Archive for Guy Tal

Review of Guy Tal’s Creative Landscape Photography eBook

Posted in Book Club, eBooks, Inspirations, Instruction with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 29, 2011 by Darwin

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?


Inspirations – Guy Tal

Posted in Art of Photography, Environment, Inspirations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2011 by Darwin

©Guy Tal

Years ago when I first moved to Utah, I was already familiar with the majestic red rock canyon country of the Colorado Plateau. I also knew of the Wasatch and Uinta mountain ranges in the northern part of the state. But, one place that was still a mystery to me was the Great Salt Lake. A remnant of the vast and ancient Lake Bonneville, the Great Salt Lake is still a formidable body of water, the fourth largest terminal lake in the world and the 37th largest lake on Earth and yet, I rarely saw images of it. As a landscape photographer, a feature of this magnitude demanded exploration. On my initial forays I discovered a place that was almost alien: a shallow lake stretching as far as the eye could see, austere and beautiful and almost devoid of prominent features other than several islands and the faint outline of mountain ranges across its vast expanse. Best of all, I had it to myself. I fell in love instantly. At the same time, I also realized why it is not visited more often. Large stretches of its shoreline have been appropriated for industrial use and mineral extraction and the remains of its most prominent life form, the brine shrimp, pile along its shores in deep layers that emit a rather unpleasant odor. Still, the stark beauty of the place is undeniable. As I became more familiar with it, I learned to appreciate the great geological and biological diversity not obvious at first glance. In this particular area, along the shore of Antelope Island, a beach of soft white sand lines the feet of a craggy peak and stretches down to the lake. This place is home to bison, antelope, coyotes, and multitudes of shorebirds. In spring, a field of barley grass covers the sand and sways in the winds. On this day, a monsoon storm was brewing in the distance, its clouds visible in the image, building up around the distant Fremont Island. I positioned the camera just above the grasses to capture their gentle patterns, shaped by earlier winds. I decided to opt for a toned black and white presentation to further emphasize the other-worldly feeling, the gentle wind-sculptued curves, and the grand long views that characterize the lake, without the distraction of color. ~Guy Tal


Guest Columnist – Jay Goodrich

Posted in Artistic Development, Controversy, Ethics, Guest Columnist, Image Processing and Software, Rants with tags , , , , on August 5, 2009 by Darwin

Nature Photography and Photoshop – How Far is Too Far?

by Jay Goodrich


There are two schools of thought here. One is that limiting the use of Photoshop in nature photography restricts our creativity as photographers. The other is that the over-use of Photoshop compromises the integrity of nature photography. So who’s right?


When someone looks at an astounding photograph, the first question they often ask is, “Is this real?” What is this need we feel to label an image real or not real, true or not true, fabrication or reality? It’s one thing if the purpose of the image is documentation. Reality is important in photojournalism, for example, or to portray the shrinking of a glacier. But what if the purpose of the image is simply to capture beauty, or to startle the viewer? What then does it matter if the artist altered the original photo? Does it look less beautiful hanging on the wall, or less striking on the cover of the magazine?


For some reason, we as viewers often feel “cheated” if we find that a photo has been altered, as if the photographer somehow is lying to us. But if we look at nature photography as simply another art form, then isn’t post-processing photos in Photoshop simply another medium in that art? How do we determine how much alteration is acceptable, and when the artist has gone too far?


How do we draw the line between creative license and misrepresentation? There are so many people out there imposing “the rules” of image making, that drawing the line can become convoluted and quite frankly impossible. Who are these rule makers and what gives them the right to create ideals such as “no HDR”, “no over-saturation”, “it needs to happen in camera”, “no merging of two or more separate subjects”? People have been making rules since the dawn of photography. In the film era, the discussions were regarding exposure, composition, film type, and the like. These rules existed because if you did not expose correctly, there weren’t any images to view. In present day it seems as if people are rule making as a way to control creativity. And why would we want to limit ourselves in that way?


There isn’t a photographer, painter, architect, musician, or otherwise successful creative out there who hasn’t bent or flat-out broken the rules in his or her career. Have you ever taken a flat, colorless sunset image and pushed your white balance to 9000 degrees Kelvin to yield a perfect orange glow from nothing? Or taken a backlit, rim-lit shot and pushed the sliders to the far right with a Levels Adjustment Layer in Photoshop? Think these processes go beyond the standard accepted rules of how far is too far? Miguel Lasa of Spain went beyond when he used the aforementioned Levels technique to take the prize in the Creative Visions division of the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition for 2008.


We are in an ever-changing photographic world now. Digital cameras become more powerful with each new generation, and the same holds true of our software. Imagine what Photoshop CS10 will be able to do. So how far is truly too far? That is the question. Guy Tal said it best in one of his recent blog postings:

Certainly any freedom can be abused, but this is no reason to demonize the technology that enables it. This is especially true for creative tools. To put it simply, those who use the tools for the sake of using them will always produce gimmicks and clichés. This is true of any art at any period in time. Those who see such gimmicks and blame the tools are not much better, though. Ultimately the artist is responsible for the art. If the result fails – the artist failed; not the tools. 


I believe that it is up to you to decide how far is too far. Your failures will be your own, as will be your successes. Create to discover your vision, and utilize “the rules” as guidelines, but also as a springboard to take your work beyond the rules. Bend them and break them every time you click the shutter and post process those images in Photoshop. Throughout history, success has always been achieved by those who listened to everybody else, and then said, “What the hell, I’m doing it my way.”


The two images that I have included here are near copies. One has star trails and the other does not. I know what you are already thinking, “Which one is the original?” Did I pull the stars out of the original image with the Spot Healing Brush Tool to create the second image? Or did I adjust my light levels giving the star trail image the alpenglow of an amazing sunset? Good question. My question to you is, does it really matter?


©Jay Goodrich

©Jay Goodrich


©Jay Goodrich

©Jay Goodrich

Pages – Exposures: Views from Both Sides of the Camera

Posted in Books about Photography, Good News, Inspirations with tags , , , on July 13, 2009 by Darwin

Pages – Book Review

I promised to do book reviews on this blog so here is the first one.

Exposures: Views from Both Sides of the Camera by Guy Tal

One of my favorite photographers is Guy Tal.  Guy does not rely on big dramatic light and in your face wide-angle compositions to slap the viewer with impact. Instead his compositions are thoughtful, rich in expression and deep in meaning.  His work grows on you with repeated viewings which for me is a sign of a great photographer. Too many photographers want to ‘punch you in the face’ with high impact delivery. Guy wins you over with a sensitive eye that expresses his feelings and respect for the landscape. In Guy’s images, you do not see a photographer looking for the trophy capture but, rather, you see an artist completely connected with his subject. For the photographs alone, this book is worth space on any photographer’s bookshelf.

But Guy is not only a visual artist, he is also a master wordsmith. Anyone who follows Guy’s web journal knows what an articulate and thoughtful writer he is. Guy’s writing style is a cross between the best of Galen Rowell, and Brooks Jensen’s writings. In my opinion, there are few photographers who write as well and as profoundly as Guy. This book is a must have for serious collectors of photography books.


Guy Tal – Essay

Posted in Artistic Development with tags , , , , , , on April 18, 2009 by Darwin

One of my favorite photographers and writers has posted a thoughtful essay on his blog. If you do not know of Guy’s amazing photos and in-depth, skilled writing, I urge you to go to his blog and his website and be inspired. Thanks for sharing your talents with us Guy!