Saturday, April 18, 2015

John Shaw's Guide to Digital Nature Photography by John Shaw

book cover
John Shaw's Guide to Digital Nature Photography
by John Shaw

ISBN-13: 9780770434984
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Amphoto Books
Released: March 17, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Blogging for Books.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Photography legend John Shaw returns with his much-anticipated guide to digital nature photography, complete with more than 250 extraordinarily beautiful photographs. In his first-ever book on digital photography, John Shaw provides in-depth advice on everything from equipment and lenses, composition, and close-ups, to up-to-date information on software filtration and the histogram. In addition, he offers inspirational and frank insight that goes far beyond the nuts and bolts of photography, explaining that successful photos come from having a vision, practicing, and then acquiring the equipment needed to accomplish the intention.

My Review:
John Shaw's Guide to Digital Nature Photography is a book about getting the most out of digital single-lens-reflex (DSLR) cameras and its gear. If you have a Nikon D3 or similar camera, or if you have thousands of dollars to spend on a camera body, lens, filters, software, tripods, and other equipment, then this book will make sure you get the best pictures that you can from that gear. It also explains what gear is good for what type of pictures, so you don't end up buying gear that you'll rarely use.

About 95% of this book is about selecting and using the DSLR camera equipment. The remaining 5% applied to using any digital camera. He generally assumed the reader had heard this more basic, general information before and only covered it as a quick review.

Unfortunately, I took the book description of "easily digestible and useful for every type of photographer" seriously. I've taken a photography course before, but it was for point-and-shoot cameras and mainly covered composition. I wanted to learn about more manual control of digital cameras (f stops, ISO, etc.) and how to get better nature photographs, so I thought this would be the book for me. From the start, though, he assumed the reader knew what f stops, lens sizes, etc. were about and only later briefly described that information to "remind" the reader. A glossary of terms or concepts would have been very helpful for someone like me, but there wasn't one.

His photographs where lovely, but he didn't explain the reasons he chose certain gear and settings for the photographs. I enjoyed looking at them, but I learned very little from them. He included only a few illustrations that demonstrated what he was explaining in the text. When he did, it was an immediate, "oh, I understand now!" for me. However, he generally told the reader to go out and experiment until you understand. So I ended up understanding very little of what appeared to be very detailed and helpful information since it didn't apply to the camera I actually own.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Most Powerful Idea in the World by William Rosen

book cover
The Most Powerful Idea in the World
by William Rosen

ISBN-13: 9781400067053
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Random House
Released: June 1, 2010

Source: Borrowed from my local library.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
In The Most Powerful Idea in the World, William Rosen tells the story of the men responsible for the Industrial Revolution and the machine that drove it—the steam engine. In the process he tackles the question that has obsessed historians ever since: What made eighteenth-century Britain such fertile soil for inventors? Rosen’s answer focuses on a simple notion that had become enshrined in British law the century before: that people had the right to own and profit from their ideas.

The result was a period of frantic innovation revolving particularly around the promise of steam power. Rosen traces the steam engine’s history from its early days as a clumsy but sturdy machine, to its coming-of-age driving the wheels of mills and factories, to its maturity as a transporter for people and freight by rail and by sea. Along the way we meet inventors as Thomas Newcomen and James Watt, scientists including Robert Boyle and Joseph Black, and philosophers John Locke and Adam Smith, as well as learn about the technologies and developments necessary for the creation of steam engines.

My Review:
The Most Powerful Idea in the World is a "Connections"-style book about the developments in technology and ideas that were needed to create an effective steam engine. The author covered the economic, legal, and social issues that came together to foster invention. He also followed various threads of technological developments from ancient times to 1829 that were needed for the creation of steam locomotives. He talked about many inventors and inventions along the way, including developments in iron working, precision measurement, textiles, mining, and science.

If you're looking for a book that clearly explains how each invention worked and includes diagrams, this isn't it. There were only a few diagrams, and the descriptions in the text didn't give enough information for someone not already familiar with the science and engineering behind it. Since the descriptions didn't really enlighten me, they actually went on longer than I needed to understand the overall story of development. A timeline would have been useful, too. The author reset where we were in time with each new topic. Each technology or idea led to the next within each chapter, but I started to lose track of when the events of other chapters happened in relation to the one I was currently reading.

Overall, this is a fairly readable book with a lot of interesting connections about the legal protection and technology needed for the development of the first practical steam locomotive. Just keep in mind that it's a bit technical while still not fully explaining how the various technologies work.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Just Like Me, Climbing a Tree by Durga Yael Bernhard

book cover
Just Like Me, Climbing a Tree
by Durga Yael Bernhard

ISBN-13: 978-1-937786-34-2
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Wisdom Press
Released: April 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Publisher's Website:
Just Like Me, Climbing a Tree explores 12 of the most distinctive trees from across the globe. Yael Bernhard’s playful poem winds through the pages and imagines the many discoveries found while climbing a tree, whether in our backyards or on the other side of the planet. Bernhard's paintings show her careful research of each tree and draw us up into the branches to view new creatures, people, and places.

The appendix to the book offers more facts about the trees, such as their range, habits, uses, and interesting cultural beliefs about the tree. This section will help answer questions that curious young minds might have.

My Review:
Just Like Me, Climbing a Tree is a children's book recommended for "ages 5 and up." The poem is a simple but charming "what if" narrative of a child about the different creatures and things you might find when you climb a tree. I loved climbing trees as a child (and still do), and it reminded me of those adventures.

The pictures show the tree with a local child, setting, and creatures. It's fun to spot the creatures "hiding" in the tree. Parent's may have to explain what some creatures--like sloths--are to young children. There is a label for each tree that tells the tree's common name, scientific name, and the location. This helps you to match up the tree to the further information in the back. There is also a world map on the inner cover that shows where each tree is located.

Further information about the trees is given in the back. It's adult level reading, but much of it would be interesting to a child interested in trees. The trees shown in the poem (and covered in the back) are: Weeping Fig (in Cambodia), Montezuma Cypress (Mexico), Mango (Guinea, West Africa), Monterey Pine (California), Baobab (South Africa), Lychee (Hawaii), Weeping Willow (Holland), Kapok (Brazil), Olive (Israel), Gingko (China), White Mulberry (Australia), Southern Live Oak (Southeast United States).

I recommend this is a fun and potentially educational book to parents of children who love climbing trees. The author even has a note at the end about climbing safely.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: View an page from the book on the publisher's website.