Monday, July 21, 2014

Dragonfly Photography by Vic Berardi - eBook Review

This is a very short eBook by Vic Berardi. Clearly it's a first eBook but despite that it's reasonably well laid out and reasonably well written. The photographs are more why somebody would want to read this book - not so much for the text, which is worthy enough but more for the photographs which depict an uncommon subject well.
In the short 18 page eBook - about 60% of which is devoted to photographs, there's a section on equipment that follows the useful information that dragonflies are at their best in sunshine and 70F weather and usually around midday. The equipment page is going to date very rapidly which is one reason it's better not to state equipment other than "I used a camera and a lens".

Pretty well immediately the author leaps into digital camera forum logic when stating that it's harder to get a good 11x14 print from a smaller camera. Really and truly most people don't ever want to print to ludicrous sizes. 11x14 is a ludicrous size. Most people want to view on their tablet or to print to 10x8 to fit one of the numerous dollar shop 10x8 frames. People don't keep prints very long; hanging them with enthusiasm and tossing them out when after becoming bored with them.

The next page is clearly a brag page in which an expensive looking and heavily camouflaged camera, lens and tripod are on display. Looking at the list of equipment, indeed it is a brag page. This is the point at which it's generally OK to yawn and turn the page. Realistically, a list of expensive equipment is more likely to repulse a beginner reader than inspire. It certainly repulses this reviewer.

The page on sharpness following the brag page is more of an exercise in using excess words. It looks at this point that the text is best skipped but that wouldn't be a good way to review the book. The style is very beginnerish and could do with a lot of condensation and removal of personal pronouns. There is advice to use F11 for medium sized dragonflies which is interesting but incorrect. F11 is the point at which many lenses begin to lose sharpness. Sharpness is greatest at about F8 but is less on either side of F8 though a lot depends upon the lens. Thus giving information based on one selection of lenses is not good advice for all lenses. Universally, F8 is sharpest though the more is spent on a lens, the greater the chance that F5.6 and F11 will also be equally sharp. Lenses get progressively less sharp across the frame the wider and narrower the aperture gets from F8.

After this the author advocates using a tripod for all dragonfly images. This is baffling. How the author can achieve good insect images without being able to follow an insect to a landing spot to take a photograph before the insect leaves is baffling. This is not explained in the book. 

Similarly the exposure section mentions taking bracketed exposures. Yes - certainly if there's time. Most likely there won't be time though. The photograph below is an example (not taken by the book author) of a quick photo. A few seconds later the butterfly was gone. There would not have been time to focus manually. The focus was automatic as was the exposure. In insect photography there are a lot of failures. This was not a success - the depth of field is too narrow. This was done with a consumer grade lens and a consumer grade camera though. The next photo would have been perfect had there been time to adjust the aperture.
The author makes complications that need not be there and doesn't acknowledge the dumb luck also needed in dragonfly photography.

Following this, the recommendation is made to use a flash. Not just any flash but a top of the range flash which is an unnecessary expense. By this point it has become apparent that the book is more of a show-off exercise by the author than an educational exercise which is a shame.

Next the author suggests using a 36 inch collapsible reflector. Trying to picture an insect staying still while the author erects a tripod, focusses manually, sets the flash up and sets up a reflector in order to take the perfect photograph beggars belief a little and begs the question as to whether the whole book is a tongue-in-cheek send-up of photography.

There's advice on composition which is all well and good and accompanied by some excellent photographs but insects move so quickly that composition is just dumb luck. Two to three seconds is the most many insects will stand still. If focus can be achieved with the chosen focus point then that's the best that's achievable in terms of composition.

A section on dragonfly behaviour that's woefully short all but wraps up the book. The final page give places to look for further information on dragonflies. Sadly there's no information given on where the reader can read a better book on photography.

Overall, while the author has included some very nice dragonfly photographs and has been quite impressive by assigning names to each species of dragonfly, the photography section of the book reads more like a child in a playground saying to the other children: "look at what I got". In terms of photographic advice, the book seems poor. It is not a book that can be recommended to beginner photographers nor even to expert photographers. At best, it's one man's view on how to do photography.

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