Top critical review
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Useful but could be laid out better
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