If you are interested in nature photography and can buy only one book this is the one to buy. For the beginning and intermediate nature photographer this is a complete course under one cover. But even the expert can derive something from the refresher course this book provides.
Shaw begins with fundamentals, with a discussion of the bedrock of photography, exposure. He makes clear in simple steps the relationship between shutter speed, aperture and film speed. Even in this day of high tech cameras that handle all of this information if you let them, anyone who really wants to master photography must understand this relationship so they can lie to the camera. (If you don't know what I mean, you need to
read this book.) At the very least you'll learn when to select aperture, shutter or program mode.
Shaw then goes on to discuss equipment and film, lenses, composition, closeups and working in the field. He even provides a seasonal guide to shooting locations, mostly in the United States.
The book is profusely illustrated with Shaw's photos. How does someone whose prose is so straightforward and concise take such poetic pictures?
At first I was surprised at the amount of space devoted to closeups. I knew that these were a Shaw specialty but I felt that most of the audience for this book would not be that interested in the subject. Then I realized that I felt this way because I didn't know how to do this well in nature. After
reading this chapter I was inspired to journey into the yard to take a Shaw-instructed closeup of a day lily. I was so pleased with what I had learned and applied that the picture now hangs on my wall.
I have a few minor quibbles with some of Shaw's advice. For example he urges the reader to use slide film and gives good reasons. But, particularly in this day of digital imaging, the greater range of color negative film has its uses. I think Shaw could have acknowledged this.
But my quibbles are minor. This book belongs in every nature
photographer's library, even if it is the only one.
on December 6, 2001
John Shaw's photographs are amazing and inspiring and this book would be worth purchasing just for the images. Fortunately, however, this is book is not just a glorified portfolio but an excellent guide to every aspect of nature photography. The book is comprehensive without sacrificing detail.
John Shaw provides specific advice and detailed guidelines for photographing nature subjects. Where most books are vague, the author recommends specific equipment to purchase, when to use it and when to avoid it.
Be advised, however, that though this book has excellent information for any level of photographer, it is most useful for the advanced amateur or professional. Some of his recommendations are beyond the capabilities of a beginner -- technically and financially. For example, his recommendations of the type of equipment to buy for high quality images would probably bankrupt a hobbyist.
Again, the information is priceless and the images without equal.
on November 6, 2000
With the release of this updated Field Guide, Shaw presents his incredible photography, along with his personal opinions regarding gear, lighting, lenses, accessories. His discussions delve into all aspects of the each topic. For instance, under the chapter "Teleconverters," he not only explains the theory behind them, but he elaborates as to when and under what circumstances to consider using them--and when to avoid them. There are specific gear references and opinions throughout the book, for anyone looking to build or expand an equipment base (with a heavy Nikon emphasis). The photography, as expected, is absolutely amazing and inspiring. His photographs serve to illustrate any nature photography topic you could name--filters/ film speed/ depth of field/ telephotos/ macro photography/ composition, etc., and each topic is explained in concise, yet conversational language. He writes as though he's been asked to share his wealth of nature photography knowledge with a friend--very readable and yet technically detailed. This book deserves a place on any photographer's bookshelf--you won't be disappointed!
on December 6, 2001
This book is an excellent resources on equipment and techniques for nature photography. The book is detailed, in-depth, and thorough in covering the major aspects of importance to a nature photographer. Unlike most authors, John Shaw provides specific information rather than vague suggestions. For example, when discussing equipment, he advises the reader on which specific tripod to purchase and what lenses to avoid.
It should be noted, however, the books seems to be geared more toward professional photoghraphers rather than amateurs. This is probably most noticeable when he discusses equipment because he gives the impression than anything less than top-of-the-line is a waste of money and will not result in good photographers. His equipment recommendations are sometimes out of the price range of most amateur photographers. In addition, he does not waste too much time on the basics of photography and presumes that the reader has at least some grasp of concepts and techniques.
I would recommend this book for the intermediate to advanced photographer. Beginners would be better served focusing on more basic texts rather than delving into this specialist book.
on December 28, 2000
I am enthusiastic about Shaw's books. I have them all. Almost all the photography books available out there deal with a lot of merely technical blabla. Shaw, on top of being technically rigorous, puts great emphasis on the artistic and creative aspects of nature photography. If you have time and will to learn, you'll find that each picture is a whole lesson. His way of writing is clean and straight, modest and never boring. I watch my own pictures before and after I went through his books: man, there is a difference!! I'd say that the vast majority of my slides are technically quite satisfactory but only a negligible minority is decent under the point of view of the composition. Shaw's books increased my capacity of critically evaluating a photograph. Sometimes I compare my pictures to those in some books or calendars and I'd say: mine are as good or even better than those. But sometimes I step into a book of some really good photographer (Shaw's ones are among them) and I sadly realize that I'll probably never get there. Nonetheless this stimulates me to improve. Buy it.
on August 20, 2003
I am an amateur photographer who makes a lot of effort (couple of 'L' lenses, over 20 photography books, etc.). This is unreservedly the best photography book I have ever read. I only regret that I found out about the book so late (I have been a photography hobbyist for > 15 years).
