Book Review | “Digital Nature Photography” by John Shaw #BloggingForBooks

Posted Friday, 3 July, 2015 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: I decided to join the “Blogging for Books” programme (on 9th July, 2014) which is a book for review programme created by the Crown Publishing Group. As a book blogger you are offered books in exchange for an honest review on your book blog as well as the ability to reach new readers when you cross-post your review to the Blogging for Books website. The benefit for the blogger is exposure as a reviewer as they put direct links back to your blog post on the book you select to review as well as your homepage.

I received a complimentary copy of “Digital Nature Photography” direct from the publisher Amphoto Books, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read:

I haven’t truly blogged about being a self-taught nature and wildlife photographer until now, as it was one of my side projects to thread into the life of Jorie Loves A Story! You might have started to notice I have been using the resources of Unsplash (a repository of Public Domain Stock Images) sprinkled throughout my blog (as I use their stock images to create my banners and badges) as well as on my Twitter accounts. I love supporting other creative economists and the fact they are giving book bloggers (all bloggers, truly!) a chance to find [free] quality photographs to be used in their own creative pursuits is quite a luxury in today’s world of copyright restrictions.

I started to find that I had a natural inclination to photograph the wildlife native to where I live when I was a young girl – as the shutterbug passion grabbed a hold of me at a young age. This is in part due to the encouragement of my maternal grandfather and my Mum; both of whom were photographers in their own right long before I ever held a camera in my own hands! I even would take disposable cameras with me to keepaway camp during the Summers; partially due to the tendency of being an active tomboy and needing a ‘sturdy’ camera that could keep up with me and partially due to the convenience of not needing to keep track of the rolls of 35mm film!

My first preference is still photography shooting with 35mm film, however, out of necessity I was gifted (by my Mum and Da) a digital Sony camera circa 2005; a camera which to this day, I still use as my mainstay! You’d be surprised what I can accomplish with this camera even though the memory cards are so much smaller nowadays and the only cards I can pick up for my model are the ‘hard to find’ variety! I use memory cards like we used to use negatives; I want to have a hard copy in lieu of only keeping digital back-up files. Most photographers shoot over their digital images but this is something I was advised not to do at the onset of my emergence into the digital realms; mostly because it can distort the images if your using it with such repetition to constantly re-write the same image thousands of times over. I opted to error on the side of caution as a personal preference.

When I saw John Shaw’s Guide to Digital Nature Photography I was hoping to use this book as a gateway step towards my pursuit of Digital SLR and Manual SLR cameras (the next generations of my own personal equipment) inasmuch as learning more about light, setting, timing, and juxtapositions. I haven’t had the pleasure of using my grandfather’s Nikon 35mm with the interchangeable lens but I am striving towards bridging a balance between my love of still and my newfound embrace of digital mediums.

Interesting to note, Mr Shaw believes how I believe when it comes to photography:
focus on what you see through the lens and the magic of what alights in your life, to capture something only you can see. Rather than to be solely focused on gear to the extent you forget the true art of photography is the person who captures the image.

Book Review | “Digital Nature Photography” by John Shaw #BloggingForBooksJohn Shaw's Guide to Digital Nature Photography
by John Shaw
Source: Publisher via Blogging for Books

Outdoor and travel photography legend John Shaw returns with his much-anticipated guide to digital nature photography, complete with more than 250 of his exceptional photographs. In his first-ever book on digital photography, Shaw provides in-depth advice on everything from equipment to subjects and software. This follow-up to John Shaw’s Nature Photography Field Guide includes lessons on such key topics as:

+ Advice on gear—from cameras to tripods and remotes, filters, and flashes
+ Composition—lighting, framing, and learning to see “photo-graphically”
+ An in-depth look at lenses—using zoom and telephoto, tilt-shift, and teleconverters
+ Using manual mode—the basics of f-stops, ISOs, and shutter speed
+ Proper exposure—mastering meters and the histogram
+ Close-ups—a special section on macro lenses and flashes
+ Best practices at work—in the field and in the digital dark room

In addition to detailed and practical lessons for every level of photography enthusiast, Shaw offers inspirational and candid insight into how to get that perfect shot—from having a vision to practicing and using the right equipment. With easily digestible information complemented by breathtaking photographs from around the world, John Shaw's Guide to Digital Nature Photography is sure to become a new classic.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Genres: Digital Photography, Wildife & Nature Photography


Published by Amphoto Books

on 17th March, 2015

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 250

Jorie Loves A Story Cuppa Book Love Awards Badge created by Jorie in Canva. Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo.

