Book reviews: The New Complete Guide to Wildlife Photography
|The New Complete Guide to Wildlife Photography|
|0 8174 5009 2|
|Revised Edition 1998|
|Amphoto Books / Watson-Guptill Publications|
|Order this book from Amazon|
Joe McDonald is one of the most well known wildlife photographers in the USA. Together with his wife Mary Ann, he has traveled to many places over the world for his work and still leads photographic tours to several remote locations as well as within the USA. He has written several very good books on the subject of wildlife photography, based on his own extensive experience, and his work has been published in many magazines and calendars.
What comes forward immediately when you read this book is that Joe is a person who not just photographs the wildlife but more so, he loves the wilderness with all its creatures. Everywhere in the book you will read his remarks about not to disturb the wildlife while photographing. This should be the number one rule for all wildlife photographers. No pictures is worth to disturb an animal. Although Joe used to be a Nikon photographer (he seems to have switched to Canon recently) and most of his photographs were made with Nikon equipment, nowhere he will force his opinion onto the reader with regards to equipment brands. (quite different from some other famous wildlife photographers!) The book doesn't deal with any specific equipment and is therefore perfectly readable for everyone.
One thing that I found strange is that he uses the term filming throughout the book, instead of the term photographing. Furthermore Joe has used several pictures of captive animals in the book. However this is very clearly stated with each picture. He also explains why using captive wildlife, e.g. in game ranches in the USA, can be an advantage for a (beginning) wildlife photographer. Although I don't object to photographing captive wildlife (as long as the picture is labeled this way), for me it is nearly equal to photographing in a zoo. Not strictly wildlife photography, but it can be very usefull to get experience.
This great book by Joe McDonald is A4 sized (about 8x8 inches) and paperback. The quality of the paper and the printing is very good, as it is with the other photography books by Amphoto. The book is divided into four main parts, each with a few chapters.
After an introduction, part 1 (The Basics) starts with chapters on discovering subjects and mastering exposure. Specially the chapter on exposure is very good. Joe explains in detail where you can trust your automatic camera and where you should be careful. He shows how to deal with difficult exposures and how to correct the measured exposure. Read this section over and over.
Part 2 (The Equipment) deals with cameras and camera handling, supporting your equipment, using lenses effectively, electronic flash and advanced flash techniques. This parts describes the obvious details on equipment. What kind of equipment do you need and what should you look for when you want to built up your system. Fortunately no brand is being promoted. The parts on flash techniques are worth reading. Reading and understanding this section can really help you with your flash photography.
Part 3 (Composition) is divided into making successful images and fine tuning your photographs. After explaining all the technical stuff before, the book now concentrates on what you want to photograph. The parts on composition may seem very obvious to an experienced photographer, but will be very helpful to anyone starting in this field.
Finally, part 4 (Wildlife on location) deals with getting close. Here Joe describes how you can get close to your subject without disturbing it. What I appreciate very much is how he keeps emphasizing that you should take great care. Not only to prevent that the animal will flee from your viewfinder, but more to prevent causing stress to the animal.
Conclusion: If you are looking for a very good general book on wildlife photography, specializing on animals, this is a great book. It explains all subjects very good and with detail. The photographer knows what he is talking about and can also bring it across in a clear way. Highly recommended !
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images © 1991 - 2011 Hans Martens