Most amateur photography books spend way too many pages on generic equipment recommendations, photography basics and other generalities without specific advice. They're usually a major waste of time (& money).
Mr. Shaw's book goes into step-by-step detail and offers extremely practical advice on both equipment & a plethora of advanced photography techniques.
Disregard the word "nature" in the title and read it regardless of whatever type of photographer you are. Sure, the book is geared towards nature photography and it mainly discusses high-end equipment usage. But any discerning reader should be able to tailor the advice to his specific needs. E.g., using slide film requires more effort & cost than I am willing to expend, f/4 telephoto lenses are a lighter/cheaper compromise than f/2.8 (I'm not a perfectionist and I don't use my equipment to build upper body strength while herding my family and the 2x26" Samsonites on vacations.)
The book is not geared only toward professionals but an amateur should have a serious level of interest in the hobby to make the most of the book.
I wish I could find a book as well written as this for travel & portrait photography (My main interests are vacation photography and pictures of my family). This book is hazardous to mediocre photography!
This is the of the best Nature photography books I have read and used. It covers so many things like, Exposure, equipment, film, lenses, composition, close-ups, portraiture, sunny 16, lighting, use of flash equipment, weather conditions, manual focus, auto focus, working in the field, action shots, stills, lens type, apertures, shutter speeds and so many other topics.
The book goes into detail in each of the subjects as far as how he got the shot, what he used and the thought process that went into selecting the equipment and deciding on what shot to take. The book provides beautiful photographic examples. There are multiples of some shots but with different settings to show how the same shot can be so dramatically different in terms of what it captures visually and emotionally.
The book is clear and concise. Readers that are beginner to intermediate photographers will gain a lot knowledge and understanding from this reading this book and keeping it as a reference book.
This is the first John Shaw book I have used but there will be others. The only slight draw back is that the book was published in 2000 and doesn't cover digital photography but everything in the book except for the section on film types is applicable to digital photography. You can't go wrong with this book.
on March 13, 2008
This is listed as the "updated edition." That is true but it was updated almost a decade ago in 2000, which explains why the book is based on film photography. It is also a beginner's book almost entirely devoted to hardware and equipment as is stated by the author in the preface: This is a book about John Shaw's cameras, lenses, tripods, and film. It is not a book about capturing great nature photos. If you don't know about aperture, speed, ISO, or depth of field as applied to 35mm film cameras then this book is for you. If you are looking for guidance on the techniques used to capture great outdoor photography you are advised to look elsewhere.
on March 25, 2001
John Shaws' recent up-to-date revision of his excellent 1984 best-selling how-to book on nature photography is, if possible, even better than the original. Mr. Shaw, a master of the art and science of nature photography, is also an uncommonly good writer and has a capacity for explaining hard to grasp subjects such as the theory of exposure in a sensible way that is unmatched in this field. Shaw does not simply give you his own intuitive version of how to master this aspect of photography, but teaches you how to logically think through the process of arriving at the exposure you want (the "correct" exposure) in all situations and with any modern camera so that the guess work is eliminated. This is a very freeing thing and is a cure for the anxiety that overcomes many photographers as they fumble to get that shot of a lifetime. This book is a best buy for that reason alone.
The original book was the very best book available at the time to learn the techniques of one of the best professionals in the field; this one is even better. You should read it many times until the thinking behind the exposure process makes sense to you and is an ingrained part of your being so you can act quickly and reflexively when the big chance comes. This is a thinking persons book. It will help you see the light.
on March 15, 2005
This book can be read at several levels. Although it assumes basic manual SLR camera knowledge, Shaw covers most of the topics in this book in several different ways. Buy this book, read it, and when you think you have mastered the techniques, read it again to get even more out of it. The text presumes that you are using a film SLR camera, but most all of the techniques are completely transferable. The topics covered in the book include theory of exposing film, equipment and special features to look for (geared toward film), film (film will never go out of style and is still the preferred medium for many photography magazines), lenses (including special lenses as well as add-on lenses such as close-up adaptors), extensive information on composition, close-up photography, and tips for getting close to subjects (animals) without disturbing them or putting yourself at risk. This book contains good reference material for any photographer, not exclusively the nature photographer.