Our Beautiful, Fragile World – Excellent photographs by an environmental artist – #bookreview

Peter Essick's new book will inspire photographers to work harder and help readers to better understand the fragility of our planet.
Peter Essick’s new book will inspire photographers to work harder, and it will help readers better understand the fragility of our planet.

Our Beautiful, Fragile World

The Nature and Environmental Photographs of Peter Essick
Peter Essick
(Rocky Nookhardcover, Kindle)

Most of us are content to take a photograph and just settle for what we get under the current circumstances.

That’s not how Peter Essick works.

Essick has spent more than 25 years traveling to remote corners of the world, but also to many spots in North America, as a photographer on assignment for National Geographic.

“Many of my successful photographs,” he writes in his noteworthy new book, “are the result of discovering a scene and then going back several times to get the best picture possible.”

Our Beautiful, Fragile World presents a collection of Essick’s excellent nature and environmental photographs. And almost all of the photos are accompanied by a one-page essay explaining where and how an image was taken, what circumstances surrounded the shot, what environmental issues or crises are represented, and what Essick wants readers to take away from the story behind the photograph.

His book likewise contains a technical information section where specific details of each shot are described, including camera (Nikon or Canon), lens, film (typically Fujichrome 100) or digital camera settings, and how he had to work to get the photograph (i.e., use an underwater housing, or shoot from a light plane, or “look for a place where the sunlight was bounding off the sandstone and reflecting golden light on the opposite wall.”

There also is a fine foreword by Jean-Michael Cousteau, son of the famed, late ocean explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. “I feel much hope for the future,” he writes, “when I see the talented work of artists like Peter Essick and understand the message he conveys through his stunning environmental images.”

Our Beautiful, Fragile World will inspire almost any photographer to try to take better nature pictures. And it starkly highlights how we continue to run roughshod over the delicate elements and natural forces that keep us alive on this threatened planet.

Si Dunn

Mastering the Nikon D7100 – Another fine how-to from ‘Digital Darrell’ – #photography #bookreview

Mastering the Nikon D7100

Darrell Young
(Rocky Nook Press – paperback, Kindle)

I love Nikon cameras, and I love the high-quality Nikon how-to books that Darrell Young–“Digital Darrell”–writes for Rocky Nook Press and Nikonians Press.

One of the reasons I like Digital Darrell’s works is that he used to be a 35mm film photographer and understands the shock and awe of making the awkward transition from film and wet chemicals to digital imagery.

Years ago, when I worked as a photographer for newspapers, I charged into action carrying up to four black-body Nikons, each with a different Nikkor lens and some with bulky motor drives. Every camera was freshly loaded with 35mm film, typically Kodak Tri-X. And I tried to have at least 20 spare rolls of film in my jacket pockets or taped, in little film cans, to some of the carrying straps that crisscrossed my body (and frequently got tangled up as I quickly let go of, say, a Nikon with a 24mm lens and grabbed a Nikon with a 300mm lens and motor drive).

When covering fast-moving news events, there was no time to swap lenses. There also was no excuse for running out of film. And you had to know your cameras well enough that you could roughly set the focus, count f-stops and shutter speed clicks, cock the shutter and verify your flash synchronization setting by feel, all while jogging to the next vantage point to photograph the President of the United States or an angry protest march or fire crews fighting a big pipeline blaze.

After I left the news business and sold off most of my film cameras, I eventually and reluctantly made the move to digital cameras–black-bodied Nikons, of course. And my initial reaction to what I saw through the viewfinders and on the camera bodies and lenses themselves was a mixture of confusion, depression and anger. The most polite translation of my thoughts was: “What the &%$#@ is all of this &^%#>!!!???” I was ready to throw the cameras against the nearest wall and go back to a future where film was still king.

With a Digital Darrell book, you typically don’t have to think “&^%#>!!!???,” etc. You just look in the table of contents or index, turn to a specific section, and get a clear explanation of a feature and its menu options, plus setting recommendations drawn from Darrell Young’s extensive hands-on experience.

