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Conrad J. Obregon RSS Feed (New York, NY USA)

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Picture Perfect Lighting: An Innovative Lighting System for Photographing People
Picture Perfect Lighting: An Innovative Lighting System for Photographing People
by Roberto Valenzuela
Edition: Paperback
Price: $32.56
54 used & new from $25.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Reversal, May 15, 2016
All too often technical photography instruction books promise something innovative that they don’t deliver. However Roberto Valenzuela delivers on his promise of an innovative approach to portrait lighting. While most lighting books suggest that we light a subject and then set the exposure, Valenzuela advocates setting the exposure and then adding or subtracting the light.

The author sets forth a lot of rules that might seem to make for a rigid lighting system, but instead they develop a method of thinking about lighting that allows for a great deal of flexibility. He begins by emphasizing that it is light that makes photographs and then analyzing the nature of light. Next he provides and describes the 10 elements of circumstantial light (circumstantial light is the light that already exists on the scene) and how to deal with them. After discussing his ideal exposure settings he explains how to use helper light (reflectors, flash, etc.) and posing to add or reduce the light. There is an exercise in how to quickly adjust one’s flash that some readers might want to skip over, but I advise against that. It might seem unnecessary, but when put in the context of the author’s system, it will allow photographers to better use their flashes. The book finishes with explained examples from Valenzuela’s portfolio that do a good job of consolidating the material that has gone before.

The author notes that his system is for portraiture. Other genres may not be able to control the light to the same extent. The portraits that he provides are stunning examples of the system, and illustrate the beauty possible with lighting and the author’s system. His writing and idea organization are simple and clear.

I did have one objection. Many of the lighting schemes require assistants to deploy helper light. I would have liked to have seen a few more setups applicable to the lone-wolf photographer.

I confess to having been of the light first, adjust exposure later school. Valenzuela convinced me to reverse this procedure.

Note: The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book at no charge.

The Complete Guide to Macro and Close-Up Photography
The Complete Guide to Macro and Close-Up Photography
by Cyrill Harnischmacher
Edition: Paperback
Price: $26.86
60 used & new from $22.46

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Incomplete, May 6, 2016
From a quick read of this book, one might almost think that all one needs for close-up and macro photography is a macro lens or a close-up lens or an extension tube or some similar gadget. (The author never fully distinguishes macro from close-up photography, which is a technical distinction without much practical impact, and I’ll refer to all such photography as close-up photography.) From the rest of the book, it would seem that close-up photography was just like any other photography except, well, closer. Actually though, a close reading of the book would reveal that there are other special techniques applicable.

The initial chapters describe the equipment for close-up photography. This is followed by a chapter on shooting technique, which only deals with camera blur and holding the camera. Two chapters follow on studio and nature photography, and then the author deals with special techniques like light painting and HDR photography. (The section on capturing close-up panoramas by moving the camera on a slider, rather than swiveling, was a technique I had never encountered.) Next the author deals with searching for subjects and photographing at the zoo. There is a short chapter on image editing which deals only with levels, adding noise and conversion to black-and-white. The chapter on composition deals with all the usual composition rules and does little to distinguish between general composition rules and anything unique to close-up photography. There is a final chapter on constructing special tools, some of which might be really useful, like an inexpensive panorama slider, and others of which are mildly interesting. Sprinkled throughout the book are portfolios from other close-up artists and I must particularly note the work of Bernd Schloemer whose images of miniature figures in a full-scale world are delightful.

The images used to illustrate close-up photography ranged from excellent to lackluster.

Much of the writing is pedestrian and boring. Occasionally equipment was described which ought to have been further described and explained like infinity coves and light barriers. (The latter appear to be electronic means of detecting when small moving subjects are in focus and which would have been useful and interesting to explore.) I was quite disappointed that the use of flash did not include the forward placing of flash and the use of multiple flashes in the field, both techniques that I learned from other sources and have used with great success in nature photography. There was no mention of the use of live view.

Although I learned a few new tricks about close-up photography, compared to other books on the same subject, this book was lacking.

Note: The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book at no charge.

Lightroom Transformations: Realizing your vision with Adobe Lightroom plus Photoshop
Lightroom Transformations: Realizing your vision with Adobe Lightroom plus Photoshop
by Martin Evening
Edition: Paperback
Price: $30.30
50 used & new from $23.12

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adventures in Lightroom, April 21, 2016
Lightroom instruction books aimed at beginners usually explain how the sliders change an image, but seldom try to explain how moving the sliders can make art, or at least artful works. Perhaps that's appropriate since learning what the sliders do is a task in itself, without having to think of art.

