OCTOBER 18, 2006
Farnham, UK - No doubt about it--the allure of the digital camera seduced us all. Yet many photography enthusiasts and professionals still don't know how to tap into the power and range of today's digital tools to create compelling photos. That is, until now. In the joyful and long-anticipated Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography (O'Reilly), a master teacher shares how to use digital technology to develop and refine one's artistic expression.
"Photography has always been about the highest technology of its time," says Johnson, whose stunning photographs grace the permanent collections of institutions and museums throughout the United States including the J. Paul Getty Museum. Indeed, this widely collected photographer has devoted much of his career to challenging technology to help him translate what he sees into art. In his new book, Johnson provides details for balancing composition, science, craft, and artistry to produce beautiful, real-world photos. Above all, he urges readers to trust their personal artistic sensibilities.
"We are in the Stone Age of digital photography," writes Johnson about the digital medium, which is fast becoming more popular than conventional film. "We've figured out how to make some tools, but it is just now beginning to dawn on us what we might do with them. I've often been frustrated at the concentration on the technical aspect of digital photography with so little discussion of the aesthetics and heart behind the image making."
Yet for Johnson, digital technology means a welcome release from the many hours once spent in the darkroom. "I spend much more time in the field on an individual photograph than I would have in the recent past, working to record just what I have in mind," writes Johnson. "Now most of the critical interpretive decisions can be made on site, when I am making the photograph, and, in theory, when I care most about the image." Beautiful color photos and clear illustrations make it easy for readers to grasp techniques from this master teacher. It's a Photoshop-centric work, since Photoshop is currently the most common professional digital photographic tool.
Johnson made photographic history with his digital national parks project. He is also credited as the major influencer at the core of digital imaging through his consulting work for Adobe Systems, Apple Computer, Eastman Kodak, Epson, Foveon, and Hewlett-Packard and was named to the Photoshop Hall of Fame in 2003 for his achievements.
No look at photography would be complete without a discussion of ethical issues. In his timely chapter, Johnson explores the ethics of digital imaging, reviewing the history of photo altering, image manipulation and propaganda, and editorial distortion.
Throughout this tour de force, Johnson makes it clear that the integrity of the image is paramount. "This book assumes the intervention in the image, not for the purpose of distortive manipulation, but to assert control over your own work," writes Johnson about his use of cutting-edge technological tools. "The deepest engagement that photography can bring remains its ability to capture and hold a moment before the lens. In this age of digital manipulation, that fact must be remembered."
Some readers will undoubtedly mine Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography for its tips, tricks, and techniques, while others will focus on the ideas and philosophy. This is the one book for digital photographers aspiring to take better pictures and explore their artistic impulses.
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