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Creative Nature & Outdoor Photography, Revised Edition Paperback – February 23, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

BRENDA THARP is an award-winning photographer, writer, and teacher specializing in travel, nature, and outdoor photography. Her images have been featured in numerous magazines and books, and she teaches throughout the United States, including Maine Media Workshops, Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, Point Reyes Field Seminars, and BetterPhoto.com. She can be found at www.brendatharp.com.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Amphoto Books; Revised edition (February 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0817439617
  • ISBN-13: 978-0817439613
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.4 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #152,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A professional photographer for over 30 years, Brenda is also an inspirational speaker. She writes books, teaches workshops, and leads photography tours. Her award-winning images have appeared in national magazines and books, calendars, greeting cards, and posters. Brenda co-starred in episodes of CANON's Photo Safari television program, and has appeared on regional TV and national podcasts on the topic of photography. Her fine art images are in private collections across the United States, and her commercial images are represented by Aurora Photos, Danita Delimont Stock, and Getty Images.

Brenda teach workshops internationally and regionally, and leads photography tours to many places, including Ireland, Italy, Morocco, Myanmar, and Bhutan. Brenda is currently working on two e-books to be released in 2013.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a great book to get you motivated to take more interesting landscapes/nature photos. It's strong on composition ideas, and organized very nicely. It's not at all heavy on the technical aspects, and it specifically is not meant to be (go to your local library and you can find dozens of books on the technical aspects of photography).

There were a few things that bugged me along the way. First of all, this new edition is 100% digital, whereas the first version was 100% film. This doesn't change that much in regards to photo creativity or composition, but the first version had helpful sections about how to compensate for certain lighting conditions depending on what kind of film you were using. Plus that means 100% of the photos in the first book were film, 100% digital in the second book, and no two are the same. I think it would be worth it to read both and compare photos from both. She constantly mentions in the second edition how easy digital manipulation is, so I'll bet that changed her approach when she was actually in the field.

For all of her example photos, she lists the size of her lens, the focal length at which she used it, shutter speed, and aperture. No ISO. Again, this is not meant to be a technical book, but I could see a newbie trying to match her settings to the best of their knowledge, getting bad results, and becoming discouraged. I also mention this because she wrote down her film speed for every shot in the first edition. And I hate to say it, but she claims to use a six thousand dollar Canon DSLR throughout this book, and there's a very real advantage as far as way higher, way cleaner ISOs being at your disposal when you're in the field shooting at very small apertures.
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A Buddhist proverb says, "when the student is ready, a teacher will appear." Brenda Tharp may be that teacher for this mediocre photography student. I've had her book for a while, and I find myself returning to it again and again, often with an "OH! That's what she Meant." This is not a "how to" book, it's far more useful than that. Rather, this slim volume challenges you think about using photography to express ideas, vision, interests beyond pretty pictures that simply record a place or time. Tharp provides the minimum technical details along with her photographs, but the emphasis is on creating images that convey to the viewer what the shooter intended---and, for the shooter to think about what they are trying to say. The book is a treasure for photographers of Any skill level but is aimed at those with dSLRs. Whether youre moving up from point `n shoots or have a large collection of lenses and bodies, much wisdom can be found here---if you're willing to do the necessary work.
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I read this book following Ken Rockwell's recommendation on his website. He writes that Brenda Tharpe's book "cover[s] everything you need to know, like seeing light, shadow, balance, composition, color, interpretation, texture, and everything that matters". Yes, the importance of these variables are mentioned. What is lacking in Tharpe's explanations is how to conceptualize and realize your objective. She states several times the need to experiment, practice, and become accustomed to using your equipment. Omitting the process from visual concept to physical photograph is fine, I suppose, because many references dwell upon technical procedures. What Tharpe crucially lacks is how to crystallize one's creative ambitions into a compelling visual concept; that is, the step before taking the picture. This initial step is essential in a book with the word "creative" in its title.

The book reads like a one-person photo exhibit of rather eclectic subjects and techniques, where the photographer cheerfully comments on each picture. "I waited several hours for the orca to breach", "See how I captured the dominance of the Golden Gate bridge" ... Being an artisan does not necessarily make one a teacher.

Tharpe mentions "style" in her book, and an admonition she received many years ago that her work was merely postcard material devoid of her presence. I closed the book (it took only 3 hours to read) with a puzzling aftertaste: What _is_ Tharpe's style? If anything, her photos are nice postcards, calendars, tourism brochures, and stock photo material. Which are qualities I admire. Her technique and perseverance are present, but her character is not. Perhaps a self-critique of her own style and an introspective analysis of how she developed it might help readers transition from stirring emotions to visual concepts.
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The original edition of "Creative Nature & Outdoor Photography" is a great guide for beginners to learn to take better photographs. Despite its age, much of the content is still relevant to today's photographers. The updated edition of this book contains fresh images, and new material specifically about digital photography. While the selection of images and core of the text both continue to be very enjoyable, the new technical information presented is underwhelming and relatively poorly described. I think this book would have been a lot stronger if it maintained its focus on compositional/creative topics rather than occasionally diverge into technical subjects. Those looking for technical information would be better advised to look elsewhere.

In terms of creative instruction, this book is similar to Peterson's "Learning to See Creatively". These two books do overlap, although in many ways, they are complementary. Tharp covers 'core' topics like lighting, design elements, and composition quite well (and this is what made the book so successful in the first edition). If you've never been exposed to these ideas, this book is a great introduction. The material is engaging and easy-to-read, and does not feel like a textbook (which many books on composition tend to feel like). However, if you are already familiar with these topics, the presentation may feel a bit shallow. On a few occasions, a topic will be described and stop just short of giving really practical advice or examples on how it might be used. It was disappointing to sometimes read a fairly vague passage and then have it qualified with something generic like "just keep trying and you'll get it" (sic). Nevertheless, this is still among one of the better introductory instructional books on composition.
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