In this book, Martin Evening goes to the next step, which is to take a number of images, and show you how he has used the various Lightroom controls on them to make them more artful. Along the way, he offers additional advice on how to shoot particular types of images. The chapters are organized functionally, rather just following the order presented in Lightroom, and the emphasis is on the use of the develop module. There are chapters on, among others, adjusting tone and color, recomposing existing images, and black and white conversions. There are what might be called tutorials, where the author shows you an image he started with, explains the changes he made in Lightroom, and occasionally Photoshop, with screen captures of various menus and the modified images, and the ultimate final version.

Evening assumes some familiarity with Lightroom and Photoshop and often doesn't provide a lot of detail on the tool or menu he is using so if one is not familiar with the software, one can easily become lost. In fact, if you want to learn Lightroom and Photoshop, this is not the book for you.

The information is pitched on a variety of levels. On the one hand, the instruction on the spot removal tool is rather basic. On the other hand, his solution for removing street hardware by combining two images shot a few feet apart was something I had never encountered before, although it made absolute sense.

Although there are no online images to download and manipulate along with the author, there are videos that repeat and reinforce some of the tutorials in the text.

Occasionally some explanations of technical topics required a second or third reading to understand, but this was more because of complexity. Generally, Evening's writing is clear and accessible.

To create an artful image, one must examine the original capture and decide how one wants it to look in its final form. If the photographer does that, then it may be a matter of simply applying the correct tools to reach that goal. It's not always apparent what those tools are, but I suspect Evening can help the photographer see more of those tools. He doesn't teach one how to analyze the basic image as such, but one can infer his process of analysis from what he does, and that can be quite valuable.

Once a user develops a good familiarity with Lightroom and Photoshop, it hard to say how to develop more advanced skills. Evening presents many good ideas and tools that will probably help someone who understands the basics of Lightroom and Photoshop gain those skills.

Note: The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book at no charge.

Creative Workflow in Lightroom: The photographer's guide to managing, developing, and sharing your work
Creative Workflow in Lightroom: The photographer's guide to managing, developing, and sharing your work
Price: $30.70

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too Much and Too Little, April 6, 2016
When I opened this book and read in the introduction that the author intended to provide the why of various Lightroom activities, I presumed he would explain how one used the various sliders and buttons to achieve one's photographic vision. Several books explain what each of the buttons and sliders do functionally, but far fewer show how to manipulate the image to create art.

This book is not a comprehensive guide to Lightroom. Instead, it concentrates on the import, cataloging, developing, printing and exporting functions of Lightroom.

I immediately encountered a pedagogical problem. What's the best way to learn to use Lightroom? Bradley uses the narrative approach. He starts with background discussions of things like metadata and then in comprehensive fashion describes importing, keywording, image organization workflow, processing the image, and outputting the files to print and other image formats. He mentions every aspect along the way. I particular liked the fact that he emphasized the importance of key wording over file structure and that he was frank to acknowledge that there were certain Lightroom functions that he had not found useful. In addition when he discussed certain tools like panorama merge, he went back to the image capture stage to explain how to capture files that would result in successful Lightroom outcomes. However, none of his explanations had hands-on exercises, or what I think of as tutorials. In addition, he presented every aspect of a function before moving on to the next.

My own belief is that Lightroom beginners (the audience at which this book is aimed) learn best by doing. Other authors provide down-loadable files that can be used for practical exercises. In addition, the beginner probably learns better by going from more general instruction when they start out and then proceeding to more detailed instruction. (I recognize that some learners may prefer the detailed narrative approach, and for them this may prove a good manual.)

Another problem I had with this book was that the promise of an explanation of how to use Lightroom controls to achieve one's vision was never realized. Only one example of the reasons for processing a particular image was described in detail, and that used some of the more specialized tools for development rather than the general tools. The author did provide short examples of his processing in each function but they rarely rose to the level of full explanation of how one could use Lightroom to create art.

I was particularly dissatisfied with the explanation of the basic panel of the development module, which is the heart of Lightroom processing power, and which was covered in just a few pages. When he got to the HSL (Hue Saturation, Luminance) subpanel Bradley did not even offer a definition of these terms. There is also reference in the book to additional materials that are available on the publisher's web site, but I couldn't find them.

Combine all of that with a typeface that was too small to comfortably read and many minute screen captures, and I have to conclude this is not a good book to teach Lightroom to beginners. More experienced Lightroom users might learn a trick or two that they had missed, but it may not be worth wading through all of the other information to find.

