book review

Book Review #10

Well I wasn’t expecting to do a single book review so its a bit of a surprise to be sitting here typing review number 10.

The New Street Photographer’s Manifesto by Tanya Nagar: ILEX Publishing. Okay its not a new book. It was first published in 2012 but I’ve only just discovered it as I plan a street photography project.

This little book is small enough to almost be a field guide. Very handy size for reading on the tube (London Underground) and also just sitting in a little coffee shop. That might sound obvious but some photography books are just a bit too big and bulky when commuting.

The book is well laid out in bite sized sections with good advice that some will say is just common sense but to the more novice photographer and those inexperienced with the genre of street photography, this book is really informative and is going to give you the-heads-up.

There are good examples on composition as well as other hints and tips along with a handful of suggested street photographers for the reader to review. In doing so, Nagar introduces the reader to the serious nature of street photography and photojournalism as-well-as the odd and humorous.

After reading this book I’ve felt inspired in ways that I wasn’t expecting and have ideas for a couple of additional projects. (Bonus!).

Was it worth the £9.99 that it cost me? Yes & it is one of those books that I will keep for future reference.

I do have one criticism & I hope, if the author sees this review, they take note for any reprints….

There is a suggestion that you, the photographer may want to wear headphones as this might make people less likely to approach or confront you when they suspect you have taken photos of them. This may well be true and it may well give you some confidence to take those awkward shots that everyone starting out feels uncomfortable taking. However, this is not necessarily the best thing to do in London.

We Brits drive on the correct side of the road, while much of the world thinks they are in the right because the drive on the right, they’re wrong! (But thats for another blog or conversation).

Our roads are busy and it is my personal opinion that driving standards are not what they used to be. Vehicles are also quieter than they used to be and many collisions between buses and pedestrians involve tourists that have looked in the wrong direction before they go stepping out into the road… Best not to stick headphones over or in your ears because even without playing music, they will reduce your awareness of your surroundings.

Now we are talking about your surroundings, as a Londoner I am going to tell you that I live in a fantastic city. I would love to visit London as a tourist. Its beautiful and it has so so so much to see and do.

In London we have a lot of CCTV to help solve crime but unfortunately this does not necessarily prevent crime!

The metropolitan police service does a great job at keeping Londoners and visitors safe but the police officers cannot be everywhere.

In busy tourist areas there will be a number of undercover officers looking pickpockets, distraction thefts and old fashioned muggers but as I said, they cannot be everywhere.

That said, London is a safe city; its a very safe city. Really, you should feel comfortable walking around any part of London BUT I want you to be aware of this: If you are walking around with headphones on, you may well look distracted. As with any city a distracted person is more likely to be a victim of crime compared to someone who appears alert to their surroundings. Common sense?! But sometimes the obvious needs to be pointed out.

If you are planning a street photography project buy this book but scrub the suggestion of wearing headphones. Even somewhere as safe as London.

If you’re a street photographer why not share some hints and tips or even feel free to post a link to your site in the comments.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James

Ps. The usual disclaimer: I have nothing to do with the publishers or Author Tanya Nagar.

 

A photography post!

So after displaying my frayed seat of my jeans and the rather shoddy initial repair, I think I need to get the blog back on track and type up a photography post.

Just a bit of an update really….. I’ve been out and about taking some photos, putting some final touches to my current project and looking at a prospective next project… From Punk to Ballet. With some luck, a lot of luck, my proposal will be accepted and the project will go ahead.

While out I noticed the Valentino window and was struck by how much it reminded me of arriving in Düsseldorf one night by train.

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The only real differences being that Valentio have mannequins and they are wearing more than the women in the Düsseldorf windows.

I went to The Dennis Morris exhibition at The ICA, I was disappointed that so few images were on display but as I have an interest in that era of music and his photography it was worth my while sticking my head in.

Beetles & Huxley also have an interesting exhibition called ‘through the looking glass’ at the moment and I’d recommend anyone who likes that double exposure appearance in images, should go. The staff are always very friendly and welcoming; even when I ask them daft questions.

I had a little stroll along the canal at Paddington basin and stumbled across an outdoor photography exhibition called Love/Lived by Holly Wren.

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My highlight this week has to be attending Damien Frost’s Night Flowers book launch at The Photographers Gallery. I’ve been following his work for a while and I think he has definitely had some influence on my portraiture.

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I felt too self conscious to take my DSLR to the book launch so this snap was taken on my phone. The book is fab and Damien must have been chuffed to see so many people turn up.

