Category: Publishing

New Book! Super-Natural South Florida

Super-Natural South Florida
Super-Natural South Florida

Following on from our trip in March, I have published a fine art, limited-run monograph of 31 colour and black-and-white photographs: Super-Natural South Florida (ISBN 978-0-9813705-3-8). It is available on Amazon for USD$109.95, but for a limited time, I am making the book available directly to family and friends for CDN$87.50 (hand-delivered or shipped for $12.50 more).

The easiest way to make this purchase is by either sending a cheque for the full amount (there is no tax) to:

Terry McDonald
79 Vanier Drive
Guelph, ON  N1G 2K9

or by directly making a deposit to my PayPal account (you do not need PayPal to do this):

For one book, no shipping Buy Now Button with Credit Cards     or for one book + shipping Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

The photographs in Super-Natural South Florida are beautifully presented, one photograph per page, in a large, 12″x12″ format hard-cover book with dust jacket. Included are landscapes from dawn to dusk and photographs of the myriad unique wildlife of South Florida.

Why “Super-Natual” South Florida?

Florida is well-known for its abundance of beach-front condos and hotels and all the touristy sites of the Orlando area, not to mention the hundreds of tourist traps across the state. Equally well-known but often ignored, though, are the beautiful natural features. Laurie and I were planning this trip, it dawned on us that the South Florida region is unparalleled in the eastern US for its wilderness and wildlife value – not just the well-known Everglades, but all the protected areas around them:

  • Fakahatchee Strand,
  • Corkscrew Swamp
  • Big Cypress National Preserve
  • Rookery Bay National Estuarine Reserve
  • Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge

amongst many others. More importantly, these areas have been made reasonably accessible from trails, boardwalks, even the road.

When we started exploring these areas on foot, we were amazed by how accessibility the wildlife really is: birds, reptiles and flora were all “right there”. It was like being back in Tanzania with the wide-open landscapes and the sense of serendipity, never knowing what we would find around the next bend. The photographs depict this rich and diverse natural beauty: the landscapes, the wildlife and many of the details that make this sub-tropical paradise so unique.

If you enjoy the beauty of Florida, you will enjoy the photographs in this book. Have a look at this Blurb preview and consider purchasing a copy for yourself, for your favourite Snow-Bird or for your favourite Floridian!

New iPhoto Book hot off the press

Finally – I’ve finished the book illustrating our East Coast trip from the summer of 2010. An once again, Apple does not disappoint.

 

Cover of iPhoto book: East Coast 2010

The photos were processed in Photoshop Lightroom 3 then exported as high quality jpegs and imported into iPhoto ’11. From there, I dragged them into the project file and began creating, assembling and writing. I used the ‘Modern Lines’ theme for its clean look. I tried some of the less formal themes but found that I lost “photo space” to “page space”. I want the photos to dominate, not the page or the graphics.

The book ended up being 76 pages in length with 173 photos – the best of which are full page. The bulk of the text is set in 11pt DearJoe4 – a great handwriting font available as a free, incomplete font from dafont.com or as a full font from the creator at  joebob.nl

I’m really pleased with how well everything came together. Only two complaints:

  • p75 with photos reversed compared to what I preferred

    on one of the last pages, I wanted two small photos on the left with one large on the right to keep the somewhat chronological flow and iPhoto would only allow the larger pic on the right;

  • Cut off ascenders on p72

    on 4-photo page, I wanted two full lines of text which I achieved by reducing the font size to 9pt, decreasing the leading to 0.83 but still, the very tops of the ascenders were cut off. BTW if you want a great resource for typography – have a look at Adobe’s online booklet; Typography Primer. It is very informative. It looks like a booklet Apple published about 20 years ago which they included with the Mac Classic.

These two complaints are a small price to pay for a great looking book. I could have remedied the second problem, but the first is an in-built design selection by Apple. And I can see why they keep the larger photo on the left of a right-hand page as the two smaller photos would be lost or squeezed if the larger photo was on the right.

Here are a few of the other pages:

 

The reproduction of the black and whites is superb on p9
This photo-on-photo of Dickson Falls on p21 worked very well

 

Composite of 2 photos created in Photoshop

 

One of my favourite photos is of our daughter Allison at the Habitation, Port Royal, Nova Scotia, dressed in period costume - it deserved a full page!