Mastering the Nikon D7100 is a well-written and nicely illustrated guide to this “new flagship DX camera” and its many features and wide ranges of settings.

“The D7100,” Young writes, “has everything an enthusiast photographer needs to bring home incredibly good images, without jumping through hoops. The massive resolution of the 24-megapixel (MP) sensor, with a wide dynamic range and no anti-aliasing (AA or blur) filter, make the D7100 one of the world’s best DX cameras for advanced enthusiast photographers.”

Young continues: “The image is what counts, and the Nikon D7100 can deliver some of the highest-quality images out there. It’s a robust camera body designed to last.”

His new how-to guide (a hefty 539 pages in print format) is structured with 13 well-focused chapters:

  • Basic Camera Setup
  • Playback Menu
  • Shooting Menu
  • Custom Setting Menu
  • Setup Menu
  • Retouch Menu
  • My Menu and Recent Settings
  • Metering, Exposure Modes, and Histogram
  • White Balance
  • Autofocus, AF-Area, and Release Modes
  • Live View Photography
  • Movie Live View
  • Speedlight Flash

Photography beginners take note: For the most part, this is not a guide that shows how to compose better pictures of people, clouds, seascapes or wild animals. There are a few fine photographs positioned at the opening of each chapter. And notes about the images and who took them are presented at the back of the book. But the major emphasis in Mastering the Nikon D7100 is on exactly what the title says — understanding the new camera’s amazing array of features and choosing good menu settings when using them.

Si Dunn

Mastering the Nikon D600 – Digital Darrell’s excellent new how-to guide – #photography #bookreview

Mastering the Nikon D600
Darrell Young
(Rocky Nook – Kindle, paperback)

Digital Darrell is at it again. This time, he has delivered an excellent how-to guide for using the Nikon D600 camera. This high-quality new digital SLR, he says, “can deliver some of the highest-quality images out there.”

Furthermore, he notes, the D600 offers “a rugged camera body designed to last. With this camera, we can return to the days when we seldom bought a new camera body and instead put our money into new Nikkor lenses. Wouldn’t you like to have some new lenses?”

As you would now expect with a feature-rich digital SLR, “the Nikon D600 is a rather complex camera, and it requires a careful study of resources like this book to really get a grasp on the large range of features and functions.”

The Nikon D600 is not recommended for total newcomers to digital photography. But it definitely looks like a rugged, yet lightweight winner for hobbyists and professional photographers alike. And it can be, the author says, an excellent choice for hiking, skydiving, underwater activities,  and other environments where camera weight and sturdiness are important.

Darrell Young’s hefty 547-page book devotes most of its pages to menu choices within the camera, plus step-by-step procedures for using features, changing settings, and picking the best settings for various situations.

Digital Darrell has written about 10 other books on Nikon digital cameras, including Mastering the Nikon D800 and  Mastering the Nikon D7000.

His new book is best read while working hands-on with a Nikon D600, getting it configured for the way you want it to work. (“Your Nikon D600, like a chameleon, can change to a different style of shooting with a mere turn of the Mode dial” once you’ve worked your way through various parts of  “an incredibly dense series of 50 functions,” Young writes.

Example photographs are kept to a minimum. If you need some basic, how-to-take-good-photographs help, add another Darrell Young book to your collection. But definitely get this one, too, if you want to get the most you can from your new Nikon D600.

Si Dunn

Mastering the Nikon D800 – An excellent guide to a very powerful DSLR – #photography #bookreview

Mastering the Nikon D800
Darrell Young
(Rocky Nook,
paperback
)

Darrell Young has written so many books about Nikon digital cameras (this is number eight), he is now widely known as “Digital Darrell.”

His latest, written in a friendly style and nicely illustrated, covers the powerful (and, yes, pricey) Nikon D800 and D800E.

“Few photographers will need more power than the Nikon D800/D800E can deliver,” Young contends. “With this camera, you are well equipped for years to come.”