Thats it for now….. A Photography Post!

Happy Easter.

Jim Jimmy James

Ps. I’m on Instagram | Tumblr | 500px | Twitter | Flickr

Book review #9

Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous. Author: Brian Smith.

I was very happy to be given this book as a christmas present. Not only is it about  photography, its about portrait photography; a genre of photography that I am developing a growing interest in.

The book ties in with a very personal project that I am also shooting for my level three city and guilds course.

A quick nosey at the back sleeve ‘about the author’ informed me that he is a photographer with a considerable pedigree.

Reading this book is fast & easy. It is almost as if the author is sat in front of you chatting about his work. Its relaxed and very readable.

The first few pages offer some insight into Brian Smith’s influences, his journey as a photographer and what we, as viewers might expect to get from this book.

I read on and at one point, I can’t remember exactly where, it started to feel a little boastful… ‘ I’ve shot this person, that person, been here and there! ‘ At this point I wasn’t so sure what, if anything was going to be learned from continuing with this book.

However, that was very short lived. There are great portraits in this book along with some information about the shoot and actually, what is being pointed out is not ‘I photographed this person here‘ in a showing off sort of way but more of a subtle nudge of inspiration; that with hard work, a bit of drive and determination, shooting interesting people in awesome locations is achievable to those that keep pushing doors open.

Throughout the book it is clear that the author has a passion for his photography.

As a reader you’ll find enthusiasm, humour and a number of very useful tips in this book.

I found the book extremely useful for my current project, where people are so busy, I literally have fifteen to twenty minutes of their time to get in, get set up and get my shot within only a few frames.

Location portrait photography is challenging enough without the added pressure of working super fast.

Reading Brian Smith’s Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous. certainly prepared me psychologically for the assignment I was undertaking.

I’m definitely going to be looking up more of Brian Smith’s work and would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in portrait photography.

For the record, I do not know the author and do not have links with anyone from the publishing company.

Thanks for reading this review.

Jim Jimmy James

 

Book review #8

Photography: The New Basics: Principles, Techniques and Practice. By Graham Diprose & Jeff Robins.

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You’ll notice in this quick iPhone snap that this book is rather dog eared. I’m not sure why they call it ‘dog eared’ but there we are.

The reason it looks a little tatty is because it has been well used. It is one of those books that I have worked through and revisited a number of times.

Used in conjunction with a good book that is specific for your particular camera this is a suitable learning tool for all students of photography.

As well as providing technical advice on most aspects of digital photography, setting tasks and encouraging creative ideas, the reader is guided through storage and post production editing.

A well written, well laid out and easy to understand book.

Although this book is a few years old and could be updated with regards to newer cameras currently available on the market, I highly recommend this book and would go as far to say its a must for anyone learning photography.

Disclaimer: I was not given this book. As far as I know I have not met either of the authors & I do not know anyone involved with the production or distribution of this publication. 

 

Jim Jimmy James

Book review #7

Actually I should maybe change this title to book review number 7 & 8.

I am going to review two books in a series by the same author; Henry Carroll.

Read This If You Want to Take Great PhotographsRead This If You Want to Take Great Photographs of People

First off, I do not know the author and to the best of my knowledge I have no friendships or interests within Amazon or Waterstones.

I guess I should also point out that there are other book stores and online retailers.

If you are an established photographer then these books are probably not for you.

If you have done a couple of short courses you’ll find these books useful as revision because they are made up of all those notes you should have taken but for one reason or another you didn’t put pen to paper.

If you are new to photography and have just signed up for a course I would suggest these books would be a valuable addition to your reading list. I certainly wish I’d had them early on in my learning.

They are a great introduction to the things you do need to know. Presented in a clear and logical order with good example images and suggestions of where to find other good examples.

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I’ll be keeping these two books and if anyone I know takes up photography near to their birthday or christmas, they’ll be getting copies as a gift.

Now Mr Carroll, if you happen to see this, when are you going to publish a book about off camera flash / speed lights that is this easy to understand?

 

The above is a personal opinion and if you want further reviews go and search them out. Thanks for stopping and reading.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James

 

Book Review #6

Speedlights & Speedlites: Creative Flash Photography at Lightspeed. (Sec Ed). By Lou Jones, Stephen Ostrowski & Bob Keenan. Published by Focal Press.

First off, the disclaimer!

At the time of purchasing this book I knew nothing of the authors. I do not know the authors & I do not personally know anyone that has published books on photographic lighting.

This review is based on my own opinion and no payment has been received.

