Inspiration comes from anywhere. When it comes to inspiring us with natural images, these are the books that leap from our shelves.
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Few people have influenced nature photography more than Freeman Patterson. His book, “The Art of Seeing”, revolutionized the thinking process behind the images and within the photographer. A tremendous bestseller, he continues to produce phenomenal books that life the level of artistry regarding nature photography to unbelievable heights. While these books are designed for the photographer who already has a basic level of technical understanding, everyone can learn from these books, developing your artistry into fine art. Excellent for all artists, no matter what your medium.
William Neill’s books inspire, but they also educate. His images, often combined with the text of other writers, represent some of the finest “art work” in nature photography. Having studied with Ansel Adams, and continuing to work with Adam’s gallery as an artist and teacher, Neill’s work actually surpasses Adams’ in many ways. What Adams was to black and white, Neill is to color. But both share a unique vision of nature exhibited well by their photographic images. One of our absolute favorite “text books” is “By Nature’s Design”. If you have even the slightest interest in the patterns and textures of nature, this is a must-have book. It explains the mathematics and theories behind the most common patterns and shapes found in nature. The writing is charming while educational, and I promise you will learn to spot these details in nature better than ever before, changing your perception.
With an unique ability to push himself beyond his own physical limits and beyond the photographic “norms”, Galen Rowell climbed the highest mountains in search of that “special light” and to some of the most harsh environments to capture the “magic moment”. Even if he was photographing things tamer and closer to home, this determination to go beyond, to rasie the bar, led him to create images that bely the hardship behind the image, allowing the viewer to just “be there” in the moment with awe instead of sweat. We lost an amazing talent a year ago, but his work sings on. Put Rowell’s books on your list if you are looking for a mentor.
Few nature photographers can compare with the work and determination to succeed in this industry than John Shaw. In many ways, he is the “father” of all nature photographers. Determined to produce a book that taught the basics of nature photography to the general public in a clear and simple way, not a dull and boring text book filled with dusty exposure charts and the Sunny 16 Rule, he wrote the book that eventually became “The Nature Photographer’s Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques”, a title bestowed by a publisher with a sorry sense of humor. Desperate to have the book published after showing it around for ages to many publishers, Shaw learned to live with the title, and in spite of it, word of mouth spread, making it one of the best selling books in photography EVER. We use this book as our “text book” when we teach any of our photography programs. Shaw knew he had hit a niche, so he continued with the same clear and concise theme to create his incredibly popular “Close-ups in Nature”, “Focus on Nature”, and….. Eventually, his first book was updated and re-issued with a more concise title, and it continues to be a best seller. It is complimented by one of the best books on the business of nature photography, “”. If you want to excel in any shape or form in nature photography, memorize these books.
Another “father” of nature photography, though a brilliant commercial photographer, Bryan Peterson’s books are still a perfect compliment to photographic studies and incentives. “Understanding Exposure” helps the photographer at any level really get a qualified handle on how the camera reads exposure and understands the colors and color tones of a subject. This is not a dry text book, but a colorful, easy-to-read and put-into-practice delight. “Learning to See Creatively” is a great compliment to the work of Freeman Patterson, though completely different. Peterson expands his perspective from his early nature photography to include some of his commercial images, helping the reader learn more about the various ways to “see” a subject through the camera. No matter how serious a nature photographer you are, people will jump into your viewfinder from time to time, even if only during vacations and holiday seasons. If you are a travel photographers, then people will be a consistent subject. It doesn’t matter. The book, “People in Focus” will help you develop some great techniques for getting the most out of your “people” pictures.
No other photographer in any genre has produced more books than Art Wolfe. Admittedly not a writer, he has worked with a variety of writers from all over the world to create an amazingly diverse range of books all dealing with nature, travel, tribal, and cultural photography. A determined “tree-hugger”, Wolfe will go anywhere in the world under the most desperate conditions to bring out the “nature” of his subjects. His books on the last “tribes” left in the world have changed the world’s perseption of their struggle as well as shedding new light on our human history. His books have also led to the protection of fragile lands and increased awareness of the plight of nature struggling to survive against the “hand of man”. No matter how “political” the indent behind his work, his artistic nature explodes off the page. Wolfe has a unique eye when it comes to capturing the “light”. His book, “Light on the Land”, is a prime example of his sensitivity to natural light, but it is visible in all his work. Again, if you are looking for a mentor, add Art Wolfe to the top of your list.
Over ten years ago, Wolfe produced an amazing coffee table book called “Light on the Land”. It was a true work of art and changed the world’s perspective on scenic photography, melting fine art with nature photography. This year, his complementary book, “Edge of the Earth, Corner of the Sky” is getting rave reviews and surpasses the extraordinary work of “Light on the Land”. It is one of the best selling books at Amazon.com, and truly a work of inspirational art.
One book of particular interest to those who want to “rise” in their studies and industry, “The Art of Photographing Nature” with Art Wolfe and Martha Hill takes a wonderful look at why photographs are chosen by photo editors and the artistry behind the images.
Few photographers have gone to the lengths that Joe McDonald has to “get the picture”. He has a unique affinity with wildlife of all shapes and sizes, studying how they behave, their habitat, and analyzing what it will take technically to not injure the creature but to get it to cooperate for the camera. He shares that amazing skill and technique in his various books on wildlife photography. If you are into photographing animals, reptiles or large mammals, you must study his work and techniques to get the best quality images.
The grandfather of nature photography, Adams revolutionized the photographic printing process, and set a high standard of quality when it came to the art of photographing nature. His work helped change the world’s perception regarding the protection of natural areas as well. His work continues to impress and inspire photographers. His work on developing the “Zone” system for exposure continues to be the media standard.
For years, David Attenborough has brought nature into people’s living rooms around the world. His animal documentaries, specials, and investigations have helped millions understand why wildlife is so important in the world and why it is worth protecting. His series, “The Life of Mammals” is an award-winning treasure to have at home. It comes as a complete set or in four volumes.