Note: The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book at no charge.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 9, 2016 6:54 PM PDT

Photographing Men: Posing, Lighting, and Shooting Techniques for Portrait and Fashion Photography
Photographing Men: Posing, Lighting, and Shooting Techniques for Portrait and Fashion Photography
by Jeff Rojas
Edition: Paperback
Price: $24.05
66 used & new from $16.95

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cookie Cutters, April 1, 2016
I often fault portrait photography books for not using illustrations with men, so I was glad to see a book aimed at just that sex.

The book is divided into three sections: defining features, which includes face shapes, body shapes and perceived flaws; posing and styling; and lighting.

Rojas apparently believes that there is an ideal face and body shape, and that the object of the photographer is to make non-conforming faces and shapes look as close to the ideal shapes as possible. Another point he emphasizes is posing the subject to hide anything the subject perceives or might perceive as a flaw, like baldness or a double chin. The instructions for achieving these goals are simple and easy to apply.

When it comes to posing, he runs through a list of standard poses, like standing, hand touching face, arms crossed, legs crossed; and sitting, leaning into knee, arms on legs, legs out. There is even a section on lying poses, although you may have a hard time getting anyone into this position who is not a professional model. The section on lighting doesn't spend much time on theory, but gives good examples on using as few lights as possible to make some dramatic images.

The collection of handsome, sullen-faced, young men with six-pack abdomens will tell you that this is not instruction for taking a portrait of Uncle Charlie or the CEO of the local small corporation. These are the portraits that will grace the advertisements of the New York Times Sunday Magazine or Health and Fitness Magazine.

If all of this sounds like instruction in making cookie-cutter images, it is. Apparently Rojas has found that these images, designed to sell products, sell to the advertisers, and I suppose if that puts food on your plate, cookie cutting is just fine.

Note: The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book at no charge.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 2, 2016 7:51 PM PDT

Documentary Storytelling: Creative Nonfiction on Screen
Documentary Storytelling: Creative Nonfiction on Screen
by Sheila Curran Bernard
Edition: Paperback
Price: $28.23
51 used & new from $23.72

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tell Me A Story, March 29, 2016
Some concept of narrative seems to be creeping into all the arts nowadays but at least in works prepared for the screen it means telling a story. Although it's easy to think that story telling applies mostly to fiction, it is just as relevant to documentary productions.

The book is divided into three parts. The first is aimed at explaining just what story is, from the basic idea of a story to an examination of how one can be creative, even in a presentation bound to facts. The second part discusses some of the elements of developing a documentary story from research to editing. The third part is a series of interviews with the makers of documentaries, emphasizing how they developed the stories in the work, although occasionally spilling off into other areas. I found this last section particularly interesting from the range of documentarians from those who carefully plotted their films to those who actually eschew plotting.

To a great extent the author relies upon examples drawn from recent documentaries, including, for example a "close viewing" of Morgan Spurlock's "Supersize Me." The author also provides references to web sites and books that illustrate and explain further details of how particular documentaries tell their stories. (Occasionally some of the references didn't seem very useful, but I don't blame the author for that.) The best way to use the author's instruction is by viewing the actual films and concentrating on how they develop their story line.

This is a basic approach to the idea of storytelling. It is written in clear and simple language. I'm not enough of an expert to know if there are important subjects that have not been covered, but what is here rings true and accords with my experience. There was an emphasis throughout on the fact that that documentary storytelling does not require chronological order for presentation, but rather often benefits by moving about in time

There are approaches to documentary filmmaking that do not tell stories (or at least may not fit into the framework described here) that are not discussed.

The book is aimed at a beginning student in film school who is interested in making documentaries, although other students of film, interested in developing their appreciation of the finer points of documentary films will also benefit from a reading.

Note: The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book at no charge.

Time Lapse Photography, Long Exposure & Other Tricks of Time: From Snapshots to Great Shots
Time Lapse Photography, Long Exposure & Other Tricks of Time: From Snapshots to Great Shots
by John Carucci
Edition: Paperback
Price: $23.70
56 used & new from $18.06

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars General, March 13, 2016
The concept behind the publisher’s series of books subtitled “From Snapshots to Great Shots” is an appealing idea: take a single aspect of photography and explain enough about it so that someone taking simple snapshots can improve their photography. For something like exposure or composition this idea might well work, but in the case of this book, it didn’t work for time lapse photography.