“It is the final image…that counts”

If you are serious about photography and you don’t read Photo Techniques magazine, you should. It’s not the only magazine you should be reading, but it is an excellent summary of what’s happening in a community of serious photographers who strive to improve their technique and vision on both the capture and processing sides. Here is a quote from the Jan/Feb 2010 issue (p13):

It is the final image standing alone that counts.
How we go there is simply a wonderful story.
— Tom Millea, Photographic Artist

This quote sums up everything I believe in photography far better than any of the thousands of pages of photographic information in books, journals and periodicals and on websites that I have read in my three decades of photography. Many photographers have said it before and I constantly repeat it in my workshops – it’s the photograph that counts, not how you made it, not the conditions you had to endure or the miles you had to hike; not the equipment or the process you used. All of that is technical, chemical and digital – not artistic.

As a simple example, I remember being frustrated in England at the excellent camera club I belonged to in Chelmsford. I always felt that titles were and should always be superfluous to the image and should never – ever – be needed to explain the photograph. Yet, there were photographs whose judgement was clearly skewed because they were made cute by or only made sense with the title. That’s ludicrous.

If the photograph can’t stand on its own then it’s value should not be increased with  the nature of its title or, in the case of Tom Millea’s reference, its process. Far too many photographers place far too high a value on the equipment or process used to make an image. It doesn’t matter if the image was shot with Canon or Nikon or Olympus, 4×5, 35mm or 4:3s, negative, slides or digital; gelatin silver, platinum or archival pigment – as long as the image conveys fully the intent of the photographer and as long as it is archival, all the rest shouldn’t matter.

Howard Bond made a similar statement in a recent issue of the same magazine. He was recounting his incredulity at how his older editions of prints sell at much higher prices than his newer editions. The older editions were more poorly made, yet they were more valuable because they were older, that’s all.

It is well-known that the art world goes through this trend and that trend often linked more to personalities than to substance. This is a serious flaw and it is why many people do not really take the art-types and the art world too seriously. It seems that once a name is made, it doesn’t matter how good or bad the image is, they will sell like hotcakes at least for a while. The same is true with processes. Platinum prints would instantly command a higher price just because they are platinum no matter what was on the front of them.

The art world is fickle. If “they” are rubbed the right way they will respond. If galleries can make money then that is the path they will take irrespective of artistic value. To serious photographers (and other artists) who have always recognized this, we will still create images that convey our intent as artists in the best way we know how and will need to be content in that.

Go to Part Two – “…a wonderful story.”

Rivers Challenge Open

I host one of the challenges on dpReview called Art of Earth. The most recent iteration of that is “Rivers” which is open now for submissions. You’d better hurray, though – there are already 118 of 200 submissions.

Photoshop may seem bloated to many users but…

This post is in reply to a post by Triumph Steve on the dpReview “Olympus SLR Talk” forum: http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1022&message=33925392 where the poster said:

This is my personal opinion.

I have only bad feelings about PS, and I have been using it for years, since version 3 or 4 came out, up until my current version 7. Just way too many (useless) tools. I only like its “digital asset management” (DAM) feature where you can make convenient identifiers to your photos, according to specific catagories that you define. However, PS works extremely slow on my very decent computer.

My response:

While I understand where you are coming from regarding PS, I really must disagree with some of your comments.

I agree that to a many users Photoshop seems bloated with “useless tools”, as it has come to be far more than a tool for photographers. But, having said that, there isn’t a tool I haven’t used when working with my photos. Perhaps I don’t use them all directly on a photograph, but I appreciate the ability to create things using my photos like notecards and portfolios with text, books and calendars.

Perhaps it is due to my background as a film photographer who worked in the darkroom, but to think that photography ends with the uploading of images is like saying photography ends with the production of a negative or slide. While I agree, photos from digital cameras have the potential of being very good at the upload stage, there is so much more that can be done to enhance the image, to make it sing. To quote the venerable Ansel Adams: “The negative is the score, and the print is the performance” or, in todays terms, “the raw file is the score, the final image or print is the performance.”

