Review of Guy Tal’s Creative Landscape Photography eBook
I’ve always been impressed with Guy’s work, so when the second edition of his eBook, Creative Landscape Photography was released, I was pleased to review the book for Guy. In a larger context, there are many eBooks on offer these days, but sometimes it is hard to know how to evaluate them. Having gone through the process on both sides, as a producer and consumer of eBooks, I decided to enter the fray from time to time with my two cents on the odd paper book or eBook that comes my way. Samantha suggested I call this category on my blog Book Club, hearkening back to when people (usually women) would discuss the ideas and themes in books both as a way to learn and socialize. I liked this idea, and I hope that these reviews stimulate discussion and that you will share your own ideas and opinions on the books being reviewed.
Samantha and I will start things off in Book Club with a mutual review of Guy’s eBook, Creative Landscape Photography. So step into our living room, grab a virtual cookie and cup of tea (or whisky) and enter the discussion….
“The goal is not to make you creative. Whether you know it already or not, you already are. The challenge, rather, is learning to tap into and focus your creativity and to help it find its ultimate expression in a photographic image.”
–Guy Tal, Creative Landscape Photography
Darwin: My overall impression of the book is that it is a complete course in creative landscape photography encompassing the entire creative process from concept to presentation. Guy divides the creative process into six pillars or phases: concept, visualization, composition, capture, process and presentation. Each of these phases is discussed in some detail with tips and exercises to help the reader master each section. The eBook is thoughtful, well-written, sprinkled throughout with inspiring images and essentially is like reading six books in one.
Sam: I agree with you on your impression that the book is comprehensive and thoughtful. Being a long-term admirer of his work, I wouldn’t expect anything less from Guy! Guy gets the ‘bigger picture’ that many photographers often miss, and this is captured by the overarching structure and logical flow of the eBook; there is a progression of ideas that is very well organized and presented. Let’s talk about ‘look’ first and get to content later.
Darwin: Sure, good idea. The layout and design is elegant and clean. It looks professionally designed, like you would expect from a high-end publisher.
Sam: Yes, the eBook is exceptionally beautiful in itself which is a graceful note on an educational product. While the eBook is very polished with few errors, I did have one issue with the main font used in the body of the eBook: I found this font to be slightly uneven and fatiguing to read after a while.
Darwin: Reading text on a screen is different from reading text in a book so the size of the font and the length of the blocks of text require different considerations. I do think an eBook is a different beast from a paper book. Reading 80+ pages on a screen is not as easy as a paper book. I think eBooks should be fairly short and digestible.
Sam: Although people have devices like Kindle readers or the iPad and reading on these may be just fine.
Darwin: True. We’re too poor to own an iPad and I do not even know how to text on a cell phone so perhaps I am not the best judge of that. Reading on a computer monitor for hours sucks though. As an eBook author, you don’t want to tire out your reader or make them labour too hard in getting through a page.
Sam: Especially when people may be trying to read them in snippets on a plane or in a cafe over lunch…basically taking a peek in short time frames instead of sitting by the fire with a coffee for hours like I do with a paper book. I think you make a good point that how people consume online material is different from paper. I’ve found in designing eBooks that type is tricky; you almost do need professional advice on that one. From helpful comments we’ve received on our own eBooks, I can see where we need to improve. This point about the font though is a very minor one; the pages are not too blocky with text but interspersed with images. Overall, Guy has given a cohesive ‘look’ to the eBook.
Darwin: For example, the page below I find to be very clean and well designed.
Sam: In terms of content, there is a great deal of information to take away for $9.95. And the content is well explained and accessible. I love reading Guy’s thoughts on all things photography-related and enjoyed the quality of communication in this eBook. I did, however, sometimes find myself just warming up to a topic when Guy would then move on to the next concept. His writing is so instructive and style so unobtrusive that I gained great understanding in a few sentences yet was a bit thirsty for more on a few concepts.
Darwin: I agree; you get huge bang for your buck. It’s undervalued for the amount and quality of content there. I know Guy has more to say on each concept so, like you, I am left wanting to hear more of his thoughts in some sections.
Sam: I think I know what he is trying to do though, which is create that overarching structure to guide the entire creative process. This is very useful, but I do hope he will have more to say on some key concepts in the future.
Darwin: One of the best parts of the book was the idea of the six phases to the creative process. I found some sections quite detailed relative to other parts of the book, like the capture section, while other sections seemed a bit superficial, such as the composition section.
Sam: Although Guy did add insightful comments on framing and balance, overall the section on composition was more of a summary of some common ‘rules’ out there which surprised me a little. Guy does come from a viewpoint that we are each responsible for developing our inner artistic voice and one thing that impresses me about this eBook is how he always seems to be guiding, never imprinting his way of doing things over his readers’ artistic sense. So I would have liked to see more than just a listing of the usual ‘camera club’ rules of composition. On the other hand, he does exert readers to be brave and experiment with these ‘rules’ seeing them more as suggestions than prescriptive points.
Darwin: I learned many new things in other areas. For example, in the capture section it is obvious that Guy knows his tools and has great technical knowledge. There are gems for even the most advanced photographer.
Sam: I completely agree! But the beginner will find concepts set out clearly and succinctly when in other publications these concepts are all too often left unexplained or improperly described by other photographers. Guy discusses topics like metering and the basics of lens function which I rarely see explained so well. I like to know the ‘why’ of things as a foundation to the ‘how’ so this is a great resource that way for all shooters.
Darwin: The light bulb and notepaper icons direct readers to key tidbits which I liked. They break up the text and are not only an interesting design element but help summarize and add to the information in the eBook.
Sam: Guy is a powerful thinker and has a talent for putting in those key elements that are often overlooked by other instructors. For example, his inclusion of the image frame in the discussion on composition of an image is excellent. I also respect how at the very beginning he nails down some critical concepts like the difference between an image and a photograph. We don’t think about that often enough, in my opinion, yet it is essential to artistic growth to develop that consciousness around the artistic process.
Darwin: And one way he encourages a conscious and thoughtful approach to photography as an art form is with the unique lessons included in the eBook. Guy has given the reader the tools he or she needs to advance in photography; now it’s up to the reader to make that investment.
Sam: I agree; the lessons are well done. The reader can advance at his or her own pace.
Darwin: I think Guy is one of the most talented writers in the photography industry today. Readers who are tired of the superficial coverage of photographic topics and interested in delving deeper into the philosophy and art of photography may wish to subscribe to Guy’s thought-provoking blog.
Sam: Definitely. So in summary, we highly recommend this eBook, right?
Darwin: Yes. So far, it is one of the best eBooks on the market.
Sam: Maybe in the future there will be more development of some of the concepts behind the six phases; although, I think Guy will be doing that with at least one pillar in his next eBook, right?
Darwin: I think the next eBook, Creative Processing Techniques for Landscape Photographers, goes into more detail on the processing component of photography.
Sam: Great! We wait, with bated breath…. Eat your cookie, Darwin.
Darwin: Drink your whisky, Sam!
For anyone who has read the eBook, tell us what you think! What did you like or dislike? Any suggestions for Guy?