Time lapse photography is the technique of making extremely fast motion movies or videos by taking photographs at long intervals and combining them into a movie or video. This is not a simple undertaking and requires many different skills so it’s probably not the task a tyro should jump right into from making snapshots. Moreover, there are many specialized techniques involved in time lapse photography so that an entire book would be required to explore the subject without exhausting it. In this book just 26 pages are devoted to time lapse photography, and of that, six pages are devoted to using a Go Pro camera for time lapse.

The remaining chapters are devoted to selecting equipment, long exposures, lighting, mixing ambient exposures and flash, high speed photography, composition, and an appendix dealing with post processing. I presume these subjects are held together by the length of time exposures take.

The list of information that ought to have been included for someone to learn about time lapse photography includes the fact that many modern cameras now include a time lapse function within the camera. It would have been useful in an introduction to time lapse to illustrate the settings a typical camera might have for time lapse or at least the settings for a separate intervalometer. No mention was made of how to handle the bane (and often joy) of time lapse photographers, changing lighting conditions. The author did suggest the use of Photoshop to process time lapse videos, which was an application of which I was unaware, but the instructions were cursory and it was only after consulting Adobe's online help that I was able to actually process a time lapse video in Photoshop. (Most time lapse photographers I know prefer to process in video software, like Adobe Premiere Pro or Elements.)

I presume that a book aimed at beginners will provide detailed information on the subjects covered. The chapters dealing with the other subjects are general in nature. For example, in the section of the long exposure chapter about photographing the moon, the only advice Carucci offers is to use a long telephoto lens, a tripod and a low ISO setting. There are no specific camera settings recommended although, if one examines the accompanying image, one can derive the settings the author used for his photograph. Much of the book dances around the fringes of the idea of exposure with its components of shutter speed, aperture and ISO. If the author felt this information was important, he should have given a good explanation.

Some of the procedures seem more difficult then necessary. For example, while Carucci discusses correction of an individual image using the Camera Raw plug in built into Photoshop, when it comes to batch processing he recommends creating an action in Photoshop rather than using Camera Raw’s built-in and simpler to use batch processing facility. The author recommends using a companion guide to Photoshop while reading this book. Not only will shifting back and forth make understanding this book even more difficult, but in recent years Lightroom has become the initial tool of choice for beginners and experts alike because of its simpler interface.

The value of this book is to show beginners what’s possible, but certainly not to show them how to make it happen.

Note: The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book at no charge.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 25, 2016 6:56 AM PDT

Death of a Messenger: A Koa Kane Hawaiian Mystery
Death of a Messenger: A Koa Kane Hawaiian Mystery
by Robert B. McCaw
Edition: Paperback
Price: $18.11
48 used & new from $9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Procedural, February 21, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
At the risk of disregarding John Updike's advice against reviewing a book written by a friend, I have to say something about Bob McCaw's "Death of a Messenger."

McCaw follows in the footsteps of the late Tony Hillerman, in that his book is also a police procedural about a detective strongly embedded in a modern society with slightly different cultural variations. In this case, it's about Koa Käne, a police detective on the Big Island of Hawaii, rather than a Navaho policeman. The mystery he seeks to solve involves at one end, archeological discovery and at the other cosmology. Unlike Hillerman, however, the story is told only from the point of view of the detective, so that we have access to only the information that he has. This leads to a deliberate unraveling of the mystery, without undue portents, so that we are unlikely to solve the mystery before Käne. On the other hand, there are enough red herrings along the way so that the reader may think he sees more than the detective. I suspect some readers may be disappointed that they can't solve the mystery before the detective, but I enjoyed the process of discovery.

I was quite impressed by the way the author was able to dig deeply into the background so that everything presented, whether the behavior and language of a mechanic or of a scientist, had the ring of truth. I did wonder why his detective had a shoulder that ached when it didn't seem to play much of a role in the story. Perhaps it was to humanize Käne a bit, since so much of the book was procedural.

I'm sometimes a bit phlegmatic when it comes to detective stories but I found myself turning pages at one in the morning as I raced toward the ending.

It's clear that the author intends this to be the foundation of a series of books about the Hawaiian detective and I look forward to the next.

Spanning Time: The Essential Guide to Time-lapse Photography
Spanning Time: The Essential Guide to Time-lapse Photography
by Chris Weston
Edition: Paperback
Price: $31.32
53 used & new from $27.32

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Speeding Things Up, January 22, 2016
Most photographers have a little familiarity with time-lapse photography, which is how nature TV shows speed up plant growth. The title sequence in "House of Cards" on Netflix is shot with time-lapse. The movie "The Martian" uses time-lapse sequences to show frantic activity. Many digital single lens reflex cameras now include the capability under the interval timer menu, which allows photographs to be taken every couple of seconds and then used to create a fast-motion video. Chris Weston's book is a fair, if not perfect, introduction to the practice.

