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Two essential photography eBooks for Christmas

Books are still an ideal Christmas gift, so here are two suggestions for photographers who want to read about more that the technical aspects of photography. Guy Tal and Bruce Barnbaum are the authors chosen.


Photography books/ebooks do not always have to be about techniques or how to better use cameras. As an art form or a path to relaxing moments, photography should be discovered from its multiple angles. Books help us to do that.

The actual massification of photography tends to make us forget that photography, while a commodity for some – like the smartphone user photographing a pair of shoes in a shop window to share with friends – is something else for many others. It may be a very technical thing to some, but it can also be an artistic experience, a path to a contemplative state, a moment of self discovery, or simply a relaxing hobby which can take people away from the stress of everyday life.

The two eBooks chosen as suggestions for Christmas gifts are my readings at the moment and I felt I should share them with readers as viable suggestions for the festive season shopping. Instead of creating another list of eBooks to buy – for that, please read my previous eBook reviews here at Pro Video Coalition – I opted to point to two eBooks which will enhance your photography and help you to look at the craft from perspectives I deem are not only interesting but important to photographers.


The Essence of Photography – Seeing and Creativity by Bruce Barnbaum is my first suggestion. I’ve not yet finished this 196 page eBook from Rocky Nook, published in November 2014, but I am at a stage that I feel it makes sense to share with others the experience.

The title and the sample pages I first read encouraged me to read more, The Essence of Photography – Seeing and Creativity, as I like the approach the author has to photography. Bruce Barnbaum believes that photographic seeing and creativity can be taught, learned, and improved, but also defends that there must be personal involvement and personal expression. Throughout the book he shares his experience from 40 years doing photography as an amateur, and teacher of photography.


There is a lot more to photography than simply picking up a camera, pointing it toward something, and tripping the shutter, says this photographer with a background which includes Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in mathematics from UCLA, and work as a mathematical analyst and computer programmer for missile guidance systems, for several years, until he abruptly left the field and turned to photography.

Bruce Barnbaum knows what he is talking about. Throughout the book he reminds readers that “a great photograph requires thought and preparation, an understanding of the photographic process, and a firm grasp of how light and composition affect a photo” continues with the note that “there must be experimentation, with the recognition that only a small percentage of experiments end successfully” and feels comfortable to state that the difference between a normal photograph and a fine art example is “just pretentious bullshit”. Then goes on and explores the subject deeper, to give us a final answer that, again, will surprise most readers. That’s what amazes me and makes me go from page to page throughout this eBook.

Some 90 photographs from Bruce Barnbaum and other authors illustrate the book, which covers multiple subjects related to the title, and even touches painting, music, and writing, as well as the sciences and even business, to provide pertinent examples of creative thinking. These examples serve as stepping-stones that will lead you to your own heightened ability to see and be creative. There are no formulae here, no hidden secrets being revealed, just common sense applied to the craft. While not all may be able to follow some of the suggestions from the author, the simple fact of reading about things like the use of a view camera for a more disciplined picture taking process may help to slow down, an essential aspect of photography.


Just to summarize what could be a long note about this book, let me add that it includes in-depth discussions on the following topics:

• Defining your own unique rhythm and approach as a photographer
• How to translate the scene in front of you to the final photograph
• The differences and similarities between how an amateur and a professional approach photography
• The differences between realism and abstraction, and the possibilities and limitations of each
• Learning to expand your own seeing and creativity through classes, workshops, and associating with other photographers
• Why the rules of composition should be ignored
• How to follow your passion
• When to listen to the critics and when to ignore them

The Essence of Photography – Seeing and Creativity by Bruce Barnbaum should be on your shopping list this Christmas, or whenever you want to expand your understanding of the craft of photography. The same applies to the second eBook on this note, More Than a Rock from Guy Tal.


The book More Than a Rock – Essays on Art, Creativity, Photography, Nature, and Life, from photographer Guy Tal was written for those photographers with a passion and interest in creative photography. It’s not a technical book, so if you are a technical minded photographer, this book may not be for you. As photographer David duChemin wrote about the author, “If you want to be a better camera user, read your manual. If you want to be a stronger, deeper photographer, read Guy Tal.”

I absolutely agree with David duChemin. I had the opportunity to interview Guy Tal in 2012, – please read Guy TaI: My Landscapes Are Intimately Familiar – and it was a fantastic experience to prepare, edit and publish that interview. Although I knew the photographer and some of his work, from that date on I grew more conscious of his points of view, and I keep his blog on my list of favorites to visit, as his writings are, as his photographs, inspiring.


The book, available in print format since recently, but also available as a practical eBook, offers 256 pages of essays in photography that will make for great reading any moment, anywhere. Philosophy, nature, visual expression, photography, even poetry, emanate from these pages, through which Guy Tal shares his experiences. As a professional artist and writer, Guy Tal believes the practice of creative pursuits not only manifests in the making of art, but also has the ability to enrich life, foster meaningful experiences and contentment, and bring healing through life-long discovery and adventure.

More Than a Rock – Essays on Art, Creativity, Photography, Nature, and Life is a very touching book, a personal book about creativity and expression. In this series of essays, photographer and teacher Guy Tal shares his thoughts and experiences as an artist who seeks to express more in his images than the mere appearance of the subject portrayed. The photographer covers topics such as the art of photography, approaches to landscape photography, and the experiences of a working photographic artist. His essays also include reflections on nature and man’s place in it, living a meaningful life, and living as an artist in today’s world.


Tal strives to create images that convey his connection with the wild places of the American West. His images are a result of his complex relationship with these lands that has evolved over many years—through times of bliss and conflict, love and loss, and life changes. In his images, he seeks to convey a reverence and gratitude for how these places have shaped his life. His subjects are not just attractive models to him, they are friends and sanctuaries and characters in his own story. He does not consider himself a photographer who creates art, but rather an artist working in the medium of photography.

Both eBooks presented here are essential if you aim to have a collection of photography books that go beyond the technical aspects. Through the visions of Bruce Barnbaum and Guy Tal it is possible to reach a higher level of understanding of the craft and go beyond the simple “trip the shutter, another photograph” many still seem to adopt as a way to explore the photographic world. Both eBooks can be read from cover to cover or picked for a few minutes of inspirational reading any moment you want. And believe me, you’ll go back to some of the chapters and reread them, just for the pleasure they offer.


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Journalist, writer and photographer since 1979, both print and online, with a vast experience in the fields of photography, software, hardware, web, aviation, History, video games, technology, having published content in almost all Portuguese newspapers…

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