The holidays are upon us and you have a photographer to shop for–you’ll find plenty of gear and gadget lists (and those are great; I’m an avowed gadget freak myself), so I thought I’d offer some non-gear alternatives for the Photographer Who Has Everything. These are all e-books, and one of the greener gifts you can give. They can all be bought and sent as gifts via email links, and you can look all thoughtful and conscientious even when you’ve completely forgotten until the last minute (don’t worry, I’ll never tell). I own all of these, and they come with an enthusiastic personal recommendation. Links to each book are in the titles below.
This e-book won’t teach you how to make better images, but it will feed the brain and the soul of anyone who spends time in the wilderness. It’s a collection of thoughtful essays accompanied by gorgeous photos; a kind of meditation, if you will. From the book’s description:
“An Honest Silence is a mix of photography and short, intimate essays by each of the authors. All three authors come from different backgrounds and hold different points of view, but what the book ultimately shows is that wilderness is a common thread in everyone’s life. From the Colorado Plateau to the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota, the reader is taken on a personal journey through the wild.”
One of the authors of the e-book is photographer Greg Russell, whose work and contemplations on nature and photography have been one of my guideposts over the years as I’ve grown as a photographer. He is a great photographer to follow for both his images and his writing. This gorgeous e-book is just $5, and more than 50% of proceeds go to a conservation group near and dear to my own heart, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. Through 12/25, the book is just $4 if you use the code “wilderness50” at checkout.
If you’ve ever searched out great pictures of Yosemite National Park, you’ve almost certainly encountered Michael Frye’s beautiful photos. He’s photographed in and around Yosemite for many years, and is intimately knowledgeable about the area. He’s also a wonderful writer and teacher about digital photography in general, and his books on landscape photography and the digital darkroom are perennial go-to’s for me. And they should be for you (or the photographer in your life), too.
His book Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom is a kind of laboratory exercise where he takes you through five featured images, showing you his workflow for each image in the digital darkroom (in this case, Adobe Lightroom). It’s an incredibly instructive exercise that gives the reader an almost hands-on look at process, and will surely result in an “a-ha!” moment for those still trying to get a handle on processing with Lightroom. This e-book is a bargain at just $5.
For more in-depth instruction, I’m not sure there’s a better book out there on Lightroom and the digital darkroom in general for nature and landscape photographers than Landscapes in Lightroom 5: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Lightroom has become a powerful tool for photographers–so powerful, in fact, that I rely on it (over Photoshop, which I also have and love) for almost all of my image processing. Later versions of the program have added even more powerful processing tools, and Frye takes you through these step-by-step, including tutorial videos embedded in the PDF-based e-book (which is as great as it sounds!). As with all of Frye’s books, they’re as aesthetically pleasing as they are instructive, and this e-book features 87 full-page photo spreads interspersed with the lessons. Even if you THINK you know everything there is to know about processing images in Lightroom, you’ll still find this book an immensely helpful guide. And it’s a bargain at $14.95.
Okay, okay–I still love the children’s holiday shows, so this inevitably came to mind when thinking about Sarah Marino’s and Ron Coscorrosa’s excellent new e-guides: one for Death Valley National Park, and one for Iceland (see? you thought of it, too, didn’t you?).
You’ll have a hard time choosing between Desert Paradise:The Landscape Photographer’s Guide to Death Valley National Park or Forever Light: The Landscape Photographer’s Guide to Iceland (oh, go ahead–just buy both!). I’m still not sure how Ron and Sarah found time to complete these exhaustive, gorgeous photo guides while still maintaining a pretty busy shooting schedule this year. They’re both gifted photographers, and can now add gifted authors to their resume. When I search out a photography guide for an area I plan to visit, I am really, really particular. In a perfect world, every photography guide would be (SHOULD be) like Laurent Martre’s excellent books, which give detailed information on what to shoot, where to find it, what the hike is like to get there, and so on. I don’t want to know simply where I can find a place on my shooting list–I need you to tell me what to expect and how to prepare. Ron’s and Sarah’s e-guides do this and more. In addition to everything I just mentioned as “must haves” for an e-guide, there’s basic instruction on photography and composition, a detailed gear guide, a section on photography ethics (big hat-tip to them for including that), and they’ll even tell you where you can find food and a place to pitch your tent (or check into a motel).
If you’re thinking of visiting either Death Valley or Iceland, have already been, or just like to daydream about either place, these books are the best guides you’ll find for them. They’re beefy tomes–the Death Valley e-guide clocks in at 134 pages–and priced at $14.95 each. If you buy both e-guides, you’ll get them at a special price of $24.95, all in.
Any–or all–of these e-books make wonderful gifts, and have a long shelf life as helpful guides to the craft. Do a photographer (and the environment) a favor and add one of these to their virtual stocking.