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abwx has commented on (2) products.

The Best Camera Is the One That's with You: Iphone Photography (Voices That Matter) by Chase Jarvis
The Best Camera Is the One That's with You: Iphone Photography (Voices That Matter)

abwx, May 16, 2010

Photography bookshelves are full of books exhibiting excellent technical image quality. Photography magazines are full of articles on how to improve image quality in the pictures you take. But here and there there are books and articles showing technical image quality that ranges from not very good to downright awful - yet the images turn out to be very effective and very enjoyable.

This book is one of the best of those, demonstrating over and over again that technical quality may usually improve the results, but is not always necessary, and often is entirely the wrong thing.

So the title is perhaps misleading. Yes, it is impossible to get good pictures if you don't have a camera with you, so the one you have is better than none; but you will be disappointed if you are expecting a book to show you how to make images as close as possible to what you would get with the high-end, high-cost, cameras that are too big and too heavy for most of us to have with us most of the time.

This book isn't a "how to" instructional text at all - it is an almost text-free book of photographs that suffer very little from the unavoidable technical defects of being taken with a glorified-cellphone camera, and often benefit from those technical defects.

Most importantly, this book is an inspiration to better seeing. The images are a lead-by-example set of samples of how to see and frame images. The author/photographer's samples can lead you, if you are open and willing, to making more, or better, or different images - whether with a better camera, or poorer camera, or just with your eyeball.

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A Year of Mornings: 3191 Miles Apart by Maria Alexandra Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes
A Year of Mornings: 3191 Miles Apart

abwx, May 16, 2010

A few weeks ago I spotted "A Year of Mornings" on the spine of a book at a bookstore, and immediately was reminded of those photo sequences which show the same scene repeated over and over again in different seasons, different lighting, different moods.

As soon as I pulled it out, I knew that that was not at all what the book was, both from the images on the cover and from the subtitle "3191 Miles Apart." But in many ways, the book is better and more substantial than I had hoped, and better and more substantial than one might think from a first glance.

The book gives us 236 diptychs (paired photographs) taken by two different - but very compatible - women who live 3191 driving miles apart, and set themselves a task of each taking an early morning photograph without consulting on the subject matter, then sharing them, inspired by how a pair of photographs they had coincidentally posted online the same day worked so well together.

They shared them not only with each other, but with the Internet world via a blog, and found they were striking a note with a wide readership. The book deserves an even wider readership.

That would be visual readership, since there is no text in the main body of the book, only in the forward, introduction, and index. The latter being the photographs repeated as thumbnails, and occasionally accompanied by comments from the blog readers. I wish there were more of the latter, and some comments by the authors as well.

One wonders about the circa 130 missing days. Some are explained as a necessary break for family reasons. If the others are explained, I either missed it or my mind lost that memory. Did they work badly together? I would have liked to have seen all the pairs, even the bad ones, included in the index.

The main body of the book probably works better with just the selection. That main body certainly is an esthetic pleasure, with the pairs presented in various sizes and numbers per page spread, unaccompanied by text, having a very quiet, misting morning effect, both from the content and from the desaturated color of photographs well-printed on uncoated paper. A very effective antidote to the over-saturated color of so many photographs published nowadays.

The title had also resonated for me with my favorite movie, Krzysztof Zanussi's "A Year of the Quiet Sun," and perhaps there is also some compatibly in visual character.

I think it is possible that this book is changing my life: I immediately begin taking early morning photographs every day. A first image from my early misconception of our back yard from our back door - it took a few days to achieve the best framing, but since then has only varied by the anomalies of a casual hand-held camera. Then something more along the line of what is in the book: quiet everyday still-lifes, selective views of routine parts of our everyday living spaces. Everyday some everydays.

As I get older, I lose confidence in my ability to overcome my mental disabilities. I no longer can make day-trips by myself into the mountains or across to the dryland canyons and sage steppes. Someday, perhaps sooner perhaps later, I will not be able to drive myself to nearby parks or beaches. This book will continue to remind me that I won't need to depend on the assistance of others to find simple pleasures.

Simple pleasures are close to home.
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