Book Report: Digital Wildlife Photography

Reviewer’s Name: Chuck Maas, AAUG member
Product Title: Digital Wildlife Photography
Author: John & Barbara Gerlach
Price: $29.95 (Hardcover)
Date of publication: November 14, 2012
Publisher/Distributor: Focal Press Distributor
Phone #: 1-800-634-7064
PRO: Straightforward advice on hardware choices for digital photographic equipment intended to be used to make wildlife images. Good as far as it goes.
CON: Too big a subject to cover in one book.
Product Rating: 3/5
Conflict of interest: The publisher provided a free copy of this book for the purpose of the review.

John and Barbara Gerlach are well-respected and prolific wildlife photographers who as a team have also built a successful business teaching photography in seminars and workshops around the world for over three decades. Books and instructional DVDs are a natural extension of their business and this title is the latest in an on-going series. Conceptually, “digital wildlife photography” is an immense subject area, much too large to be covered fully in any one book. Choices are necessarily made as to limiting the scope and still make the result attractive to prospective purchasers. In this case, much of the material is focused on hardware and general photographic principles with the specific statement that software and post-processing will not be addressed since so many other resources cover those areas. Topics that are addressed include: Camera Systems (both Canon and Nikon), Lenses, Exposure Strategies, Focusing Techniques, the role of Light and Composition in making quality images, Electronic Flash, and Getting Close to Wildlife. There’s a lot of information here to be absorbed, and the book could well serve as basic reference over an extended period of time. Here’s my take. This book could be valuable for someone just learning serious photography who also has a keen interest in nature, wildlife, and the outdoors. A good bit of the material is really basic—such as what a “stop” is, and what ISO numbers represent—though more advanced concepts and helpful techniques like “back-button focusing” are also addressed. Almost any interested photographer could likely pick up a new method or two to improve their work, but in general this is relatively basic material and no one should think that it covers all there is to know about digital wildlife photography. Books by photographers also provide a showcase for their work, and that is certainly the case here with close to 150 images throughout. Many are relevant to the immediate topic or technique being discussed; others just serve as nice examples of the Gerlach’s work. One small criticism is that a few of the images show distracting halos—unusually light or dark borders along areas of high contrast which are the result of questionable post-processing—a bit of a jolt in a book dedicated to making high-quality images. All in all, if you are new to wildlife photography this book is a fairly good introduction to hardware choices and shooting techniques. For more information on software/post-production, or working extensively in natural environments, you’ll want additional resources.

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