 Published By: Amphoto Books, (@crownpublishing)

(an imprint of Crown Publishing Group)

Available Formats: Trade Paperback & Ebook

Converse on Twitter via: #NaturePhotography & #DigitalPhotography + #BloggingForBooks

About John Shaw

John Shaw is the author of many enduring bestsellers, including seven previous books on nature photography.

His photographs are frequently featured in National Geographic, Nature's Best, National Wildlife, Outdoor Photographer, Natural History, Sierra, and Audubon magazines, as well as in calendars, books, and advertisements.

He has photographed on every continent, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, and Provence to Patagonia, and leads sold-out workshops around the globe.

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I could instantly relate to the Preface as Mr Shaw is relating a short photographic history – I still find people do not have the same history I do with still photography because they are part of the digital revolution – wherein they skipped the digital camera and opted for the iPhone camera era. I cannot relate to photographers who solely shoot on a cellular phone (hallo, instagramers, I’m talking to you!) nor can I fully embrace a world without traditional  photography.

For you see, I’m a girl who loves old world arts and crafts, analog vs digital technologies, Fuji was definitely a wicked good choice over Kodak (ironically or not!), and manual typewriters are my bliss in a technologic world dependent on an electric grid that is less than stable. Yet, I am passionate about book blogging and I dearly appreciate the interactions in the twitterverse. I might have a strong attachment to my ‘unplugged life’ but there is a time and place for going digital, and photography for me hit a junction in the sand. I could either accept I had to go digital or I could stop taking pictures — for one and a half decades! *clearly I opted-in!

What I am more betwixt with as a photographer who has chemical allergies is acknowledging the fact that until I learn the natural route to process my own films, digital photography allows me to circumvent my allergies and process my pictures courtesy of a personal photo printer! (i.e. the printer is as ancient as my camera at this point, but still working!) I do like the freedom to print from home or whilst travelling (in different sizes and/or the flexibility of zoom) but a part of me aches to re-affirm my roots and take back my love of still photography. I walk between worlds – the traditional roots of my past, anchoured by my grandfather and Mum; and the new age of the digital frontier where absolutely no barrier limits your capabilities.

I definitely concur with his suggestion to use his guide as a ‘guide’ not as a tell-all of what you need to do to take pictures as we each have our own path but can respect another path in order to draw inspiration into our own. I also applauded how he approached a newcomer to nature photography – how you have to develop an awareness (a near stillness) of the natural world, a respect that is grounded in compassion and contains an ethical heart of accepting the world your stepping inside is not your own and thereby has it’s own set of rules.

I was quite surprised when Shaw starts to relate directly to his experiences as hosting photographers on photo expeditions that he’s questioned constantly about ‘what do you photograph’ whilst finding their questions a bit awkward to answer because wouldn’t the answer be obvious? He handles it with grace and finesse; I, on the other hand find it strange that they wouldn’t see beauty in the unexpected, joy in the incredible, and a bliss of happiness coming straight through the lens as soon as they peered through it? Each time I walk in nature, I am constantly re-amazed by what I find; I cannot contain my joy as I am full of smiles for what has blessed my path and I truly cannot take enough pictures of marsh rabbits nor the elegance of shore birds to save me! Each day I breathe in their habitat it is a new discovery – what do you photograph? You photograph the moments as they alight into view and give thanksgiving for being there to capture the moment on film.

I have encountered other photographers – mostly of the professional grade who do not accept me in turn, despite the fact I’ve been keenly focused on certain species of wildlife and natural habitats for the past five years. Where they attempt to score the ‘perfect bankable shot’, I walk with a heart full of gratitude for the pleasure of sharing the space with these beautiful animals who allow me into their world one moment at a time. I give full gratitude to the birds of prey (specifically red shouldered hawks and turkey vultures) who stand lock-still and acknowledge my presence whilst giving me a chance to photograph them. They look at me with eyes full of vulnerability and uncertainty. We part paths knowing the trust and respect flows in both directions; oft-times I could swear I meet-up with the same hawk or vulture lateron in a different season and a wink of knowing greets me.

