Earlier this year I did a feature on Heather Angel, one of the photographers who had a strong influence on me when I first began doing nature and macro photography. At the time I had mentioned her new book, Digital Outdoor Photography — 101 Top Tips (A Lark Photography Book, 2012) , and soon after I received a free review copy from Sterling publishers. With winter well underway, I can now progress with the books that have been accumulating on my desk!
Like many nature photographers, my love for the natural world came before I first picked up a camera. Photography became my first ‘note book’, a method of recording what I was experiencing on my field trips. But soon mere recording was not enough, and I wanted to learn more about recording images in a way that better captured the wonder, complexity and beauty of my surroundings. With that interest in mind, I turned to one of the great support systems in life – the public library. Sure enough, at least one of Heather’s books would be on the shelf, there amoungst the others in the 770 section, guiding me through various aspects of nature photography. Digital Outdoor Photography now takes its place on my shelf, ready to guide me through the many different aspects of nature photography — landscape, macro and wildlife.
The book is divided into chapters based on equipment, techniques and subject. Interestingly, the first tip in Planning and Preparation is among the most important: ‘Compile an Event Diary’! This is a forgotten art amoungst many photographers and naturalists today – the careful research and recording of natural events so that you can learn to be at the right place at the right time in the future. More useful information is revealed in the chapters on Gear to Go, Camera Supports, Metering, Composition, Shooting, Enhance the Light, Work the Weather, Wildlife Wonders, Action Shots, Focus on Plants, and, the chapter closest to my heart: Magic of Macro!
All the chapters have information useful to macro shooters, however, a closer look into a few select chapters shows the diversity of information that is provided. Magic of Macro provides tips on optimising natural light, electronic flash, depth of field, isolating the subject, the use of light tents, enhancing textures, shooting through water, and finding natural designs. Focus on Plants also has a lot of useful information on macro subjects, such as ‘gardening’ (with care!), making flowers ‘pop’, steadying moving stems, using windshields and creating impressionist images. The book goes one step beyond ‘outdoor’ photography with the last chapter, After a Shoot, which deals with backing-up files, sensor cleaning, digital workflow, post production, recovering highlights, HDR, panoramas and focus stacking.
All that I miss from this volume is a message that I think is essential in all nature photography books (especially in this era where an interest in photography is booming like never before): a good solid nature photographers’ code of practice. Let’s not become part of the problem in regards to habitat disturbance, life-cycle disruption and a general disrespect for other people and the environment. Always remember that the well being your subject and its habitat comes before the need to take the ‘perfect’ photograph.
Digital Outdoor Photography — 101 Top Tips is the book I wish I would have had when I began practicing nature photography! It has a wealth of useful information that could only have been amassed by a photographer with years of experience in different situations around the world. Don’t be fooled by the title, each ‘tip’ has a page or two of information and Heather’s wonderful photographs, so that the book goes far beyond the ‘101’ mark with helpful advice. This isn’t a book to take with you in the field, but the information it provides will prepare you to face almost any photographic situation that you may come across when walking the photo-naturalist’s path.