As an artist, I endeavour to create a photograph that recreates my experiences when I made the capture (or negative) out in the field. This requires a level of finessing that can only happen with the right tools, whether they be in the darkroom or in a program like PS.

That being said, I now use ACR to a very large degree to finesse my images. ACR has reached a stage of maturity that makes PS itself much less significant to my image-making. PS Elements has Bridge and ACR as part of the package making it a far more powerful tool than its low price suggests.

I encourage anyone who wants to deepen their knowledge and abilities in photography to explore the capabilities of ACR and PS Elements, Lightroom and even PS itself.

–Terry www.luxborealis.com

Making Photo Books with iPhoto

I have had a wonderful experience as of late publishing two books using Apple’s free iPhoto application. It hasn’t been without a learning curve, but what I’ve found is that even simple books are very straightforward. Being the nit-picker I am, though, I’ve complicated my life by wanting details and customization that stretched iPhoto. But I have been very pleased at how iPhoto responded by stretching and accommodating the finessing I wanted. In fact, when I took one of my books to a local printer for a quote, they were astounded with the quality before I even told them how I made it and what it cost to make.

What I like about iPhoto…

Tanzania - a book of fine art photographs by Terry A. McDonald
Tanzania (Dec 2009)

Now, before I go too far, I should warn Windows users that iPhoto is only available to Mac users. It’s a shame, really, because I have yet to see a free photo library/catalogue app for Windows that even comes close to the capability of iPhoto. In fact, I have yet to see an inexpensive app (less than $75) that does what iPhoto can do. Furthermore, building on the success of iTunes, Apple could easily offer “iPhoto Windows” as a $10 or $15 app for download only. Anyway – back to the main event…

Lake Superior Provincial Park iPhoto book

I wrote an earlier blog about the usefulness of iPhoto here, but in summary I find iPhoto great:

  • for easily and quickly finding photos;
  • for cataloguing photos using events, albums and keywords;
  • as a repository of high-quality, high-resolution jpegs of all my fine art and family photos;
  • for creating engaging slideshows directly through iPhoto or seamlessly integrated with Apple’s Keynote;
  • for creating photo galleries uploaded to my MobileMe site (which you may already have for your iPhone)
  • for creating photo pages usingApple’s free iWeb app then uploaded to my website;
  • for emailing photos or uploading to Flickr, PicasaWeb, Panoramio, JAlbum, etc.
  • because I can have multiple Libraries for different uses and world locations.

There’s a whole lot more, but this is a good summary for now.

"Modern Lines" theme from my iPhoto book Tanzania

Now – about iPhoto Books…

The advantage of iPhoto books versus online books is that you can work on them without being online: waiting for files to be uploaded, waiting for pages to load, etc. Some online photo book sites have mini apps you download to help prevent this, but I have yet to find them as smooth, seamless, versatile and customizable as iPhoto. With iPhoto, I am not limited to pre-determined fonts and sizes – I can use any font and most sizes up to about 72pt for titles and even 36pt for text. I can also have hard cover books with custom dust jackets – very professional looking! And all of this comes at a very reasonable price: USD 29.99 plus 6.99 shipping (for the first book of  multi-book order) for an 8.5×11 20-page, hard cover book with a custom dust jacket (front back and both flaps).

Ordering is a snap using my Apple Account (the same one I have for iTunes music downloads). Shipping is via FedEx. I thought this would be a problem for me here in Canada with merchandise crossing the border, but there are no extra shipping, brokerage or duty charges (SSSHHHHHH – don’t tell the government, but they aren’t even collecting PST and GST!!). And get this – books I upload on a Sunday afternoon arrived at my door here in southern Ontario on Thursday around noon – talk about FAST! I can also track the books online from their origin in the Memphis, Tennessee area. Amazing, truly amazing!!

