“Expressive Nature Photography” Review: An excellent book for outdoor photographers
posted Tuesday, August 15, 2017 at 10:30 AM EDT
Photographer Brenda Tharp has been a fine art photographer specializing in travel and landscape photography for over 30 years. She has also run many workshops and tours. In addition to her workshops, she also educates through her writing. Her latest book, "Expressive Nature Photography: Design, Composition, and Color in Outdoor Imagery" published through Monacelli Studio is an excellent book for landscape photographers in particular, but covers outdoor photography in general. The publisher sent me a copy of the book to read and review and it is one of the best photo books I've read.
In "Expressive Nature Photography," Tharp not only shares excellent images - along with the technical information for the image, which is always helpful - but discusses her thought process and offers technical insight and lessons learned from particular images. The book is divided into eight chapters, each tackling a different aspect of outdoor photography. The chapters are: The Heart of Photography, Celebrating Light, Creating Visual Flow, Seeing in Color, Interpreting the Landscape, The Narrative Image, Impressions of Nature and Seeing in the Dark. As you can tell by the titles of the chapters, each of them tackles a different aspect of creativity in photography. While there is a lot of technical information in the text, as that is of course an important aspect of any art, the more interesting information comes by answering the question of "why?" more than "how?"
For example, consider this excerpt from chapter 3 (Creating Visual Flow) on page 72: "Point of View: How do you 'arrange' things in nature photography, when Mother Nature seems to have already done that? By choosing a strong point of view. Your position, or point of view, is essential in conveying the story or feeling you are trying to express in the picture." This is an excellent point by Tharp and an aspect of composition I believe is discussed far too little.
Another insight that struck me was in chapter 5 (Interpreting the Landscape) on page 140: "The Intimate Landscape: What is an intimate landscape? To me, an intimate landscape lies somewhere between the very close-up, or macro, image and the grand landscape. It's a point of view that, when successfully expressed, puts the viewer in your footprints, to experience what you found so compelling. Intimate photographs are usually simplified, distilled down to a few elements, or at the very least reduce the visual information of a large-scale image into something more focused, more directly interacting with the photographer at the time of creation, and later, the viewer."
While I have noted those two particular excerpts, I could've selected text a great many pages in Tharp's "Expressive Nature Photography" that is similarly impactful. The book is densely filled with great insight throughout its roughly 240 pages. In addition to the regular text and image descriptions throughout the book, there are also special inset sections for things like tips and lists. These are often very useful quick hit style bits of information that might seem out of place in the normal text. The info may be artistic or technical in nature, such as information about how to photograph close-ups or how to focus stack.
Brenda Tharp's "Expressive Nature Photography" is not only a great resource for outdoor photographers, but it includes beautiful imagery which even non-photographers would be happy to peruse. It is equally deserving of a place on your coffee table or in your camera bag. The book is available in digital and paperback formats through a variety of retailers, including nationwide chains such as Amazon for between $10 and $30. You can purchase a signed copy directly from Brenda Tharp for $25.
A copy of "Expressive Nature Photography: Design, Composition, and Color in Outdoor Imagery" was sent to me by Monacelli Studio. No other compensation was received for this review.