This is the first installment in a series of what I hope will be many photography book reviews. I’m keeping the category broad and will touch on everything from photo books by photographers, to instructional texts, to books that relate to issues surrounding photography. I may even throw in some non-photography books just for kicks! (I said it would be broad!) So, sit down and dig in to some tasty film photography goodness!
Light and Film: Revised Edition
Published in 1981 by the folks at Time-Life publishing, this book is the first in the “Library of Photography” series- a series of textbook-like volumes that explore the many aspects of photography. This book is a great intro to the world of shooting film and touches on subjects ranging from the artistic choices photographers make when photographing a scene, to what film physically is and how it works. Using photographs from professional photographers as examples, the writers illustrate how the different legs of the exposure triangle (ISO, aperture, and shutter speed) affect the final image in very easy to observe ways. As someone who has been shooting film for a very short period of time, I found these examples extremely helpful. Before reading Light and Film I had tenuous grasp of the exposure triangle, but had a hard time visualizing the effect changing the shutter speed or aperture had on the photo, aside from motion blur of slow shutter speeds and that sweet, sweet bokeh of a wide open aperture we all know and love. Time-Life had some of its staff photographers shoot the same scene, changing only the exposure triangle variables, creating some excellent, easy to identify examples for readers to observe the differences.
Another aspect of this book I really enjoyed was the brief history and evolution of photography from its earliest days, to the modern emulsions and technology of the early 1980s. And, to be clear, not a whole lot has changed in the way of film since this book was written. Sure, there have been some advances in technology like better metering and autofocus, but film itself has changed very, very little since the days of New Wave, acid-washed jeans, and that Flock-of-Seagulls hairdo my uncle Bob rocked in high school. Reading about the journey film has taken from the earliest daguerrotypes, to the modern emulsions that manufacturers are producing today was illuminating and gave me a new appreciation for how easy it is to go out and make an image today. It definitely provided me some motivation to take better care when composing and exposing a scene.
The area I learned the most in from this book was regarding using artificial light to illuminate a photographic scene. Everything from on-camera flash, to complex off-camera remote-trigger rigs and the effects they can provide was absolutely fascinating. Time-Life was the big photographic dog in town when they were publishing this series of books, so they are able to use some very iconic images to help explain lighting and its uses. Examples like the amount of strobes it took to photograph Pope Paul VI in Yankee Stadium to the iconic above-the-ring fisheye shot from Ali’s first-round K.O. of Liston in 1965 absolutely blew me away. I definitely took photos like that for granted and chalked their “iconic-ness” up to access to the event itself, failing to understand the amount of time, preparation and skill it takes to be lucky enough to even attempt to capture an image like either of those.
In conclusion, this a great book for the serious amateur looking to build a great foundation in photographing with film. I will most definitely be diving into the rest of the “Library of Photography” series, and although I checked this book out from the library, I think it’s worth owning and will be on the look out for it in used bookstores and on eBay.
Unitl next time, cheers!