Making a Book

Books can be made as easily as:

  • selecting the photos in iPhoto;
  • clicking on the “Book” icon at the bottom of the iPhoto window;
  • selecting the size and style you want;
  • clicking on Autoflow for iPhoto to assemble the photos automatically;
  • adding a title and captions;
  • clicking on “Buy Book” and inputing your details.
"Formal" theme - from my Lake Superior book

While all of this can be accomplished in as few as 10 minutes, you will need to spend a while longer to truly take advantage of all the custom features. This list will give you an idea of the work flow I use in creating a book:

  1. Select a few photos and click “Book” at the bottom of the iPhoto window;
  2. Add more photos by selecting and dragging them from the iPhoto window to the icon of your book in the left panel;
  3. Click on the book icon in the left panel. Place each photo into the book by dragging them one-by-one from the top “filmstrip” view and dropping each onto an image placeholder(s) on each page.
    • Be sure to put the photos into a chronology or in an order that tells a story;
  4. Choose individual page layouts and a cover layout;
  5. Choose page background colour or  full photo background which can be left as it or lightened to go behind text;
  6. Edit & crop photos as needed (by double-clicking or selecting “Adjust” at the bottom of the window);
    • I tend to edit (colour balance, enhance, drop etc.) all my raw files in Adobe Camera Raw then convert them to full-resolution, highest quality jpegs for import into iPhoto, so they already tend to be optimized.
    • If you are shooting jpegs, be sure to shot at maximum size and resolution (minimum compression) so that they may be used as full-sized images in a photo book or calendar.
  7. Tweak the size and/or view of photos using the pop-up window or by Ctrl-clicking (“Fit photo to frame size” or not);
  8. Write and format descriptive text for the captions, dust jacket, title page and/or  chapter pages;
  9. Select the font style and sizes for the titles, subtitles and various text elements:
    1. Click on “Settings” and a whole host of global options is provided; or
    2. Use Command-T to bring up the font palette – this extremely powerful for setting title and sub-title fonts, font colour and drop shadows (BTW this is a feature not given in iPhoto, but built into the Mac OS yet available for iPhoto);
  10. Tweaking the descriptive captions;
  11. Proofread;
  12. Proofread again (preferable by someone else and/or from back to front);
  13. Proofread and check for the last time (seriously – any errors are forever!).

If this isn’t enough customization, you can even switch themes if the one you’ve chosen is not working for you. Before you do so, though, I would suggest duplicating your current book (select the book in the left column of iPhoto > Control-click to get the pop-up menu > choose “Duplicate”). That way if layouts or type are messed up in the change (due to differences in layout from theme to theme) you won’t lose the hard work you’ve put into the book thus far.

The trick with iPhoto is to spend some time playing so that you get to know all the possible features. In fact, I would suggest choosing 20 or so photos at random and creating a “Practise Book” first. Make all your mistakes there while learning the skills to produce a truly beautiful book. Good luck and have fun! The results will be truly rewarding.

dpReview Challenge – My Own Backyard

Be sure to vote on the submissions to my latest dpReview Challenge in the Art of Nature Series: My Own Backyard. There are some truly beautiful images submitted from around the world.

Isn’t “digital archive” an oxymoron?

Oriel Window, William Fox Talbot
Oriel Window, William Fox Talbot. The 1835 original paper negative.

Has anyone stopped to consider that digital storage and archive technologies are incongruent with  modern business practices that include obsolescence – planned or otherwise?.

The interesting thing about archaic things like books, is that they can still be viewed and read centuries after their creation. While some require translation from Latin, Olde English/French/German to modern languages, the books can still be easily viewed without any technological barrier beyond a pair of cotton gloves. Consider this – if you had written your magnum opus 25 years ago and saved it to the most up-to-date technology of the time- a 5? floppy – you would not be able to read it today. It would be effectively lost and almost unretrievable except through great expense. If you had printed it on paper – you would still have it today and for centuries in the future.

What ever means we use today for digital archive is on a pathway to oblivion within, perhaps, years to a decade. Take format, for example: do you own anything that will read a 5? floppy from the 1980s. You might still have a 3.5? floppy reader from the 1990s – but for how much longer will it be supported? Even large corporations don’t have 5? floppy technology.

For sake of argument, let’s say you have the hardware to read old floppies, how about the application needed to read old files? It’s bad enough even today that anything saved in WordPerfect or Microsoft Works cannot be read by most word processing applications. What about word processing apps that are now defunct? – ClarisWorks comes to mind. Even older versions of the omnipresent Word can prove difficult to open and read.

