Just last year, I read John Shaw “The Nature Photographer’s Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques”. Written many years ago, when film photography was at its best, the book still brought a lot of good knowledge to be worth my time. This year, when I picked “John Shaw’s Guide to Digital Nature Photography” I expected no less.
I was not disappointed. This is a very comprehensive book. You will find here something about composition rules, histogram and the use of flashes. You can hardly find an accessory or a technique not mentioned in the book. The concept are explained very succinctly, to fit within the page limit of the book, but hardly ever you will have to go outside the “Field guide” for more information. The only exceptions are few creative techniques in the field (blurs and multiple exposures) and digital darkroom techniques (black and white, stitching and stacking) – just thrown in passing at the very end of the book. I wish more time and space were spend on those useful topics, with few examples of photographs.
The book, 225 pages long, is somehow arbitrarily divided into chapters on: Gear, Getting started (exposure, histogram and such), Lenses, Composition, Close-ups and The photographer at work. Especially those last two are a bit of odd balls, and the content could have been easily merged into other chapters.
The chapter on Gear was one of positive surprises. The focus was not on particular camera body, but in listing useful features and how to set up the gear you have to get the most out of it. At the same time, the author can be a bit opinionated at the time. With the disclaimer throughout the book: “that is what works for him”.
And the biggest plus of the book, at least for me – pages and pages of beautiful photographs! At times you wonder, comparing the size of the font and the size of images on the page, what is the real subject of the book.