The other photographers I have met do not respect the lines between us; they tempt to interfere with where the wildlife chooses to interact with us and the ethical line of going too far for a paycheck. I mentioned this as much a few times before being cut-off mid-sentence, only to find the photographers in a bit of a fix when a hawk chooses that time to nearly decide to charge rather than to fly. I simply walk away silently praying the photographers will learn to respect the natural world by the order of nature, but if not, their path is longer than mine to walk. Nature is fully aware of who we are long before they reveal themselves to us; our footprints are seen and felt ahead of our arrival.

Answering John Shaw’s surveys for photographers:

  • I photograph | the natural world | wildlife | streetscapes | itch to learn macro!
  • I photograph | off the beaten path | whilst travelling on the road | rural & urban landscapes
  • Gear I Own | Sony circa 2005 digital camera | Nikon manual circa 1960s w/ lens, etc
  • Lens I Own | *good question!* no seriously, I need to learn more about which ones I own!
  • Time Frame to Upgrade | upwards of 24 months
  • Currently my camera lacks | a memory card higher than 4G | macro / micro shots | more manual opts | higher grade of pixel capture | stronger zoom | stronger battery life
  • How a DSLR would improve my photographs | it would take my skill set higher | new techniques to learn | greater control over quality of finished results | better zoom
  • Budget | under $1,000 over $500 USD
  • End Result | develop a portfolio | seek out gallery shows | pursue a semi-professional life | keep my options open as I develop my voice and style | seek publication outside my blog

I would add I want to upgrade to a professional Mac with the current model of my home photo printer as my current one is no longer manufactured. The company thankfully keeps the photo paper and inks manufactured upwards of 25 years past the point where they stopped releasing my model. Sometimes you have to upgrade to save the vexation of using equipment that could have issues dealing with the new technology if it’s not competent to keep up with you. As an aside, my current Sony camera is less than 12 megapixels; ergo I knew an upgrade would be in my future because the lower grade does effect certain things whilst your attempting to capture wildlife.

You could say his ENTIRE outline on equipment on pages 7-8 are my new guide on what to buy!

In regards to shooting digital film (i.e. motion pictures) I would like separate the two from each other; it’s a nice compliment but the motion films eat up too much memory. I’d rather focus on photographs and pick up a film camera to shoot the films independently. My first passion is photography, motion pictures are secondary.

in relation to choice of lens:

  • Subjects I Shoot | wildlife | birds | landscapes | flora and fauna | trees
  • Number of Lens vs Weight | *good question!* I wouldn’t want to be overloaded in weight!
  • Tripod vs by hand | combination
  • Max ISO | *need to re-read that section & sort it out*
  • Sharpness vs Versatility | combination; yield to being versatile!
  • Budget: under $1,000 over $500 USD

I definitely need short and long telephoto lens based on the examples Shaw is referring too.  This is part of my hiccup with my beloved Sony (who knew I’d fall for it?) – the lack of distance between the lens and the subjects I am capturing is quite apparent when I print the photos; although sometimes the zoom option on the printer is a hidden grace towards seeing what I might have missed by printing it at standard settings.

*see! I knew I wasn’t the only photographer out there who felt persevering the sanctity of a wild animal’s natural space and habitat was morally the right choice! You rock, Mr Shaw! (p.115)

Appreciating John Shaw’s philosophical approach to photography:

I definitely agreed with Shaw lamenting about the use of a tripod – in my personal defense I wasn’t able to acquire one to use, therefore I perfected how to stand still and still shoot impressive wildlife photographs within the context of my camera’s limitations. I am quite amazed at what it produced to tell the truth, the past 10 years have been an impressive learning curve, and despite my lack of knowledge on the technical perimeters (as part of this book reminded me of how I approach writing a novel; most writers ‘talk in tech speak’ whereas I talk about writing novels from the approach of a reader) my photographs have received compliments on being professional quality. I was surprised in some ways I had those compliments as I didn’t feel I had learnt enough yet to capture a professional grade photograph, especially as I haven’t shot anything with a tripod!

Polarizers might take me a full step outside my comfort zone of shooting raw, as I wouldn’t want to alter the nature of hue of the heavens but I do think monkeying around with a polarizer to see how it would soften certain capturements of stationary objects and background shots might give me something curiously different to shoot whilst encouraging me to use something I hadn’t considered before!

