Customer Reviews: From Oz to Kansas: Almost Every Black and White Conversion Technique Known to Man (Voices That Matter)
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on September 6, 2012
I still remember the first time I attended one of Vincent Versace's classes at Photoshop World on his Black and White Conversion technique. Then, as now, I was blown away by his vision for the conversion as well as his approach. So much so, that at the next three Photoshop World's that I attended, I always made a point to attend his class to get a better understanding of his approach and technique as well as try to pick up just one more tidbit.

Now, with From Oz to Kansas: Almost Every Black and White Conversion Technique Known to Man, it's like having his seminar on my desk for reference anytime I need it.

I've always been in awe of Vincent's photography. His color photogrpahic art has always amazed me, but it's his black and white art that I believe he will be best known for years and years from now. His approach is like none other and I've been fortunate enough to sit next to some of today's best known photographers and Photoshop experts and watch their techniques.

What is so refreshing about From Oz to Kansas: Almost Every Black and White Conversion Technique Known to Man, is that Vincent tirelessly explains not only the HOW of each black and white conversion technique, but more importantly, the WHY of each technique. In any pursuit, it is worth asking WHY. We should never just accept a technique because an instructor that we've paid to see says so.

You may, in the end, decide on a technique that gives you the look you want at the expense of throwing away 2/3 of your image data. But you should make that decision KNOWING what you're doing, not just because someone told you or because the Photoshop Action you've downloaded does it. Vincent's book doesn't tell you that his preferred method for conversion is the best. Hardly. Instead, his book lays out for you, how you use each conversion method, along with why and when you should consider it.

This book is about helping you, as a photorapher interested in Black and White as your art form, becoming better at achieving your vision.

Vincent says in the Last Words section, "To reiterate - technique does not define your image; you define it. Once you have determined that definition, then you decide upon which techniques best suit the requirements that you have for that image so that it expresses your voice."

If you are a photographer who is searching for a way to better achieve and reach your vision, then I highly recommend adding this book to your collection. You will not be disappointed. Your black and white prints will be better as a result.
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on December 30, 2012
As other reviewers have pointed out VV knows his stuff: the book is chock-a-block with technique, theory, wise quotes and philosophy. The techniques are explained in minute detail as are the whys and wherefores. And for me therein lies the rub, and I do think there needs to be some down to earth counterpoint to all the glowing accolades here. I found it needed too much effort to get past the deep and meaningful stuff that I was left feeling that there must be an easier way to glean the meat of the technical know-how.

I had a similar problem with his previous book, and as detailed and intricate as this one is, there are only so many hours in the day and it will take quite a few to sift through that much information presented this way. Some of it looks like slightly pretentious padding or a self justifying attempt to set himself above other writers on technique.

If you want to read a book on how to be true to your own vision, or how important it is to dare to experiment, or what Albert Einstein had to say that's (just about) relevant, or to see any more of the sort of quotes that are found so ubiquitously on Facebook (and eagerly illustrated with VVs personal philosophy) then you might enjoy those digressions, but frankly George DeWolfe does it much more succinctly and less intrusively in his book on printing.

If you are in fact interested in the philosophy of the thing I recommend the likes of Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag, John Berger or any of the many others who devote whole books or essays to the subject rather than interspersing it with distracting techniques, and who do it far more justice.

Obviously what he's trying to emphasise here is that technique alone is not enough, and you need to know when to apply what technique etc, but if you're buying a book subtitled 'almost every black and white conversion technique known to man' then any of that stuff should be superfluous or self-evident.

He does explain in detail how to use techniques which certainly are useful, but I question whether, once the veneer and waffle is stripped out from this book, it is any different to any other on the topic. I don't think it is. Nor do I think he fulfills his claims: there are other methods which he doesn't mention, AFAICS, the most useful of which IMO is a method taught by Martin Henson, who doesn't have a book but does have a DVD and who is refreshingly unpretentious and down to earth) There's only one technique ( the last one) I didn't know in the book, which is enough to make it worthwhile for me, but the rest could still have been enjoyable were it not so ponderous. Also Jeff Schewe's teaches a different method in his book the digital negative, even though it is very close to the last one VV teaches.