I was looking for a book on lighting because I was undertaking a film noir project & wanted to learn more about getting the best results from my flash gun. (now guns!).

The title and the rear sleeve suggested to me that this was going to be an instructional book. A very brief look at a couple of pages showed some lighting diagrams, so I assumed this book would be suitable for getting me started.

I was quickly disappointed as I realised the book was not going to meet my expectations.

I think the title is misleading in that I found the images uninspiring and for the most part not particularly creative. However, although the images used may not be considered masterpieces, they do illustrate the authors intensions. Combined this with the lighting diagrams and the overall layout, I can see why some may find this book useful.

The book was a little repetitive in telling the reader to get the flash off camera and stating how convenient ETTL/TTL is to use.

There are a couple of pages on batteries and light modifiers that were interesting but this felt very much like an add on to fill a couple of pages at the end of the book.

I can’t say that I read any groundbreaking tips and hints in this book.

The big question is: Would I recommend it? To be honest, its one of those yes & no answers.

Its not what I would call an essential read and I would suggest asking your library to get a copy rather than buying one.

It certainly wasn’t worth the £23 I paid for it and I’m not sure I would consider it value for money even if it was only £8.

My money would have been better spent if I had put it towards the fee for a one day flash lighting course.

While the authors may well be competent photographers, have a wealth of knowledge & experience, regrettably this is not a book that I will be keeping for future reference.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy JamesB

Book Review #5

If you are looking for a professional book review I suggest you look elsewhere. If however you are interested in what a normal general member of the public & student of photography thinks, read on….. Why it does not have to be in focus: Modern Photography Explained (Published by Thames & Hudson) was recommended to me in my City & Guilds class.

Rather than running or cycling I am currently commuting by London Underground and have nothing interesting to look at; the black walls of the tunnel and a few early morning snoozers getting the last bit of shut eye before they arrive at work.

So I thought it’d add to the collection I’ve been reading to pass the time. The book written by Jackie Higgins looks at a hundred images, offers some insight into the artist and their history along with something of a break down on the particular image chosen.

This isn’t a book that offers to teach us photography and techniques what it does do is offer an insight into putting works into context. Something that was highlighted to me by a reader of my blog John Acurso (I don’t know if it was a one off where he stumbled across my blog or is an email subscriber). This was particular to a small article I wrote about a Helmut Newton display I seen while in Germany. Although I am still not personally taken by his work I could appreciate at the time  that he was a talented photographer but I hadn’t really put his work into context of a bigger picture and body of work.

In her book Jackie Higgins takes images that could be easily dismissed as poorly composed & just very badly executed photographs but then puts them into context of a wider collection. Talking about the artists other work, how and why they set about capturing images in the way they did.

The book made me think more about art & photography appreciation, without being arty-farty. As well as highlighting how fickle some viewers can be; suggesting one artists images in colour are openly dismissed but the same images, technique and subject matter produced in black and white are widely accepted.

The one thing I’ve taken from this book is that it has reinforced a lecturers statement in regards to the importance of intent.

Some of the subject matter has left me with more questions around issues of plagiarism, both accidental or outright theft. Some of it has given me ideas of my own (at least I think they are) and I am also feeling reassured that my experimenting with focus sometime ago shows that due to my intent I may one day be published in why it does not have to be in focus part two.

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I’m surprised how much I got from this book. Its one to keep on my bookshelf and I’m sure it will be one to reference should I go onto further education.

And…………. here are two of my early attempts at deliberate out of focus photography.

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For the record I have nothing to do with the author, publisher or any of the artists that feature in the book. For what its worth I found this book interesting, informative and found some inspiration for two maybe three future projects.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Jim Jimmy James

Book review #4

I read some great reviews about The Photographer’s Eye by Michael Freeman so I added it to my ‘must read’ list of books.

When I started reading the book it quickly felt like an instruction manual jumping pages to refer to this or that page and I very nearly wrote the book off as one of those that target an audience just to make money rather than being of any value in developing the reader.

If it wasn’t for my short (20 minute) tube journey for my early shifts that start at 06:15, I probably would not have gotten around to reading the book. But the first train in the morning is too early to plug in my headphones and ignore the world around me.

So, my early commute made the though of reading an ‘instruction manual’ a little more tolerable. Thankfully the page jumping references didn’t happen too often.

The book takes a handful of images and breaks them down, analyzing the framing, composition, lines, curves and movement. The story the photographer wants to tell along with the reasons why certain images have particular patterns & rhythms that appeal to us as viewers.

