 1, 2012 you can get 25% off the price (which was already an extreme value) by using the code ALINEW1.

Photographing The 4th Dimension-TIME by Jim Goldstein isn’t specifically about night photography, but rather the techniques and equipment used for manipulating time in photography. It is one of the most extensive, user friendly and elegant guides to the subject. A big part of understanding night photography is related to manipulating the time variable in low light exposures. Jim leaves no stone unturned, carefully explaining how cameras perceive time differently than we do. He spends a good portion of the book on long exposure night photography including techniques, equipment, technical considerations, light painting techniques and photographing star trails. In addition to the night photography specific content he also covers other time related topics such as time sequences, time lapse video, stopping and accentuation action with strobes, and even video techniques. Everything is well cross referenced and supported with clean illustrations and charts. It even includes links to online content and videos as well as printable field checklists and reference charts. The price of this book is also an extreme value.

Jim also now offers a Mastering Star Trail Photography video course with six hours of video instruction on the current techniques of star trail photography. People who purchase the video receive a free copy of the book Photographing The 4th Dimension-TIME.

Copyright Jim Golstein

Finding good learning and reference material can be a challenge these days with so much low quality content to sift through on the web. I have a lot of respect for the talents of both of these gentlemen as photographers, writers and teachers. For those looking for solid and well presented information on night photography I can recommend both of these books.