Frankly I could do without all the philosophy and theory and would rather have just the nitty gritty in a a more accessible form, though I appreciate that all the info in there is basically good info - but I can't help wondering whether there might have been a way to separate the theory and philosophy from the practical aspects. Probably not, if VV was going doing it.

Perhaps I would prefer this info to be presented in an alternative medium like a DVD (Video), where you could pick chapters stripped of the theory and philosophy, I do understand that the style of this book is integral to his personal vision and that it has its place; Im not arguing that it shouldn't be there at all, just that in the book the techniques feel weighed down rather than expedited by the theory and philosophy and notes and asides.

I found the screenshots too small to read, fortunately I know what they refer to already but someone new to this might find it very irritating. Also he really should get a better proofreader.

I do admire VVs work and his expertise so as far as this book's concerned it could be said simply that his writing style just isn't for me and leave it at that, I accept he does have a lot of really good technical know how in there too, and the book is worth it for that; I just question though whether it couldn't be presented in a more digestible form. I would still recommend it though but with the above reservations.

The download page is hard to find if you miss it first time. In the book he gives the link for downloads (one assumes at the time) as his website - so that's where I expected to find the downloads page - but no - you have to subscribe, which APPEARS to be about providing you access to the site and (you assume) the content mentioned in the book, and yes the email confirmation will then grant you access to his site, but whoa - you just missed it!

Thus looking on his site for the downloads is frustrating as not only is the link to the downloads not there, (AFAICS) but the link on his site- to his new book -doesn't work, it takes you instead to his old books. The text for the links is tiny- so I tried it four times just in case I had missed the url they are so tiny.

Go back to the confirmation email for subscribing and check out the link at the bottom of the subscription confirmation. THAT ids where the downloads page is hidden. Great if you like games but not so much fun otherwise.

Also much of his site appears to be Flash based and Vincent appears to be using a Mac (in the book) so you'd think he'd know better than have his site Flash based.
This probably doesn't matter that much in the event, as I doubt the free plug-ins will work on a PPC Mac and the actions I can create myself easily enough, but it is frustrating that the link in the book for downloads is not clear or specific enough
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on September 6, 2012
`From Oz to Kansas: Almost every black and white conversion technique know to man' is nine chapters of Versace's passion to discuss, teach, quote, and inspire the reader about photography and to provide guides on how to optimally use the digital darkroom to create black and white Images.

This book is a repository for black and white information for the technical, the intellectual and the artist. It is amazing to read and to be entertained by his writing style, how-to screen shots, rich illustrations and timely quotes from Einstein to Haas. I found that my own creative workflows were challenged and a new inquisitiveness was engaged in revelations based on a master artist's fundamental knowledge of the digital medium. The how to of his why is your pathway to exploration, and to quote Jay Maisel, 'Think in terms of revelation'.

Here is a sample sentence of a Versace term called Chromatic Grayscale, `Everything on your journey toward understanding the art of science and science of the art of creating a chromatic grayscale image from a full-color one is about to be applied in this next technique'.

There is a section on dynamics range, the zone system, exposing to the right ..But Vince has put them all in a comparison context of a historical baseline to today's current technology. You are not reading a book released based on last years technology. This book is replete with an early adopter's technology understanding of D4 hardware and CS6 software.

Vince goes thru the history of digital black and white conversions, when to use and not use desaturation, what the impact and limitation of LAB conversions are. It's really amazing to find out what your current B&W conversion is really doing to your image and why that B&W look has eluded you. Your journey of education ends up in Chapter Seven, where he provides you with the keys to Kansas, How to use RGB channels separately on a channel mixer and adjustment layer.