I personally love setting up the composition of the shots I take because it anchours me to that particular place and moment in time; I like thinking about how I want to remember that moment after the photograph is taken. Sometimes I like to monk around with the framing of what I am shooting, including changing the angles of how everything is proportioned.

I applauded the section ‘Composition’ because I started to extend out from wanting to be a bit wanton free with my photo choices and seriously starting to take stock of what I was seeing vs how I wanted to project what I felt whilst I saw what was there to capture. Textures fascinate me, which is why I wish I had a macro/micro option as there are times where I get motivated by the texture of leaves and the curvatures of a flower’s stem or how a petal bends into the sun. There are certain glimpses of how composing a shot to draw out the natural arrangement left behind for us to find is awe-inspiring.

Before I started reading his section on ‘Lighting’ I nearly chuckled into a hearty laugh, because I have become my grandfather’s protege: I am forever and a day mentioning ‘the light is off’ or the ‘light isn’t quite right’, etc, etc. Mum tells stories of how my grandfather would insist taking notice of how light is affecting the photographs he wanted to take and how without the light working in a way that could yield the image he was seeking, all was lost. Clearly I took after his passionate method of photography, because even with the equipment I have I do try to remain cognisant of what photographers are doing with equipment on a higher level than what I currently own.

In this regard, I love playing with natural light in nature – there are times where you can have the set of light breaching into your photograph in such a way to add layers of contrast in your subject. Whether your angling for a particular tree or a mood struck out of a Sandhill Crane against a backdrop of water with fading light interspersed with a funneling of colours not visible at other times of day; you have to make the choices that are right for what your attempting to photograph. Photography is a living experiment of how art translates through the human’s emotional connection to the scene they are shooting.

The photographs are a treasure in of themselves:

The polar bear mama is entertaining her young whose playful heart is happily caught in the photograph, yet the Puffin stands with such a strong sense of self as to emit an air of confidence entwined with eloquence. The Puffin is resting amongst wildflowers and looks as naturally content standing there if Shaw hadn’t taken his picture in that moment; he was simply being himself and the picture captures his essence brilliantly. Photographs tell stories – they knit inside their images a language of words through the portrait of imagery and light foretold through the eyes of whom looks into them.

Within the pages of Digital Nature Photography your eyes will have a feast of stories to drink inside and ruminate about the curious little notions of life bursting off their pages.

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I have found a like-minded soul in John Shaw.
My heart overflows in gratitude to Blogging for Books for introducing me to him!

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Read an Excerpt of the Book:

John Shaw’s Guide to Digital Nature Photography by Random House Publishing Group

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comThis book review is courtesy of: Blogging for Books

Blogging for Books - book for review programme for book bloggers

I wanted to thank the Blogging for Books programme for giving me the opportunity to read this wonderful resource for self-educated photographers who want to increase their skills whilst learning more about the craft of photography; it was a true pleasure to be able to breathe in the words of inspiration Mr Shaw is relating throughout the book; whilst knowing I had a bit of extra time to appreciate the book as a whole. I am referring to the fact that I took ill off/on throughout the months of Spring and during June specifically for a fortnight. The hours lapsed and this was the first chance I had to share my thoughts on what I found inside. It’s my hope to continue to review for Blogging for Books but on a more frequent schedule than once per year; and in July, no less!

Reader Interactive Question:

If your a photographer (amateur or professional) what are your favourite subjects to find inside the lens? Do you enjoy walking in the natural world and selecting out wildlife and natural environs to photograph OR do you find your inspiration elsewhere!?

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “Digital Nature Photography” was provided by Blogging for Books and used with permission. The book synopsis and author biography were given via the Press Release and used with permission of Blogging for Books. Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Comment Box Banner made by Jorie in Canva. Tweets embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Book Excerpt was able to be embedded due to codes provided by Scribd. Buy links on Scribd are not affiliated with Jorie Loves A Story. Jorie Loves A Story Cuppa Book Love Awards Badge created by Jorie in Canva. Coffee and Tea Clip Art Set purchased on Etsy; made by rachelwhitetoo.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2015.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Friday, 3 July, 2015 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, Animals in Fiction & Non-Fiction, Art, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Blogging for Books, Book | Novel Excerpt, Jorie Loves A Story Cuppa Book Love Awards, Non-Fiction, Photography, Scribd, Short Stories or Essays, Travel Narrative | Memoir, Vignettes of Real Life, Wilderness Adventures




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