He points out: “At 36.3-megapixel resolution, the D800 [and D800E] moves soundly into medium-format territory.” This Nikon camera “creates a 16×24-inch (40×60 cm) native print at 300 dpi (using FX format)….” And: “with careful post-processing and enlargement, the images can be made, as National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenburg says, ‘as large as a house!’”

Nikon D800/D800E cameras do come with a fairly detailed instruction manual. But Young’s 560-page how-to guide provides expanded coverage and explanations, clear step-by-step instructions, and many illustrations that show features and choices. He takes you literally from unpacking the golden Nikon box to initial set-up, and then all the way through the camera’s photography and video features, built-in flash and Nikon Creative Lighting System capabilities.

D800/800E cameras can offer an intimidating array of choices and settings, particularly if you are new to digital photography and have bought a D800 or D800E to be your first digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera.

But Young calmly states: “There are five specific settings you should configure when you first turn on the camera, before you shoot any pictures. I’ll walk you through the settings. Later chapters will cover virtually all camera settings in detail.”

As you tackle those later chapters and get deeper into the camera’s settings, he recommends that you go through his book “with your camera in hand ready for configuration. There are literally hundreds of things to configure on this advanced HD-SLR,” he writes.

His text includes links to downloadable resources from two websites hosted by Nikonians Press and Rocky Nook. And Digital Darrell promises: “I intend to keep on adding material to Mastering the Nikon D800.”

Si Dunn

The Nikon Creative Lighting System, 2nd Ed. – Better flash photography (with electronic help) – #bookreview

The Nikon Creative Lighting System: Using the SB-600, SB-700, SB-800, SB-910, and R1C1 Flashes
By Mike Hagen
(Rocky Nook and Nikonians Press,
paperback, list price $39.95)

In my many years as a photojournalist, I hated one aspect of photography above almost all others: Having to use an electronic flash in low-light situations.

Of course, that was back in the ancient days of 35mm film cameras and heavy, shoulder-bag battery packs. We had little idea how well a flash shot would turn out until we got back to the photo lab and ran the roll of Tri-X or Plus-X through the D-76 developer, stop bath, fixer, and a perfunctory wash – and prayed we had remembered to use “X” synchronization, not the outdated one (“M”) for flash bulbs.

If anything at all went wrong, there was no going back.

For that reason and many more, I love digital photography–and being able to see how well a flash shot has turned out moments after I press the shutter.

This updated second edition of  The Nikon Creative Lighting System covers both modern flash technology and some good old, no-tech techniques that still work. One of my favorites, illustrated in this book, is doing bounce flash to eliminate shadows while also using small reflector cards or just your bare hand and fingers to reflect what author Mike Hagen calls “a nice catch light” and a bit of glow into a portrait subject’s face.

Another is flash bracketing, which we used to do by manually opening up or stopping down one f/stop (typically while running along near a famous criminal or politician or movie star and hoping our flash units had recharged along enough to pop off another shot at the right exposure). “Each of the modern Nikon cameras has an auto bracketing function,” Hagen notes.

Hagen’s well-written guide covers Nikon’s newest iTTL (Intelligent Through the Lens) flash units and includes separate chapters for the SB-600, SB-700, SB-800, SB-900, SB-910, and R1C1. An iTTL-compatible camera body “meters flash output through the lens” when used with an iTTL flash unit.

In his “Case Studies and Examples” chapter, Hagen presents some excellent photographs and provides complete setup details and settings, so you can learn by trying similar shots.

Hagen’s book is a full-blown, step-by-step, technical how-to guide that likewise provides easy techniques for making better photographs in a variety of situations.

With the help of Nikon electronic flash units, of course.

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Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. He also is a former newspaper and magazine photojournalist. His latest book is Dark Signals, a Vietnam War memoir available now in paperback. He is the author of a detective novel, Erwin’s Law, a novella, Jump, and several other books and short stories.