The book also provides links to free NIK plug Ins, which work with Vincent's free actions, and downloadable ZIP files of his Images to practice workflows. In the end, this book is a practical guide for all levels of photographers and it should become the definitive book on digital B&W and conversion techniques.

more at: [...]
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on May 24, 2014
Your first impression might be how much can be said about desaturation and color separation. Turns out if that's the only way you've been viewing black'n'white photography, you really need this book then.

From Oz to Kansas is an enlightening education on the the topic of black and white, a fantastic master course into creating black and white images, and an exploration in to editing them in way you hadn't considered. The tools and techniques you'll learn have applicability to color as well, but you're guaranteed to see, and do, things differently when done.
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on October 23, 2014
Truly a great book. At one level this book delivers what it advertises. However, it provides the reader so much more:

An in depth understanding of Black and White images from a technical point of view.

How to analyze and "develop" your Black and White images.

How to make your images reflect what you are trying to say.

A great guide to valuable Photoshop techniques that can be used on any image. Worth the price alone.

A good introduction to NIK/Google SilverEfex Pro.

Techniques require Photoshop and NIK/Google SilverEfex (Chapter7/8). There is no reference to other Adobe or Apple software tools.

Since it was published some of the links in this book and the corresponding site are no longer valid. Including the sample NIK software. The PS Actions on the website work with PS CS 6 and some earlier versions. I cannot confirm they will work with PS CC.

My suggestion is that you buy the book and perform the exercises through Chapter 7. If you like what you see, go to the Google site and purchase the NIK software Suite. At $150 it is a bargain.

Lastly, this is an intense book. You will get more out of it by taking your time and performing the exercises. You will definitely want to read it more than once.
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on September 7, 2012
In this book Vincent Versace shows how a well-crafted black and white image remains the finest of the fine arts and how the skill to create one is one of photography's most aspirational skills. I have read a number of books on converting to black and white and to me "From Oz to Kansas" is one of the most complete treatise on the topic.

"From Oz to Kansas" is not a manual that tells you what to do and why to do it - rather it is more of a guide that gives you the foundation for learning how to walk into a scene or an image and know just what to do, as well the reason why you would want to do it. Each lesson builds on the previous so it is meant to be followed in progression to obtain the fullest benefit.

While I think that anyone with a reasonable knowledge of photography and Photoshop can work with this book it is really geared for the intermediate to advance level user. It is well written and, with time and practice, will improve your black and white imagery. Through each chapter, he takes you on a logical progression building on the techniques that you learned before. Occasionally he will take you down a path that you may not use very much, but will give you insight on how Photoshop works in relationship to converting images.

There is a lot of detailed knowledge and information about digital processing as well as analog film with regard to where we have come from and how we need to work to recreate that look to photography. There are even a lot of inspirational interludes sprinkled throughout that are meant to make you think.