The chapters include choosing a subject; equipment; setting up; light, design and communication: the art of composition; creating a time-lapse sequence; post-production; and technique for advanced storytelling. The book is profusely illustrated, but photographs don't do a good job of illustrating a moving picture. Under Weston's guidance, and with the help of one's camera manual and a sturdy tripod, one can probably figure out how to shoot a simple time-lapse sequence in daylight, like the clouds going by, or traffic on a street. Unfortunately, for anything more complex than that, and especially for the so-called Holy Grail shots of sunrise and sunset, the author is a little light.

Photographers willing to assay time lapse photography are likely to have already developed basic skills, but Weston devotes a great deal of the book to fundamentals of technique, like exposure and dynamic range, and less to what one has to do differently or additionally to capture time lapse images. When it comes to camera settings, he provides a generic instruction, when an illustration using the actual menus from a DSLR would have been better.

When it comes to shooting under changing lighting conditions, like sunrise, he suggests using a sophisticated intervelometer and predicting the changing light. Most photographers I know manually adjust the exposure during the shoot and then use software like LRTimelapse, in conjunction with Lightroom, to smooth out the variations created when the exposure changes.

There are numerous areas where he fails to cover small details that affect the time-lapse product. He regular talks about creating videos at 25 frames per second, which is the European standard, but never mentions that the American standard is 30 frames per second (or actually 29.97 FPS). His discussion of software to process the video that is finally created mentions Adobe Premiere Pro but not Adobe Premiere Elements, which is more than adequate, and cheaper, for most photographers. There are web sites for displaying time-lapse videos like YouTube and Vimeo but little discussion of tailoring images for these sites. A tool much beloved by experienced time-lapse photographers is the slider, which Weston mentions, but the use of which is never explained.

Time-lapse photography is a sophisticated technique, and at least at the present time, requires specialized camera technique and moving back and forth between several different kinds of software to create an effective video. There is no single book that explains all of the artistic and technical issues involved. This book is a fair introduction, but by no means comprehensive. On the other hand, if time-lapse photography were easy, everybody might be doing it.

Note: The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book at no charge.

Rethinking Photography: Histories, Theories and Education
Rethinking Photography: Histories, Theories and Education
by Andy Golding
Edition: Paperback
Price: $48.35
39 used & new from $36.82

2.0 out of 5 stars Meta-ideas About Photography, January 15, 2016
As a practicing photographer, I've always believed that there were lessons that I could learn from history and critical theory. This book seemed like it might be a useful tool for that purpose.

This book is a bit of a strange amalgam covering several different areas but I suppose it was written as the text for a non-technical course in a photography school. It does not discuss photography technique or how to interpret and appreciate photographs, so if that is what you are looking for you can stop reading here. Instead, for the most part, it deals with meta-ideas, i.e., how cultural theories of photography develop, where these theories fit into the development of larger theories of art and societal development, and how educational institutions should respond to the views of the larger society.

As a result, for example, the history section contains very little discussion of the work of actual photographers, but dwells on how photography either (or both) leads and responds to larger cultural movements. There is very little mention of historic photographers and a great deal of mention of cultural philosophers. There are discussions of ideological movements in photography, without enough of information to help the reader evaluate the ideology.

Unfortunately, the writing is at best convoluted, continually going back and forth in time and between movements so that it is extremely difficult to follow a line of ideas. There is a single exception: the last section called "Beyond the Academy" directs the reader's attention to the conflict that aspiring professional photographers face between fine art photography with creative freedom and commercial work where the photographer must respond to the demands of clients. God and Mammon is not a new topic in the world, but a useful one for the aspiring professional photographer to remember in selecting a career. However, I suspect that many readers will tire before reaching this point.

Sprinkled throughout the book are six so-called case studies that seem more like an attempt to call attention to a particular point that didn't fit into the larger maelstrom of the text.

It is worth noting that the book is Anglo-centric so that, for example, educators in the United States, seeking information on program development, will find little information on what is going on in American photography schools.

A book can cover as large a view of a field of endeavor as it wishes and still be understandable. However, it seems that the authors have torn off a bigger chunk of ideas relating to photography than they can handle. While a cultural studies major may find something of interest here, the practicing photographer looking to improve his or her images can avoid it.

Note: The publisher provided me with a review copy of this book at no charge.

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