Macro Photography for Gardeners and Nature Lovers, by Alan Detrick | Book Review

A review of Macro Photography for Gardeners and Nature Lovers: The Essential Guide to Digital Techniques, by Alan L. Detrick.

Title: Macro Photography for Gardeners and Nature Lovers: the Essential Guide to Digital Techniques
Author: Alan L. Detrick
Publisher: Timber Press
Publication Date: October 22, 2008
Total Pages: 176 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0881928907
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It’s a good time to be trying to find photographic inspiration close to home. And if you’re lucky enough to have a garden, or even just some planters, flowers and gardens are a great place to start. They offer all sorts of creative possibilities. And just as importantly, they’re very willing models.

I’ve been reviewing several macro and flower photography books recently. This is another: Macro Photography for Gardeners and Nature Lovers: The Essential Guide to Digital Techniques, by Alan L. Detrick.

The structure of the book is quite straightforward. It starts with a general introduction about macro worlds and the virtues of seeing close up.

It then moves on the gear. Most of the images in the book were shot with cameras in the Canon 1Ds series with a Canon 180mm ƒ/3.5 L macro lens, but this section also explains when diopters might be a good (and much cheaper) option, why and what kind of tripod to use, and then some optional specialized equipment such as reflectors, shades, and macro ring flashes. (I’ve previously reviewed Nikon’s equivalent of this lens, the Nikon 200mm ƒ/4D IF-ED.

The next chapter is nominally about developing your own personal style, but it’s really about the exposure choices that make it happen. So it discusses technical exposure settings as well as composition and lighting choices.

Macro photography is the visual portal to a world most people walk by without a glance. [p9]

Chapter four is titled Realistic or Artistic. It’s really about whether to take an artistic or documentary approach. The author breaks that down into choices about aperture and depth of field (using ƒ/22 would fall into the realistic or documentary approach, while shooing at ƒ/5.6 with the much narrow depth of field would fall into the artistic) and composition (i.e., whether to focus on a small part of the flower or subject or whether to capture the whole). In general, he’s not talking about more advanced artistic effects that can be applied in post-processing or applying more specialized artistic lighting to the scene.

There are a few things I particularly like about this book. One is that the captions for the photos explain not just how the photo was taken, but the why as well. Why the photographer chose that vantage point and aperture and lighting. And why he chose that image over others that he shot. There are also some more detailed case studies that dive even deeper into those issues.

In addition to convenience, there are other advantages to working close to home. Photographing outside in familiar surroundings offers the greatest opportunity to get the best images throughout the year. [p102]

Another is the section on critters (or fauna). Some of the most striking images in the book aren’t flowers, as such. Or rather, not just flowers. They’re with various kinds of insects and bugs. It’s not a particularly long section of the book—and I think it could well have been expanded to be a self-contained chapter by itself—but it’s an interesting and useful section that many other flower photography books don’t include. After all, the insects are sitting on flowers and plants, and they’re an essential part of the plants’/flowers’ existence (a point highlighted in a page on capturing a symbiotic relationship between ants and peonies (p.137)).

The last main section of the book is on technical aspects of working with digital image files. I guess it’s an essential part of any book, which is why so many subject-focused photography books still include it. But it gets outdated so quickly that it makes the rest of the book look dated. Most of the information, in this case, is quite general, so it’s less prone to that problem, but while some users might find it helpful to have here, they’ll probably get more useful information from a separate, specialized guide on those subjects. While this book’s subtitle is “The Essential Guide to Digital Techniques,” in reality, the most valuable parts of this book don’t have much to do with the digital part. Much of the book explains principals that apply equally to digital and film cameras.

Overall, this book is a good option for those wanting to get started in photographing flowers, and I’ve added it to my list of best books on macro photography. The book is crammed with useful examples, along with individual explanations pertaining to that particular image. For more experienced flower photographers who want to dive deeper, there are other books available that are probably a better fit.

Author Bio

Official Bio:

Alan L. Detrick is a professional photographer whose images of nature and gardens appear in media worldwide. He has lectured and conducted photography workshops at Maine Media Workshops, The New York Botanical Garden, Chanticleer Garden, Brookside Gardens, and Longwood Gardens, as well as for the American Horticultural Society, the Garden Club of America, and the Garden Writers Association, where he was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2010. He is the author of Macro Photography for Gardeners and Nature Lovers.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • About this Book
  • The Macro World Introduced
    • What is Macro Photography
    • Development of Macro Photography
    • Macro Awareness
  • Equipment
    • The Camera
    • Lenses and Lens Accessories
    • Tripods
    • Light Modifiers
  • Looking at Images
    • Exposure
    • Depth of Field
    • Focus
    • Lighting
    • Composition
    • Background
    • Movement
  • Realistic or Artistic?
  • Flora, Fauna, and Beyond
    • Flora
    • Fauna
    • Beyond
  • Digital File Basics
    • Resolution
    • Color
    • File Mode
    • File Format
    • Guidelines for File Choices
  • Digital Workflow
    • Capture
    • Download Files
    • Do Initial Edit
    • Make Global Adjustments
    • Back up Raw
    • Optimize
    • Store
  • My Gear
  • Resources
  • Glossary
  • Index

Sample Pages

These are the sample pages provided by the publisher.

Where to Buy

You can find this book in e-book and paperback versions at bookstores online.

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