"From Oz to Kansas" is a great book if you want to learn how to recreate the black and white work of the classic film age in your digital work, if you want to become a better black and white photographer, or even if you are still one of the late comers to digital photography and want to learn more about the relationships between the two mediums.
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on July 23, 2014
I took Vincent's hands on course which covered quite a bit of Oz to Kansas. Amazing results following his recipes for transforming a color photo to BW. Really works and better than other software programs. Much more control and artistic results. He has the background and understanding why something works or doesn't. Highly recommended!
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on July 3, 2013
If you think you're interested in this book, read the preface before you place your order. It'll prepare you for what's in the book and help you make a decision.
The book covers most Photoshop based methods for converting your digital color image to a black and white (or chromatic gray scale using the author's terminology). Along the way, Mr Versace offers lots of good advise about improving your digital photography in general and offers helpful tips that can be used to solve problems with your color images as well as your black and white images.
The meat of the book is a series of lessons that demonstrate how to use each of the techniques covered in the book to convert a specific image from color to black and white. The instructions for each lesson are clear and take you step by step from the color image to the final black and white image. The lesson images are available for download from the book's website. Mr. Versace provides Photoshop actions that you can use to help with the lessons. I found that the best way to use the lessons was read the whole lesson to see what needs corrected, then carry out the lesson setting the sliders etc. at the values suggested by the book. Then study the image to see what I liked or disliked about the conversion. Then I would come back to the image a hour or day later and process it again but instead of setting the sliders at the numbers suggested by the book, I would watch the image and stop moving sliders when I got the look I wanted. Most of the time I found that I ended up with numbers very close to those suggested by the book. This technique proved especially useful when I got to the last two techniques covered by the book--one using multiple channel mixers and one using the Photoshop plug in called Silver Efex Pro 2. Both techniques are fairly involved and involve much more that picking a preset or moving a couple of sliders. They require careful study of the image and multiple corrections on several layers. And then the addition of layer masks to fine tune the image.
Many of the techniques require layer masks and Mr. Versace offers some great advise on using layer masks and a way to end up with a perfect layer mask. He also explores some of the many blend modes offered by Photoshop.
You really need to work all the lessons to get the most out of the book. If you do you'll find some useful tips that show how some not recommended black and white conversion techniques can be used to improve your color images.
After you've worked through the book, I suggest you look at some of your images and see where the ideas presented in the book can be used to improve your images. I really suggest that you try one or both of the last two techniques to convert one of your images to black and white--preferably one that you've converted to black and white with your favorite technique. I did this with several images that I was pretty happy with and felt that the new conversion was always better than my old one. Sometimes the improvement was minor and sometime it was quite obvious. The improvement was enough that I ended up reprinting some of the images. Note that
Why 4 stars and not 5? The quality of photo reproductions in the book is not up to the quality of the writing. The screen shots that show what's going on as you work with an image are too small and fuzzy to be of much use. Mr. Versace provides image maps to show what degree of masking is needed for some of the images. All of the image maps are small and a couple are unreadable. One thing that helps is that Mr. Versace provides 100ppi versions of the final conversions of some of the images so you can see what you should end up with.
If you purchase the book, be sure to visit the book's website and view the videos and read the various pdfs. You'll learn a lot.
Bottom line is that if you want to improve you image processing, you'll learn a lot with this book.
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on November 12, 2012
I give top rating to this book not because I will immediately go out and utilize every technique for creating chromatic grayscale images discussed in the book, but for the educational value it holds if one diligently performs all the exercises. I am not quite there yet, but I am solidly engaged and expect this book to occupy my mind for some time.

Versace discusses many ways to create a black and white image, but it all leads to a grand finale in the last two chapters (of 100 pages) where he ties it altogether to demonstrate a creative mindset and technical toolbox utilizing Photoshop and NIK'S Silver Efex Pro to help one realize his artistic voice. I am, and have been for some time, a NIK software user, but please note that owning such is not a prerequisite for utilizing this book as it includes a free set of NIK filters, and a free fully functional demo copy of Silver Efex is available for download from NIK. My only warning is that once you have it you will keep it!

I consider myself a fairly advanced photographer but certainly not an advanced Photoshop user. I found this book challenging but have developed some Photoshop skill because of this book and the previous WELCOME TO OZ, 2.0. Together they challenge the professional or serious amateur to rethink how he/she approaches his profession or avocation to become a better practitioner of the art. It is perhaps too technically involved for a casual photographer, but if inclined to perhaps become serious there is much of value to be gleaned from this book from just a philosophical perspective.

I heartily recommend both this and WELCOME TO OZ, 2.0. They were just what I needed at my stage of development, books that challenged my imagination and technical proficiency and that will help me to a higher level artistically.
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on September 8, 2013
Does it count that Versace is one of my mentors (even though he doesn't know it)? I've purchased all his books and DVD's. They are well worth the read and his videos have taught me a tremendous amount. I'm a very technical person and I love that Vincent delves into the technical on everything. I always need to know the WHY of the HOW... and he delivers consistently.
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