Now, add to this the rapidly changing operating systems, drivers and apps that are not carrying forward the code for older models of computers (and just as well as OSs become quite bloated, otherwise). Perhaps its the drivers more than anything that will prevent users from plugging old technology into new. Take my 1999 scanner – it’s still as good as anything out there because I’ve grown with it in my knowledge of how to scan effectively. However, there will come a time when the drivers are no longer supported by newer operating systems. It will become a piece of electronic junk – ewaste – not because it doesn’t work or is obsolete, but because the manufacturer would prefer that I buy a new one so they stop updating the code needed for it to work.

Let’s face it, our economy depends on us throwing things out and replacing them with “newer and better”. Companies depend on our computers and software becoming obsolete so that we keep buying. This is insane, not just for the environment (we’e all seen the mountains of e-waste), but also for the longevity of digital works.

I’m a photographer. I’m on my third DSLR and looking forward to when 24mp becomes affordable. But, for how long will the applications I use continue to support files made on my first DSLR. Thank goodness Adobe is trying to standardize file formats on the open source DNG file type. But in then end, years down the road, will my hard drives be readable? My DVDs? What I foresee is a constant upgrading of formats that large corporations can afford but the average person or small business has neither the time nor the money for. Democratization through computing dies at the level of the individual – the very level at which democracy is supposed to work.

On the other hand, maybe that’s a good thing. While we all feel we have something to contribute to society at large, most of it is drivel anyway. My concern is that the really valuable stuff that is being saved is being determined by its popularity (you know, all those dreadful Top Ten lists and the kind of crap that sells supermarket tabloids) and not its inherent value for moving society forward in a thoughtful, constructive way.  What company has the resources for “thoughtful” and “constructive” when their bean counters are saying “we need popular to maintain our bottom line”. “Thoughtful” and “constructive” are not on the radar of the popular media which survives by selling ad space to the very companies that are perpetuating obsolescence.

So where does that leave us? Is there a company out there that will somehow come up with a digital format that can be made “future-safe” like books and manuscripts are today? I hope so! Perhaps Adobe’s DNG format is the way to go.

Tanzania Book – just in time for Christmas!

Tanzania - a fine art book of photographs by Terry A. McDonald
Tanzania

I’m just putting the finishing touches on my new book: Tanzania. It is a fine art book of photographs portraying the grandeur of Tanzania, its wildlife and some of the people who live there. My Introduction reads:

Using words alone, I find it impossible to accurately describe a wondrously complex country like Tanzania. While the photographs in this book portray the “Northern Circuit” they are representative of much of the country.

In every way it is a beautiful place, but it is also depressing, straight-forward yet enigmatic, inspiring yet frustrating, challenging yet easy-going. The romantic in me celebrates the wide-open landscapes and wildlife that are little changed in centuries – what Canada once was. The realist in me sees a people hampered by challenges much greater than their economy can solve. Yet Tanzanians are filled with the joy of community and friendship and a joie de vive unparalleled here in Canada. I lament the rapid changes fraught with conflict and tension, yet I yearn for Tanzanians to live their lives free of the afflictions that cause such hardships.

As a writer, this is as far as I go; I hope my photographs can more clearly reveal the grandeur of this great and wondrous country.

– Terry McDonald
November 2009

Tanzania is a beautiful, limited run, 8.5 x 11.25″, 46-page hard cover book with dust jacket and costs just $115 – including delivery  – an ideal Christmas gift for anyone who appreciates great photography and the wonders of Africa.

Featured in the book are images Mount Kilimanjaro, Arusha National Park, Tarangire National Park, the Rift Valley including Ol Doinyo Lengai and Lake Natron, Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area and Serengeti National Park. As well, I’ve included photos from the bomas of our Maasai friends Kalanga and Baraka showing their extended family. This was a very special time and place for us as their homes are in the real porini (wilderness) north of Monduli near Kitumbeini and the Matisiwi Escarpment – a spectacular area.

Anyone who has travelled to Northern Tanzania would not only recognize the places shown, but will begin to see these wonderful lands in a new light.