The analysis of the images feels academic and would probably be a good book for referencing on a photographic essay looking at composition.

I’m not sure that one could use all the compositional thought process’ described while at a location. In fact I’m certain that if you tried you’d never manage to take a photo.

From reading this book I have taken away the importance of moving around, Michael Freeman reiterates a key concept of street photography & photojournalism in that observing and anticipating events unfolding affords the photography the opportunity to compose a shot but also highlights the need to sometimes just take a shot rather than risk missing the moment altogether.

Would I recommend this book? Truth be told, I’m not sure.

I guess I should have taken some notes as I was reading and that may have helped me really evaluate whether or not this book has been useful for me.

I don’t think there have been any lightbulb moments but it may help me a little when deciding which images I show.

I would be disappointed if I had spent my money on this book but it was a really good choice for a stocking filler at christmas. Sometimes I deliberately leave books on the train for others to read. However, this one leaves me with mixed opinions and it will go on the book shelf at home for future reference.

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Taken on an iPhone

I was about to suggest if I read anymore books in the series by Freeman, they might best be borrowed from the library.

However, look what I got for my birthday…….

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Taken on an I-phone

Lets hope the whisky & Capturing Light are more interesting.

Book Review #3

If you have one thing in common with me, you may be the type of person that does not take five minutes to read instruction manuals and leaflets.

Like me you may have had furniture such as shelving that ends up looking like a modern piece of abstract art.

You may also have turned the air blue while trying to figure out how to tune, program and use that new computer, DVD player or games console.

I often find instruction manuals boring, confusing and sometimes difficult to understand; that is why I often find my self getting frustrated with new technology and putting those abstract art pieces together!

Buying my first grown up camera and wanting to take some reasonable images of family and friends that I would want to keep; I changed the habit of a lifetime and I decided that I would read the instructions.

Yep! In typical instructions manual style, it was a case of reading a bit, scratching my head, reading it again and then that particular section referring me to another part of the manual. Grrrrr!!

Not to be put off I went to a bookshop to look for a basic digital photography book. What I found was a book specifically for my camera. Great!

Armed with my new book and my camera I decided that I should probably sign up for an introduction to digital photography course. I found a course starting within a good time frame that also fitted in with my shift work. Fab!

I’ve got to say that I would highly recommend both the book and the course to those that are new to photography or those with a very basic understanding that have a desire to improve.

My teacher on the course was a photographer called Charlotte Ashworth.

The course was great fun and very informative. Charlotte was supportive and hugely encouraging. If you want to learn how to use your camera or improve your photography you really should consider signing up for a course.

(As that may look like a shocking plug here is the disclaimer: I am not related to Charlotte Ashworth and have not been paid or canvased. This is a recommendation based on my own personal experience).

Back to the book review……. David Busch’s book ‘Guide to Digital SLR Photography’ does exactly what it claims.

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Easy to read, Easy to follow & none of the exasperating toing and froing that has thwarted my plans and progress in the past.

David Busch does a series of books; in my case the camera is a Canon Rebel T3i/600D and I really can not recommend this book strongly enough. It really did make it all very easy.

(Again I do not know Mr. Busch and have not been paid, canvased or endorsed in any way). I’d like to have books and equipment sent to me for review but that hasn’t happened. Yet!  (Yes dear reader & publishers, that was a subtle hint).

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James

Book review number 2

Another book review.

This is not something I ever planned on doing but its photography related & about blogging!

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I’m going to keep this very short and very simple…. Had I of read this book before starting to blog I am not sure I would have ever started keeping my wee diary-blog. I found the book a tad daunting when it suggested finding a niche, planning and having a target audience. But reading the book after already starting to blog has given me a little insight into things I can consider for the future.

The book has switched me onto some really useful sites where I can learn techniques that will hopefully improve my images. I’m not going to tell you what or where they are; the author has done all the hard work so it would be wrong for me to just list a handful of these useful photography sites.

Another thing the book highlights is that reviewers should be upfront about being sponsored or paid. For the record, I’m not sponsored or paid. Nor do I know the author or anyone involved with the production or distribution of this book. Although I would of course be happy to have a peek & review anything they want to send me.

Naturally that also goes for any camera and lens manufacturers!!

To the point:  Would I recommend this book?

Yes actually I would. Its well laid out, straight forward, easy to read and I personally found it very useful. I’ll be keeping this book on a shelf for future reference.

I hardly get time to read photography books (Actually I don’t get much time to read anything) so please feel free to add your opinions on this book and please also tell me if there are other photography books you think would be useful.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James