Saturday, May 10, 2014

eBook review - Night Photography by Lance Keimig

It would be nice to be able to be more positive about this book. It was quite well written and had some excellent images in it. A lot of work had been put in to it but what killed this book for this reviewer was the authors casual regard to breaking the law, to trespass and his apparently very lax morals. It is not a book therefore that I can recommend purchasing. It was one of the few books that I've read that I have been utterly and completely disgusted by.
The book starts off promisingly enough with a nice photo of light trails above a moonlit beach. There are an awful lot of really nice night images in the book. None, though, of the really difficult photographs of things like the Milky Way. I'll be honest - I have not yet mastered photographing the Milky Way nor Schlieren Imaging though one day I would really like to. For the Milky Way the problem is that I need really dark skies with no street lamps for a few miles in all directions. For Schlieren, the problem is more that I only vaguely know how it's done and very few resources explain it properly. That would require a lot of experimentation and a large circular mirror that I don't currently have.
After the usual preambles which last about 10% of the book (oh boy, authors know how to inflate the size of their books), the book starts off with the history of night photography while using a Joseph Niepce photograph from 1827 as a sample of night photography. As far as I can tell, that photograph was actually taken in bright sun. Some estimates say that it was taken over 8 hours and some say that it was taken over several days. Needless to say, nobody agrees that it was a night photograph so quite why it's in a book on night photography or in a chapter on the history of night photography is not adequately explained.
Moving on, the book does contain some very nice photographs and most of them are genuine night photographs. I skipped through the chapter on the history of night photography as that seemed to me to be largely filler to make the book look bigger than it actually is. 
Chapter two looked much more promising being entitled "Night Photography Equipment". I wondered how the author was planning to stretch "take a camera, a lens, a tripod and a locking cable-release" into a whole chapter. After a bit of wittering about old style cameras not in mainstream use, the book suddenly launched into strings of acronyms - CMOS, DSLR, RAW, ISO without ever apparently adequately explaining what they mean for novices. The chapter chuntered on discussing Canon and Nikon dominating the market without really getting to the point in a concise and meaningful way. Flipping through a few more pages, by the end of the chapter the author is recommending people to dress warmly for night photography and to take snacks and thermos flasks. Clearly this is an author who's into padding in a big way.
Sadly, the end of Chapter Two is where the author totally lost my respect by detailing how one photographer apparently routinely wanders into areas without permission to take night photographs. This is very much akin to somebody walking into a children's play area who sits down and starts reading a porn magazine. Trespass is never OK no matter what the reason. Fences are there to keep people out for a reason. It might not be because of patrol dogs. It could be because of turtle eggs or the like. Perhaps there could even have been a crime committed that had not yet been detected and passing over the scene could contaminate it. Trespass is against the law and condoning trespass is morally reprehensible. Thus after this point, the author totally lost the last vestige of decency.
Chapter three begins to talk about the basics of night photography, trying to make out that it's much more complicated than putting a camera on a tripod and doing a long exposure. Of course with long exposures it is possible as the book concedes to spice things up by setting off flashes inside buildings to light up the insides. A lot of time is given to wittering about irrelevancies and the author goes into immense depth on subjects that have no meaning for today's photographers. It's almost as though the author had found a book like the Ilford Manual of Photography and had dived through it looking for tables to put into chapters to pad the book out. There seems a dreadful amount of sheer padding in every chapter so far. One of the more absurd tables is about the color casts of various kinds of lighting. Really? How is that important to digital photographers that can correct color casts? It's not as though there's a setting for every type of color cast and the fellow conveniently neglects to mention mixed lighting which has several color casts.
The following chapter was just sheer padding. It was film based photography. I don't actually know of anybody that still actually uses film let alone processes it. Then the next chapter seems all about "digital capture" and utter irrelevancies. By this time, the book and the author had worn my patience down. I have a low enough tolerance for baloney.
Chapter six was another of those monotonous chapters about workflow. I have seen entire books on this and none of them are worth the time of day. This chapter was no exception. How workflow relates to night photography is anybody's guess.
Chapter seven continued the theme of chapters that were nothing to do with night photography, concentrating on my pet peeve which is High Dynamic Range or how to take an awful image and make it positively dreadful.
I was about to take the book back to the library when Chapter Eight caught my eye - it was all about moonlight and star trails. Clearly moonlight is an interesting subject though star trails are not that great - they're just curved lines in the sky. One of the things that the author does seem to love is tables. Sadly the tables given just are not complete. It's as though they have all been copied from the snippets available online. Really and truly, there will be far more information on sunset and sunrise times and moonrise and moonset times together with all the planetary motions from the apps available on smartphones or even on the NASA website. My own preference is for smartphone apps as they make life so much easier.
Chapter nine was all about taking time exposures and waving light sources around to create shapes on the final image. This is largely something that can be done post exposure in photoshop and just reeked of lack of ideas. Unsurprisingly that seemed to be the last chapter.
Generally, this was a very disappointing book that promised far more than it came close to achieving. In general the display of dishonesty in encouraging trespass was reflected by the generally dishonest way in which the book purported to be about night photography but was actually all about padding with just one chapter on actual night photography. Had I actually paid for this book instead of borrowing it then I would be very annoyed with myself for being taken in by what I feel to be a misleading title and would be inclined toward wondering if I was within my rights to go for  a refund.

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